Here in the heart of Texas, the basic food groups are still Tex-Mex, Southern and BBQ. But as Austin has boomed, from laid-back college town to high-tech mecca, fine dining has bloomed with it. The new breed of eateries boasts award-winning chefs, ethnic fusion fare and gourmet marketplaces. From humble butcher paper to starched white tablecloths, culinary choices are as wide as a Lone Star sky.
Jeffrey’s 512-477-5584, www.jeffreysofaustin.com
After 32 years, the menu at Austin’s oldest New American restaurant still mixes regional ingredients with European techniques. Recent hits from executive chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas include peppered venison loin with corn truffle pudding and huckleberry port sauce, and chocolate intemperance cake with gold-dusted berries.
Hudson’s on the Bend 512-266-1369, www.hudsonsonthebend.com
Signature entrees for chef-owner Jeff Blank use wild game, like watermelon wild boar, venison and veal chops surrounding a roasted corn and gouda-stuffed poblano, or pecan-smoked Bandera quail in a lime cilantro ginger glaze.
Uchi 512-916-4808, www.uchiaustin.com
Chef-owner Tyson Cole built a simple sushi bar into a showcase for Japanese-American fusion. After cider-braised kurobuta pork belly with candied apple, try a dessert of jizake crème caramel with brown butter sorbet and ginger consommé.
Aquarelle 512-479-8117, www.aquarellerestaurant.com
Loire-born chef Jacques Richard keeps it French. Commencez with cold duck foie gras “au torchon” with green grape chutney, sancerre syrup and toasted brioche. Finez with a hot chocolate soufflé cake with orange sauce suzette.
Fonda San Miguel 512-459-4121, www.fondasanmiguel.com
Savor Mexican dishes like ensalada of fresh spinach with toasted almonds, toasted pasilla chiles and panela cheese and Jalisco-style steak caballero with chile de arbol chimichuri.
The Salt Lick 512-858-4959, www.saltlickbbq.com
Meat, glorious meat, slow-smoked Texas-style in an open pit. Brisket, pork ribs, turkey and sausage served at wooden tables and benches with traditional sides of potato salad, cole slaw and beans. Leave room for peach cobbler.
Threadgill’s World Headquarters 512-472-9304, www.threadgills.com
Southern cookin’, from fried green tomatoes to chicken-fried steak and seafood po-boys. Make whole meals out of all-you-can-eat vegetable combos, with 29 sides to choose from.
El Azteca 512-477-4701
In Hispanic East Austin, feast on Tex-Mex comfort food like migas (scrambled eggs with tortilla strips) and chile rellenos (stuffed poblano peppers). Or sample delicacies like barbacoa (barbecued beef head) and cabrito (kid goat).
Whole Foods Market 512-476-1206, www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lamar
The flagship store of the Wal-Mart of natural foods sprawls 80,000 square feet, including a dozen food kiosks and dining areas. Even the barbecued brisket is organic.
Central Market 512-206-1000, www.centralmarket.com
A foodie’s fantasyland, with 600 cheeses and separate saltwater tanks for Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf seafood. Hosts a cooking school and a café.
Austin Farmer’s Market 512-236-0074, www.austinfarmersmarket.org
Saturdays year-round, buy fresh produce from 55 farms within 150 miles of town, along with fresh-baked breads, local honey, meats and cheeses, while listening to live music. Downtown at Guadalupe and 4th Streets.
La Mexicana Bakery 512-443-6369, www.la-mexicana-bakery.com
Any time of day or night, nibble Mexican pastries and sweets like empanadas and tres leches cake.
Texas Wine Tours 512-329-7007, www.texaswinetours.com
When it comes to wines, Texas might be the new California, with rocky soils and long growing seasons. In anything from a bus to a stretch limo, sip the bounty of 14 Hill Country wineries, including award-winners like Becker and Fall Creek.