Austin has undeniably become a hotspot for people to move and vacation alike with its big-city small-town feel, its endless list of activities and (obviously) its incredible food. However, for us locals, it’s hard not to feel protective of the old Austin with the influx of several hip and upscale establishments.
If you were born and raised in Austin, keep reading to reminisce on a few of the spots that are partially responsible for raising you.
1. Ken’s Donuts
If you didn’t start your Saturday mornings with a donut from this hole in the wall donut shop, are you even from Austin? Despite the less than comforting interiors, there’s nowhere else around with better, cheaper donuts or more generous employees who are known to throw in extra donuts free of charge.
This 24/7 place on UT’s campus has been with us from childhood slumber parties to late-night drunchies and we hope it never closes (or gets shut down from failing inspection…).
2. Breakfast Tacos From Texas Honey Ham
The holy grail. No place in Austin does it better than Honey Ham, which, for a place with as many breakfast taco options as it has liberals, is a statement. The constant line out of the restaurant on weekends and during lunch hour confirms that it’s top notch.
Also, Honey Ham is known for its amazing ice cream and massive chocolate chip cookies that can be heated by order on their skillet.
3. Sno Beach
If you grew up in Austin, you know the season opening of Sno Beach means summer is basically here. Despite having to sometimes wait in line in the heat, all local Austinites know there’s nothing more refreshing than a Sno Beach snow cone. Their homemade syrups are one of a kind and their top secret fresh cream topping is essentially the nectar of the gods.
4. Kerbey Lane Pancakes
In Austin, breakfast for dinner is always a thing. With numerous diners serving up huge breakfast platters 24 hours a day, Kerbey Lane takes the cake (ha) for best pancakes. They offer a variety of seasonal and daily specials but even their fixed options cannot be beat. If you haven’t tried their cinnamon roll pancake, please drop what you’re doing and go right now.
5. Magnolia Cafe’s Mag Mud
There’s nothin’ better than a little late night (or early morning) mag mud. Similar to Kerbey Lane, Magnolia Cafe’s 24/7 hours make it a hotspot for teens and adults alike to frequent at night. If you didn’t come here with the most random groups of people at the most random of hours, are you even from Austin?
6. Central Market
Not sure if this place is on the list for its food or for its epic playground, but either way, if you grew up in Austin you know that Central Market meant hours of running around with random kids you’ve never met before. I guess the kids pizzas and chicken fingers weren’t so bad either…
If you’re really from Austin, you’ll remember back in the day when Juiceland was Daily Juice. Although the two spots went their separate ways, Juiceland will always have a special place in my heart for the way it mirrors Austin’s eccentricity and weirdness. There’s no better pitstop than Juiceland after a run around Town Lake or a day at Barton Springs.
8. Amy’s Mexican Vanilla
Perhaps the most famous dessert from Austin, Amy’s Mexican Vanilla ice cream was undoubtedly what we all begged our parents for every day after school. If your parents really liked you, maybe they would’ve brought your elementary school class an Amy’s cookie cake on your birthday.
9. Sandwiches from ThunderCloud Subs
ThunderCloud Subs is a staple of any local Austinite’s diet. It’s what your parents would drop off at the school office on those days they forgot to make your lunch or what you’d pick up for lunch to take and picnic at Zilker Park.
10. P. Terry’s Burger and Shake
You know at least one thing’s going right if you’re eating P.Terry’s. Founded by Austin locals on the basis of providing high-quality food for cheap, P.Terry’s has a difference you can taste. Best enjoyed after a long day at Austin City Limits or a long night out. Or whenever.
11. Matt’s El Rancho
If Tex-Mex were a country, Matt’s would be the king. All true Austinites grew up on Matt’s family dinners full of queso, fajitas and stolen sips of your parents’ margaritas. Bonus points if you have the t-shirt that says “Gimme a large Bob.”
12. Home Slice Pizza
The original pizza of Austin, Home Slice is the epitome of a weekend outing for local Austinites. This place is always crowded, which is completely understandable, as they make the best New York style pizza in town.
You can’t go wrong with any of their menu items, however their classic pizza takes me back to my childhood. Frequently followed by a cup of ice cream from the Amy’s down the street.
13. EZ’s Curly Fries
Not only was this classic diner the background of many Friday Night Lights episodes, but it was also a Friday night staple for Austin kids growing up. EZ’s served some of the dankest kid-friendly foods like chicken fingers, mini pizzas, and milkshakes. When I drove by on my last break from school to see it had closed down, my heart hurt.
14. Whole Foods Flagship
If you’re from Austin, you know that no other Whole Foods Market in the country even comes close to the N. Lamar flagship. From the custom taco and sushi stands to the endless hot food and salad bar, our Whole Foods is on another level. And, if you haven’t ice skated on the roof, I’m embarrassed for you.
15. Hill-bert’s Burger
Another Austin classic that shut down too soon is Hill-bert’s. One of the best simple burger and fries combos around, Hill-bert’s was so famous among my classmates and me growing up that our middle school even had a Hill-bert’s Club. You know you’ve truly been with Austin from the get go if you’ve been to Hill-bert’s.
16. Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q
You can’t have an Austin food list without including BBQ. Rudy’s is an Austin classic and reminds all of us locals of summer evenings after our youth association games sitting out at picnic tables stuffing our faces with brisket, white bread and the best creamed corn there is. The pudding (chocolate or banana-both amazing) are out of this world.
17. Taco Shack Drive-thru Tacos
Everyone who grew up in Austin has driven through Taco Shack at least once for some of the best Tex-Mex tacos out there. Our family went so far as to have “Taco Shack Tuesday” where we’d wake up early to make sure we could get our fix before school. Fast, cheap and delicious, Taco Shack is an Austin classic that takes many Austinites’ view of tacos as a food group very seriously.