Fonda San Miguel

2330 N. Loop BLVd. West, Austin

512-459-4121

Coldest days are often best at Gilhooley's, as the oysters are at their plumpest and the fire pits outside on the ramshackle patio are at their warmest.
Robb Walsh
Coldest days are often best at Gilhooley's, as the oysters are at their plumpest and the fire pits outside on the ramshackle patio are at their warmest.
"A classic that keeps reinventing itself brilliantly" is how former Morning News food critic Bill Addison describes Dallas' venerable Mansion.
Sara Kerens
"A classic that keeps reinventing itself brilliantly" is how former Morning News food critic Bill Addison describes Dallas' venerable Mansion.

Details

The Voters Bill Addison, Atlanta Magazine (formerly at The Dallas Morning News) Jodi Bart, Tasty Touring Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News Addie Broyles, Austin American-Statesman Teresa Byrne-Dodge, My Table Magazine John DeMers, Delicious Mischief Teresa Gubbins, CultureMap Dallas Syd Kearney, Houston Chronicle and 29-95.com Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram John Mariani, Esquire Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman Hanna Raskin, Seattle Weekly (formerly at the Dallas Observer) J.C. Reid, Texas Monthly and 29-95.com Scott Reitz, Dallas Observer Ron Ruggless, Nation’s Restaurant News Patricia Sharpe, Texas Monthly Edmund Tijerina, San Antonio Express-News Daniel Vaughn, Full Custom Gospel BBQ Robb Walsh, Houstonian Magazine Virginia B. Wood, Austin Chronicle

How They Voted Voters were asked to choose the 30 Texas restaurants that they believed every Texan should eat at once before they die and that any visitor to the state should have on his or her hit list. The rules were loose, except for the following requirements: The restaurant must still be open and the general public should at least have a shot at being able to eat there (i.e., no members-only restaurants or private dining clubs). Voters were encouraged to consider restaurants across every price range, every cuisine and every part of the state. The results were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and tallied, with the restaurants listed above receiving ‚ÄĒ by far ‚ÄĒ the majority of the votes across the board. Geographical regions for the purposes of the list were aligned with the seven regions traditionally defined by the Texas Department of Transportation.

fondasanmiguel.com

Since Fonda San Miguel opened in 1975, no other restaurant in the United States has been more important in shaping the often-nebulous definition of Mexican food. "Diana Kennedy consulted on this," notes Tijerina, "and it has played a crucial role in shaping the growth of interior Mexican food in the state and in the United States." The riotously colorful Austin hacienda from Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago was "seminal in that it completely changed the conversation about what constitutes 'Mexican food' in Texas," agrees Virginia Wood of the Austin Chronicle. Despite moving to Spain in 2008, chef Ravago returns to his Austin kitchen every month (although it's in the capable hands of Oscar Alvarez, who — like many Fonda staff — has been there for decades).

Franklin Barbecue

900 E. 11th St., Austin

512-653-1187

franklinbarbecue.com

This is the stuff that changed Anthony Bourdain's mind about Texas barbecue, which the chef and author had formerly maligned. After being brought to Franklin by barbecue evangelist Daniel Vaughn, Bourdain had to admit that the brisket Aaron Franklin smokes in low heat over post-oak wood for 18 hours was "the finest brisket" he'd ever had. "I can't imagine anyone could surpass this," Bourdain told the Huffington Post last year. Bon Appétit agreed, naming Franklin the best barbecue in the country in 2010, calling the young Aaron Franklin himself "a prizefighter in the prime of his career." And it's a young career — Franklin has been open only since 2009, but seems destined to become a Texas legacy.

Green Pastures

811 W. Live Oak St., Austin

512-444-4747

greenpasturesrestaurant.com

Mary Faulk Koock was a famous cookbook author whose Austin restaurant was a bit like an early version of The French Laundry. Koock lived at Green Pastures before eventually turning the sprawling estate — her ancestral home — into what is now known as the "grande dame of Austin restaurants." Koock was the state's premier hostess for three decades in the mid-20th century, and James Beard himself was sent from New York City to help her publish the Lone Star State's "definitive" cookbook in 1965, The Texas Cookbook. "Koock entertained presidents and ordinary folk," says Wood, who also notes that Green Pastures was important for another reason: It was one of the first integrated fine dining restaurants in the United States.

Kreuz Market

619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart

512-398-2361

kreuzmarket.com

Known as the "Church of Kreuz" both for its massive, cathedral-like structure and for the devotion with which its supplicants line up outside on Saturdays as if for church service, Kreuz Market may not be the oldest barbecue joint in Lockhart, but it's our food writers' top pick in the Barbecue Capital of Texas — although Virginia Wood is quick to note that both Smitty's and Kreuz should make the list, "in recognition of both sides of the family feud that erupted in the '90s." You get no sauce or even utensils here, all the better to appreciate the obsessively smoked and richly scented meats that derive all of their flavor from the oak chips that seal in the ribs' and pork chops' juices and softly rendered fat with a wonderfully thick, black smoke ring.

