Tex-Mex with the Best of ‘Em: A Guide to Austin Restaurants

Austin is a foodie paradise.

From the countless food trucks serving mouth-watering cheap-eats (a focal point of the city’s culinary landscape), to buzzy award-winning chefs opening a steady stream of new restaurants.  Whether you’re seeking staples like BBQ and tacos, or looking to sample global flavors from Japanese, Thai, French, and more, Austin has you covered.

Magnolia Café – Recommended by The Cuckoos
Magnolia Café is an old-school Austin establishment with roots going back to the late 70s when the current owners bought into the establishment that previously occupied their real estate on Lake Austin Blvd, and, according to legend, changed their hours of operation to 24/7 when managers lost the keys and decided to stop closing up.  The Magnolia Café retains that old Austin vibe with their classic menu of all-day breakfast and tacos, but also make a point to keep things fresh with new ideas from their talented kitchen staff.  If you’re on the hunt for a top-notch classic diner experience, or Austin’s signature breakfast tacos, look no further than the Magnolia Café.

“Just because of their breakfast tacos.  I usually get 3 or 4 of their huge breakfast tacos with egg, sausage, bacon, and serrano.  Not sure why, but these particular tacos are the spiciest I’ve had in Austin.  They got some good serranos.”  —  The Cuckoos

Torchy’s Tacos – Recommended by Particle Kid
Torchy’s Tacos is a chain of taco shops that has grown to significant success, with over a dozen locations in Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, but Torchy’s roots go back to a modest roadside food trailer in Austin.  Founder Mike Rypka left his executive chef job to follow his dreams of serving tacos to the people and put in the hard work to see that goal realized.  Since then, Torchy’s has established a reputation as an everyman’s taco joint, with delicious tacos, both traditional and ambitious, served to people from all walks of life.  The team behind Torchy’s is dedicated to using locally and responsibly sourced products and giving back to the community through various charitable organizations, so they’re a great company to support as well.  Stop by and try the Taco of the Month!

Get the breakfast taco and fried avocado taco (with nookies on the side).”  —  Micah Nelson

Launderette – Recommended by Shy Beast
This chic joint is a favorite of Austin’s hipster crowd.  Built in a converted former laundromat, Launderette specializes in small plates and gourmet vegetarian dishes.  The bright, retro décor brings in the aesthetically-minded, but the internationally-inspired New American fare keeps them coming back for more.  Launderette also serves desserts courtesy of the much-lauded Sawicki’s, including spectacular cakes and ice cream sandwiches.  All in all, Launderette is one of Austin’s best brunch spots.

The décor is hip, bright, tropical, and nostalgic.  They have small shareable plates, great cocktails, and birthday cake ice cream sandwiches. Brunch there is a dream.  I always order the pancakes that come with your own kitty-cat syrup decanter.”  —  Shy Beast

Matt’s El Rancho – Recommended by Austin Basham
Matt’s El Rancho is a bona fide Austin institution.  Its history dates back to 1952 when Matt and Janie Martinez opened the original El Rancho, with Matt working the front-of-house and Janie making everything from scratch in the kitchen.  Today, those same traditions are carried on, albeit on a much larger scale.  The business is still family owned, and is still dedicated to serving top quality Tex-Mex cuisine in a family-friendly environment. Some culinary historians even point to Matt’s El Rancho as one of the major progenitors of the popularity of Tex-Mex food in the Southwest, having supposedly conceived many of the dishes that are now seen as staples of the cuisine.  Although his health no longer allows Matt to greet customers at the door, El Rancho is still a must-visit for anyone coming through Austin.

It has some of the best Tex-Mex you’ll ever eat and a great outdoor patio.  Get a Bob’s queso, bee fajitas, and you’ll definitely have to get a Matt’s Knockout Mexican Martini.  One and done.”  —  Austin Basham

These recs are from our latest vinyl and city guide package, The Sights and Sounds of Austin, presented by Boost Mobile. Check out the digital version of the guide below:

photo by: Thomas Hawk; Robert-J-Lerma