County Line on the Hill (Barbeque) An outdoor patio with sweeping views of the Hill Country goes well with the saucy ribs and freshly baked bread with honey butter at this beloved original location of what's become a chain of barbeque joints across Texas and into Oklahoma and New Mexico. A second Austin branch sits on the banks of Town Lake.
6500 Bee Cave Road, Austin; 512-327-1742. $$
Hudson's on the Bend (Southwestern) One of the finest restaurants in America for wild game, Hudson's offers a seasonal menu that covers the gamut, from the familiar (grilled venison chops) to the exotic (kangaroo pastrami). The smoked duck diablos appetizer—duck breast, jicama, jalapeño and balsamic-soaked figs all wrapped in bacon and served with a red-chile dipping sauce—is duly celebrated.
3509 Ranch Road 620 North, Austin; 512-266-1369. $$$$
Iron Works BBQ (Barbeque) This historic and supremely aromatic downtown place serves the best brisket and iced tea within walking distance of the Warehouse District, Sixth Street, the state capitol and the Driskill Hotel. The hard part, after a meal of Texas-size proportions, is the walk back.
100 Red River Street, Austin; 512-478-4855. $$
Kerbey Lane CafÉ (American) Opened on a shoestring twenty-seven years ago, Kerbey Lane remains one of those amusing Austin originals. There's plenty of variety on the menu—which is designed around fresh local produce—but the café is open twenty-four hours and serves breakfast round the clock, so you can try the Frisbee-size buttermilk or gingerbread pancakes whenever you happen to walk in.
3704 Kerbey Lane, Austin; 512-451-1436. $
Kreuz Market (Barbeque) As authentic as a Texas summer afternoon is long, this cavernous restaurant—the offshoot of a century-old family-owned meat market—serves seasoned meat with no plates, no forks, no sauce and infinite shades of smoky flavor. It's the most redeeming thirty-minute drive (from downtown Austin) you'll ever take to eat off butcher paper.
619 North Colorado Street, Lockhart; 512-398-2361. $
Manuel's (Upscale Mexican) With a menu rich in seafood and homemade salsas, Manuel's brings a taste of coastal Mexico to Austin. An ancho-chile base spikes the tortilla soup, and the enchiladas de mole are worth staging a revolution over.
310 Congress Avenue, Austin; 512-472-7555. $$$
The Roaring Fork (Western) The menu at this upscale bistro leans toward cowboy country, with spit-roasted chicken and steak dishes refined at the original Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, Arizona. The wine list has been recognized by Wine Spectator.
701 Congress Avenue, Austin; 512-583-0000. $$$
The Salt Lick (Barbeque) Perfect after a round at nearby Circle C, this ranchlike place offers the most memorable barbeque experience in central Texas. Order the family-style options, and the waitstaff will bring plates of beef, sausage and pork ribs from the pit as long as you have room for more.
18001 FM 1826, Driftwood; 512-858-4959. $
Uchi (Japanese) Taking its name from the Japanese word for house, this celebrated restaurant operates out of a converted tree-shaded home. Tyson Cole—named a Best New Chef of 2005 by Food & Wine, this magazine's sister publication—combines local and exotic ingredients, including seafood flown in daily from the Tsukiji Market in Japan.
801 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin; 512-916-4808. $$$
Where to Listen
Few cities in America compare to Austin when it comes to live music. Home to popular annual festivals (see next page), Austin rocks nightly at an amazing collection of cozy clubs, honky-tonks, historic music halls and headliner concert venues.
Antone's With a pedigree that includes hosting blues legends B. B. King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy as well as rockers Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello, this no-frills joint enjoys a richly deserved national reputation. The first club to open on Sixth Street, in 1975, Antone's has since moved to the less rowdy and less college-y Warehouse District on Fifth.
213 West Fifth Street, Austin; 512-320-8424, www.antones.net.