These days it’s becoming more and more common for people to travel just to sample the flavours of the places they visit. Let’s be honest—most (if not all) of us travel via our stomachs. From freshly baked baguettes in France to piping hot bowls of ramen in Japan, culinary tourism is BOOMING at the moment and it’s easy to see why. No matter where my own adventures take me, food always ends up being a huge focal point and my favourite holiday souvenir has become the few extra inches that appear around my waistline upon my return home—a solid indication of a trip well-travelled!
I recently headed off on Contiki’s Boot Scoot N Blues tour, a 12-day journey through the Southern states of the USA, full of line-dancing, two-stepping and plenty of “yeehaws” along the way. It’s common knowledge that the only thing more legendary than the food throughout America are the portion sizes, and this definitely rings true throughout the South. Now, it’s time to kick off your boots, loosen your belt buckle and dive straight in to five of the best eats you’ll find in one of my favourite places—Austin, Texas… and trust me when I say everything definitely IS bigger in Texas (especially your appetite).
1. Gourdoughs Big Fat Donuts, 1503 S 1st St
The name says it all really… Big Fat Donuts that will make anyone with a sweet tooth weep sugar-filled tears of joy. This caravan-turned-food-truck is home to some of the most EPIC donut toppings I have ever seen. From candied bacon to jalapeño jelly, brownie batter and vanilla pudding, these bad boys are a meal in themselves and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Paired with names like Sin-A-Bomb, Son of a Peach and the Flying Pig, consider buying a few and splitting them among your travel buddies to avoid getting food envy.
HOT TIP – Struggling to pick just one? I highly recommend the Fat Elvis which boasts peanut butter icing paired with grilled bananas and crispy bacon, topped with a drizzle of honey. Have you ever read a more beautiful sentence in your life? Didn’t think so.
2. Ironworks BBQ, 100 Red River St
What is BBQ? I’m so glad you asked. Texas BBQ hosts a medley of the finest cuts you’ve only dreamed about before. I’m talking pulled pork that melts in your mouth, tender brisket cooked “low and slow” and last, but certainly not least… the ribs! These fall-off-the-bone, sweet and smoky favourites are to die for and I still think about them to this day. Paired with your choice of two sides from glorious options such as creamy mac and cheese, smooth potato salad and buttery green beans, you most definitely won’t leave this place hungry.
HOT TIP – a visit to Ironworks BBQ is included on the Boot Scoot N Blues Contiki tour. Make sure you wrap yourself in kitchen towel if you order the ribs though, as they can be a delicious mess.
3. Torchy's Tacos, 1822 S Congress Ave
Who doesn’t love tacos? No-one, that’s who! There’s a reason why Torchy’s tagline is “Damn Good” and that’s because these tacos are DAMN GOOD. I ordered the Trailer Park and, oh my god, I think it’s ruined other tacos for me for life. Ask them to make it “trashy”; they’ll remove the lettuce and smother your taco in queso instead because, honestly, everything tastes better with melted cheese on top.
HOT TIP – the inside of Torchy’s Tacos is ridiculously cute, so while you’re waiting for the best taco of your life why not snap a few pics to keep your ‘gram looking sharp?
4. Bangers, 79 Rainey Street
Venture down the famous Rainey Street, where you’ll find a strip of neighbourhood-like houses turned into quirky restaurants and bars, complete with strings of fairy lights covering the patios and food trucks parked in between. Here you’ll discover Bangers, a sausage house and beer garden with an electric atmosphere and over 200 craft beers to choose from… that’s right, OVER 200! By the way, the jalapeno and cheese bratwurst rivaled those I’ve tried in Germany so if you’re a fan of sausages, well, welcome to your new favourite place!
HOT TIP – Can’t decide which beer to pair with your Banger? Ask the staff, they’re super friendly, helpful and will gladly recommend one for you.
5. Whataburger, various locations
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, another generic American burger joint, right? WRONG. Forget In-N-Out, Whataburger is THE burger joint when travelling through the South and although it’s not confined to Texas, there was no way I could leave it off the list. Aside from an incredible array of menu options, you’re probably wondering what sets Whataburger apart from other fast food chains. The answer to this is simple and can be summed up in just two words… SPICY KETCHUP. This stuff is liquid gold and I would slather it on every meal from here on out if I could. Whataburger is so iconic that Texas Legislature has actually declared it an official Texas Treasure; so, if that’s not reason to try it for yourself, I don’t know what is.
HOT TIP – make sure you also check out their breakfast menu to get the full Whataburger experience. There’s no better way to start your day than with a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit!