Why Austin, Texas is America's best kept secret for foodies

Newshub feature: Why Austin, Texas is America's best kept secret for foodies.
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When you consider the best food experiences the US has to offer, chances are the first place your mind drifts is not Austin, the small, leafy city in central Texas.

Your appetite probably took you to other mouth-watering foodie cities; giant slices of deep-dish pizza in Chicago, crispy fried chicken in Kentucky, spicy jambalaya in New Orleans or hot dogs in Manhattan.

But while not an obvious choice, Austin's food scene easily eclipses that of its closest challengers.

It benefits hugely from its proximity to Mexico - Texas's huge immigrant population means it's flooded with stores selling tacos, tamales or burritos - and its position as one of America's southern states means high-quality BBQ spots are also a dime a dozen.

However, Austin - a hip, liberal, youthful pocket in old-school, conservative, ageing Texas - also excels by catering not just for those who want to eat delicious and large portions of Tex-Mex food, but by providing great options for the environmentally and animal cruelty-conscious.

The city is a foodie paradise for vegans, who - used to just one or two token meat or dairy-free options on a menu - will find themselves spoilt for choice.

So without further ado, here are the best spots to eat in Austin.

Franklin's Barbecue

They have a saying in Austin: if there's no queue, it's probably not worth eating there. And if there's one place that epitomises that sentiment, it's Franklin's.

It doesn't open until 11am, but people have been known to start lining up four hours earlier for what's recognised by many as the best BBQ in the States. It's such a well-known phenomenon that locals now make an occasion of the wait by bringing a chilly bin of beers into the queue.

Franklin's' popularity has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to its feature in a Jon Favreau movie and the owner winning an award naming him best chef in the southwest.

No one would blame you if you feel like you can't stomach a line that long, but the beef brisket, pulled pork and potato salad on offer is that good that locals willingly do it every single day.

Where to find it: 900 E 11th St, Central East Austin

A dish from Veracruz in Austin, Texas.
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Run by Reyna and Maritza Vazques, this highly acclaimed taco joint specialises in authentic Mexican fare and is an absolute must-visit.

After immigrating from Mexico, the sisters launched a food truck selling snow cones and smoothies to fund their own restaurant, and after countless long hours finally realised their dream in 2010.

Since then, their enterprise has become one of the most sought-after food experiences in Texas, expanding to five locations and seeing its tacos named in The Food Network's top five best in the entire US.

At a max price of US$4 a pop, Veracruz tacos are extremely good value for money and present you with the opportunity for three or four different flavours, including many vegetarian options, for a reasonable price (the chicken mole taco has queso fresco that is truly next-level).

Where to find it: There are five, so head to the one closest to you by checking here.

A dish served at Lick in Austin, Texas.
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With all those savoury eats and all that spice, it's probably time for something cool and sweet.

With a wide range of novel flavours - and numerous dairy-free, vegan-friendly options - artisanal ice cream shop Lick is the perfect choice.

Using only natural products, Lick is completely free of artificial colours or flavours, high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives - so as far as ice cream goes, it's pretty good for you and it's unbelievably tasty.

Motivated by genuine curiosity about whether there is a vegan ice cream that isn't gross, I tried the coconut caramel cream. Needless to say, I'm ordering the same thing the next time I go.

Where to find it: There are lots - find your nearest location here.

The chocolate semifreddo from Launderette in Austin, Texas.
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Constructed in the shell of a run-down petrol station/laundromat, Launderette is one of the best dining experiences Austin offers.

It's not cheap - prepare to pay as much for dinner here as you would for a fancy restaurant in New Zealand - but the food is incredible, and authentic to the traditional flavours of the city that surrounds it.

Launderette's mint white chocolate semifreddo (pictured), wood-grilled pork ribs and sticky brussel sprouts are among the best things I've ever consumed, and the portions are generous.

If you're put off by the price, I'd suggest arriving at lunch time - it's cheaper then, and the menu features a number of items that aren't available later in the day.

Where to find it: 2115 Holly St, East Cesar Chavez

A dish from Joann's in Austin, Texas.
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Nestled beneath Austin Motel, a hipster utopia in South Congress, Joann's is a modern (and very hip) take on the '20s-style American diner.

Waiters and waitresses in old-school yellow uniforms, an offering of various Tex-Mex dishes, and milkshakes and mezcal aplenty - it's an experience that differs greatly from the others on this list.

It's best to arrive at happy hour - 4-6pm on weekdays - to benefit from 25 percent off all food and discounts on a range of alcoholic beverages.

Where to find it: 1224 S Congress Ave, South Congress

A dish at Eldorado restaurant in Austin, Texas.
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A popular spot in East Austin, this restaurant combines an American diner feel with great Mexican dishes.

Situated in a weird, half-empty parking lot, Eldorado is an unassuming spot for great food - but once you're in it's a boisterous atmosphere, and there's usually a wait for a table.

Its dishes are packed with flavour and that signature Mexican heat, and the portion sizes are massive.

One of the best choices we made was ordering a salsa sampler as an entree. The dish comes with tortilla chips and five dips of varying spiciness - and the best part is, as soon as you run out of chips, they'll bring you more. My sort of place.

Where to find it: 3300 W Anderson Ln, North Shoal Creek

A dish from Torchy's Tacos in Austin, Texas.
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Torchy's Tacos

Alongside Franklin's, Torchy's is arguably the place that established Austin being renowned as one of America's most innovative food scenes.

Serving up experimental tacos and salads using the freshest and brightest ingredients, it started from one beloved food truck to more than 60 locations across the country.

With 30 different flavours, Torchy's is the sort of place you revisit time and time again without tasting the same thing. It's well worth a visit.

Where to find it: There are heaps of them - click here to find the one closest to you.