Unique Restaurants in Austin: 12 Coolest Places to Eat in Austin, TX

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Austin
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Are you looking to discover the most unique restaurants in Austin, Texas? Here are 12 of Austin’s best restaurants which will leave you with long-lasting memories.

Austin, Texas: a vibrant city where melodies of live music echo alongside the enticing aromas of diverse cuisines. While it’s undeniably famous for its BBQ and taco culture, there’s a broader culinary canvas waiting to be explored. Dive a bit deeper, and you’ll find an array of unique restaurants in Austin that effortlessly blend tradition with innovation.

Imagine dining spots that offer mesmerizing views of Lake Travis, or cafes where creativity meets gastronomy, all set against the backdrop of Austin’s dynamic energy. From hidden gems that surprise with their inventive menus to iconic establishments that have shaped the city’s culinary narrative, Austin has it all.

For those with an adventurous palate, Austin promises a delightful culinary journey. For travelers, it’s a chance to taste the city’s diverse culture, one dish at a time. And for everyone else? It’s an invitation to experience dining in a way that’s quintessentially Austin.

In this guide, we’ll journey through Austin’s best restaurants, highlighting what sets each one apart. From their ambiance to their unique offerings, these restaurants contribute to Austin’s reputation as a top food destination. Let’s embark on this exploration, savoring the diverse tastes of Austin. Here’s all you need to know about the most unique restaurants in Austin, TX.

The top restaurants to visit in Austin right now
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Unique Restaurants in Austin, Texas: 12 Incredible Austin Eateries

Are you ready to discover the most unique restaurants in Austin? As noted earlier, there’s a large range of places to eat in Austin to please all visitors. Keep reading to find out where to eat in Austin, TX.

Are you looking for artisanal vegan tacos? Or would you prefer sushi with a Texan twist? Whatever your palate desires, Austin can accommodate your needs. Here’s your in-depth guide to the most unique restaurants in Austin.

1. The Oasis on Lake Travis

Ever thought of pairing your dinner with a side of epic sunset views? At The Oasis on Lake Travis, that’s the daily special! Sitting high above the shimmering waters of Lake Travis, this place is all about soaking in those Texas-sized sunsets. With a title like the “Sunset Capital of Texas,” you know you’re in for a visual treat.

The Oasis serves up classic American dishes with a sprinkle of Texan zest. Think juicy steaks and fresh-off-the-boat seafood, all waiting to make your taste buds dance. And with that ever-changing backdrop of the sun setting over the lake? It’s pure dining bliss!

What adds to the charm of The Oasis is its unique multi-level architecture. This ensures that Lake Travis’s panoramic views are always within sight, which makes the dining experience all the more memorable. It’s this combination of delicious food and unrivaled views that places The Oasis prominently on the list of Austin’s coolest restaurants.

If you’re in the mood for a dining experience that’s both flavorful and visually stunning, The Oasis awaits. As one of the most scenic restaurants in Austin, it’s an eatery I recommend everyone visiting the city to add to their itinerary.

Indulge in classic American dishes with Texan flair at The Oasis, complemented by stunning lake sunsets.
Indulge in classic American dishes with Texan flair at The Oasis, complemented by stunning lake sunsets.

2. Spider House Café and Ballroom

At the heart of Austin lies the Spider House Cafe and Ballroom, a vibrant fusion of art, fairy lights, and eclectic vibes. With its unique ambiance, it’s become a favorite hangout for students, artists, and anyone looking to soak in the city’s creative spirit.

Mismatched furniture adds a touch of vintage charm, while the outdoor patio, adorned with twinkling lights, offers a cozy retreat. As evening approaches, the ballroom buzzes with energy, hosting events from poetry slams to indie music performances.

The menu at Spider House showcases the creativity of the chefs. Comfort food classics meet innovative bites, all crafted with fresh ingredients. Craving a hearty sandwich or a refreshing drink? Spider House has a diverse menu that caters to varied tastes.

Among the unique places to eat in Austin, Spider House stands out for its dedication to fostering a community of artists and thinkers. It’s a cultural hub where ideas flourish, and memories are crafted. For those seeking the coolest restaurants in Austin that are both quirky and memorable, Spider House is a top pick.

