While driving north on I-35 might give the impression that restaurants outside of central Austin are all fast food and national chains (which is what I thought a few years ago before spending time in these areas), that’s not the case. You can get some pretty awesome local food near I-35 north of Austin, and it’s not all fast food (that said, I do have some delicious local fast food restaurants in this list).
Round Rock Food
I still have a list of places in Round Rock that I’d like to check out, and as with anywhere that list will probably continue to grow even as I check places off. That said, here are some places I’ve been impressed with so far.
Farm to Table Food + Comfort Food + Good Brunch Spot
Greenhouse Craft Food
Greenhouse serves delicious Texas-style comfort food and drinks in an adorable casual modern-farm-eclectic environment. Their brunch menu is simple and delicious, and their mimosas are $3 (yay!). I love that in addition to making good food they’re conscious of getting their ingredients from sustainable pesticide-free and antibiotic-free sources around Texas. And I love that they do it all in a restaurant with an open, fresh atmosphere with character.
Being both a foodie and an artist, I look for both excellent food and a unique and well-designed environment. That mason jar and water trough chandelier? Love it! The rustic, slightly worn white wooden tables and chairs, counter furniture, and bar wainscoting? Beautiful. And their chalkboards are fun and beautifully written. So far I’ve had brunch here and loved it, and I look forward to checking it out again for dinner sometime (Check out Facebook for their weekly specials. This week’s special: chicken fried quail breast and waffles!). Did I mention they serve local draft beers? Want to hear more about my visit? Check out my full blog post.
What to Order: Sweet bread pudding and a mimosa + buy a loaf of the Brothers Bakery molasses bread to take home (you won’t regret it); I’ve also heard great things about the poblano and gouda soup
1400 E Old Settlers Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-F 11-9 Sa 9-9 Su 9-3 • http://greenhousecraftfood.com/
Juarez Restaurant & Bakery
Juarez recently became my favorite bakery in Round Rock. Why? This bakery made me love pan dulce, which is impressive considering I gave up on pan dulce a long time ago after finding it dry/hard/crumbly and flavorless elsewhere. Their pan dulce is soft, subtly sweet, and completely flavorful.
The same goes for the rest of their pastries, including the pumpkin empanadas (an addiction of mine that I order at every Mexican bakery I visit).
Want to hear more about my visit? Check out my full blog post.
What to Order: Pan dulce with white topping, pumpkin empanadas, marranitos (little pig ginger cookies)
1701 S Mays, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-Sa 7-8 Su 7-3 • http://juarezrestaurantbakery.com/
The Austin area has so many excellent BBQ options, but Rudy’s is still one of my favorites. They have good Texas BBQ and sides at good prices in a laid-back environment. Their counter ordering system and picnic tables make it easy to bring a group here, especially if you have people arriving at different times or you want to be able to sit and catch up for a while without being rushed out. Likewise, when we don’t have time to make dinner but would rather have something a step up from fast food, Rudy’s is our go-to. It’s fast (unless you go during the weekend dinner rush hour), transports easily, and we’re usually in the mood for it. AND it’s economical in large quantities. I know others who have used their group meals for large family events, and we used Rudy’s catering for our wedding a few years ago (it was a hit, especially with the people from out of state). Oh, and if you’re a Texan homesick for Texas BBQ (or know one you want to do something nice for), you can actually order a brisket by mail surprisingly easily.
What to Order: Brisket, sausage (regular or jalapeño), turkey, creamed corn, potato salad, beans, banana pudding
2400 N I-35, Round Rock, TX 78681 • M-Th 6-9:30 F-Sa 6-10 Su 7-9:30 • http://www.rudysbbq.com/
A local chain, Mighty Fine keeps their menu short (actually, it’s gotten shorter since they opened, but most items removed are on a “locals” menu that you can ask for) and what they make, they make well. My favorite part: The lemonade is freshly made with real lemons (and strawberries if you choose that variety) in just the right balance of lemon and sugar to not be overly puckery or sweet. If you’re a fan of Rudy’s BBQ you’ll notice some similarities (simple menu, counter-style ordering with a view of the entire kitchen, cheerful staff that balance friendly conversation with efficiency unnaturally well). That’s because the same people created both. Also, just like Rudy’s, this probably won’t be your favorite place if you’re vegetarian. Because their menu is so simple, if you don’t eat beef your main option is fries (and more fries: there’s a “fry burger” option on the locals menu).
