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Austin’s food sector has a $4.1 billion economic impact annually and supports more than 43,000 jobs in the metro area according to a recent report presented to the Austin City Council on March 28th. Based on a similar report conducted by the City in 2012, those numbers almost match the amount of money and jobs that all the creative sectors support combined. The report also notes that despite Austin’s bounty, many of our neighbors struggle with hunger and/or health issues related to nutrition.

The first-of-its-kind economic impact analysis on Austin’s food sector looked at 20 different classes of business establishments from agriculture, food processing/manufacturing, food distribution, and retail food/eating and drinking places, to determine their impact annually on the economy. The report focuses on activities that bring new money to Austin or allows residents to be able to buy more products locally.

Some key findings highlight Austin’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit present in the food scene – from locally-made products, to farms, trailers and restaurants.The report also notes that despite Austin’s bounty, many of our neighbors struggle with hunger and/or health issues related to nutrition. You can read all the findings and recommendations from the Austin City Council Report at: http://austintexas.gov/department/economic-growth.

Weigh in on the important factors when discussing Austin's food sector by speaking up now!

Tell us about what "Austin food" means to you.  What do you recommend to visiting family, friends or strangers who ask for a “real Austin” food experience?  Do you think of:

A place?  A meal? A drink? 

There's no limit so please elaborate!  

18 Responses

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Brent Brent about 1 year ago

I like Starseeds cafe, P. Terry's, Freddy's Place

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Cassie Kay Tremant about 1 year ago

I love the downtown SFC farmers market, and the HOPE farmers market. I always recommend that people eat at Barley Swine and Parkside at lease once! Both Bryce Gilmore and Shawn Cirkiel believe strongly in using local ingredients. And I enjoy taking people to the Whole Foods downtown and showing them how much of the product there is local, and how much they actually make in store.

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Daniel Heron about 1 year ago

Austin food are more about the culture foodways than the actual food. Such as eating breakfast tacos at all hours of the day. The tacos can have a variety of things on them. Austin also has created a culture of experimenting with proclaimed "superfoods" "cleansing foods" "spiritual foods" of course they have their take on "urban bbq". Spaces and places include multicolored foodtrucks and carts.

If I were to take my mom on a trip around austin food space, I would take her to get a breakfast taco, austin fastfood/chain style restaurant, artisan dessert place, local coffee shop, unique gastropub, food truck/cart, and a bbq joint. Not all in one trip of course ;p

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Tim Thomas about 1 year ago

I think of The Salt Lick and East Side King. Tradition mixed with global culture presented at a picnic bench on a warm evening.

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Alex Wolfe about 1 year ago

When suggesting a food experience, I always suggest dining at one of the following restaurants:

  • Uchi
  • Uchiko
  • Taco Deli
  • Sway
  • Salty Sow
  • Elizabeth Street
  • La Condesa
  • Perla's
  • Parkside
  • Easy Tiger

There are so many new amazing restaurants opening in Austin that offer top notch experiences that it's difficult to point to only a handful.

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Mike Mike about 1 year ago

Locally owned and operated businesses and not chain restaurants with a "Texas" theme.

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Paola Guerrero about 1 year ago

Austin food is food prepared locally in our city, that means no pre-packaged or pre-made any where else. The products sourced to make Austin food is a different story. There is a wide range of cultures that cohabit in our city, from Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Italy, France, India, Ethiopia to you name it. From trailers to restaurants the range is getting more and more diverse. That's Austin. Its culinary culture is growing exponentially. Do you remember Austin 10 years ago? Yuck. For food venues to bring in that culinary experience they have to source products that are most often not locally grown or produced. That's a beauty. Our economy is such that these food venues can source exquisite products from other countries, bring it to Austin and create a fabulous meal.

To me the experience does not rely solely on "locally sourced". Rather I care to see who is bringing to the table and exciting dinning experience where the food is excellent, the ambiance is unique and the service is friendly. All that together makes the Austin Food experience.

"Locally sourced" is a term used very loosely these days. Somehow to most that means organic. And that is FAR from the truth. I care about what I consume. I prefer "organic food" over local food produced the traditional way. Of course local and organic is the best option. However, it is rather expensive for most both at a household and business level. So when a venue say's locally sourced to me is misleading. I think its great to support local businesses (restaurants and farmers), we must. That's why it would be great to help our farmers get to a level where they can afford to became certified organic.

