EAT THIS CITY takes us to the 15 best places to eat in a different city each week. This week, we’ll eat our hearts out in Austin, Texas, with Chef Callie Speer! Clear eyes, full stomachs, can’t lose.
Pretty much smack dab in the middle of the big hair, big boots, pickup trucks, loose gun control, hot weather, hotter chili, and a whole lotta hootin’ and hollerin’ state of Texas, sits the city of Austin. Austin is both the state capital and the cultural mecca — seeming to exist in its own autonomous world. Sure, Austinites still swell with Texas pride, but the political leanings swing the opposite direction, and the city is an eclectic mixture of music, art, culture, and now… food.
Callie Speer, Executive Pastry Chef at Geraldine’s in the Hotel Van Zandt, is a born-and-bred Austinite — which makes her something of a unicorn (self-proclaimed). She’s also been in kitchens since she was fifteen, when her dad pushed her to get a job. In that time, she’s seen her hometown radically change, mostly due to the influx of transplants. Say what you will about new people two-steppin’ their way into a place and switching things up, but one thing that has moved in a positive direction is the emergence of Austin as a premier food destination.
As the city grew, so did a movement called Keep Austin Weird. Speer says that Geraldine’s tries to maintain this mentality and really encompass the fun local vibes. They have live music nightly, a diverse staff, and a killer view of the city. She told us one story about a woman who came in with her service animal — a bird who sat across from her at the table and reminded her how pretty she was the whole meal; and another about a woman who took off her top before entering the kitchen and tried to persuade a line cook to come back to her hotel room.
(In related news, Geraldine’s doesn’t have a shortage of line cook applicants)
We’re certain that the stars at night are big and bright at all the places Callie Speer has chosen for you to visit in Austin. Enjoy!
Via 313 is my absolute go-to for pizza. Man, their Cadillac pizza… I can’t get enough of it. I think about it all the time. The blue cheese, fig, and prosciutto just do something for me. I dream about this pizza.
Breakfast tacos at Vasquez. This was a Sunday tradition for my family for years, and since we’ve moved out of the neighborhood, it’s one I greatly miss. Their salsa is amazing. Don’t miss out on the queso, either.
Titaya’s. Titaya’s. Titaya’s. Pad Thai, papaya salad, curry, mango sticky rice. These guys really kill it. Everything has just the right amount of heat, and leaves you wanting more.
Veracruz at Radio Coffee and Bar. Their al pastor tacos are some of the best I’ve ever had. Their tortillas are amazing, and are the perfect food to go with a cold beer.
Anything made by my friend Deedee at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. Her desserts are the embodiment of comfort food. Deedee is not afraid to create decadent, traditional favorites that remind you of being a kid again, and make you want to lick the damn plate.
I love everything about Barley Swine. The food is surprising, and elevated, but at the same time, you feel comfortable and relaxed in their environment. I’ve never had anything but a delightful experience here.
Any time I’m craving something casual and comforting, I hit up Ramen Tatsuya. There’s nothing quite like a bowl of their ramen to cure any ailment.
I love all of the veggie options that Parkside offers. Shawn Cirkiel, the chef, grew up in a vegetarian household, and has a major appreciation for making veggie options just as interesting and desirable as their meaty counterparts.
We just recently started doing brunch at the restaurant I work for, Geraldine’s. The food is exciting, and comforting. We have a live jazz band. Cocktails are flowing. You can’t come and not have a fun time!
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
Mexican food is, to me, the most quintessential genre of food in Austin. It’s everywhere, and there are so many great restaurants here that serve it. I have a ton of friends that have moved away, and every time they come home, make it their first stop.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
The oddest culinary experience I’ve had in town was at Odd Duck, and I was called in to test out cricket and pig ear tacos. It was…interesting.
The pimento cheese sandwich at Noble Sandwich Co. If you haven’t noticed yet, cheese is a major theme in my culinary desires. This sandwich really hits home with me.
The best cure for a hangover for me is cheese, and another drink! I love going to Maudie’s for queso and a margarita. Cures it every time.
There’s just something about Justine’s. The atmosphere, the energy, the food, the “je ne sais quoi”. It’s perfect for dates, or for an evening relaxing with friends. I’ve never gone to Justine’s and left without feeling in an exponentially better mood.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Swift’s Attic. I worked with these guys for years, and have such a love for the whimsy, and eclectic take on the dining experience. The fun and love put into their food, drinks, and environment is palpable.
Thanks, Chef Callie, for an inspiring and hunger inducing list!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier-level chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Revisit the past here: Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston and Detroit.
See you next week!