What to Order: Burger, fries, fresh lemonade
201 University Oaks Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78664 • Su-Th 11-9 F-Sa 11-9:30 • http://mightyfineburgers.com/
This restaurant is all over the Austin area now, and I love that. I’ve never had a taco I disliked here, and you get amazing food for a good price. One taco is enough for a meal when I’m not super hungry. I’ve tried so many tacos on their menu (including the awesome tacos of the month that they come up with) and loved them all, but the favorite I keep coming back to is the Baja Shrimp taco. Yum. I’ve also heard they’re one of the best places in Austin to eat queso, so that’s on my to-do list for my next visit.
What to Order: Queso, the Baja Shrimp taco, the taco of the month
2150 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665 • M-Th 7-10 F 7-11 Sa 8-11 Su 8-10 • http://torchystacos.com/
Round Rock Food I’d Like to Try
Jack Allen’s Kitchen – Serving farm to table comfort food, I’ve been hearing awesome things about this place for a while. FYI if you consider doing brunch there, it’s buffet-only and expect an hour-long wait if you don’t make a reservation. 2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681 • M-Th 11-10 F-Sa 11-11 Su 10-10 & Brunch 10-2 • http://www.jackallenskitchen.com
The Scarlet Rabbit – Chef Rob Snow of Greenhouse Craft Food and Rich Taylor of Quality Seafood Market joined forces to start this Alice-in-Wonderland-themed restaurant. I’d like to try their smoked rabbit and andouille gumbo and the chicken and waffle (which is actually a zucchini waffle). 410 W Main St, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-Sa 11-9 Su 11-3 • http://thescarletrabbitroundrock.com
Fire in the Hole – I’ve heard the pizza is good, and I’m curious about what popcorn grits are. 103 E Main St, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-T 11:30-2 & 4-9:30 W 11:30-2 & 4-9 Th 11:30-2 & 4-10 F 11:30-2 & 4-midnight Sa 11:30-midnight Su 11:30-9 • http://www.fireintheholeroundrock.com
Miso – This restaurant brands itself as Korean and Japanese dining. I’d like to try both, but in particular I’ve heard good things about their Korean food. 2400 S I-35, Round Rock, TX 78681 • M-Sa 11-10 Su noon-9 • https://www.facebook.com/misocuisine
Pho Dan – This place serves delicious-looking Vietnamese food. 2711 La Frontera Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78681 • M-Su 9-9 • No website
Round Rock Cafe – Cute-looking house-turned-restaurant. I’m intrigued by the BBQ omelette and the sausage waffles. Just might have to try these. 110 S Harris St, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-F 8-3 Sa 8-noon Su 9-2 • http://www.roundrockcafe.com
Teji’s – This Indian grocery store has a restaurant that serves delicious-looking food. 1205 Round Rock Ave, Round Rock, TX 78681 • M-Th 10:30-9 F-Sa 10:30-10 Su 10:30-9 • http://www.tejifoods.com
The Brass Tap – If you’re into craft beer, with 60 taps you should have a good selection to choose from here. I’ve heard their buffalo chicken pretzel dip is good. 204 E Main St, Round Rock, TX 78664 • M-F noon-midnight Sa noon-1 Su noon-midnight • http://www.brasstapbeerbar.com
I’ve spent a bit of time in Pflugerville with a friend who used to live there, and I’ve also started to explore some of the restaurants a short drive across I-35 from Pflugerville. These places are favorites that I keep coming back to.
Springhill specializes in southern comfort cooking, so I’ll start with a disclaimer that pretty much everything here is fried and/or comes with a hearty side of cream gravy. This restaurant isn’t for dieting. That said, it’s delicious. The chicken fried steak dinner easily makes two meals for me, and they serve the fried mushrooms so hot you have to wait a few minutes to eat them if you don’t want to scorch your mouth. And I love their eclectic vintage decor.
Bonus tip: If you visit around March or April while bluebonnets are in bloom, walk a couple of parking lots west of the restaurant along Pecan Street to a small field to take some bluebonnet photos.
Want to hear more about Springhill? Check out my full blog post.
What to Order: Chicken-fried steak or chicken, fried mushrooms with ranch sauce for dipping
2505 Pecan St W, Pflugerville, TX 78660 • M-Tu 11-8 W-Su 11-9:30 • http://www.springhillcatfish.com/
Located in Austin, this restaurant is just on the other side of I-35 from Pflugerville, so I think of it when I think of Pflugerville restaurants. I love Santorini Cafe. It’s so cozy it feels like you’re eating Greek food at home. All of the food I’ve tried is delicious and the happy hour drink prices are excellent (half price wine from any open bottle).
