A Food Critic's Guide to Austin, Texas

Kate LeSueur

Texas Monthly’s dining critic Patricia Sharpe has covered the capital’s restaurant scene for more than 40 years. Along the way, she’s found a few favorite dishes—and the best biscuits. Here, nine restaurants to try on your next visit.

Forget the three-hour line at Franklin Barbecue. There’s instant gratification in the mesquite-smoked brisket and other meats at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (7612 Brodie Ln.; 512-221-4248; valentinastexmexbbq.com). Order the fluffy biscuits immediately upon sitting down at Olamaie (1610 San Antonio St.; 512-474-2796; olamaieaustin.com), then ruin your appetite slathering on honey butter or pimiento cheese. It’s about the fried chicken with chicken-fat rice at the Thai-Kun (1816 E. Sixth St.; whislersatx.com) food truck behind Whisler’s bar. I always think I’m going to try something new at Contigo (2027 Anchor Ln.; 512-614-2260; contigotexas.com), but I keep ordering a Pepino with tequila, cucumber, and mint, and having the rabbit and dumplings.

Kevin Fink is so intense, I wonder if he ever sleeps. But that’s how he got to be one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs of 2016. He’s growing mushrooms beside his restaurant, Emmer & Rye (51 Rainey St., No. 110; 512-366-5530; emmerandrye.com), making masa from scratch, butchering meat on-site. His menus have been all over the map, from a Tunisian-style vegetable stew to maybe the best soft scrambled eggs and smoked pork belly I’ve ever had.

Café No Sé, at the South Congress Hotel (1603 S. Congress Ave.; 512-942-2061; cafenoseaustin.com), has become a brunch destination for avocado toast, garbanzo curry with poached eggs, and kouign amann. Upstairs is tiny, exclusive Otoko (512-772-5899; otokoaustin.com). It’s usually booked a month out; check for cancellations.

If I start thinking about the Danish krans at Easy Tiger (709 E. Sixth St.; 512-614-4972; easytigeraustin.com), I can’t sleep late, even on the weekend. I rush to get there by 7 or 8, while the buttery, almond-kissed pastry is still soft and warm. Even when chef Bryce Gilmore’s flavors at Barley Swine (6555 Burnet Rd.; 512-394-8150; barleyswine.com) seem predictable, they aren’t, like his roasty sunchokes with snippets of grilled leeks on top of a celestial egg custard. You should do the chef’s tasting menu. And have a drink; the barkeep’s brilliant too.

For more on Austin's ever-growing dining scene, see our profile of restaurateur Larry McGuire »

Image Credit: Raymond Thompson