Austin Food Experience: Lucky's Puccia, El Naranjo, Hoovers, Juan in a Million, Buenos Aires Cafe, Papi Tinos, Parkside, Perlas, Justines, Foreign and Domestic, Uchi, Fabbi & Rossi, Asters, Pharas, Llamas, Madras Pavillion, Contigo, Tapas Bravas.

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Garret Nick about 1 year ago

curra's (b/c it's by my house and authentic) bouldin creek (b/c it's nearby and uses quality/local/organic ingredients) pterry's (b/c it's an awesome example of quality fast food and a great price) hopdoddy (b/c it's nearby and uses quality ingredients)

really any place that is nearby, healthy and uses quality/local/organic ingredients.

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Jenn G about 1 year ago

There are so many great restaurants that it's hard to keep up. I generally recommend a couple of farm to table types, like Hillside Farmacy, Blue Dahlia, Epicerie, etc, then some Austin institutions like Curra's, Chuy's, Freddie's, Kerbey Lane and places along those lines. Also, for BBQ, Salt Lick or Rudy's and the Iguana Grille if a trip to the lake is in order.

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Michael Cavazos about 1 year ago

Places that are unique to the city and can't be found anywhere else. There are too many to list, but they all were started in Austin, they may have expanded to multiple locations within the city, but not beyond the city.

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Shelly Shelly about 1 year ago

Typically I think of restaurants such as Hyde Park Bar and Grill, the Salt Lick, and Uchi. People also seem to get a kick out of the "Mexican Martini."

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Cs Symington about 1 year ago

I think it's too easy to think of Austin eateries as the meaning of Austin food, when in fact, it should be food that is actually grown from here (or near here). Certainly this is true for all areas of the country ... we should start thinking in terms of what is actually produced right where we live.

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Ted W about 1 year ago

I'll define it this way. It's food I can put in a lunch cooler, take with me on the airplane, and then at my destination people I know go nuts to eat it even though it's 3-4 hours cold. I found this when I lived in California. I found I could bribe my way into business meetings I wasn't invited to witha cooler full of In N Out burgers. One particular contact I had in Dallas would let me make presentations to his bosses for as long as it took him to eat 6 double doubles. Now I find when I flew back to my employers HQ in California with the same cooler full of BBQ brisket I can start a stampede at the office.

The other Austin food is food you can eat while at the movie theater, like the Drafthouse. It's such a novel thing it's something my visitors have to try when they come here. I now find a regular movie theater with no drink or food service to be barbaric and whine when I have to see a movie at a normal theater when I travel.

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Carla Carla about 1 year ago

farmers markets, groceries, restaurants, bars, homes, gardens, farms, vineyards, food trucks, trailers

I always want to take friends to experience the food scene in Austin but when it comes right down to it, restaurants, bars, trailers, etc that serve local food and drink are so far away from me in Sunset Valley, it's too much to face the traffic, waits and crowds. Just wish there were more options besides Jack Allen's Kitchen that serves local foods in the southwest area of Austin!

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Josh Josh 12 months ago

I like the way this question is worded. To me, real Austin food is authentic, thoughtfully crafted, and unpretentious. Austin food is not afraid to mix BBQ, Tex-Mex, Interior Mex, and Vegan options on the same menu. Austin restaurants do not require a dress code. Austin restaurant owners care about the food they are offering and see their work as a service. I mean, what better gift than to feed people, right? Kerby Lane Cafe, Magnolia, Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, Maudies, and if you are feeling really fancy, Jack Allens.

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Coapublic Information admin 11 months ago

Josh, thanks for your letting us know what "Austin food" means to you.

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Arl Arl 12 months ago

Local food using local products/produce from neighboring companies. Recommendations for places offering a true sense of Austin are Bouldin Creek Cafe, Counter Culture, and the Wheatsville Co-op.

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Luther Lawson 11 months ago

GOOD TEX MEX, LOCAL HAMBURGER JOINTS, DOWNTOWN HIGH DOLLAR RESTURANTS OF ALL TYPES AND FOOD TRAILERS.

PLEASE CONSIDER MOVING THE TRAILER RESTURANTS TO THE "PIKE MARKET" PLANNED FOR THE SALTILLO TRAIN STOP AREA. IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE TO HAVE FOOD FOR SALE TO EAT AND FOOD TO TAKE HOME THAT IS FRESH AND LOCALY GROWN. ALL IN THE SAME SPOT, IT WILL DRAW A GREAT WEEKEND AND LUNCH CROWD IF IT IS ALL IN THE SAME AREA OF TOWN.

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