It seems only appropriate to attach a music metaphor to the Austin Trailer Food Community. After all, Austin is known as the Live Music Capital and has seen numerous musical luminaries rise from small town band to major international star. As far as food goes you can bet that some of those that have started out working in trailers have a long and successful run in them as creative and unique chefs in the Austin community and have started to make a name for themselves on a much larger scale. Since becoming one of the leading lights in trailer cuisine Austin has become host to all the cooking channels on cable. Even the ultimate trailer guy, Anthony Bourdain, has come to investigate this unique and formerly underground community.
Someone asked me last week, “where should I start, where do I eat first”. Not an easy question to answer. From Caribbean to Cajun and every other cuisine imaginable you can find virtually any type of food coming out of a trailer in Austin. So to steal another musical metaphor, “let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start”. [Note to self, try using updated metaphors next time instead of Sonny & Cher and Julie Andrews].
Navigation, the first task [Skip to Favorites HERE]
Whether you are driving or walking, as long as you are close to the central city there are probably carts or trailers serving food near you. To make life easy for you, there is a map of a large number of trailers either at AustinFoodCarts.com or AustinFoodCarts.com Google Map whichever is easiest for your phone or computer. In Austin trailers tend to congregate allowing you the opportunity to exercise your taste buds in a number of directions no matter where you visit. The major areas close to downtown will bring you a plethora of options when it comes to trailer food.
A few major caveats first:
- This is not an all inclusive list of trailers in Austin, that doesn’t exist. Many carts are listed at AustinFoodCarts.com and those are also represented in the AustinFoodCarts iPhone App. For my personal favorites, check the bottom of the page or ping me on Twitter [@AustinFoodCarts]. You can also get trailers and other suggestions by following the twitter hashtag #SXSWFood and checking out the other great bloggers in this guide.
- Carts and Trailers are fickle. They open – they close, sometime permanently, sometimes at strange times, and sometimes when they run out of food. BE FLEXIBLE.
- Carts are transient, especially during SXSW, ACL and other events. They move to where there are people, sometimes for just a week or so, and then they move back to their regular location.
- I am admittedly not the most extensive source on the Austin Institution of breakfast taco’s. You must, however eat them, and eat a lot of them. I list some, but for a more extensive look at the Austin Taco scene (both truck’s and brick and mortar) check out Taco Journalism.
- In Austin most carts are in a specific location, however, some move all the time. Specifically in Austin if you are looking for true mobile guys check their websites and [especially] twitter feeds. The majors include
- Chi’Lantro [@ChiLantroBBQ]
- Short Bus Subs[@ShortBusSubs]
- Peached Tortilla[@peachedtortilla]
- Coolhaus [@CoolhausATX]
So How do I Sample?
Pick a direction and start walking. Depending on your fancy you can walk East 6th Street, Rainey Street, Second and Congress or 7th and Trinity without working up a sweat. Each of these locations has a number of places for you to explore. If you want to walk a bit further, head down Congress south of the river, hitting both Gibson and Congress first, then hitting up 1600 S. Congress which will again get you a bunch of different types of food. Bottom line is pick a direction and explore, no doubt you will find a trailer that suites your fancy.
Here is an outline of the major locations close to downtown:
East 6th Street (East of I-35, easy walking from downtown and the convention center)
- Eastside Drive-in at E. 6th and San Marcos – lots of trailers. Good find for Vegan/vegiarians with Vegan Yacht
- 6th and Waller
- Further down East 6th you will find some serious pedigree, East Side King the brainchild of killer Uchiko chef Paul Qui and partners has two location with different menus. Great places to have a beer, relax and eat some serious trailer food
Rainey Street (just south of Cesar Chavez and the convention center) – some great choices here and one of my favorite places for atmosphere. If you have never seen what can be done with an eating area at a real trailer check out both Cazamance and G’raj Mahal. In addition El Naranjo is owned by Iliana de la Vega, an instructor in latin food at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.
Congress Avenue (moving from downtown south)
- Congress & Second
- Congress & Gibson – Highly recommend a stop here at Flying Carpet…check out the Moroccan Burger with Harissa
- 1600 South Congress: Lot’s to choose from here. You can find one of the granddaddy’s of Austin trailer food, the Mighty Cone. Not my favorite park for food but an Austin institution.
South Lamar (moving from downtown south). There are a couple places here I take everyone that comes to town. Specifically odd duck Farm to Trailer and Gordough’s. Hit them if you can…but a warning. Both get very busy and can take a while to get your food (it is made to order after all). Odd duck and Gordough’s are grouped together, then La Boite and Texas Cuban, with Lulu B’s further down and alone.
South First (moving from downtown south)
- First and Gibson
- SouthAustinTrailer Park – Home of Torchy’s and Austin institution
- Sofi Trailer Park
801 Barton Springs (moving from downtown south)
Where Does AustinFoodCarts Eat?
Everywhere, but that doesn’t help. My Fav’s are [in no order and with no disrespect to any other trailer operator] Cazemance (try the Bunny Chow – great location, great outdoor seating, great
food, not afraid to use spice), odd duck (pork belly to me isplayed, but the other dishes here usually rock), Gordough’s (sucker for hot fried batter, especially with chocolate and strawberries),Chi’Lantro (two words Kimchi Fries), Along Came a Slider (sliders that rock…maybe they have the scallop that night), Old School BBQ (okay, it’s Austin, I have to include one BBQ place…I would also suggest Franklin’s BBQ, but the are supposed to be in brick and mortar by SXSW) and finally Not Your Mama’s (beef tongue if they have it). Gotta stop there, though there are many more I can recommend based on individual questions or requests.
So I started out with the question, “where should I start, where should I eat first”…and I didn’t answer the question. Hopefully this handy guide will help you jump start your taste buds and get out and try something old or something new. Whatever you do, Eat Local, Eat Mobile.