Locals are proud of their city's food, but Austin's restaurant scene can be frustrating. Some of the city's better spots have been driven out recently by style-over-substance eateries. Thankfully, the innovative Japanese food at Uchi and the upmarket Texas cuisine at Lambert's has risen above the fray, and the city's trademark Tex-Mex and barbecue joints make for excellent stick-to-your-ribs fare.
Slow-smoked beef brisket and loosely packed Hill Country sausage are the centerpieces of the region's barbecue, and although their best examples are found in gritty grocery stores in dead-end towns, Austin establishments do a more-than-admirable job. The same goes for Tex-Mex. Don't be fooled by snooty foodies who complain about authenticity. Tex-Mex isn't trying to be Mexican; it's a brand of Southern comfort food that's uniquely Texan and uniquely delicious. Don't leave Austin without sampling chile con queso; cheese enchiladas with chile gravy; and a Mexican martini, Austin's tarter answer to a margarita, shaken and served straight up. For more traditional Mexican fare (called, somewhat inexplicably, "interior Mexican"), explore the bare-bones taquerías and food trucks that dot the city, most notably in East Austin.