In recent years, Austin has firmly planted itself on the culinary map, offering everything from fantastic food trucks to family-friendly fine dining. Zoey Goto and her husband took their two children, aged two and seven, on a tour of the city’s food scene to seek out Austin’s best restaurants. Together, they found exquisite food, hip ambience, and friendly staff who won’t roll their eyes when you rock up with your brood of little people! Here are their picks of the best Austin eats.
We spent many hours debating if we should stand in the four-hour queue at Austin’s famed Franklin BBQ joint (President Obama was the only person allowed to line-jump, apparently) but eventually decided that it wasn’t a great idea with small kids in tow. Instead, we headed over to Aaron Franklin’s other Austin venture – Loro – a chic Asian smokehouse and bar, and our visit was such a pleasure that we left feeling we had definitely made the right call!
On Loro’s menu, Texan classics such as the smoked beef brisket plate and pork belly are given an Asian twist with Thai herbs and hoisin sauce. It sounds like a slightly odd combination, but it actually really works. Plus the flavours are very delicate and palatable for children – my eldest devoured her coconut rice bowl with oak smoked salmon.
The restaurant, with its rustic wood panelling and cascading plants, opens onto an outside patio lit by strings of lights, where kids play in the swinging chairs hanging from the hundred-year-old oak trees. Relaxed, friendly and without a queue in sight, a visit to Loro is the place to take the family for a lesson in progressive BBQ.
Taking energetic kids into a fine dining establishment can send a shiver down the spine of even the bravest of parents but thankfully, at Goodall’s Kitchen, children are made to feel just as welcome as the adults. Set in one of Austin’s historical Greek-revival mansions (now the boutique Hotel Ella), Goodall’s Kitchen offers a thoroughly modern take on American bistro dining.
Dishes include an exceptional butternut squash soup, Wagyu beef burgers straight off the local ranch, and vegetables so fresh they were probably plucked from the ground that day. Children have their own health-conscious menu and the restaurant walls are filled with pictures and taxidermy, should you need some mealtime distractions.
Trace at W Hotel
Kid’s menus can often feel like a bit of an afterthought but at Trace, the children’s food is so good it’ll have the parents picking off of their plates! Located inside the stylish W hotel, with a tree-lined patio out the front for open-air dining, the focus at Trace is on updating Southern classics using
Breakfast offerings for kids include ridiculously fluffy buttermilk pancakes and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Adults can sample local delicacies with the gulf shrimp and grits, keep it healthy with the quinoa power bowl and organic zhi tea, or go all-out with the breakfast steak and eggs. Make sure you stop by and get your photo taken with the Willie Nelson statue outside – you’re in the Live Music Capital of the World after all, y’all!
Joann’s Fine Foods
It’s hard to say which is more appealing – the beautiful, Instagram-worthy interiors of Joann’s diner or their insanely good breakfast tacos. Head to this South Congress hotspot to experience both, with a milkshake on the side and a warm out-of-the-oven cinnamon bun.
Joann’s menu unites Tex-Mex favourites with California inspired healthy options, such as vegan banana bread and avocado smoothies, so there’s something for everyone. The picture perfect diner is located in the heart of the vibrant South Congress district, surrounded by Austin’s iconic murals and independent boutiques.
LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue Truck
Austin is home to over 1000 food trucks and it is often at these trailers that you’ll often find the city’s most forward-thinking cuisine. One truck making waves in the Austin food scene is LeRoy and Lewis, who are pushing traditional BBQ boundaries with a menu that includes melt-in-the-mouth smoked meats alongside specialities such as barba-cado (avocado stuffed with barbacoa) and Korean kimchi on the side. It’s experimental and outright delicious in equal measure!
Located in a pretty little food truck park, with picnic benches and a coop of chickens to befriend, LeRoy and Lewis is a great spot for a relaxed, alfresco family lunch.
Remind yourself that you can still be a bit rock and roll after having kids with a visit to Holy Roller – the female-fronted, punk rock themed diner that’s bringing a serious slice of alternative to Austin’s downtown district. In this pretension-free dining room, you’ll find the brick walls decorated with illuminated signs, kitsch memorabilia and a huge portrait of Iggy Pop.
Although the décor is super hip, it’s acclaimed chef Callie Speer’s nostalgic menu that draws the crowds. The focus is on brunch-centric fare, available all day, and includes biscuits and pimiento cheese, trash fries, meatloaf sandwich and a good selection of salads. Our server wisely recommended that we round off our meal with the banana pudding – a dreamy combination of biscuit crunch, whipped cream and caramelized banana – which was quite possibly one of the best desserts that we’ve ever tasted!
Fareground Food Hall
Austin’s high-end food hall, Fareground, unites some of the city’s best chefs under one roof and the pick-and-mix concept works particularly well for family dining. Inside the hall there are canteen style benches for casual dining and a pretty landscaped terrace outside where kids can let off steam.
The diverse dining concepts include Contigo’s renowned rotisserie chicken, tacos and gulf seafood at Dai Due Taquería, farm to table fare from Henbit, hummus platters and doughnuts from the Israeli restaurant TLV, and delicious sushi rolls from Ni-Komé. Open around the clock from breakfast to dinner, Fareground is a great one stop shop for sampling some of Austin’s best cuisine.
This upscale establishment has been championing locally sourced ingredients since it started life as a food truck. Odd Duck is now a chic South Congress eatery, where tables book up well in advance and the atmosphere is buzzing.
The evening menu includes moreish seeded pretzel sticks, ceviche of redfish, and Bavette steak with a tangy charred onion salsa verde, all beautifully presented. For kids, there’s tasty buttered noodles and grilled cheese. The sophisticated menu and surroundings make it a good option for families with slightly older kids, although the friendly staff warmly welcomed my youngsters.
Café No Sé
Located in the super stylish South Congress Hotel, Café No Sé is a great spot to enjoy health conscious food in a chic, relaxed setting. The flavorsome menu includes yellow fin tuna poke with coconut rice, avocado on toast and a delicious squid ink risotto. The sharing platters with grilled laffa bread and pine nut tabbouleh work well for families.
If the weather allows, try to bag a table outside on the terrace, which offers ringside seats for watching the colorful South Congress neighborhood pass by.