Spider House Cafe and Ballroom is one of the unique restaurants in Austin.
Discover Spider House Cafe and Ballroom, a favorite spot for students, artists, and creative souls.

3. The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In

Remember the golden days of drive-in movies? The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In in Austin brings back that nostalgic charm, but with a twist. Whilst it’s a fantastic place to watch classic films under the stars, it’s also one of the best places to eat in Austin, TX!

Tucked away from the city’s hustle, this drive-in offers a curated movie experience with themed menus to match. Watching a classic 80s film? Expect gourmet popcorn flavors reminiscent of that era, specialty hot dogs, and retro sodas. For those romantic black-and-white films, enjoy a menu of upscale bites and sparkling beverages.

The uniqueness of The Blue Starlite lies in its blend of old-school entertainment and modern culinary delights. It’s an experience that engages all your senses. The sound of the film, the taste of the food, the sight of stars overhead, and the comfort of your car create a dining and entertainment fusion that’s hard to find elsewhere.

For travelers and locals seeking something out of the ordinary, this drive-in stands out as a beacon of creativity in the unique restaurants in Austin landscape. It’s a trip down memory lane, with the bonus of incredible treats.

Relive the drive-in movie nostalgia with a modern twist at The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In – a top dining spot too!
Relive the drive-in movie nostalgia with a modern twist at The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In – a top dining spot too! | Source: https://www.austintexas.org/

4. Unbarlievable

Step right up to Unbarlievable, Austin’s quirky circus-themed bar and eatery! Located on the renowned Rainey Street, this spot is a riot of colors, laughter, and surprises. From stilt walkers to spontaneous magic shows, every visit promises a dash of the unexpected.

Beyond the playful antics, Unbarlievable serves up a menu that’s as eclectic as its ambiance. Think gourmet sliders paired with cotton candy cocktails or spicy nachos accompanied by a classic ringmaster’s lemonade. Every dish and drink is crafted to be a conversation starter, ensuring your meal is both tasty and memorable.

The outdoor patio, with its carousel seating and vintage circus tents, offers a relaxed space to enjoy Austin’s balmy evenings. Live bands often grace the stage, their tunes adding to the merry atmosphere.

For those who believe dining should be an adventure, Unbarlievable offers a delightful escape from the mundane. It’s a place where childhood memories blend seamlessly with gourmet flavors, making it a standout among Austin’s unique restaurants.

Experience the unexpected at Unbarlievable, a circus-themed bar and eatery on Rainey Street.
Experience the unexpected at Unbarlievable, a circus-themed bar and eatery on Rainey Street.

5. Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden

Among the best places to eat in Austin, Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on Rainey Street offers a feast for both the palate and the ears. With over 100 craft beers on tap and an array of artisanal sausages, it’s a haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

With over 30 house-made sausages ranging from traditional bratwurst to exotic options like duck, bacon, and fig, there’s a flavor adventure waiting for every carnivore. Vegetarians aren’t left out either, with plant-based sausages that are as flavorful as their meaty counterparts.

The ambiance is laid-back and authentically Texan. Long communal tables encourage conversations among strangers, and the live music – featuring local Austin bands – adds to the jovial atmosphere. On weekends, the Beer Garden transforms into a lively brunch spot, with their famous “Manmosa” stealing the show – a full bottle of champagne with a splash of orange juice.

If you’re searching for the best places to eat in Austin. Banger’s is a must-visit. It’s an experience that encapsulates the city’s zest for life.

Indulge in craft beers and artisanal sausages at Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden, one of the unique dining spots.
Indulge in craft beers and artisanal sausages at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, one of the unique dining spots.

6. Kemuri Tatsu-ya

Kemuri Tatsu-ya in East Austin is a restaurant where two culinary worlds collide. Here, the deep-rooted barbecue traditions of Texas are interwoven with the meticulous art of Japanese cuisine. The result? Dishes like brisket ramen and smoked fish collars with Texas toast challenge the palate in the best way possible.

Housed in a transformed izakaya (Japanese pub), the interiors are a blend of rustic Texan elements and classic Japanese decor. The lantern-lit patio, a favorite among patrons, offers a relaxed setting to enjoy the fusion fare.

