Almost three years ago I made the biggest decision of my life to date…I moved across the country to Austin, Texas for grad school. Having grown up in Virginia and following in my two older sisters shoes and going to Virginia Tech for undergrad, I was itching to do something totally different. I applied to five schools, four on the East Coast and threw in The University of Texas at Austin as my wildcard school since it was a great program and I’d heard so many good things about Austin. I never really thought I’d actually consider going there. However, when I went out to visit the city, the school, and the people captivated my heart. My final decision was between UVA(sorry Dad) and UT and while my head told me Virginia made more sense because it was close to my family, my heart and my gut told me to take the plunge and move 1,600 miles away.
My two years in Austin were my favorite two years so far. While business school was the most stressful thing I’ve ever been through, my life was also filled with adventure, new friends, awesome live music, beautiful weather, and amazing Austin food! If you’ve never been to Austin, I suggest you plan a visit in your near future. It’s a unique, beautiful city and there is always something fun going on. If you do go, below is my Must Eat in Austin list. Enjoy!
1. When you are in Austin, you have to have breakfast tacos or migas. It’s a must. What are migas you ask? It’s a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast dish that consists of scrambled eggs mixed with strips of corn tortillas, onions, chiles, tomatoes and cheese. Migas are typically served with refried beans and corn or flour tortillas. My personal favorite spot for migas is the South Congress Cafe(http://www.southcongresscafe.com/). Not only do you get migas deliciousness, but they have a really tasty Gouda potato pancake they serve with with it. And their flour tortillas are the best I think I’ve ever had. While you are in the area, walk up and down Congress Ave and stop in the many colorful boutiques and shops.
For breakfast tacos I suggest Taco Deli (http://tacodeli.com/). A lot of coffee shops around town have Taco Deli breakfast tacos, but don’t get them here. Go to the source. I recommend the Jess Special, which is migas with fresh avocado and the Otto, which is refried black beans with cheese, bacon and avocado. There’s no better way to start a Saturday than with some Taco Deli tacos and then a walk around Town Lake on the hike and bike trail.
2. When you are in Texas you also have to have some Texas BBQ. For this I’d recommend either driving to Driftwood for The Salt Lick (about 20-30 mins outside of Austin, http://www.saltlickbbq.com/) or checking out Franklin Barbecue (http://franklinbarbecue.com/). The key with Franklin’s is that they only serve lunch and once they run out they are done. This causes people to line up before they open to ensure that they’ll get the scrumtulesant goodness. The two must haves with Texas barbecue are brisket and white sandwich bread used to sop up all the sauce.
At the Salt Lick you’ve got to get the brisket and ribs. Their potato salad is also really good because it’s not mayonnaise based. It’s got a really nice acidic taste to it instead. I think my favorite part might be sopping up their baked beans and barbecue sauce with their white bread though.
At Franklin I’d also highly recommend the brisket. The bark on the outside of the meat is rich and smokey. And try to save room for dessert even though this is nearly impossible with the portion sizes. They have a bourbon banana cream pie that is really amazing. The only thing missing was a heaping pile of whipped cream on top.
3. In Austin you really can’t go wrong with a food truck. There are so many imaginative trucks that serve up delicious fare for cheap prices. Three of my favorites are Torchy’s Tacos (http://torchystacos.com/), Gordoughs (http://www.gourdoughs.com/) and Kebabalicious (http://www.austinkebab.com/).
Torchy’s Tacos has a few actual establishments around town, but their trailer park location is probably my favorite. On a warm night you can sit outside under old trees that are strung up with lights. On a chilly night you can sit around a fire pit and enjoy some tacos too. Another added bonus of the trailer park is that there’s another food truck next door called Holy Cacao that specializes in cake balls. Their Brass Balls chocolate peanut butter cake ball is the perfect sweet treat after stuffing yourself with Torchys. There are a lot of Tex-Mex places in Austin, but I think Torchy’s has the best tacos hands down. Here I’d highly recommend the Fried Avocado taco, yes I said it fried avocado. Whoever thought of this was a genius. It’s a perfect mix of creamy avocado, refried beans, cheese, pico and this special green poblano sauce they make. The other taco you should try is the Baja Shrimp that has lightly fried shrimp, cabbage slaw, pickled onions and jalapenos, queso fresco and their chipotle sauce. I think the pickled onions make the taco.
Gordoughs serves up gourmet donuts that seem bigger than your face. I’m pretty sure if I let myself go here every time I wanted to I would have had to roll out of Austin. While I don’t think you can go wrong here, I’d recommend the Granny’s Pie donut which has pecans, bananas, cream cheese frosting, caramel sauce and brown sugar. It probably also has over the recommended amount of calories for an entire day, but it’s worth every bite!
Kebabalicious was my favorite late night stop. I don’t want to admit how many times I stopped for some falafel on my way home from the bars. Their is just something about Kebabalicious. The falafel is soft, but crispy on the outside. They use a delicious hummus and all their veggies are really fresh. You just need to go.
Are you salivating all over your computer yet? This is just a handful of my favorite places, my list could go on an on. The bottom line is you won’t leave Austin hungry! While I was sad to leave this wonderful city after I graduated, I’m always excited to go back and visit and stuff myself.