Helen Hollyman

Cook. Writer. Truffle dealer. If it has to do with eating, Texas-born Helen Hollyman has done it. Her greatest contribution to food culture is launching Munchies, the world’s first global millennial food website and digital media video channel from Vice Media. The site’s founding editor-in-chief, she launched eight international editions of the James Beard Award-winning site, co-wrote the Munchies cookbook, and hosted Munchies: The Podcast. Today, she is editor-in-chief of Thrillist and manages her own digital media consulting company specialising in beverage, travel, lifestyle and – of course – food.

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Dive Bars And Honky-Tonks

Go to the Hard Luck Lounge with a group when you want to play songs on the jukebox and hang out in a big backyard space. Donns Depot consists of weird old railroad cars that were joined together to create the greatest dive bar run by an old man named Donn who plays in their house band. Imagine if David Lynch and Dwight Yoakam decided to open a honky-tonk bar together: that’s what White Horse Saloon would be.

Margaritas At Any Time Of Day

The Better Half has a mezcal margarita on tap and a burger that will make you cry tears of joy. When you’re like “I need a mezcal margarita, ASAP”, The Tigress is an extremely tiny and mellow cocktail bar that will suit your needs. A margarita with breakfast sounds like a bad decision unless you go to Curras which makes an avocado margarita that has the texture to convince you that you’re drinking a healthy smoothie with a touch of devil-water inside it.

Tacos You Can’t Miss

When you’re at VERACRUZ ALL NATURAL – IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT’S THE GREATEST – always order the migas breakfast tacos. At Tacodeli, order the potato, egg and cheese breakfast taco, which are made with whipped mashed potatoes. The crispy tacos at Tamale House are very legit and their tamales are even better.​ Valentina’s, meanwhile, is famous for its brisket and egg breakfast tacos.

Two Options For Brunch

Food trucks are a thing Austin has been known for, and very easily become an eyeroll, except places like Paperboy which makes the concept of brunch a great idea, like their sweet potato breakfast hash or the pimento cheese egg sandwich. Joann’s is a great location on South Congress to order a salad and douse it in ranch dressing without judgment or order the vegan banana bread and sip on turbo iced coffees and people-watch.

Austin Barbecue At A Glance

In Texas, we have church, football, and barbecue. When I was a teenager, Austin wasn’t exactly known for its barbecue stands except for a handful of spots like my favorite and sadly now defunct: John Mueller’s BBQ stand. Since then, you’ve probably read about Franklin’s which is totally worth the hype, but if you can’t deal with the long line, I recommend Micklethwait Craft Meats that makes really amazing sides with its barbecue; or la Barbecue which is John Mueller’s sister’s spot. Otherwise, bite the bullet and rent a car and drive out to Snow’s where Tootsie, the pitmaster and my hero, continues to make the best barbecue I’ve ever had. 

New Southern American Cuisine

My brother-in-law Michael Fojtasek is half Texan and originally from Tennessee. At Olamaie, he’s found a way to create new Southern cuisine that blends the two together and pays homage to the past. Whatever you do, don’t leave here without trying his homemade biscuits with honey butter.

Eat Dinner Like A Local

Imagine if Deyrolle in Paris moved to Texas, became a restaurant, and allowed people to drink wine and listen to records and eat steak au poivre under the stars: that’s what Justine’s is. Bufalina is home to excellent Neapolitan pizza, a great wine list and a daily pasta situation that is generally very exciting.

How Austin Likes Its Japanese

I am embarrassed to admit that I have still not been to Tokyo, but the ramen at Ramen Tatsuya is as good, if not better than any I’ve had in LA and New York. I always order the tsukemen dipping ramen and add crispy brussels sprouts to it, but wish they served bibs with it or at least Tide To Go pens because I always find a way to stain my shirt with ramen broth. I’m not mad about it. Kemuri Tatsuya is in the Ramen Tatsuya restaurant family. This is its whimsical and super fun Texas-meets-Tokyo izakaya: brisket hot pockets for the win. Uchiko is what happens when Tyson Cole combines sushi and New American cooking. If you can’t get in, head over to Uchi to get the gist of what they are doing.

Text-Mex Isn’t A Dirty Word

Matt’s El Rancho is a Tex-Mex pilgrimage where the holy grail of queso dip was born. Imagine a warm creamy bowl of queso that’s topped off with guacamole and pico de gallo and beef: that’s the Bob Armstrong Dip and it runs through the veins of most locals. Julios is an under-the-radar old school Tex-Mex joint that specializes in chicken. For the most part, most dishes except for salsa and queso have chicken in it. Here’s what you should do: order the enchilada plate with the green sauce, chips and queso, then take note of the yellow rice that comes with the enchiladas. I can’t find yellow rice quite like this anywhere else, and I think it’s because it’s lovingly poached in the chicken broth made from all of the chickens in this place.

When You’re Not Busy Eating

Yes, Austin is known for our live music and keeping things weird, but if you’re into vinyl, look no further than Breakaway Records. Fort Lonesome is an all-female stitch collective that customizes everything from denim jackets to cowboy boots. Stroll over to Jo’s Coffee on South Congress and walk over to Allens Boots and try on some rattlesnake boots. Uncommon Objects is a highly curated antique store that’s fun to hunt for items like ancient turtle shells, fez hats and killer furniture.

Blowing (And Bowling) Off Steam

Barton Springs is our sacred open-year-round watering hole – literally – where everyone goes to jump in the 60°F natural spring water and relax. If you need a moment to feel like you’re living in Austin in 1972 and hoping the Big Lebowski is in the lane next to you while Jesus shines his ball, just hang out at Dart Bowl and order the enchilada plate​ from its tiny café because it’s divine.

Art Of Austin

Harry Ransom Center is an incredible resource at UT Austin’s campus where you can go in and see all kinds of relics. There’s usually a great exhibition there that is free to the public and on request, you can look at bizarre objects like Houdini’s invisibility cloak and Truman Capote’s snake venom kit. The Cathedral of Junk is a beautiful tower of trash that can only be described in person.

Selected Works: Munchies: Late-Night Meals from the World’s Best Chefs (2017)

Guide Last Updated March 2020

Our guides are fact-checked and updated regularly. Read more here.

Helen Hollyman - Austin - The Local Tongue

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