Chef Picks: The Most Under-the-Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

If you're looking to side-step the hype and find delicious food, follow an off-duty chef. We asked15 of Austin's best to reveal their favorite lesser-known food haunts to visit during SXSW.

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Austin has long been hailed as Tex-Mex and BBQ mecca, but in recent years, a number of bold, ingredient-reverent chefs have also made their mark on the Lone Star State’s laid-back capital. In a city fueled by a trifecta of food, music, and festivals, their honest, creative cooking has found its lane between amid a landscape of smoky ribs and cheese-laded enchiladas.

When these guys and gals leave their kitchens, however, they like to relax with the simplest and most satisfying of grub—including General Tso’s chicken, doughnuts, and breakfast tacos. Just in time for SXSW, when the city is packed with revelers turning all the known hot spots into a zoo, we asked 15 of Austin’s top chefs where they recommend escaping for an under-the-radar bite.

Alexis Chong

Executive chef at Sway

austin chong Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: El Tacorrido (2316 S 1st St; 512-912-1939, eltacorrido.com)

Chong says: “I enjoy their breakfast tacos with bacon, egg and cheese, as well as El Equinox,  which is iced horchata with a shot of espresso.” (Photo: Yelp)

Rick Lopez

Executive chef at La Condesa

austin lopez Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: New World Deli (4101 Guadalupe St; 512-451-7170, neworldeli.com)

Lopez says: “I love their Reuben sandwiches. I know the whole family there and love the vibe.” (Photo: New World Deli)


Sarah McIntosh

Chef/owner at Épicerie Café & Grocery

austin mcintosh Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: El Pollo Regio (multiple locations; elpolloregio.net)

McIntosh says: “El Pollo Regio has a few locations around Austin, and it is the fastest, best Mexican chicken place. I order the flame-grilled half chicken. It comes with rice, beans, tortillas, onions, and salsa.” (Photo: El Pollo Regio)

Shawn Cirkiel

Chef/owner at Parkside, Olive & June, the Backspace, and Chavez

austin cirkiel Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery (4909 Airport Blvd; 512-452-4750, mjbakery.com)

Cirkiel says: “My favorite thing to do is to finish up dinner service and hit the drive-thru of Mrs. Johnson’s on the way home. I have been going since I was three. There is something special about a glazed doughnut that is hot from the fryer.” (Photo: Yelp)


Bryce Gilmore

Chef/owner at Barley Swine

austin gilmore Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Hopdoddy Burger Bar (1400 South Congress Ave, 512-243-7505; 2438 A West Anderson, 512-467-2337; hopdoddy.com)

Gilmore says: “All the burgers are great, but my favorite is the El Diablo: Angus beef, pepper jack, caramelized onions, habanero and serrano chiles, salsa roja, and chipotle mayo. It’s just the right amount of spicy. Hopdoddy also uses good ingredients, so you don’t have to wonder what you’re eating—just which burger to choose.” (Photo: Hopdoddy/Facebook)

Chad Dolezal

Chef/owner at The Hightower

austin dolezal Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Angie’s (1307 E 7th St, 512-476-5413)

Dolezal says: “It’s an old-school Mexican restaurant right down the street from us that we would hit up about twice a week during construction. It is a zero-frills place, but the food is consistent and the carnitas are spot on. The refried beans are also some of the best around.” (Photo: Yelp)


Carlos Buscaglia

Chef/partner at Due Forni

austin buscaglia Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Yellow Jacket Social Club (1704 E 5th St; 512-480-9572, yellowjacketsocialclub.com)

Buscaglia says: “I love the outdoor area surrounded by big trees, and they have an amazing beet sandwich. And since I love motorcycles, it’s cool to see some of the bikes there.” (Photo: Yellow Jacket Social Club)

Tyson Cole

Chef/owner at Uchi and Uchiko

austin cole Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Café Josie (1200 W 6th St; 512-322-9226, cafejosie.com)

Cole says: “Amazing small plates with great use of flavors and quality ingredients. The grilled octopus—crispy potatoes, smoked tomato aioli, chorizo gastrique, parsley salad—is unbelievable.” (Photo: Kirk Weddle, The Read Austin)


