The best East Austin restaurants include barbecue and tacos by award-winning chefs and a range of world cuisines from Italian and Indian to Japanese and Peruvian.
My first three years in Texas were spent living in downtown Austin before I moved east of the I-35 highway that bisects the city from north to south.
I've since spent more time eating on the east side than in any other part of Austin; as a result, I have lots of recommendations to share.
This list of the best restaurants in East Austin is organized alphabetically, first by cuisine and second by restaurant name. I've purposefully curated a list that reflects the diversity of what's available.
- Asian and Indian
- Latin American and Caribbean
One of the best new restaurants to open in East Austin since 2021 is Birdie's, a family-run, counter-service spot by Houston native Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and her partner Arjav Ezekiel.
At wildly popular Birdie's, you'll find fresh, seasonal American dishes with Italian and French influences that change daily, along with an extensive wine list.
Highlights of my first dinner included a buttery shrimp scampi and vanilla soft serve with blood orange Agrumato. The small plates are meant to be shared.
Happy hour and dinner at Birdie's is first come, first serve, so get there early as the wait in line can be long.
2944 E 12th St Unit A, Austin, birdiesaustin.com
Located at the northernmost tip of East Austin is Dai Due, a farm-to-table restaurant and butcher shop serving one of the best burgers in the Texas capital.
Chef/owner Jesse Griffith's dry-aged wagyu double cheeseburger with beef fat fries is a must for craft burger fans.
Griffith is committed to sourcing ingredients within 200 miles of Austin and emphasizing wild game.
Carnivores will appreciate the full menu, which features grilled dishes like a coffee-cured Nilgai antelope leg filet, wild boar boudin stuffed quail, and a smoked pork porterhouse chop.
In addition to opening the restaurant in 2006, Griffith launched the New School of Traditional Cookery, which offers a weekend hunting class that teaches participants how to hunt, prep, and cook food.
2406 Manor Rd, Austin, TX, daidue.com
One of my overall favorite restaurants in the city is Launderette in the residential Holly neighborhood of East Austin.
This New American restaurant is in what was once a laundromat, though you'd never know it from the interior.
Launderette is one of the best places for Sunday brunch in Austin; I'm partial to their blueberry pancakes and anything on the dessert menu.
The handful of tables on the shaded patio is also excellent for a quiet happy hour or romantic dinner date.
2115 Holly St, Austin, launderetteaustin.com
Salt & Time
Salt & Time is another butcher shop and restaurant in East Austin serving mouthwatering burgers. They use a half-pound of daily steak trimmings for the burgers and serve them alongside perfectly seasoned beef-fat fries.
Chef/owners Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler are "committed to sourcing whole animals directly from Texas ranches."
Additional menu highlights include a charcuterie board, burrata, beef-fat fried chicken, and a 20-ounce 60-day dry-age Angus porterhouse steak with two sides.
1912 E 7th St A, Austin, TX, saltandtime.com
Sour Duck Market
Chef Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine expanded his local restaurant empire into East Austin when he opened Sour Duck Market.
This casual restaurant, bakery, and beer garden is a great place to go and hang out when patio weather is at its best (April to May and October to November).
Whether you're getting a breakfast taco, pretzel with queso, or double cheeseburger on a challah bun, you can count on fresh ingredients and a relaxed atmosphere.
I'm a fan of the chocolate chip cookies here, which tend to appear in the pastry displays of coffee shops around the city.
1814 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX, sourduckmarket.com
In December 2011, brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt began selling Detroit-style pizza from a food truck on East 6th and Waller Street.
The tasty rectangles of deep-dish pizza, served four to a pie, offer diners long edges of the caramelized crust and a variety of premium toppings.
I didn't even know Detroit-style pizza was a thing until I attended a food truck meetup at the original Via 313 location.
I've since become a big fan, with the Cadillac being my favorite (gorgonzola, fig preserves, prosciutto, parmesan, and balsamic glaze).
Via 313 opened a brick-and-mortar location a few blocks east of its original food truck and has since expanded to Cedar Park, Round Rock, San Antonio, and Utah.
1802 E 6th St, Austin, TX, via313.com
Asian and Indian
In 2015, Japanese chef Kazu Fukumoto opened his eponymous restaurant in East Austin. He serves yakitori (skewers of grilled meat), sushi/sashimi, and classic Japanese comfort food.
I'll forever remember Fukumoto as the sushi restaurant where I discovered Tasmanian ocean trout, which looks and tastes similar to salmon.
Go here to experiment and try new things, like the takoyaki-style corndogs, fried Hiroshima oysters, and chicken hearts. The king salmon is the signature skewer, and the miso-glazed pork belly is damn fine, too.
I've also been impressed with the desserts at Fukumoto, including a chocolate mille crepe that I highly recommend.
