In the not-so-distant past, far South Austin residents had few dining options other than generic Mexican, chains and fast-food outlets. But now there are many great restaurants in the area, all worthy of a drive from other parts of the city.
From Mexico City-style antojitos to a fabulous Indian buffet and the best Cajun in Austin, the 78745 is finally holding its own.
Asiana Indian Cuisine
Don’t let the stark strip mall location fool you. This may very well be Austin’s best Indian cuisine. The menu boasts items from many regions of the subcontinent with an emphasis on Southern cuisine and a few Indo-Chinese dishes from the Manchurian region. Lunchtime features a buffet with appetizers, curries, masalas, biryani, and tandoori chicken, among other dishes, and a condiment bar. There are desserts too, like a creamy and light rice pudding flavored with saffron and almond slices. On weekends, lesser known dishes make appearances and Indian families pack the dining room.
Dinner is strictly a la carte, with a wide array of specialties to choose from. Don’t miss the reshmi kabob appetizer (seasoned minced chicken cooked on skewers in the tandoor), the wonderfully spicy Lamb Rogan Josh and the addicting deep-fried cauliflower.
Mi Tradición Bakery
Aside from being the most authentic interior Mexican bakery in town, this little gem dishes out real Central Mexico-style antojitos. Huge quesadillas made in organic blue corn masa can be filled with tinga (spicy shredded chicken), sauteed mushrooms, picadillo, tomato-stewed squash or potato and chicken. The tlacoyos, also in blue corn, are filled with black bean puree and garnished with sour cream, grated cheese and cooked nopalitos. You’d swear you’re having breakfast at a street market.
The special taco plates are straight out of late-night Mexico City, with combinations like El Suizo, served with poblano peppers, steak, bacon, cheese and ham. The ginormous tortas, made with freshly baked bolillos, will put you into a delicious food coma. Wash them down with aguas frescas, and don’t forget to check out the gelato case.
Billie Jean’s Burger Pub
This new little joint from one of the owners of Red Shed Tavern is a very welcome addition to far South Congress Avenue. The space is modern and clean, decorated sparsely with a Rosie the Riveter theme. The half-pound Angus beef patties are hand-formed and served in slightly sweet house-made rolls, and range from a simple cheeseburger to unique offerings like the Moroccan, seasoned with North African herbs and spices, cooked medium and topped with an over easy fried egg, goat cheese, baby spinach and house-made harissa. There is also a black bean tofu patty. The fries are fresh cut and crispy, the onion rings beer battered. The menu also includes salads, sandwiches and hot dogs.
Billie Jean’s also features a full bar with specialty cocktails and a beer list that includes locals and ciders, served by friendly folks who know their stuff. Daily happy hour is 3 to 7 pm with discounted appetizers and drinks. Billie Jean's has recently started serving weekend brunch, which includes a killer Bloody Mary garnished with pickles and crispy bacon.
“Old Austin Didn’t Die, It Just Moved South” reads the motto at this happening hole in the wall, decked with music memorabilia and Louisiana kitsch. The staff is as friendly as can be, from the top down — owner Curtis Clarke walks the floor regularly checking on tables and making new friends. His menu is chock-full of Cajun and Creole classics such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, and etouffee, as well as dishes of his own creation such as the Gold Band Creole: deep-fried butterflied jumbo shrimp over a bed of fettuccine with a spicy Creole sauce, Cajun aioli and a gold band of parmesan cheese. The fried seafood baskets are the best around, crispy and not greasy, perfectly seasoned, and served with house-made cocktail and tartar sauces. Cold beer and a decent wine selection keep the good times rolling.
Evangeline hosts live music almost every evening, with late-night performances on Wednesday and Friday — you never know which famous musician will show up to jam with the band. Mondays are a must, when Charles Thibodeaux and the Austin Cajun Aces take the stage at 6:30 pm.
The cozy vibe and mismatched vintage furniture at this tiny South Austin treasure will make you feel like you’re walking into your grandma’s basement garage in the '70s — if she was a punk rocker. At this hangover heaven you can enjoy all-day breakfast starting with a proper Full English: house-made bangers, British bacon, local free-range egg, mushrooms, tomato and fried bread. Stop by on Friday evenings for outstanding fish and chips, or book your High Tea service any day with 24-hour’s notice and enjoy a selection of sandwiches, scones with cream and house-made sweets with a pot of tea of your choice.
Feel free to hang out and enjoy free Wi-Fi while listening to a fine selection of music by British artists. And did we mention it’s BYOB?