The drink menu is equally intriguing, with sake and whiskey cocktails that echo the restaurant’s East-meets-West ethos. And while the food and drinks are undoubtedly stellar, it’s the restaurant’s ability to offer a fresh perspective on familiar dishes that sets it apart.

In a city brimming with dining options, Kemuri Tatsu-ya shines as one of the coolest restaurants in Austin, TX. It offers a dining experience that’s both comforting and adventurous.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya is one of the unique restaurants in Austin.
Experience a fusion of Texas barbecue and Japanese cuisine at Kemuri Tatsu-ya, where dishes like brisket ramen and smoked fish collars with Texas toast await your taste buds.

7. Juan in a Million

In the vibrant East Cesar Chavez neighborhood, Juan in a Million has been serving up breakfast tacos that have achieved near-legendary status among Austinites. But what truly sets this place apart isn’t just the flavor-packed tacos – it’s the unbeatable value.

For just a few dollars, you can get your hands on the “Don Juan” taco, a mountain of potatoes, eggs, bacon, and cheese that’s so hefty, that it’s become a challenge for patrons to finish. It’s an experience that’s become a rite of passage for both locals and visitors!

The restaurant itself is unpretentious and welcoming, with a no-frills interior that focuses on what’s essential: the food. The menu, while concise, offers a range of options that cater to meat lovers and vegetarians alike.

In a city known for its culinary diversity, Juan in a Million offers cheap eats in Austin that don’t compromise on quality or portion size. It’s a testament to the idea that great food doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag, especially when it’s made with love and tradition.

Juan in a Million, located in East Cesar Chavez, is renowned for its breakfast tacos and unbeatable value.
Juan in a Million, located in East Cesar Chavez, is renowned for its breakfast tacos and unbeatable value.

8. Lala’s Little Nugget

If you’ve ever wished the festive spirit of Christmas could last all year, Lala’s Little Nugget in North Austin is your dream come true. This quirky bar has been celebrating December 25th every day for over four decades, which makes it a standout in Austin’s vibrant bar scene.

Upon entering, you’re greeted with twinkling Christmas lights, vintage holiday decorations from the ’70s, and the soothing melodies of classic Christmas tunes. It’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane, evoking the warmth and joy of holiday gatherings.

Moreover, their drink menu is a festive treat, featuring holiday-inspired cocktails and a solid selection of local brews. The “Frosty Pine” and “Mrs. Claus’ Wildside” are crowd favorites, offering a merry mix of flavors.

While the ambiance is undeniably festive, the prices remain down-to-earth, making it a favorite spot for both locals and visitors looking for a unique night out in Austin. For those in search of unique places in Austin to eat and drink, Lala’s Little Nugget offers a jolly experience unlike any other.

Lala's Little Nugget keeps the Christmas spirit alive year-round, making it a unique gem in the city's bar scene. | Source: https://www.lalasaustintexas.com/
Lala’s Little Nugget keeps the Christmas spirit alive year-round, making it a unique gem in the city’s bar scene. | Source: https://www.lalasaustintexas.com/

9. The Vegan Nom

Located in the heart of East Austin, The Vegan Nom is flipping the script on Tex-Mex traditions. As the city’s first all-vegan taco truck, it’s become a hotspot for both vegans and meat lovers curious about plant-based flavors.

Gone are the days when vegan meant bland. Here, tacos come alive with zesty cashew queso, smoky tempeh bacon, and spicy mushroom chorizo. Favorites like the “Bean Diablo” and “Rockin Vegan Migas” showcase the magic of vegan ingredients, delivering a punch of flavor in every bite.

The colorful graffiti art on the truck, combined with the aroma of fresh tortillas, creates an inviting atmosphere that’s hard to resist. And the best part? Indulging in these tacos won’t leave a dent in your wallet.

Looking for the best vegan and vegetarian food in Austin, Texas? The Vegan Nom is a delightful revelation, proving that plant-based can be both flavorful and affordable.

The Vegan Nom reimagines Tex-Mex with its all-vegan taco truck, attracting vegans and curious meat lovers alike. | Source: https://www.thevegannom.com/
The Vegan Nom reimagines Tex-Mex with its all-vegan taco truck, attracting vegans and curious meat lovers alike. | Source: https://www.thevegannom.com/

10. Gourdough’s Public House

At Gourdough’s Public House, the humble donut is elevated to star status. Located in the bustling South Lamar district, this eatery takes the concept of “donut-based dishes” to a whole new level.

