Where to eat in Austin right now: 7 top spots for excellent food and craft beer
Where to Eat Right Now
Aug. 20, 2015 12:53PM EST
Photo by Veronica Meewes
In late August, even the most devout red wine and whiskey lovers change their habits. No matter what you like best, 100-degree weather is best fought with a cold beer and some solid air conditioning. To help you cope, here are our top picks with great tap-wall curation and high-quality casual fare to complement your pint glass.
Our first pick is a bit of a cheat because Craft Pride doesn’t have a kitchen. Rather, Craft Pride pairs beers with the stomach-lining goodness of Via 313’s Detroit-style pizzas. The thick, four slice wonders work great to share for two as a heavy snack, or order one all for yourself but be prepared to take a slice home. The most popular order, The Detroiter, utilizes smoked pepperoni under cheese and a second layer of natural casing pepperoni on top. Our pick is The Herbivore, an artfully composed pizza of mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives. Pair these with rare selections from Craft Pride’s unprecedented all-Texas tap wall. On a recent visit, we sampled Hops & Grain’s outstanding new A Pale Mosaic IPA and cult favorite Lone Pint’s Gentleman’s Relish Brown Ale.
We have a go-to move at drink.well.: Order the crispy ancho chickpeas and a spicy kimchi Reuben, then peruse the small but thoughtful tap selection on the chalkboard. Drink.well.'s cocktail selection is very well regarded, but as a neighborhood mainstay, the bar knows that quality draft beers are a must. You’ll currently find the seasonal Austin Beerworks unicorn Einhorn (served with a bar spoon of house-made raspberry syrup), as well as Circle’s Fanny Pack (a local Kolsch) and Epic’s Hop Syndrome. Ask the bar what they’re drinking: The team here is knowledgeable and quick with a suggestion.
When Easy Tiger paired Chef Andrew Curren’s cooking with 33 craft beer taps, Austin music fans rejoiced. Where Dirty Sixth is often a wasteland of Lime-A-Ritas and domestic light lagers, Easy Tiger’s team of beverage pros brought a collection of America’s best craft brews. Pair these with a sausage on a pretzel roll — our favorites are the veggie (which includes beets, lentils, panko and pumpkin seeds) and the duck and fennel with mustard and slaw. Beer selections are robust and easy to peruse on a big chalkboard, with recent picks including Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Noir dark saison, Dogfish Head’s American Beauty (an IPA with granola), Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack Session IPA (the perfect August porch beer).
Don’t mistake this for a North Campus undergrad haunt: Hopfields is an altogether more refined experience. Despite a pint-sized kitchen, the restaurant serves an impressive "French pub" menu of smart picks like ratatouille, Niman Ranch steak frites and a mushroom leek tarte. There’s also an excellent French-accented Pascal Burger, which is served topped with Camembert, cornichons, caramelized onions and coarse mustard. Taps here rotate often, but you’ll find local favorites (Hops & Grain, Argus Cidery) and best-of-breed national picks like Prairie and Odell. If the tables up front are occupied, walk towards the back to find some extras hidden in nooks and crannies.
If you’re in the mood for hearty fare, how does “a butcher shop with a kitchen and beer” strike you? Salt & Time utilizes sustainable Texas-sourced meats for its salumeria and restaurant. For lunch, you’ll find an array of meaty sandwiches from a classic Italian grinder to a roasted lamb baguette with tzatziki. Dinner is more complex, with butcher’s cut steaks, chicken-fried rabbit and smoked short rib tortellini among the current offerings. You can pair these with more than 30 craft beers in bottles, cans and bomber format. The esoteric selections here include Mateo & Bernabe from Spain, Belgium’s Orval Trappist Ale and Belgium’s To Ol, along with an array of local favorites.
Like drink.well., Second’s tap wall isn’t large, but the selections are thoughtful. There’s a mixture of seasonal, weather-appropriate styles: On a recent visit, we found Lagunitas IPA for hop heads, Pearl Snap for summer quaffing, and the classic Live Oak Hefeweizen. Grabbing a drink here gives you access to an outstanding kitchen helmed by Chopped winner Jason Stude. Dishes lean toward comfort classics — pizzas, burgers and salads comprise a good deal of the menu. We’ve found Second to be a great solution when guests in a large party each want something different. With large plates of fish, snacks of fried pickles and shishito peppers, and cheese and charcuterie boards, there’s something fitting for all palates.
A touch of Old Austin in changing times, the Whip In continues to attract a loyal following with the Texas-India comfort-food menu and a consistently impressive array of beer taps and bottles. (Your wine-loving friends will find great selections on tap and in the cooler, too.) At lunch, grab the perennial favorite Mumbai Migas: locally sourced eggs scrambled with onions, corn tortillas, cilantro chutney and feta cheese. Daily specials, like Mattar Paneer (peas and paneer cheese), are also a good bet. For beer, the Whip In’s own Kamala Brewing beers are available, and the shop also has an excellent mix of rare and hard-to-find drafts on tap, mostly from Texan and American breweries.