As we all know Austin is about to be swarmed with tourists in town for SXSW. A lot of these friendly out of towners are going to need sustenance to maintain their decadent lifestyle of wine, food and song.
This article is for these sybarites.
The current hot trend in Austin (and lots of other cities) is food cart dining. My top 5 carts, in no particular order, follow:
La Canaria: I’ve been eating from taquera Maria’s tiny kitchen for years. Homemade tortillas, best gorditas in town, great posole and long operating hours make this a good option for SXSW visitors.
E 51st St & Airport Blvd
Austin, TX 78751
Three Little Pigs: One of the old lions of Austin’s fine dining scene is now in his own cart as chef/operator. Chef Raymond Tatum’s ethos is to honor the entire pig from the nose to the tail by eating it. My favorite items on his menu are the Pork Belly, Meatloaf with Collards and Grits and his Thai Green Curry Noodle with Roasted Pork Butt. Meats are sourced from Niman Ranch. As an added bonus Chef Tatum is in the parking lot of a very well-stocked wine store: East End Wines
1209 Rosewood Ave
Austin, TX 78702
Odd Duck Farm To Trailer: (UPDATE, ODD DUCK FARM TO TRAILER HAS CLOSED DUE TO CONSTRUCTION OF HIGH RISE CONDO TOWER ON THEIR FORMER LOT)
Chef Bryce Gilmore has handed the reigns over to his brother so that he may concentrate on his brick and mortar operation; Barley Swine. I haven’t been to Odd Duck since Chef Gilmore left but reports confirm that there has been no drop in quality. All Texas based sourcing with amazing pork dishes, grits, cheeses, eggs and greens. Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Austin have come from Odd Duck.
1219 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
La Flor: Best hand patted (a vanishing art) corn tortillas in Austin, best desebrada in Austin, top flight salsa and a careful rendering of the classics put Chef Angela’s kitchen near the top of Austin’s food cart scene.
4901 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78745
El Taco Rico: Some may find it odd that the best Mexican restaurant in Austin is a cart in a laundry mat parking lot. I don’t. Chef Yolanda Sanchez-Cornejo’s pressed corn tortillas are the finest in town, her barbacoa is San Antonio-quality, which is to say world-class. She also puts out the best tostada in the city and her breakfast tacos are the best I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. Austin has a world-class Mexican restaurant…and it’s in a cart…in a laundry mat parking lot. Deep Fried Mourning Dove Enchiladas anyone?
810 Vargas Rd
Austin, TX 78741
Added March 2012: East Side King (In parking lot of The Grackle) One of my new favorite food carts. They’re religious on honoring their hours-an oddity in the fly by night world of Austin food carts. The food is insanely good. They offer two vegetarian options (eggplant and/or mushrooms) that are as good as any meat-based dish in town. Coming from a rampant omnivore that is the highest praise I can accord a restaurant. However, the chicken karaage and pork belly dishes stand near the top of my favorite plates of food in Austin.
1700 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
There are well over a thousand food carts in Austin currently. This is just a tiny, scratching of the surface of this vast scene. Countless other trailers race about town with quality varying from dismal to truly great. I’ll put hot links in comments below for some other good websites documenting this part of Austin’s restaurant scene.