514 Medina St, Austin, TX, fukumotoaustin.com
Oseyo is a modern Korean-American restaurant by Lynn Miller. Kel and I stopped by during Austin Restaurant Week to sample their four-course set menu ($60).
Korean fried chicken, sweet potato noodles with vegetables, a silky tofu dish with purple rice, and mountains of bulgogi. We got the better end of the deal, taking leftovers home that served us for several days.
Scoops of black sesame ice cream and mango sorbet for dessert were the perfect finish at this friendly spot; I wish I'd tried it sooner.
1628 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, oseyoaustin.com
Ramen may be associated with cold weather, however, even in the dead of summer, there's often a line out the door at Ramen Tatsu-ya.
The restaurant is a collaboration between chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto to bring authentic Japanese ramen to Austin.
Pork bone broth (tonkotsu) is the specialty here, and you can get it with various toppings, including a corn bomb with butter and honey and soy-braised pork belly.
1600 E 6th St, Austin, TX, ramen-tatsuya.com
Sushi Bar ATX is a 10-seat omakase experience in the back of Bento Picnic restaurant. Chef Ambrely Ouimette and her team serve a 17-course meal with premium ingredients, such as bluefin tuna, bone marrow, and A5 wagyu beef.
Ouimette's talents are on full display in this intimate restaurant, where everyone eats the same bites of sushi at the same time.
The communal atmosphere naturally leads to conversation among strangers, only punctuated by the introduction of the next delicious bite.
2600 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, sushibaratx.com
At Vixen's Wedding, managing chef Todd Duplechan of Lenoir restaurant offers diners a taste of Goan cuisine with Portuguese and Texas influences.
Choose between a $75 prix fixe menu of shareable plates, or order a la carte.
The current menu features sourdough naan with chai spiced apple butter, pan-seared fish with Goan fish curry, vindaloo pork ribs, and a purple potato mousse with tea, blueberry, paneer, and honey.
Vixen's Wedding offers one of the prettier and more whimsical interiors of any restaurant in East Austin.
1813 A E 6th St, Austin, TX, vixensweddingatx.com
The restaurant with the most prominent reputation and longest queues in East Austin is Franklin's BBQ, which has received national acclaim and more than its share of celebrities, including President Obama, Anthony Bourdain, and David Chang.
After living within walking distance of Franklin's for years, I finally overcame my fear of the long lines to get lunch there in 2022.
The three hours spent in line went pretty fast and were worth it once my girlfriend Kel and I dug into the dinosaur-sized beef rib, famous fatty brisket, and pork ribs.
900 E 11th St, Austin, TX, franklinbbq.com
Related: Best BBQ in Austin
If the potential for an hours-long wait to eat at Franklin's puts you off, head for la Barbecue, which, like Via 313, began as a food truck in East Austin before opening as a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
La Barbecue was founded in 2012 by LeAnn Mueller, granddaughter of Louie Mueller (whose BBQ joint in Taylor has been in operation since 1949).
You'll be treated to some of the city's best brisket at one of the few female-owned barbecue joints in Central Texas. I'm also a fan of the pork ribs here.
2401 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, labarbecue.com
Intero is a farm-to-table Italian restaurant with an in-house whole animal butchery program and a goal of zero waste.
Chef Ian Thurwachter & chocolatier/pastry chef Krystal Craig are both Austin natives who taught themselves how to cook.
Start with the sourdough focaccia with housemade ricotta before moving on to one of the handmade pasta options, such as ravioli with smoked lamb.
Risotto with charred quail, a smoked half-chicken with pecan polenta, or a 24-ounce wagyu sirloin, served family style, are some of the heavier entrees.
2612 E Cesar Chavez St, Suite 105, Austin, TX, interorestaurant.com
My introduction to Juniper, a modern Northern Italian restaurant, came on the heels of their win in a cocktail-making competition to determine the 2018 Official Drink of Austin.
Juniper is one of the few Austin restaurants to offer tasting menus. Diners can choose between a 9-course seasonal menu for $125 or a 5-course prix-fixe menu for $75.
Either way, you're sure to be treated to high-quality ingredients by chef Nicholas Yanes, a Texas native, and his team.
2400 E Cesar Chavez St #304, Austin, TX, juniperaustin.com
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Justine's Brasserie is a chic, somewhat hidden hotspot in East Austin. Here, you'll find classic French fares like escargot, onion soup, steak frites, moules frites, and ratatouille.
I enjoyed a memorable birthday dinner of cheese and wine, steak with fries, and lots of dessert on Justine's large outdoor patio in 2020.
4710 E 5th St., Austin, TX, justines1937.com
Latin American and Caribbean
Before moving to Austin, I spent nine years traveling and living in South America, mainly Colombia and Peru.
This extended time abroad was a luxury for experiencing new cuisines.
