Every year, I do the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. Typically, I snag "best ____ in town" categories, rather than the neighborhoods, which span a wide area (North, South, etc.). But what about the restaurants in my own backyard?
I polled the residents of my own neighborhood via the Nextdoor app and came up with the following hyper-local favorites. Though I don't live in the more touristy parts of town, if you happen to be at an air bnb nearby or have a car and want to get some grub that's a bit more off the beaten path, be sure to check out these Highland Neighborhood spots!
Note: I was a bit liberal with the area, some of these may be slightly outside, but still worth a mention!
Kome - I adore sushi, and consider myself very somewhat of an expert. In that, I can tell fresh from not-so-fresh, and close-to-the-sea to definitely-not. And since arriving in Austin, Kome has been my hands-down favorite. Their happy hour specials are incredible, their sake is delicious, and my fish-hating-fisherman-husband (figure that one out) has multiple things on the menu he'll consume. Their house rolls are my favorite, but the best deal on the menu is the sushi lunch. This was the place that truly won me over with nigiri, and I will be forever grateful.
Kura - So, I know I just said Kome was my fave BUT Kura is a very very very close second. I was all ready for the level of quality that you expect from a sort of gimmicky concept--conveyor belt sushi--but was blown away by the freshness of the sushi for how inexpensive and fun the entire experience was. Definitely a solid place to go for an inexpensive meal, and yes they do have more than just sushi here.
|Photo cred: Feed This House
Quality Seafood - I'm a New England girl, born and raised, and one thing I sorely miss from my home state is... well, quality level seafood. And thankfully, Quality Seafood lives up to the name. Though I haven't been able to visit for a lobster bake, the chowder makes my heart happy, and the fish dishes are a wonderful option if you want a non-sushi seafood in town.
|Photo cred: Foodie is the New Forty
HEO - Not sure if it was simply a rebrand or a total pivot but I swear this place started as a BBQ joint. Either way, I hear amazing things about their Asian Street Food menu! Tucked away into an unassuming storefront, HEO is one of those somewhat hidden treasures of the neighborhood despite being right on Lamar.
Arpeggio - The jury's out on the overall experience of the restaurant itself but one thing everyone can agree on is that the food is top notch. I feel like we keep losing the small, family-owned Mediterranean restaurants in town, so I do hope Arpeggio sticks around. I love a good gyro and Arpeggio does it right. It's also the best place in town to get a good Greek pizza! If you don't know the difference between NY/Chicago/Greek style, you need to educate yourself. And relish in the crispy, thick crust. Yum.
|Photo cred: Foodie is the New Forty
Ramen Tatsu-ya - There's a line out the door for a reason. While it's not nearly as long as it's South Lamar counterpart, it's still a wait--but one worth waiting for. This was my first introduction to Ramen and it still holds a special place in my heart. They have a few different broths to choose from, but the standout for me is the tonkasu, a thick dipping broth with noodles. Also one of the best brussels sprouts offerings in town!
Michi Ramen - Don't tell Tatsu-ya, but this is my favorite ramen in town. Also, don't tell the people in line at Tatsu-ya because I like being sat immediately ;) Their broths are mostly pork, and the stout broth is the clear standout in my opinion. The sides are perfectly complimentary to the large, savory bowls. And don't miss their Wednesday sake deals! Each month a different flavor is highlighted and they are certainly unique--and tasty!
Ola Poke - This was one of the first dedicated Poke spots in Austin but it's held its place as one of the best ever since. Fresh fish, tasty accouterments, and decent spicy wings for those weirdos among us who, for whatever reason, don't like raw fish. Snag a bowl and do karaoke next door for the perfect out of the box date or fun Saturday afternoon.
Brentwood Social - Their coffee is awesome but their pastries are where it's AT. Delicious, delicate, and both savory and sweet. I don't know what else to say other than it's the perfect place to meet up with a friend for crumpets and tea, or sip wine on the patio while your kids play in the backyard area.
T22 - Lucy's may have the heart of most Austinite's but T22 has my taste buds. It hits the spot for anyone who is craving the tongue-burning deliciousness of Nashville Hot Chicken. You can choose your level of heat, or go with a straight up "wimpy" with none, and the enormous pieces of juicy chicken will come out perfectly seasoned with your choice of dipping sauce on the side to cool the heat. And where most chicken joints seem to forget their sides, T22 does each one perfectly. This is hands down my favorite fried chicken in town!
Black Star Coop - I came here originally for three reasons: 1. close to my improv rehearsal spot, 2. they pay their workers a living wage, 3. beer. At that point, the food being amazing was a great surprise! I love the fish and chips, which come out perfectly battered and crispy with thick-cut fries, or the chicken snack and homemade ranch. Their beer selection is just as good, and the patio with board games makes for a very fun night.
Vigilante - A gamer and a foodie walk into a bar. Both are happy at Vigilante. Their slider menu allows you to taste a whole bunch of tasty bites while you challenge other bar patrons to a round of Super Smash Brothers. $14 gets you your choice of nearly four items on the menu which is an awesome deal, letting you get a taste of everything they have to offer!
Hank's - Frose brings me in, the food makes me stay. Hank's has had a few growing pains as they've rolled out but I know they'll soon be a neighborhood favorite! Great happy hour, delicious food, extensive drink menu, and perfectly crafted cocktails. Plus the decor is clean and bright with a lovely patio. A definite win!
BIG thank you to some of my food blogger friends for providing pictures!
Do you live in the Highland area? What is your favorite local restaurant?
Don't forget to check out the rest of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide for 2020!