As the capital of Texas, Austin embraces a diversity of residents and visitors, from politicians to college students, musicians to tech industry workers. The city's culinary culture is equally eclectic, serving up everything from barbecue to health food. A strong sense of individualism and support for local businesses have also made Austin home to many food and beverage artisans.
I grew up in nearby (according to Texas standards) San Antonio and considered Austin a culinary haven: a place that welcomed my vegetarianism, where I learned about fine teas and Middle Eastern pastries, and where I roamed the aisles of Whole Foods Market, which was founded here in 1980. I no longer live in Texas, but I return to Austin every year or two. On recent visits, I have enjoyed visiting the city's thriving farmers' market scene and experiencing a different side of Austin's food culture with my omnivore boyfriend, who has fallen in love with Texas-style chicken fried steak and the barbecue joints just outside of town.
Here are a few of my recommendations for markets, artisans, farms, and groceries (with thanks to family and friends for tips). And then it's your turn: Where do you shop in Austin? What are the must-taste spots for food-loving visitors? If a visitor was going to take home a food souvenir from this city, where would you suggest they buy it?
Foods You Must Try
• Locally-brewed beer
• Pecan pralines
• Texas Hill Country peaches in summer
• Texan cuisine: barbecue, chicken fried steak, Tex-Mex
• Austin Farmers Market - Downtown on Saturdays and at The Triangle on Wednesdays
• Boggy Creek Farm - An organic urban farm with market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays
• Sunset Valley Farmers Market - South Austin on Saturdays
• There aren't any permanent food halls in Austin. Farmers' markets are open year-round.
Best Grocery Stores
• Central Market - Gourmet grocery chain with fresh and prepared food, local and specialty products, and extensive wine and cheese sections
• Whole Foods Market Flagship - The 80,000 square foot Whole Foods world headquarters
Specialty Shops of Note
• Cissi's Market - Neighborhood market with a focus on local food; also has a wine bar and prepared foods
• Grape Vine Market - Gourmet food, beer, and wine store
• Mandola's Italian Market - Italian grocer with homemade pasta, sausage, baked goods, and gelato
• Phoenicia Bakery and Deli - Mediterranean and Middle Eastern breads, pastries, and groceries
• Whip In - Mom and pop convenience store with an extensive beer and wine selection (plus prepared Indian food!)
Independent Food Artisans
• Breweries - A roundup of Austin breweries from Apartment Therapy Los Angeles
• Lammes Candies - Candy factory founded in 1878, best known for their Texas Chewie Pecan Praline
• La Mexicana - Family-owned Mexican bakery, open 24 hours a day
• Mary Louise Butters Brownies - Gourmet brownies in 16 flavors
• Spiceburst Gourmet Spices - Small batch spice blends
• Sweetish Hill - Thirty-year old French-style bakery with a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients
• Treaty Oak Rum - Rum made by hand using only Texas ingredients
• Zhi Tea - Premium, organic, loose leaf teas
About The Kitchn's Food-Lover's Guides
We focus mainly on home cooking here at The Kitchn, and we know that one huge source of inspiration is travel. We want to give you ideas for things to eat and places to visit even when you're away from your home kitchen. We want to inspire your inner chef and introduce you to the best spots for food-lovers in a dozen or so major cities.
These guides don't deal with restaurants; there are plenty of other resources for that. These are the spots for food-lovers and cooks: the markets, specialty cookshops, and best small-batch artisans. If you're traveling in one of these cities this summer, we hope these guides help you find something inspiring. And if you live here, maybe you'll find a new resource to inspire your daily cooking!
We need your help, too, with these guides. Each city's thread will have at least some recommendations, but of course they will be incomplete. So we need your insider help. Tell us where the best markets, food shops, jam-makers, brewers, butchers, independent groceries, bakery supply stores, and quirky, strange, out-of-the-way food experts are. What are your favorite places to shop, as a cook?