Another notable downtown restaurante is Dona Emilias (101 San Jacinto Blvd., 512/478-2520, www.donaemilias.com , $7–17), specializing in Latin-American fare. Customers regularly return for the ceviche, churrasco (beef tenderloin), and desserts, especially the tres leches cake. Dona Emilia’s savory food tastes even better out on the patio, where you can hear live music most weekends.
Cold beer, live music, and barbecue: It’s a holy trinity for laid-back Southerners, and in Austin , believers flock to the altar, er, bar at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q (801 Red River St., 512/480-8341, www.stubbsaustin.com , $9–16). The hickory-smoked barbecue is legendary—the brisket, in particular—and the sauce is the best in town: a perfect combination of vinegary tang and peppery bite. Stubbs’ Sunday Gospel Brunch (held at the slacker-y hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) is virtually required for visitors, more for the soulful music than the hearty breakfast.
Benefiting from a prime spot next to the Austin Convention Center, Iron Works Barbecue (100 Red River St., 512/478-4855, www.ironworksbbq.com , $8–15) has exposed more out-of-staters to Texas-style barbecue than anywhere else in town. Fortunately, it’s a worthy ambassador, offering succulent beef brisket, tender pork ribs, and flavorful sausage to barbecue virgins since 1978.
For a true taste of Texas history (and delicious barbecue) drop by Scholz Garten (1607 San Jacinto Blvd., 512/474-1958, www.scholzgarten.net , $9–15), a beer garden and dance hall founded in 1866 by August Scholz, a German immigrant. Now operated by Green Mesquite BBQ, Scholz’ serves up Texas-style barbecue (beef brisket, ribs, sausage) and standard German fare like bratwurst, sauerkraut, and even weinerschnitzel. The back patio biergarten is one of the liveliest places in town during and after UT sporting events.
Upscale rustic food can be somewhat gimmicky unless it’s done right. Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill (303 Red River St., 512/236-9599, moonshinegrill.com, $10–20) does it right. Down-home favorites like macaroni and cheese, baked chicken, and ribs get the high-end treatment, meaning top-quality ingredients are used with attention to detail. One of the best items on the menu is an appetizer—beer-battered asparagus served with a tangy dipping sauce. Make sure to save room for desert, particularly the chocolate peanut butter pie.
On the other side of downtown, Ranch 616 (616 Nueces St., 512/479-7616, $10–22) offers American fare with a Texas and Southwestern twist. The Gulf Coast  is represented in the seafood options (shrimp quesadillas, fish tacos), and the kitchen does Texas and the South proud with its tasty biscuits, chicken-fried quail, and fried pies. Ranch 616 also draws a lively happy hour crowd, many of whom come for the bar’s dozens of premium tequilas.
You’ll find Austin’s  best Cajun cuisine at Gumbo’s (710 Colorado St., 512/480-8053, www.gumbosaustin.com , $15–31). It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for—top-notch Creole fare such as the tenderloin Michael (Angus beef covered in sautéed crawfish and béarnaise sauce), and blackened shrimp over crawfish étoufée. Save room for the sweet New Orleans–style custard.