Matt's El Rancho

2613 S. Lamar BLVd., Austin

512-462-9333

mattselrancho.com

Former prizefighter Matt Martinez opened the first Matt's El Rancho in 1952 and moved it to its current South Lamar location three decades later — complete with a not-so-humble, blazing red sign that proclaims Matt's the "King of Mexican Food" in blaring neon. People pack the dining rooms every night to order old-school Tex-Mex favorites like El Rancho's own Bob Armstrong dip — named for former Texas Land Commissioner and El Rancho regular Bob Armstrong — that layers queso, taco meat, sour cream and guacamole in one delightfully over-the-top dish.

Smitty's Market

208 South Commerce St., Lockhart

512-398-9344

smittysmarket.com

The once and former Kreuz Market underwent a name change in 1999 when Nina Schmidt Sells — daughter of Edgar "Smitty" Schmidt — allowed her brother Rick to take the original Kreuz name (and some of its coals, from a fire which is said to never die) and open a "new" Kreuz Market down the street. Smitty's still occupies the same century-old store in which Charles Kreuz first began smoking meat in 1900. What began as Kreuz's way of preserving meat prior to refrigeration is now a bona fide legacy. And although Smitty's has made it unscathed into the 21st century, you still share communal tables under smoke-stained pressed-tin ceilings and you still have to pay with cash (or a check).

Uchi

801 S. Lamar BLVd., Austin

512-916-4808

uchiaustin.com

In the 1980s, chefs like Robert Del Grande and Stephan Pyles were busy transforming the way the rest of the nation viewed Texas cuisine. Today it's Tyson Cole who's at the helm of a new movement that started with seminal Austin restaurant Uchi in 2003. In the intervening decade, Cole won a coveted James Beard award (after being nominated for three consecutive years prior) for his "Japanese farmhouse" cuisine that combines Texan ingredients with the Japanese ideals and techniques he acquired while training for 10 years in Japan. And in the meantime, Cole's cooking — and expansion of Uchi into smaller concepts and new markets — has once again changed the way the nation casts an eye on modern Texas cuisine. Addie Broyles of the Austin-American Statesman notes that although the 10-year-old Uchi is "baby seminal," when viewed within the context of this list, it "likely will be [seminal] in another 10 or 15 years."


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53 comments
therowdydog
therowdydog

Marble Falls is the only location on the "Hill Country" list that is actually in the Hill Country. Just sayin'.

elizabeth.joslin
elizabeth.joslin

I do not feel much pity for those in cities that have/cuisines that have already been well represented. If you re-search, I am sure you will find food in east and west Texas that also has deep roots and is delicious. Maybe do something on those areas in the future? Or small town food? Something, to make up for this representational oversight.

bsmith37
bsmith37

Where is Austin the the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q located?

melissamyers2
melissamyers2

Go to perini ranch and you will be amazed! Incredible food / perfect sharing sizes! Incredible authentic flavors and great atmosphere! Their beef is incredible and this place makes one proud to call Texas home!

Vndallas
Vndallas

When I first moved to Dallas, I was constantly told to head over to Fort Worth for Joe T's.  I finally went after being here for about two years, and boy was I disappointed.  I've never seen a place so over-hyped. The food tasted as if it came out of a supermarket freezer.   Then after that, I found that every hyped place I tried in Fort Worth was the same, a major disappointment..Kincaids, Cattlemen's, Angelo's BBQ, and Reatta were all nothing special.  No wonder the last time I was in Cow Pie, all the new restuarants are either chains or Dallas area transplants.  Fort Worth is a lousy restaurant town.

cbren30301
cbren30301

What......no chili on the list. I'm a D@# Yankee and I love me some Texas chili. My place of choice, Tolbert's in Grapevine. I take any fellow Yankee that visits to Tolbert's for a great bowl of red. I love to share the stories of Frank X and Terlinqua. 

mycatbarney
mycatbarney

I live in Beaumont, and the Patillo's BBQ on 11th Street has been gone for a year and a half.  It was torn down and replaced by a Jack in the Box.

wood.scott
wood.scott

How could you not include City Market in Luling?  Better than Kreuz's or Smitty's and a real restaurant rather than a hobby like Franklins.

Scott Cessac
Scott Cessac

All right for my hometown of Nederland making the list!

Trey Covington
Trey Covington

El Ranchito and La Calle Doce!!!! For REAL Mexican food!!

douglas.davis
douglas.davis

Sorry if this is double-posted... I'm a little disappointed that South Texas (the coast and Valley) and pretty much overlooked.  I would at the least add Kings Inn located in Rivera Beach, just south of Kingsville and on Baffin Bay.  Family-style fried seafood (locally caught speckled trout, shrimp and oysters) and sides.  True, its fried, but damn its good and steeped in tradition and history.

