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Tasty Tuesdays: Austin’s Most Underrated Restaurants

27 April 2010 2,562 views 29 Comments

During this year’s SXSW, I wrote a post on Austin’s most overrated restaurants. I’m curious as to what you guys think are the most UNDERrated spots to get your grub on. I’m looking for those places that no one talks about but that you think should be on the radar.

bartlettsA personal example, I’ve always loved Houston’s. In fact, the restaurant was mentioned in previous Tasty Tuesday posts on best french fries and best burgers respectively. I’m also a huge fan of their salads and amazing ribs. I’ve been hoping to dedicate a post to Houston’s and a press release I just received announcing that longtime owner/operator of the Austin franchise, Tim Bartlett, is renaming the restaurant Bartlett’s.

The key message in the press release and new website is that nothing will change but the name on the door. This makes loyal customers like me that love the food, service, and atmosphere exceptionally happy (although I wouldn’t mind it a bit if they lowered their prices a little).

What local restaurant in Austin do you think is the most underrated?

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  • Val

    Habanero's on Oltorf is the most underrated Mexican restaurant in Austin. However, I almost don't want to tell you that because it is tiny and always crowded.

  • http://adamnorwood.com/ Adam Norwood

    I've been a long-time fan of ZuZu Handmade Mexican Food (http://www.zuzuaustin.com/), but I don't know anyone else who goes there regularly and I hardly ever see it mentioned. Maybe it's the odd location (for a long stretch their only location was in a small strip mall on the feeder road of MoPac, decidedly unexpected territory for a decent Mexican restaurant), the clientele (lots of business-y Westlake / suburban North Austin types), or the confusion about their origin as a chain restaurant (I used to go to the ones in Dallas as a kid — in the late 1990's the Austin franchise owner decided to break off from the parent company when the parent started dictating a move away from fresh ingredients to cut costs, or so the story goes).

    Their tomatillo salsa (blended smooth with jalapeno, avocado, cilantro, and lime) is my favorite all around salsa in town. They also tend to use some healthier ingredients which is a welcome thing (olive oil in the black beans, vegetable stock where possible, all items 100% lard-free, many vegetarian options, etc). I wouldn't say it's my favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex place in town, but it's an excellent option for tasty food delivered at near fast food pace.

  • http://twitter.com/jenni_b Jenni B.

    Subsin's Authentic Thai, on Stassney and Manchaca in front of ACC. It's a bit of a dive–thrift store chairs and a can of Big Red at the Buddha altar–but the food is fresh, spicy, fabulous and cheap. The owners are incredibly sweet.

  • Laura

    Thai Village (in the Highland Mall shopping center) has the best cheese rolls, Tom Kah soup and Pad Thai around. But no one's heard of them and it's usually empty. I think it's the location. I also don't think Enoteca and Fino get their due, but they've got some of the best quality food around at pretty reasonable prices.

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for your generosity of sharing this, Val. I haven't been to Habanero's in a while but enjoyed it when I went. My hope is that the karma will come back to you so that the next time you visit, you are seated right away! Thank you so much for your generosity of sharing this, Val. I haven't been to Habanero's in a while but enjoyed it when I went. My hope is that the karma will come back to you so that the next time you visit, you are seated right away!

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Adam. I brought ZuZu in for the office one morning and everyone here was really impressed too. If you are in the area, I also like Berry Austin in the strip mall across the street.

  • jodibart

    mmmmm Thai!

  • jodibart

    When are we going? I'm trying to remember if I've been there but it's right near our houses! You are always introducing me to new spots, Laura!

  • http://twitter.com/kayottic33 kayottic33

    quality seafood on airport at 2222. great dive and nightly specials and happy hour.

  • jodibart

    I agree with you. That's a great one! I also buy seafood from there to cook at home.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vonmamomo Sarah Moak Hyman

    Glad you mentioned Houston's b/c I think a lot of N. Austin restaurants/food spots are underrated or don't get much attention outside of the neighborhood. I'll spotlight Enchiladas y Mas (greasy spoon Tex-Mex & rocket fuel margaritas), Elsi's (interior Mex), Mirabelle (Continental), Kim Phung (Vietnamese & Chinese), Zi's Pizza (Tex-Mex pizzas), the Frisco Nighthawk (vintage greasy spoon), Little Deli (pizza & sandwiches), and any convenience store taco stand.

    The El Pollo Regio/Rico spots all over town are also fantastic, and count me as fan of Quality Seafood, as well.

  • aefulcher

    Yes, it's way out west, but Artisan Bistro in Lakeway has the most amazing French menu, house baked breads & pastries, real Euro butter,happy hour wine, and delightful owners who greet you and usually bring out a fantastic tasting of something amazing. (last week: lemon tart. sigh) The chef's French accent slays me, and once you're inside, you forget all about the strip center facade. Charming atmo and delicious food.

