Top 15 Austin Restaurants that Source Locally

19 Jul

Foreign&Domestic

Being a locavore isn’t just about farmers markets and buying most of your fresh food locally. It’s also about knowing where to go when you’re eating out. A lot of restaurants still buy their food supplies from companies that are trucking their food in from all over, but many use as much local ingredients as they can, supporting area farmers, bakeries and other food artisans and only buying what they can’t get locally, from outside the area. Some, like East Side Cafe, even have their own gardens from which much of their menu comes.

But with a state as big as Texas, you have to be aware of what people really mean when they say “local.” Local can mean anything within the state – but we are not Rhode Island here. Within the state could still be hundreds of miles away, not local at all.

As Addie Broyles reported in the Austin American-Statesman, “Many consumers and farmers have expressed concerns about ‘local washing,’ in which a business exaggerates its use of local produce and meat to attract the growing number of consumers who are concerned about where their food comes from.”

To combat that problem, Urban Roots reached out to fellow Central Texas farmers to compile a list of restaurants that buy directly from the farms or farmers’ markets in and around Austin. I’m sharing the list below, along with five of my own picks that I’ve added (East Side Cafe, Kerbey Lane, Mother’s, Foreign & Domestic, and Contigo, newly opened on the East side).

East Side Showroom's website is pretty, too

East Side Show Room: Serving killer cocktails along with rustic French cuisine with a soul food flare, in an ever-changing menu. Seriously one of my FAVORITE places in this town. The drinks are as fabulous as the food, also using fresh and local ingredients.
1100 East 6th St., 512-467-4280

Kerbey Lane Cafe: An Austin favorite! They are really known for their breakfast – especially the famous Kerbey Lane pancakes as big as a plate. This is the one place my family always insists we go to when they visit from out of town, and they make me bring them KL pancake mix (sold at the restaurants and at HEB) when I visit them. But their non-breakfast menu is great too, and they always have seasonal special offerings based on what’s locally available at the time.
3704 Kerbey Lane, 512-451-1436 (This is the original; 4 other locations)

Texas French Bread: With artisan breads, pastries and desserts made from scratch and a bistro supper-club.
2900 Rio Grande, 512-499-0544

Contigo's fantastic patio

Contigo: Modeled after Contigo Ranch in South Texas, this new spot characterizes its menu as Fresh, Quality, Bar Food: “We make things that we like to eat. We make things that go well with beer. We make bar food utilizing the freshest ingredients we can find.” And their patio is dog-friendly!
2027 Anchor Lane, 512-614-2260

Foreign & Domestic: Great little spot on North Loop, with seriously innovative dishes. They do one of the things I like best in cooking: pair up ingredients that make you first go “really? that together?” – and then want to try it! The husband and wife team have their own backyard garden that is sort of an experiment – they grow things that other farms in Austin aren’t.
306 E.53rd Street, 512-459-1010

East Side Pies: An old-fashioned pizzeria with seriously fresh, local toppings. I go here once or twice a month.
1401 Rosewood Ave., 512-524-0933

Odd Duck: Farm to trailer food cart combines the popular trailer restaurant concept with 100% local ingredients. And they’re BYOB, always a plus. I have yet to try this place, but it’s definitely on my list, as I am a huge trailer-food fan!
1219 S. Lamar Blvd, 512-550-5766

East Side Cafe: With their own half-acre garden and situated in a beautiful old house, this place serves up some of the freshest, most delicious fare in Austin. I wrote a profile on East Side Cafe several years ago for Good Life Magazine.
2113 Manor Road, 512-476-5858

Tending the garden at East Side Cafe

Mother’s Cafe & Garden: I wrote about this place in Austin Woman magazine. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, one of the first in Austin (and the first nonsmoking restaurant, 30 years ago!) But 80% of the people who come here aren’t vegetarian. Yes, it’s that good. Mother’s had a devastating fire a few years ago that left them down but not out; they’re doing better than ever now. The verde enchiladas are amazing, and so are the fruit smoothies. Oh, you can also get a decent glass of wine for $4.
4215 Duval Street, 512-451-3994