Paul Qui

Chef/owner at Qui

austin qui Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Las Trancas taco truck (1210 E Cesar Chavez St)

Qui says: “I like to order the tripe tacos, extra crispy, on corn tortillas.” (Photos: Eric Morales, Yelp)

Sonya Coté

Executive chef at Eden East and Hillside Farmacy

austin cote Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tacodeli (multiple locations, tacodeli.com)

Coté says: “These guys use some super fresh local ingredients to make their white boy tacos, but I go there for the heavenly jalapeno mashed potatoes and the Heather—grilled Mexican queso fresco, refried black beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomato. You have to get an agua fresca as well.” (Photo: Tacodeli/Facebook)


Ned Elliott

Chef/owner at Foreign & Domestic

austin elliott Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Asia Café (8650 Spicewood Springs Rd; 512-331-5788, asiamarketaustin.com)

Elliott says: “I love to take my six-year-old daughter, Billie Van, there and get some off-the-wall things such as pork intestine stewed in pork blood with lots of chiles, and General Tso’s chicken, which is the best version I’ve had. The place is so awesome. The large tables have Lazy Susans, and it’s a great spot to go with 10 people, order 15 things, and just eat for an afternoon.” (Photo: Yelp)

Rene Ortiz

Executive chef at Launderette and Angry Bear

austin ortiz Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Odd Duck (1201 S Lamar Blvd; 512-433-6521, oddduckaustin.com)

Ortiz says: “I’m a big fan of chef Bryce Gilmore and was excited to check out his new restaurant, Odd Duck. Definitely not to be missed in Austin. Get the bread and butter—LOVE!” (Photos: Erica Stivison, Odd Duck)


Laura Sawicki

Pastry chef at Launderette & Angry Bear
austin sawicki Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Hopfields (3110 Guadalupe St; 512-537-0467, hopfieldsaustin.com)

Sawicki says: “After a long night, there is nothing better than a classic English breakfast at Hopfields. Creamy fried eggs, sweet and savory beans, sausage and ham, roasted tomatoes, and toast. Seriously, I could eat this and go into a food coma and die, it’s that good. It’s an understated restaurant with an impressive beer and wine list—perfect for chefs looking for something that’s kind of unconventional yet totally still delicious.” (Photos: Erica Stivison, The Austinot)

Scott Roberts

Owner/pitmaster at the Salt Lick

austin roberts Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Clark’s Oyster Bar (1200 W 6th St; 512-297-2525, clarksoysterbar.com)

Roberts says: “Eating the branzino there is like being on the Italian coast—the only thing missing is the Mediterranean. All of the seafood is very fresh and impeccably prepared. Clark’s also happens to have the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had in my entire life!” (Photo: Kenny Braun, Casey Dunn/USA Today)


Phil Korsak

Senior kitchen manager at Home Slice Pizza

austin korsak Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Austin
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Joe’s Bakery (2305 E 7th St; 512-472-0017, joesbakery.com)

Korsak says: It’s hard to think of an established, half-century old business as being ‘under the radar,’ but Joe’s Bakery is one of the best kept secrets in the city. I’m a sucker for a family bakery. I am reminded of Mazzola back in Brooklyn: a small neighborhood shop that serves at a kind of public house for the community. Joe’s, for the last 50 years, has been exactly that. Its delicious menu caters to nostalgic tastes of Tex-Mex while holding true to authentic reverence for recipes passed down through the generations. While their pastries are amazing and the breakfast tacos are unfailing, the enchiladas reign supreme.” (Photo: Yelp)

  • Belena Nahcedo

    Qui says: “I like to order the tripe tacos, extra crispy, on corn tortillas.”

    Uhhhhhhhhhh “tripas” doesn’t translate to “tripe,” Paul Qui. Just wait til someone tells him what they really are.

    • Katie A

      So it’s intestines instead of stomachs. Big whoop.

  • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

    Thanks for the Hopfields photo credit. It’s The Austinot or Austinot.com. :)

    • Chris Schonberger

      Ah, sorry! Fixed.

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