Austin Chefs’ Recs: Must-Try Places for ACL Visitors


When in Austin, you must do as the Austinites do: eat and drink! And with as many restaurants as our city boasts, choosing one for each meal will be the hardest decision you’ll have to make all weekend (whether you’re inside or outside the festival gates). To help narrow it down, we asked some of Austin’s top chefs, restaurant owners and beverage directors to weigh in with some of their favorites.

Jae Kim, owner of Chi’Lantro BBQ
Go to Jenna’s Asian Kitchen if you are staying way up north in Austin because all hotels in central Austin are booked. Their Fried Whole Fish is awesome. Get activated Lemonade from Juice Society. Great hangover juice. VOX Table on South Lamar if you are on a date. Sit at the Chef’s table. (Sometimes, if you get lucky, chef Joe might hook you up with something good!) Peached Tortilla – Southern Fun, if you are airbnb-ing around north Burnet.

Photo by Kristen Waggoner
Photo by Kristen Waggoner

Brian Malarkey, chef/owner of Searsucker
Biscuits from Olamaie and oysters from Clark’s Oyster Bar – both are amazing.

Kenzie Allen, executive chef at Searsucker Austin
So many great choices – my top picks are ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya, Neapolitan-style pizza from Buffalina, Detroit-style pizza from VIA 313, cocktails at Isla, burger from P. Terry’s, ice cream from Lick, and fruit bowls from Blenders & Bowls.

Photo by Annie Ray
Photo by Annie Ray

Max Moreland, Managing Partner of The Wheel and Lala’s
My favorite places to get a bite around ACL are Luke’s Inside Out at The Gibson and Stubb’s brisket tacos at Mean Eyed Cat. If you’re a bit further south, I love El Primo trailer and their al pastor taco.

Andrew Lewis, executive pastry chef at Hotel Granduca
I usually recommend Odd Duck for lunch – love what they do there. I like Habanero Mexican Cafe on Oltorf and South 1st for breakfast or lunch) and Turf & Surf Po’boys is my favorite sandwich spot (two locations is a plus: inside Lavaca Street bar and at Barton Springs food trailer park). For dinner, Uchiko is a top recommendation of mine, and if you’re are craving a better price point and more comfort food, Second Bar and Kitchen is great; the Black and Blue Pizza is my favorite.

Jacob Weaver, executive chef at Juliet
I would recommend Olamaie; any dish is great but they have the best biscuits ever. I also love Fukumoto for their yakitori or Bufalina for their pizza. Hard Luck Lounge is a great out-of-the-way dive bar way out East.

Eric Silverstein, chef/owner of The Peached Tortilla
Foreign & Domestic. Their menu changes quite a bit, but I think in terms of value for the quality of food you get, this is still my go to spot in Austin. Ramen Tatsu-ya for the tonkotsu original ramen and Dai Due for the fried chicken dinner on Sunday night with biscuits, gravy, collards and dessert; I had this the other night and it was fantastic.

Photo Courtesy of Dai Due
Photo Courtesy of Dai Due

Angel Begaye, pastry chef at TRACE
If you are in the mood for some sushi, I recommend Fukumoto; they do great traditional style sushi and yakitori and have a great location on East 6th. If you’re in need of a delicious burger, I stand by Hopdoddy. Fixe is great for some good Southern cuisine.

Thomas Riordan, Executive Chef at W Hotel Austin
I highly recommend Olamaie; they do a great twist on traditional Southern food. You have to have some tacos while you’re in Austin and Veracruz All Natural is great. My favorite location is at Radio Coffee & Beer down South. For burgers, I prefer P. Terry’s; they’re always fresh and affordable.

Casey Wilcox, executive chef at Justine’s Brassiere
If I can get out early enough on the weekend, I really like the combo of a few mezcales at Mezcalería Tobalá above Whisler’s, followed by some Thai Kun. I can appreciate the heat a little better after a few good sips. Hard Luck Lounge is my dive bar feeling kinda place. I’ll go for Kome’s special sushi pieces any chance I get. Its probably my most requested dinner. I live south, so my favorite little treasure is Sichuan River. They do a great job with the spice balance. And for Sunday, laying on the couch after food, I get the Cadillac with arugula at the newish south VIA 313. Also, Licha’s Cantina. I feel like it keeps getting better and better every time I go. Super savory and developed. Saigon le Vendeur. has really great sandwiches, and rocket fuel Viet coffee. Also, BBQ from Smokey Denmark — especially the BBQ spud. The potato is cooked in the pit.