Somnio’s Cafe: Vegetarian friendly in an eclectic atmosphere; even their takeaway containers are eco-sound.
1807 South First St., 512-442-2500

Copyright Penny De Los Santos- Food from La Condesa

La Condesa: Certified green restaurant and winner of the James Beard award – need I say more?
400 W. 2nd Street, 512-499-0300

Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Just west of the city, Jack’s serves Texan-inspired cuisine and specializes in catering. I haven’t tried this place yet, either, as it’s not too close to where I live and hang. But it sounds good!
7720 Highway 71 West, 512-515-1043

Olivia: Named one of Bon Appetit’s top restaurants of 2009, the building is as beautiful as the food.
2043 S. Lamar, 512-804-2700

Shakin it up at Peche

Peche: Also known as Austin’s first absinthe bar, Peche is a Warehouse District staple. Like East Side Showroom, the cocktails are as fresh and delightful as the food.
208 West 4th St., 512-494-4011

Trace: Heritage meats and native foods are the specialty at the much-heralded W Hotel restaurant. On my must-try list as well.
200 Lavaca St., 512-542-3660

For a list of all restaurants that received votes from local farmers, to go to www.gro-act.com.

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12 Responses to “Top 15 Austin Restaurants that Source Locally”

  1. austinurbangardens July 21, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    The gro-act list is flawed, as it didn’t include all the local farmers, only the ones that joined the “alliance.” It also excludes many restaurants that source locally from Farm to Table. Some major exclusions are 24 Diner, Wink, Jeffrey’s, Cipollina and there are more.

    • Shelley Seale July 22, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Great input – thanks so much! I agree that many restaurants were left off the list, which is why I added five of my own. Unfortunately I had to limit it (initially to 10, then 12, then I upped it to 15). But can’t really make a long list. Perhaps I’ll add a part two. Thanks for these great additions!

      • Evelyn July 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

        Shelley: I really appreciate what you are trying to do with this article as we both have the same cause as heart. But, as austinurbangardens pointed out, your source list is flawed and, while your other additions are wonderful spots, it’s frustrating (and tarnishes our reputation) for 24 Diner to be left out of a round-up purporting to be the TOP 15 when our volume of purchases is so significant. In our first year of business alone, we bought more than 5,000 pounds of local squash, 3,800 pounds of local sweet potatoes, 1,500 bunches of local collard greens, 1,500 pounds of local green beans and 325,600 local eggs. We buy our cheese from Antonelli’s, our bread at Sweetish Hill, etc., etc. If you do a part 2 or need more info, please just let me know.

  2. Shelley Seale July 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Evelyn,
    Thank you very much for your comments and information, I appreciate it! As I replied to Carla at Austin Urban Gardens, I realized the list was far from comprehensive, which I why I edited it and also added my own. I have actually never been to 24 Diner – it sounds fantastic and I would LOVE to experience it – and write about it. So please let me know if we can arrange that. I would enjoy it and I really appreciate you taking the time to tell so much about what you’re doing there. I really didn’t know about all that, and love to spread the word about restaurants such as yours serving such great, local food.
    Thanks!
    Shelley

    • Evelyn July 23, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks for your response. You should definitely check us out sometime!
      Evelyn

  3. Hotels in Austin Texas July 29, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Being a locavore isn’t just about farmers markets and buying most of your fresh food locally. It’s also about knowing where to go when you’re eating out.

  4. Peter D January 28, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    One thing…La Condesa never won a James Beard award. They were once semi-finalists, but they did not win.

  5. Mark Patrick Sullivan May 4, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Super thorough analysis and great list of Austin’s local food restaurants. Thanks for doing this work. Would you consider an update for 2014?

    • Shelley Seale May 4, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks Mark! This blog is no longer active, it was a yearlong project that I did in 2011. But I do write regularly on this topic for many publications including CultureMap, Gayot, Edible Austin and others!

  6. Mc October 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Kerby Lane uses Tyson Chicken. They use to buy chicken locally, but they changed around the menu and started selling Tyson Chicken. There was quite a noticeable difference. I asked the waiter who quietly whispered that they had started using Tyson Chicken. I haven’t been back since.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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