As we declared in our July cover story, Austin is America’s next great food town. And the city has chef Paul Qui to thank in large part for this.

Credit: Eric Morales

The Top Chef winner now presides over a mini Austin empire that includes the fine-dining-yet-laidback Qui and three East Side King food trucks. Still on the horizon: Otoko, a small sushi spot inside the new South Congress Hotel, set to open this fall, an as-yet-unnamed project at Miami’s ambitious Faena hotel, which debuts in November, and—further down the line—a restaurant in Houston. Below, his favorite meals in his home city.


“Migas tacos from Joe’s Bakery. I’m not usually a huge fan of migas. If you eat them there, the tortillas stay really crispy, and I love the contrast of textures. Lately I’ve been getting my coffee from Salt & Time, they have a cold brew on tap from Cuvée Coffee. And sometimes I’ll start off with the 12th Planet smoothie from JuiceLand. It’s made with fresh pineapple juice, papaya, cherry, blueberry, cacao, mint, and habanero—I think it has the most ingredients of anything on the menu.”


"I usually have a family meal at one of my restaurants, or I’ll visit one of my East Side King locations. I get the chicken and rice. One new favorite is the Baguette House, where I also get the Hainanese chicken and rice. It’s better than the ones I had in Singapore."


"I’d go to Justine’s, a French bistro, and hang out for a while. My old sous chef is the chef de cuisine there. They play records and have a nice outdoor space. I’d get something simple."


"I like the Fernet Stracciatella at Gelateria Gemelli, and I just tried a plum sorbetto and an orange cardamom. I also like it because they let me bring my dog."

Late Night

"Las Trancas food truck. I always get the buche (pork stomach) or cabeza tacos, seared extra crispy on the plancha, and I ask for the green crema salsa."

Favorite Barbecue

Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. Before Franklin’s and other spots in Austin opened, this was the original place people would pilgrimage to. It’s only open on Saturdays and you have to get there at 8am, ready to eat brisket.”