Photo Courtesy of Via 313
Photo Courtesy of Via 313

Iliana de La Vega, chef/owner of El Naranjo
Where do I start? At Lucky’s Puccias trailer on 5th St and Bowie, order The Lucky or The Primavera. If you are staying a little further outside of downtown, try Titaya’s on North Lamar. Try the Gang Kiew Wan: Green curry and herb with bamboo strips, egg-plant, fresh basil, zucchini and serrano in coconut milk. I love it with pork. And, of course, everything is great at Uchiko.

Nathan Lemley, executive chef at parkside
Here are some dishes I like: Mi-So-Hot ramen at Ramen Tatsu-ya, Charred Pork Bahn mi from Tam Deli and Cafe, brisket from John Mueller Meat Co., and definitely the new restaurant Bullfight. As for bars, I like Waller Creek Pub for a great selection of craft beers and some good people.

Janina O’Leary, executive chef at laV
Salt and Time has a great steak sandwich and for breakfast (or any other meal really) you can’t miss Dai Due Butcher Shop. We also frequent El Chililto on the east side for tacos. Great place to grab a quick and delicious bite on the run.

Travis Tober, beverage director at VOX Table
Definitely try out the Hole in the Wall on Guadalupe. Not only is it a proper dive bar with live music 7 days a week, but Paul Qui has an outpost of a brick and mortar Eastside King in back. Wash down the Shiner beer ramen with a shot of Maker’s mark on the rocks. It won’t break the bank!

Amanda Rockman, executive pastry chef of Cafe No Sé
Musashino is a bit north but has really amazing traditional sushi and the botan ebi is by far the best this side of the Mississippi. I love the Nantucket vibe at Clark’s along with the large selection of oysters you can eat for days. P. Terry’s- every good Southern girl loves a really good burger, and it’s Austin-based which makes me even more patriotic.

Keith House, owner of Fixe
Hopdoddy’s The Goodnight burger. Best burger in town.

Photo by Matt Lankes
Photo by Matt Lankes

Tim Love, owner of Lonesome Dove
I would eat at Taco deli in the mornings. Great breakfast tacos! Halcyon if you want to have morning cocktails. Lunch is great at Perla’s or La Condesa, sitting outside. La V has a great wine list and Chicken Liver Pate. Odd Duck for American tapas. But if you want some wild game or game fish, come see me!

Carlos Buscaglia, executive chef of Due Forni
I love going to dinner at Odd Duck. The menu changes all the time, but most recently I went in with a friend and we basically ordered the whole menu. They have really great seasonal cocktails, too. Swift’s Attic is just blocks from Due Forni. I get the beef cheeks, which has mustard, pickled vegetables and this jelly, all on toasted bread. I also like Taco Deli and their pork belly tacos. It’s fast and delicious.

Sarah McIntosh, chef/owner of Epicerie
Start with dinner at Foreign & Domestic and then walk across the street to drink.well for a cocktail. Both are out of the way of the crowd. If you want to stay in the thick of it all, head to Whisler’s and order the Grifter, made with mezcal, aperol, lemon, grapefruit, sage, celery bitters. While you’re there, get the Cabbage Two Ways from Thai Kun.

C.K. Chin, co-owner of Swift’s Attic
ACL is basically 3 days worth of snacking for me. From whatever deliciousness Chef Wiseheart and Chef Bull are serving at the festival grounds to Thunderbird fruit bars, I rarely eat a “meal” during the day. Which usually leaves me roaming the streets in a hunger-induced panic immediately after we’re herded like cattle out of the park. I tend to head towards Frank for a Jackalope or Parkside for some oysters and bone marrow. Also, to be completely honest, one of the nights you’ll likely find me and my friends at Swift’s Attic for some pork cheeks and squid fries… there’s a reason why we serve food until midnight during ACL!