Although I just moved to Austin less than a month ago, I have very quickly learned some important secrets to foodie life in this town. For those of you who are also new to the city, or if you need to make sure you’ve truly transformed into an Austin food aficionado, here are the 10 Must-Dos for a Newbie Austin Foodie.
1. Visit the Whole Foods flagship store at 6th and Lamar immediately. If you don’t, and you mention that you are a foodie, are interested in food, or even eat at all, people with repeatedly ask if you’ve been inside the Whole Foods. Just get it over with. After crying at the beauty of the salad bar, you can proceed to do your grocery shopping at HEB.
2. You should probably also visit Central Market. People will ask if you’ve been there. If you have an experience like mine, however, the cashier will just ask if you’ve been to Whole Foods yet. [See #1]
3. Banish the notion that more expensive food means better food. The best green chile pork I’ve eaten came in taco form, from a trailer. Its “served at a so-called ‘fancy’ restaurant complete with mood lighting and extensive wine list” counterpart was triple the price, and not nearly as delicious. In Austin, you can eat well for comparatively little (especially if you are coming to town with an East Coast price point).
Speaking of tacos…and trailers…
4. Determine your “taco allegiance.” Everyone has a favorite, but be wary of joining a side too soon. A Bobby Flay-style Taco Throwdown between the various competitors might be necessary before you pledge allegiance to a taco. [Local favorites include Torchy’s, Tacodeli, and Taco Shack, but really, there are tacos to be found all over this town.]
5. Eat a meal from a trailer. In fact, eat multiple meals. You could probably never enter another indoor restaurant again if you put your mind to it. If you are having trouble deciding where to start, check out the row of trailers on South Congress, the ‘community’ on East 6th, or those gathered near the Barton Springs Road & South Lamar intersection. Cupcakes, bratwurst, burgers, tacos, crepes…what can’t you find being sold from a trailer?
6. Don’t be fooled by people who tell you that The Mighty Cone serves sno cones. It doesn’t. The Mighty Cone serves chicken, shrimp, and french fries. In cones.
7. Forget ordering your eggs sunny-side up. If you want to be a true Austinite, you prefer your eggs scrambled, in a taco, and, unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, accompanied by chorizo. You must go out and get yourself a breakfast taco. Now. Nowhere else will people look at you oddly if you say you’ve never had one. You should also go ahead and eat migas while you’re at it. Don’t know what those are? You better learn. Fast.
8. Accept that “barbecue” really means brisket. Don’t fight it. Some places to try: Rudy’s, Stubb’s (famous for their sauce), The County Line, and, the place where everyone will say you should go for a “true” experience: Salt Lick. [I’m told it’s worth the drive.]
9. Realize that there is life beyond Tex-Mex. Not much, but it exists. (No, really.) Austin has a huge vegetarian and vegan scene (you can find veg options almost everywhere) and a plethora of great burgers. Although I’m still trying to find a good Thai place, one of the most exciting Austin foodie ‘moments’ of the summer was the opening of Tyson Cole’s second (following Uchi) Japanese and sushi restaurant, Uchiko.
10. Eat (like a) local. There are too many unique-to-Austin restaurants or local chains to waste time dining at a nationally branded establishment. So get out there and explore all that this lovely foodie town has to offer. That’s certainly what I plan to do.