A food and wine lover's guide to Central Texas
The food and wine scene in Texas is like everything in the Lone Star State: loud, proud and booming. Even though you're bound to eat well whenever you travel in the Southwest, we've recently discovered that the food culture and wine regions of Central Texas deserve a closer look.
Even though the barbecue is second to none, Central Texas is home to more than just excellent slabs of meat. With thriving cities like Austin and San Antonio attracting visitors from all over the world, the food scene is as multicultural as the cities, with chefs using techniques found worldwide. But that's not all, thanks to a climate similar to that of Spain and Portugal. The wine culture in cities like Fredericksburg are putting Texas on any wine enthusiast's radar.
You can't mention eating in Central Texas without giving nods to Austin. Austin is one of the first cities in the U.S. to bring food carts and food trucks on the scene, and now the city has hundreds decorating the city's corridor. A few of our favorites include The Blue Ox, a new joint right next to the Buzz Mill coffee shop and run by a 20-something pit enthusiast. The brisket is so tender it literally melts in your mouth. We also love the Three Little Pigs on Rosewood, Biscuits and Groovy on Duval and East Side King (Paul Qui's place behind Liberty Bar).
In addition to good barbecue and beer, Austin has established quite an impressive wine subculture with over a handful of top-rated wine bars around the city. Cru Wine Bar is a local and tourist favorite. Here you'll find a 22-page wine-by-the-bottle list and an impressive wine flight selection. Apothecary Cafe and Wine Bar and Vino Vino are top-rated places that offer impressive wine-by-the-glass options with many offerings coming from the surrounding Hill Country.
If you're venturing to Sixth street (or "dirty six" as the locals call it), steer clear of the tourist traps and souvenir shops. Instead, stop into Casino El Camino. This dive bar is filled with weird paintings, has running loops of horror movies and is filled with mostly locals. Grab the buffalo blue burger or the bacon buffalo wings. The Best Wurst is another Sixth Street favorite. Order the jalapeño dog; it's a local favorite. A little off E. Sixth is SoCo (S. Congress Street), which is home to the locals' favorite eateries, like Hopdoddy and Home Slice.
Located just an hour from Austin is Fredericksburg, a growing city with a small-town feel and a booming wine industry. The county is home to 20 wineries, with 13 award-winning wineries located on the popular wine road 290. For award-winning Tempranillo and Viognier (two grapes known to excel in the Texas climate), stop by Pedernales, a family-run winery. Probably one of the most beautiful wineries is Grape Creek, which has stunning views of the Hill Country and some pretty tasty Italian-inspired wine, too. Other good ones include Becker and 4.0 cellars.
After a day of wine tasting, stop by the 150 shops and restaurants on Main Street and have a bite to eat. There are a handful of German eateries, thanks to the massive influx of German and Austrian visitors and residents, including Altdorf Biergarten and Der Lindenbaum, which have authentic schnitzels, sour potatoes and German-inspired beer. For something a little more upscale, visit August E's, which is one stop off Main Street. The menu changes by season, but a sushi platter is a must. The chef orders specialty sushi from Seattle ensuring the fish is prime quality.
Located just about an hour from Austin and Fredericksburg is San Antonio, a hip Texas town with a southwestern flair. Due to the city's proximity to Mexico, you won't find better authentic Tex-Mex food in all of Texas. Acenar, located right on the River Walk, is one of the best, offering unique takes on Mexican favorites, like cactus margaritas. Another local and tourist favorite on the walk is Biga on the Banks, a new American restaurant focusing on fresh, local and seasonal dishes. If you're looking for some fall-off-the-bone barbecue, go to the famous Rudy's Country Store and BBQ on W. Interstate 10. The house-made and cured sausages are some of the best in the state, especially when slathered in sauce.
One of the coolest spots in town is The Esquire Tavern, an old-school bar with vintage wallpaper and tufted stools. The bar has been a local institution since the opening in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition. In addition to a great beer, wine and cocktail list, the bar has amazing pub-style food, like Texas onion dip and chalupitas.
Like Austin, San Antonio is home to many award-winning and unique wine bars. Locals love the SoHo Wine and Martini Bar located on hip W. Crockett Street. The bar sits in one of San Antonio's older buildings with the wine cellar sitting in the 1892 vault. Copa and Zinc are two other stops for any wine enthusiast. Copa has over 14 different wine flights with fun names like "Gone Around the Blend," a wine flight of blends, and "Ole Ole!," which is made up of spicy Spanish varietals. Zinc not only offers an impressive wine menu, it also has amazing food, which focuses on local ingredients that pair well with all of its wines.