7 best restaurants outside of Austin that are definitely worth the drive
To the delight of foodies and plain ol’ hungry folk across the city, Austin is a hub of many tasty local eateries and nationally recognized restaurants. But sometimes you just have to get out of town — and of course, you still have to eat.
Instead of picking up some less-than-palate-pleasing snacks at a random gas station, stop by one of the best restaurants right outside of Austin. A meal at one of these spots proves you can still eat well even when you’ve just left behind the city limits.
Apis Restaurant & Apiary
This upscale restaurant is situated on the bank of the Pedernales River in Spicewood, about a 40-minute drive from Austin. It may seem unusual to find such a fine dining establishment out in this part of the Hill Country, but its charming, peaceful surroundings make a perfect backdrop to the exquisite food. While the menu changes on a daily basis depending on what ingredients are available, expect to see honey featured in a variety of their dishes (they have 20 hives on the property just far enough away not to disturb guests) as well as pastured pork and chicken sourced from partner farm TerraPurezza. In a more casual mood? Check out Pizzeria Sorellina, the owners' casual Italian eatery on the same lot.
Blue Bonnet Cafe
Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is a quaint, friendly mainstay that you can always count on for good grub. After all, they’ve been serving since 1929. There’s plenty to love here, from their made-from-scratch soups to their all-day breakfast plates to their hearty daily specials. But it would be a mistake to pay the bill without trying their celebrated, homemade pies. There’s apple, cherry, pecan, coconut cream, German chocolate, lemon meringue, and quite a few more. They make it easy for you to sample the wide selection with a weekday pie happy hour from 3 to 5 pm. George W. Bush, Willie Nelson, and Ethan Hawke are just a few of the famous patrons of this establishment, but they’ll treat you just the same if you don't have a bold-faced name.
Texas is already known around the world for its barbecue, but the city of Lockhart has earned itself the high honors of the “Barbecue Capital of Texas.” One of the main players in that game is the original Black’s Barbecue, an unfussy joint that’s been family-owned since 1932. Upon entering, you’ll squeeze past their sides bar to end up at the prize: the delicious meats. They offer nine choices — beef brisket, pork spare ribs, smoked turkey breast, chopped beef brisket, giant beef ribs, pork baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, pork chop, and homemade sausage (from an 80-year-old recipe). Fix yourself a plate and prepare to enter barbecue heaven.
The Leaning Pear
If you’re planning a trip to Wimberley’s Jacob’s Well or Blue Hole Regional Park, pencil in a local and seasonal meal at The Leaning Pear. Think fresh salads (like their popular house salad with spiced pecans, goat cheese, pear, and shallot vinaigrette); wood-fired pizzas; creative sandwiches with kettle-cooked potato chips; comfort food entrées; and more. And if your mouth is not watering yet, prime finds from the nearby Wimberley Farmers’ Market often end up in that day’s special. Whether you’re enjoying your meal in the restaurant’s sleek, airy interior or out on the patio overlooking the creek and meadow, you’re sure to leave with a happy stomach and smile on your face.
Monument Cafe is located in the heart of Georgetown, close to the famous square. Styled like an early 20th-century roadside diner, the retro establishment is a testament to a bygone era. The food is simple and satisfying, and everything is made in-house, from the salad dressings to the desserts. Our favorite dishes here include the King Ranch chicken casserole, cinnamon rolls, chicken-fried steak, and classic pies. If you’re a Food Network fan, you may even recognize Monument Cafe from an episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that featured Texas celebrity Matthew McConaughey.
The Salt Lick BBQ
When people think of the top barbecue places in Austin, they often think of The Salt Lick, even though technically it’s located in Driftwood (there’s also a spot in Round Rock). This place is a legend in the Texas barbecue circuit. They’ve been at it since 1967, but you could even say it goes back further than that. The cooking method they still use today originated on a wagon train trip back in the mid-1800s. If you’re really hankering for some barbecue, go for the $24.95 all-you-can-eat option. Otherwise, order a plate, a sandwich, or by the pound. Just don’t forget two things: it’s cash only and you have to take a peek at the famous, massive meat pit where all the action goes down.
Southside Market & Barbeque
Southside Market began in 1882 when William Moon went door-to-door in Elgin selling meat from the back of a wagon. A few years later in 1886, he opened a brick-and-mortar location downtown, making Southside the oldest barbecue joint in the Lone Star State. Since then, the place has changed ownership a couple of times, but one thing that hasn’t changed in over 135 years is the popularity of the original beef sausage. In fact, the signature hot sausage (lovingly nicknamed “hot guts”) played a huge role in Elgin being deemed the “Sausage Capital of Texas” by the Texas Legislature. Of course, they have all the other barbecue favorites on deck, too, and you’re more than welcome to purchase premium quality meats from the market to take and make at home.