If you have visited Austin on vacation or perhaps flew in for an interview then you know of all the popular restaurants downtown. These are venues that are typically polluted with tourists every hour they are open. Once you live in this city a little while you will learn that most locals avoid these places. It is not that they stop going out to eat though! It is simply that they know where all the hidden gem restaurants are. These are the places with some of the best food you will ever taste, yet you will not see a parking lot full of out-of-state license plates.
Hot Mama’s Café – This casual café is in East Austin. From Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches to calzone pastries, you will find yourself drawn to this place like a magnetic force once you taste how delicious everything is. This is a cozy space with a nice patio for breakfast and lunch. Plus, the restaurant buys local and organic, recycles, and actually pays their workers a decent wage. You will feel good supporting this local treasure!
Lucky’s Puccias – Although this place is downtown, you would likely never find it if you were not looking for it. Lucky’s Puccias is a street vendor, so there is no indoor seating. It is on W 5th St., but you will not see it unless you walk behind Whole Foods. You will see the line of locals and know you are in the right spot. The bread for these heavenly pockets of goodness is the most amazing thing you will ever taste. Imagine ciabatta, naan, croissant, sourdough, and focaccia bread all rolled into one!
Sweetish Hill Bakery – This is another truly “hidden” gem, as it is inside the Baker Botts building. Look for a little chalkboard outside the door with the specials, or you might walk right on by. Sweetish Hill Bakery has a few lunch specials daily and offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. However, it is the cakes, cupcakes, and other tasty treats that lure the locals in.
Fabi & Rosi – This dinner-only venue is in a small cottage southwest of the downtown area. Here you will enjoy a nice variety of French, German, and modern European dishes that are elegantly presented and not nearly as pricy as you might expect. Fabi & Rosi uses a lot of local ingredients, so the menu changes a bit every season. You will find everything from escargot to schnitzel to lamb on the menu.
La Mexicana Bakery – Late night of dancing and need food? Cramming for a final and need fuel to get you through the night? La Mexicana Bakery is open 24 hours! Whether you are craving a couple traditional tacos or your pregnant wife needs something sweet immediately this is the place to go. Technically, it is in the neighborhood of Bouldin Creek, but it is on 1st St., so it is almost in the heart of the city. The good news is that late at night or early morning it is easy to find parking. Popular menu items at this family restaurant include enchiladas, tortas, pralines, empanadas, and croissants.
Gourmands – Take everything you love about a deli and gastropub and blend them into this East Austin venue. Gourmands gives you a great beer selection and delicious (but affordable) sandwiches. Do not forget an order of the homemade kettle chips!