Forget everything you know about donuts being just a sweet treat. Here, they form the base for burgers, act as the bread for sandwiches, and even make their way into salads. The “Mother Clucker,” a donut topped with fried chicken and honey butter, is a crowd favorite, showcasing the versatility of this beloved pastry.

The ambiance is lively and playful, with retro decor elements and a laid-back vibe. The extensive drink menu, featuring craft beers and inventive cocktails, perfectly complements the rich and indulgent dishes.

For travelers and locals seeking unique restaurants in Austin that push culinary boundaries, Gourdough’s Public House is a must-visit. It’s a celebration of creativity, flavor, and the endless possibilities of the donut.

Gourdough's Public House elevates the humble donut to star status with inventive "donut-based dishes."
Gourdough’s Public House elevates the humble donut to star status with inventive “donut-based dishes.”

11. Easy Tiger

Looking for the best food in Austin with a twist? Dive into Easy Tiger on Sixth Street, where Austin’s passion for artisanal bread and craft beer come alive. The upstairs bakery is a sensory delight, with the aroma of fresh bread like crusty baguettes and soft sourdough filling the air. Each piece is a nod to traditional baking techniques, ensuring authenticity in every bite.

Downstairs, the scene transforms into a lively beer garden. Wooden benches, views of the creek, and ambient string lights set the stage for a relaxed evening. The beer selection is vast, featuring local favorites and international brews. And if you’re feeling peckish, their house-made sausages and cheese boards are the perfect accompaniments.

Discovering Easy Tiger is like stumbling upon a secret culinary haven in Austin. It’s a place where baked goods and brews unite, creating an atmosphere that’s both cozy and vibrant. For anyone eager to explore the best places in Austin to eat, this spot promises an experience that lingers long after the last bite.

Experience Austin's artisanal bread and craft beer passion at Easy Tiger on Sixth Street, where traditional baking techniques create authentic delights.
Experience Austin’s artisanal bread and craft beer passion at Easy Tiger on Sixth Street, where traditional baking techniques create authentic delights.

12. Salty Sow

Salty Sow sets the bar high in East Austin with its dedication to genuine farm-to-table dining. This American gastropub has quickly become one of Austin’s best restaurants, thanks to its commitment to fresh, local ingredients and a menu that consistently impresses.

Dive into standout dishes like truffled deviled eggs, crispy Brussels sprout leaves, or the melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked beef shoulder. Each offering captures the essence of Texas, presented with a modern twist.

The setting is as impressive as the food. Warm wood interiors create a welcoming atmosphere, while the outdoor patio, lit by ambient lights, is an ideal spot for a relaxed evening out.

Round off your meal with one of their signature cocktails or a pick from their diverse wine list. If you’re exploring unique restaurants in Austin, Salty Sow is a destination that perfectly encapsulates the city’s dynamic food culture. Don’t miss out!

Salty Sow is one of the unique restaurants in Austin.
Salty Sow shines with farm-to-table dining, making it one of the top restaurants known for fresh, local ingredients and an impressive menu.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Most Unique Restaurants in Austin, TX

Are you searching for more information about where to eat in Austin, Texas? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Austin’s most unique restaurants.

What food is Austin Texas famous for?

Austin is renowned for its barbecue, especially brisket, which is slow-cooked to perfection. The city also boasts a vibrant Tex-Mex scene, with dishes like tacos, enchiladas, and queso being local favorites. Additionally, food trucks serve a variety of innovative dishes, making Austin a diverse culinary destination.

Is Austin a foodie city?

Without a doubt! Austin has firmly established itself as a culinary hotspot in the U.S. The city’s food scene reflects its rich cultural diversity, blending traditional Texan flavors with global influences. From renowned barbecue joints and Tex-Mex staples to innovative vegan eateries and global cuisines, Austin offers a gastronomic experience that caters to all tastes. The rise of food festivals, farmer’s markets, and a thriving community of local chefs and restaurateurs further cements Austin’s status as a foodie paradise.

Where do celebrities eat in Austin TX?

