Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.
This week we’re in Austin, Texas, where the only thing hotter than the temperatures is the food! Our guide to Austin’s culinary scene is Chef David Bull. Look familiar? He should! Chef Bull was named one of “The Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine in 2003, appeared on Iron Chef America, and has been twice nominated for James Beard Foundation Awards.
A partner with La Corsha Hospitality, Chef Bull is executive chef and co-owner of Second Bar + Kitchen, located in downtown Austin and serving up a true farm-to-table experience created with seasonal ingredients. Visitors to the city should take a look at the Archer Hotel, home of Second Bar + Kitchen’s second location, which offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, as well as terrace dining and late-night bites. A third location will open in Austin Bergstrom International Airport later this year.
Interested in a side of history with your meal? You owe it to yourself to visit Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, located in the historical Seaholm Power Plant. Clean lines and art deco notes set off smoky, wood-fired flavors, and rich, beguiling cocktails. Whether you’re bringing a crowd or a date, this is the place to relax and linger over an incredible meal and an incredible view.
Ready to eat? Let’s check out Chef Bull’s favorite food experiences in Austin!
There’s a wood-fired oven that’s right in front of your face; it’s really interactive, you can smell the wood…They’ve got a harissa pie that I think is really interesting. It’s got beets and pistachio, I thought that was unique and a combination that I’ve not had before.
I love the atmosphere, the casual atmosphere. It feels like you’re going to, well, your mother’s. It feels like you’re going into the family’s kitchen. The pork carnitas tacos are just perfect; avocado and cilantro, and made with love.
I’d have to go to Uchi. They’ve got three or four locations, but that’s the original. Just the quality of seafood and sushi, the cutting edge creativity and uniqueness of the flavor profiles. It’s just over the top.
I love Kebabalicious. They’ve got several food trucks around town. It’s a fantastic after-hours spot. Or a lazy-afternoon go-to spot for me. They’ve got turkey burritos, they’ve got falafel, they’ve got tzatziki fries, hummus, pita.
It’s a frozen yogurt shop. It’s locally owned and the interior is really special because it uses everything from game pieces, and broken china, and game boards and anything that you could find at Goodwill; the entire interior is decorated in this landscape of reusable, sustainable products. It’s a hodgepodge of anything that you could find in your clutter drawers. The owner does it all herself. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but it works really well and I think it’s incredibly creative in a useful way. It’s got an iconic Austin vibe.
It’s totally a la carte, so you can mix and match all kinds of toppings, from granolas and fruits to M&Ms and Oreos.
I would say Apis. It’s a little bit outside of Austin. They grow their own fruits and vegetables, they have beehives on property, they do their own fermentation, they have their own bitters for the bar program. One of the courses is a cheese course with honey fresh from the hives—honeycomb—that I thought was pretty incredible and definitely worth the drive. They’ve basically created their own sustainable agriculture. It’s pretty incredible.
I like Salt & Time. It’s a butcher shop and restaurant. They’re butchering whole animals and you can either buy product to go and cook it yourself or they’ve got a fantastic restaurant; authentic and sustainable. It’s Texas-local product. Uniquely, they’ve got a couscous arancini which is topped with n’duja—so the arancinis are filled with this cheesy couscous and it’s got this pureed, salty, smoky pork mixture (that’s the n’duja) inside of them. I had them last time I was there. Great spot.
Wheatsville Co-op. It’s like a local grocery store slash restaurant, dedicated to vegan and vegetarian delights. They do a popcorn tofu po’boy. It’s just ultra-creative. It’s got a cashew tamari. Very soulful and satisfying. It’s a fantastic experience to go into the store. When you talk about sustainability and local organizations, this co-op is really an incredible experience.
I would go to Foreign and Domestic. They’ve got creative takes on iconic, classic brunch dishes. Everything from sweet potato waffles and cottage cheese pancakes to cherry-lime mimosas. They’ve got a chef’s counter and chef Ned Elliott just does an incredible job. You can literally sit at the kitchen counter and watch all of the happenings, so it’s really interactive, a whole lot of fun, and in a great neighborhood. There’s always something creative on the menu.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
Barbecue. I don’t think there’s anybody that does barbecue better than Texas, and it’s hard to argue that anybody does it better than Austin. Franklin Barbecue. He’s been all over, he’s on every best list, and he still has the best brisket I’ve ever had. Get there early. He still has over an hour-long wait every day. He only makes so much, and when he runs out, he puts a sign on the door and that’s it.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Yard Bar. It’s owned by a friend of mine—he used to work for me as one of my linecooks. It’s a restaurant and a bar…but it’s also a dog park. They literally have dog menus. You bring your dog, let the dogs play, and have a drink and a great time. It’s a lot of fun. The dogs love it, they’ve got incredible treats. They’ve got beef sliders with carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, and flaxseed. They have canine cakes, doggy ice cream. Then they’ve got a bunch of beer and wine on tap and a great food menu for the humans as well. They throw dog birthday parties as well.
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Lucy’s Fried Chicken. I’m a sucker for some great fried chicken, and Lucy’s has got just incredible buckets of it. I’ll take that as my guilty pleasure.
Let’s go Wu Chow. They have incredible dim sum. It’s an over the top brunch. It’s perfect for any hangover.
Boiler 9 Bar + Grill. It’s three levels. You can start with cocktails in the boiler room; it’s a dark and sexy lounge. Then you can go upstairs onto the main level, where it’s a wood-fired grill concept, highlighting incredible vegetarian cuisine and local, creative flavors. And you can end your date night on the observation deck, which is an open-air deck that has great city views and overlooks the lake, and enjoy an after-dinner drink or cocktail.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Tako is a good friend of mine—he used to be one of my linecooks. He was dj-ing on weekends, and he was like, “Yeah, I think I’m gonna go open a ramen shop,” and I said, “Hey man, good luck, let me know what I can do for you,” and then literally within, like, 12 or 18 months from that point, he’s got one of the most nationally acclaimed ramen shops in the country and he’s opening a third or fourth location.
Thank you Chef Bull, for taking us on a culinary tour of Austin!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Cambridge, Hoboken, Hollywood, Return to Miami, Return to Las Vegas, Manhattan, Oakland, Paris, Portland, Tampa, Durham, Toronto, Baltimore, Monterey, Vail, Lexington, Bentonville, San Antonio, Warsaw, Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans,Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!