The restaurant is family owned and operated, and the owners are incredibly sweet people. You can tell they care about every person who dines there from the first-timers to the regulars, and they do recognize their regulars (even greeting some with hugs). So far I’ve tried their gyro, cheeses, dolmas, and lucumades. I’d like to return to try their gyro omelet, baked feta cheese, and pizzas.
What to Order: Get the gyro or one of the plates, and save room for lucumades (Greek beignets topped with honey).
11800 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 • Su-Th 11-10 F-Sa 11-midnight • http://www.santoriniaustin.com/
Curry in a Hurry
Also on the other side of I-35 from Pflugerville, this one is a little bit of a stretch since it’s closer to Mopac, but I’m including it because it’s an easy drive across I-35 from Pflugerville on Parmer. And because I love it. Ever since a friend’s family introduced me to Indian cuisine in middle school, I’ve been in love with it. The problem is, lunch buffets tend to carry a lot of the same dishes, and ordering from the menu means I have to settle for one dish (which I’m sure I’d love but I can’t pick just one). Curry in a Hurry appeals to my adventurous foodie side by enabling me to try new foods while keeping my indecisive restaurant-ordering nature in check. No need to panic order here, because I can just get the daily special to try a sampling of Indian dishes that I’ve never tried before. And I’ve loved all of them. You can order any food on their menu even if it’s not on the daily special; just expect to wait a little longer for your food while they prepare it. By the way, Curry in a Hurry is related to the Indian grocery store nextdoor, Gandhi Bazar. Check it out if you’d like ingredients to make your own Indian dishes at home.
What to Order: The daily special
2121 W Parmer Ln, Austin, TX 78727 • M-F 11-9 Sa-Su 10-9 • http://www.curryinhurryaustin.com/
Moonie’s Burger House
While it feels a little excessive to list two local burger chains in the same roundup (although to be fair, they’re each in a different region), both merit mention. In fact, Austin has three local burger chains that I love (P Terry’s doesn’t have any Round Rock or Pflugerville locations, but check out my Eating in West Austin city guide for more about it). So, while I love In-N-Out, I’d imagine they’re going to have a hard time getting a foothold in Austin.
Burgers at Moonie’s are a very different experience from Mighty Fine. They have a busier menu, but that means more topping options (Mushrooms and swiss? Yes, please!), vegetarian and non-red meat options (veggie burger, turkey burger, grilled chicken), and more side options (sweet potato fries!).
AND most importantly, the bread is completely different. The hamburger buns have a sweet flavor, so it’s like eating your burger on a Hawaiian Roll. Yum.
What to Order: All of the burgers and sandwiches are great; get them with the sweet potato fries
15803 Windermere Dr, Pflugerville, TX 78660 • M-Sa 11-9 Su 11-8:30 • http://www.mooniesburgerhouse.com/
Family-run, this is the second location of this restaurant (the first is in Hutto, TX). I enjoy their food and drinks, and they’re pretty big so you can bring a large group here pretty easily. I love all things guacamole, so I love that I can split a guacamole appetizer AND have enchiladas with a guacamole sauce. Yum.
What to Order: Guacamole, enchiladas with guacamole sauce, margarita
15821 Central Commerce Dr, Pflugerville, TX 78660 • M-Th 11-9:30 F 11-10:30 Sa 9-10:30 Su 9-9 • http://riograndemex.com/
Pflugerville Food I’d Like to Try
Ka-Prow Bistro – I’d love to try the Thai food here. For those interested, they also have an entire gluten-free menu. 1200 W Howard Ln, Austin, TX 78753 • M-Th 11-2:30 & 5-9:30 F 11-2:30 & 5-10 Sa 4-10 Su 4-9 • http://kaprowbistro.com
La Patisserie – The pastries, quiche, and macarons here look delicious. 2604 W Pecan St, Pflugerville, TX 78660 • T 7-2 & 5-7 W 7-2 Th-F 7-2 & 5-7 Sa-Su 8-2 • http://www.lapatisseriepfl.com
Taste of Ethiopia – I’ve had awesome Ethiopian food in New York city, but I haven’t gotten around to finding Ethiopian restaurants in Austin. This one looks promising, so I can’t wait to try it! 1100 Grand Ave Pkwy, Pflugerville, TX 78613 • M-Su 11-10 • http://www.tasteofethiopiaaustin.com