Seeking out Latin American restaurants in Austin and shining a light on them has become one way for me to stay connected to those memories.
Buenos Aires Cafe
Like steaks, baked empanadas are a hallmark of Argentine food. At Buenos Aires Cafe, you can get these hand pastries with various fillings, including beef, chicken, and vegetables.
Sandwiches include an 8-ounce Angus beef burger and signature grilled tenderloin with chimichurri sauce. As is typical of Argentinian food, entrees include steaks, sausages, and chicken from the grill.
For alfajor fans, the Buenos Aires Cafe is one of the few places in the city where you can find these freshly made cookies with dulce de leche.
In the basement of the Buenos Aires Cafe in East Austin is the Milonga Room, a reservation-only Argentinian-themed speakeasy.
1201 E 6th St, Austin, TX, buenosairescafe.com
In October 2021, Canje, a modern Caribbean restaurant by Guyana-born chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph (of Hestia), opened between Lazarus Brewing and Cuvee Coffee Bar.
This relatively new arrival on East 6th Street offers tropical vibes and terrific dishes like wild boar pepper pot, jerk chicken with ginger pineapple glaze, and one of the best tres leches cakes I've tried.
To get a taste of what's on offer, check out the happy hour; sip tropical cocktails while munching on salty plantain chips with Mango Calypso Hot Sauce and grilled pink shrimp with smoked chili.
1914 E 6th St Ste C, Austin, TX, canjeatx.com
One of my favorite Colombian dishes is ajiaco, a hearty Andean soup with three types of potatoes, chicken, corn, cream, and capers, often served with avocado and white rice.
You can find ajiaco and other typical Colombian foods like bandeja paisa, arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), and fried fish at Casa Colombia on East 7th Street.
This family-owned restaurant has been serving the Austin community since 2007. In 2018, it was standing room only around the bar for Colombia's World Cup matches.
2409 E 7th St, Austin, TX, casa-colombia.com
Also on East 7th Street, albeit closer to the I-35 corridor, is Gabriela's, a Mexican restaurant named after its enthusiastic owner, Gabriela Bucio.
The best way to enjoy Gabriela's is with a group of friends on the patio, taking in views of downtown with chips and a bowl of queso fundido (one of the best in town).
Get your Mexican food fix at lunch, brunch, or dinner. DJs often provide live music to amp up the atmosphere, and it can be a fun place to watch World Cup matches, too.
Gabriela's success in East Austin led her to open a second location in South Austin, with a third in the works for Houston.
900 E 7th St, Austin, TX, gabrielasdowntown.com
Llama Kid began as a ghost kitchen serving Peruvian food and evolved into a standalone restaurant in the Govalle neighborhood of East Austin.
Peruvian co-owner and chef Diego Ysrael Sanchez provides modern twists on traditional dishes at this small, casual restaurant.
Since 2011, I've spent about nine months in Peru, with my latest visit in August 2022. Over the years, I've become a big fan of Peruvian food and am excited to see Llama Kid representing it so well.
On my first visit, I got an excellent version of one of my favorite dishes, aji de gallina (white meat chicken with a yellow pepper cream sauce).
Other popular Peruvian dishes on the menu include lomo saltado (a typical beef stir fry with vegetables), pollo a la brasa (Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken), papa a la huancaina (potatoes in a yellow pepper cheese sauce), and anticucho (beef heart).
4620 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, llamakidatx.com
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In 2022, chef Edgar Rico won the James Beard Award for Emerging Chef in the United States. Not bad for a man who opened a small taqueria in East Austin!
Among his many fans is the actress Anne Hathaway, who stopped by for tacos while in town for the premiere of WeCrashed during SXSW earlier the same year (and later talked about it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert).
The migas taco includes duck fat refried beans and chorizo, while the breakfast tacos use Tillamook cheddar cheese and a lacto-fermented hot sauce. The signature duck carnitas and tuna tostada are two of my favorite orders.
2512 E 12th St, Austin, TX, nixtataqueria.com
Another award-winning Latin restaurant in East Austin is Suerte by Mexican chef Fermin Nunez. In 2019, Food + Wine Magazine named Suerte one of the best new restaurants in the country.
The suadero tacos with wagyu brisket, black magic oil, and avocado are some of the best tacos in town. They come four to a plate and are a meal unto themselves unless you can bring yourself to share.
You can't go wrong whether you go for lunch, brunch, or dinner. The menu is updated regularly with dishes like shrimp ceviche with spiced coconut milk, barbacoa (smoked goat), and oak-grilled wagyu bavette (flank steak) with charred Fresno butter.
Save room for dessert, too. Suerte is known for its chocotaco, and there's currently a tres leches cake with peach leaf-soaked sponge cake.
1800 E 6th St, Austin, TX, suerteatx.com