Celebrities visiting Austin, Texas, have a variety of dining options that they love, ranging from upscale restaurants to casual food trucks. Here are some spots where you might spot a star:

  • Verbena Food + Drink: Located on West 6th Street, this spot has been visited by Zachary Levi. The restaurant is known for its flatbreads and Burrata Panzanella.
  • Franklin BBQ: A favorite among many, including President Barack Obama and Gordon Ramsay. Kanye West even tried to cut the line but was turned away!
  • Emmer & Rye: Located on Rainey Street, this restaurant has been visited by Gordon Ramsay and Rachael Ray. It offers delicious mackerel dish.
  • Home Slice: A pizza place that Rachael Ray and Frances McDormand frequent. Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” also recommends it.
  • Guero’s Taco Bar: Pierce Brosnan, Ryan Gosling, and Quentin Tarantino have been spotted here. It’s a South Congress restaurant that’s been a celeb regular for years.
  • Alamo Drafthouse: Kirsten Dunst loves the fried pickles and ranch dressing at this cinema that serves food.
  • Boteco ATX Food Truck: Camila Alves, Matthew McConaughey’s wife, loves the Brazilian street food here.
  • Jo’s Coffee: Frequented by Taylor Kitsch, Luke Wilson, and Rachael Ray, this coffee shop is a local favorite.
  • Mr. Natural: A vegetarian spot that Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater love.
  • Torchy’s Tacos: Known for its delicious tacos, it has been visited by actors like Greg Grunberg and Scott Speedman.

So, if you’re in Austin and looking to dine like a star, these are the places to check out!

Where can I find the best places to eat in Austin?

From upscale dining venues to quirky cafes and food trucks, Austin has it all. Exploring neighborhoods like East Austin, South Congress, and Rainey Street will lead you to some of the city’s culinary gems.

South Congress comes alive at night, transforming into one of the best spots for dining under the vibrant glow of neon signs.
South Congress comes alive at night, transforming into one of the best spots for dining under the vibrant glow of neon signs.

Are there any unique places in Austin to eat that are also affordable?

Yes, Austin offers a range of dining options that won’t break the bank. Food trucks and local eateries often serve delicious meals at wallet-friendly prices, making it easy to enjoy Austin’s best restaurants on a budget. Some standout spots include:

  1. Veracruz All Natural: Known for their mouth-watering tacos.
  2. East Side King: A fusion of Asian cuisine with Austin’s laid-back vibe.
  3. Micklethwait Craft Meats: A food truck serving top-notch barbecue without the hefty price tag.
  4. Biscuits and Groovy: A breakfast spot with delicious biscuits and creative toppings.
  5. Chi’Lantro: Where Korean BBQ meets Mexican flavors in a delightful fusion. Exploring Austin, you’ll find that great food doesn’t always come with a high price tag.

What’s the dining scene like at Austin’s best restaurants?

The dining scene in Austin is eclectic and vibrant. Restaurants often blend traditional elements with modern twists, offering patrons a unique dining experience. From themed restaurants to places with scenic views, Austin’s dining scene is diverse and dynamic.

What is the highest rated restaurant in Austin?

The highest-rated restaurant in Austin, Texas, according to Yelp, is “Gather & Forge” with a rating of 4.9 based on 111 reviews. This restaurant is known for its unique offerings as it specializes in personal chef services, supper clubs, and cooking classes. It is located in the Allandale area and is open until 11:45 PM. Moreover, the restaurant is locally owned and operated, and it has been established since 2015.

Are reservations necessary at the best restaurants in Austin?

While some popular and unique restaurants in Austin for dinner might require reservations, especially during weekends, many eateries welcome walk-ins. However, to avoid waiting, it’s always a good idea to book in advance.

Concluding Austin’s Most Unique Restaurants

Austin’s food scene is a delightful blend of tradition, innovation, and everything in between. From the smoky aroma of barbecue joints to the vibrant flavors of international cuisines, the city offers a wide variety of restaurants that cater to every palate.

As we’ve explored, there’s no shortage of unique places to eat in Austin, each bringing its own charm and flavor to the table. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or someone looking to explore new tastes, Austin promises a gastronomic adventure that’s both satisfying and memorable.

The next time you find yourself in this Texan gem, remember to bring your appetite and a sense of adventure. Happy dining!

The top restaurants in Austin for all types of travelers
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