Chubby_Kid
Chubby_Kid

I have serious problems with Cattleman's Steakhouse & Joe T. Garcia's being on this list.  I've eaten at both, knowing about their reputation and renown, and was very disappointed.  Cattleman's had some of the worst steaks I've ever had, and Joe T. Garcia's food is bland, uninteresting, and I always feel sick after eating there.

There are much better food choices in Fort Worth (Lonesome Dove, H3 Ranch) which are curiously absent from this list.  

cweichmann1
cweichmann1

Excellent choices I agree.  These top places show the wide personality of Texas cuisine from barbecue Texas style to finest dining establishments to Tex Mex to southwest cuisine to a STEAK.  Come to Texas but bring your appetite when you do.

BobDobbs
BobDobbs

The only one on this list worth the trip is Mi Tierra. I love that place.

And I am so ticked off that you didn't include THE BOILING POT in ROCKPORT, TEXAS. 

mcdallas
mcdallas

Here's a template for responding to this article:


Dear (insert cuss-word or other denigrating name),

I am so (insert word to cover your emotional state) that you didn't include (insert restaurant name here).  (Repeat restaurant name) is by far the best (style of food) in the world/country/state/region/city (select one or more).  

Obviously you have never traveled to city/county/region (select one or more) because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed (signature dish/off-menu item/drink) prepared with (insert emotion) by the (insert adjective) chef/cook/food preparation/owner (pick one) expert, (insert name of chef/cook/food preparation/owner).

I'm never going to read one of these ridiculous lists, until you publish next year's list.

Without respect,

(your name here).

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I have to ask if any of the contributors to this list have ever been east of Dallas? What about Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler? Johnny Cace's in Longview? The Big Pines Lodge in Karnack? Country Tavern in Kilgore? These are all legendary places that have shaped the food and eating habits of our state.

Ed Dravecky
Ed Dravecky

El Fenix is on the list as a cultural touchstone. Move on.

Jon Eckberg
Jon Eckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas/RGV version of your list? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants there that are worth visiting? If you had actually tried, I'm certain you'd have found any one of 1,000 Mexican restaurants there that put El Fenix to shame.

joneckberg
joneckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas edition? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants in that part of the state worth visiting?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

WasSalt Lick BBQ in Austin missed? Shame...

Kristin Scott Dorsey
Kristin Scott Dorsey

I am originally from Kentucky and our mexican is way better than El Fenix. Yuck, that place sucks!!

Robyn Folmar
Robyn Folmar

The article states "restaurants that define Texas" - El Fenix deserves a spot. Glad to see Houston getting big food props- it's a dynamite food town and has been for 25+ years. I credit a lot to the lax zoning laws.

Michael Mercedes Rice
Michael Mercedes Rice

I'm seriously disappointed that food writers though El Fenix should be on this list. If I was going to take someone visiting from out of town out for Tex Mex, it would NOT be to El Fenix.

Ambelleina Warwillow
Ambelleina Warwillow

I WILL say that speaking on seminal Texas restaurants, not the best restaurants, yes, El Fenix does deserve a place on there. Then again, so would places like Luna's, Sonny Bryan's and definitely Stubb's. Not only are those quintessential TX restaurants, they actually serve good food, unlike El Fenix.

Marcus Watson
Marcus Watson

I've been to most of these restaurants and can only give most of them an "eh" rating....and I agree with Kendall....El Fenix...barf.

Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson

Have been to six of those on the list. Of course, there are others that should be on the list.

wherryranch
wherryranch

@Vndallas You are so wrong...that's what I hate about Dallas people...so snobby and hateful!!!!  Fort Worth is an awesome city with great food and friendly people!!!!  Unlike Dallas!!!!

cbren30301
cbren30301

Allow me to repost using the correct template as suggested below:


Dear Are you a Texan,

I am so ASTOUNDED that you didn't include TOLBERTS. TOLBERTS is by far the best CHILI/BOWL OF RED in the region (I'll refrain from saying the world since I have not yet had what the entire world has to offer as far as Texas chili).  

Obviously you have never traveled to GRAPEVINE because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed ORIGINAL BOWL OF RED, FRITO CHILI PIE and DONKEY TAILs prepared with LOVE & RESPECT to the original FRANK X TOLBERT. 


Nictacular
Nictacular

@Chubby_Kid I don't get down with Joe T's myself, but it is a quintessential Texas place. I think that's what the article was going for.

Nictacular
Nictacular

@cbren30301 You gotta read the follow-up articles. Tolbert's is one of the places that just missed the cut...

mcdallas
mcdallas

@douglas.davis @mcdallas Well if there's one thing you'll consistently get here on the DO comment system, it's kind words and encouragement.  You can count on that!

 
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