  • Mommy Linda

    I am sure the new name Bartlett's was named because all of the BARTLETTES in our home always loved Houston's food! Can't wait to go next time I am in Austin.

  • Lisao

    Wow! Just find the Houston's to Bartlett's news really fascinating! Wonder how that came to pass & does this kind of thing happen often in the Hillstone Rest. Group? Wish they would open one down south!

  • jodibart

    great suggestions. thanks, sarah!

  • jodibart

    OMG that sounds like it's worth the trip! Have you been to Justine's and Chez Nous? How would you compare?

  • jodibart

    I know! That's a whole 'nother blog post. Houston's was totally our FAMILY restaurant back in the day.

  • jodibart

    Hey Lisa, From what I understand, the Houston's branch in Austin has always been independently owned…maybe they got in early and set up a special deal. The rest are owned by the Hillstone Group and I don't think they had that deal with anyone else. It's not surprising that the relationship had to end sooner or later. I'm just THRILLED that the menu won't be changing.

  • aefulcher

    Jodi nailed it, Austin's the only independent in the entire operation. also glad they're keeping the menu. Wish Austin would get a Gulfstream!

  • aefulcher

    haven't made Justine's, but as a native, love Chez Nous since way back. Artisan has smaller menu, sexier atmosphere. Not sure they have the same sweet corkage policy as CN , though. ; )

  • jodibart

    You have also added Fuego, El Norteno, and El Tacorrido to my “must try” list!

  • jodibart

    Thank you all for the suggestions! I've added many of them to my running list of spots “to try” on Yelp. Any other idears are always welcome: http://bit.ly/aq9kTH

  • http://www.feast-your-eyes.com Darius

    Underrated:

    The Grove – I've never had a bad meal here. Not sure if its underrated since its usually pretty busy, but I never hear anyone talk about this place ever.

    Mighty Fine & Rudy's – So maybe not underrated since there's always a line of people, but the food is some of the best in each category. Rudy's outshines almost all barbeque I've had in Austin and Mighty Fine has my favority burger ever. Maybe the sterile, assembly-line environment detracts some people from giving them full-cred.

    ZuZu's – I'll agree with ZuZu's. It doesn't always satisfy my greasy Tex-Mex cravings but the food is usually good, especially breakfast.

    Victory Grill – We happened to be in the area and ate here once. I think it's affiliated with Hoover's, but the food was even better.

    Overrated:

    Berry Hill Tamale – The menu highlights numerous awards from the Houston location but the food here was so bad. We even tried combo plates making sure to try the greatest variety of food. After hearing people rave about the specific location (360) we gave it another chance, maybe the prevous visit was an off-night? Nope, still bad enough to keep me away for good, however there ranch-salsa (aka chimichurri) was tasty.

  • jodibart

    Hi Darius,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and adding your suggestions to the mix. I'll have to add The Grove to my list! It's in the opposite side of town but would be fun to check out one day when I'm heading out to or back from the Hill Country :-)

  • Betsy

    I have to agree with Quality Seafood and add Changos and Sazon. Also, the BBQ counter at Whole Foods

  • Betsy

    I have to agree with Quality Seafood and add Changos and Sazon. Also, the BBQ counter at Whole Foods

  • austinoriginal

    Some of my favorite Austin spots that rarely get mentioned are:
    1. Houston's, now Bartlett's — If you haven't tried the chocolate sundae your are missing out on one of the best desserts in Austin. The chocolate they use is so good you will want to drink it.
    2. Top Notch — Hands down the best chicken fried steak sandwich EVER and awesome burgers and shakes.
    3. Ski Shores — Summer staple. Everything is delicious.

  • austinoriginal

    Some of my favorite Austin spots that rarely get mentioned are:
    1. Houston's, now Bartlett's — If you haven't tried the chocolate sundae your are missing out on one of the best desserts in Austin. The chocolate they use is so good you will want to drink it.
    2. Top Notch — Hands down the best chicken fried steak sandwich EVER and awesome burgers and shakes.
    3. Ski Shores — Summer staple. Everything is delicious.

  • austinoriginal

    Some of my favorite Austin spots that rarely get mentioned are:
    1. Houston's, now Bartlett's — If you haven't tried the chocolate sundae your are missing out on one of the best desserts in Austin. The chocolate they use is so good you will want to drink it.
    2. Top Notch — Hands down the best chicken fried steak sandwich EVER and awesome burgers and shakes.
    3. Ski Shores — Summer staple. Everything is delicious.