Head To This Historic Street To Eat At Some Of The Best Food Trucks In Texas

How well do you know and love Austin, Texas, beyond the famous Rainey Street? If East 11th Street isn't on your food radar, it should be. In 2024, it made headlines as one of the world's coolest streets (per Time Out), and the food scene is an integral part of it. Maybe you're already bound for the Congress Avenue Historic District, which stretches from 1st Street to 11th Street in Austin. The avenue dead-ends in the Texas State Capitol and the whispering gallery in its beautiful rotunda. About a two-minute cab ride down the road from there is East 11th Street.

Austin is well-known for its food trucks; you'll find roughly 2,000 scattered across the city. In them, visitors can see — and taste — a realization of the old bumper sticker slogan, "Keep Austin Weird," which helped stave off the encroachment of chains like the now-bankrupt bookseller, Borders, on local businesses. If your group can't decide what to eat, these parks provide a smorgasbord, like a food court in the mall, but with a more authentic, street-food atmosphere.

East 11th Street is sometimes grouped with food truck parks, though it occupies a wider area, one square block, and some of its best-known vendors operate out of buildings and trailers, not just trucks. Taco Bronco serves Tex-Mex from a modified horse trailer. The smoked chicken, pork, and brisket (no horse) come from its sister barbecue joint, Micklethwait Craft Meats. Both are located just off East 11th Street on Rosewood Avenue.

Franklin Barbeque and East 11th Street history

One famous food vendor located on East 11th Street proper is Franklin Barbeque. During his second presidential term in 2014, even Barack Obama visited this place, skipping ahead in line and buying "9 pounds of brisket," according to an employee interviewed by CBS Austin. Fans of the movie "Chef" may also recall seeing Franklin Barbecue onscreen that year. Jon Favreau's protagonist, Chef Carl Casper, rolled up on it in his road-tripping Cuban sandwich truck. He breezed right past the "Sold Out" sign on the front door, enjoying some brisket fresh from the cook chamber on a picnic table out back.

You may not enjoy the VIP treatment like Obama or Chef Carl, but even after waiting in line for 90 minutes or more, the BBQ Bon Appetit once called the best in the country could be worth it. Pitmaster and owner Aaron Franklin hosted the 11-episode PBS series, "BBQ with Franklin," and taught a MasterClass on how to cook Texas-style BBQ. Visiting his restaurant also puts you just down the street from Urdy Plaza, where the 50-foot mosaic "Rhapsody" forms a colorful tribute to the area's musical history. East 11th Street's roots as a Black neighborhood can further be seen on the nearby stretch of pavement where a mural spells out "Black Artists Matter" in big yellow letters on the road. Two minutes on foot from there is another dining option, Paperboy, where you can enjoy a rooftop brunch of Texas hash.

Kenny Dorham's Backyard Food Court

To really get the open-air food truck vibe on East 11th Street, you can veer from the Black Artists Matter mural into Kenny Dorham's Backyard Food Court. Named after the trumpeter and jazz giant (who lived close by), this is one of Austin's best live music venues. The monthly Jazz Outside series is free, while Blue Monday Jam lives by suggested donations of $5 or more. Here, you can sample mouth-watering ethnic cuisine from the German food truck, Hippie Picnik, or window-serve trailers like Tony's Jamaican Food.

Community Vegan, where southern-fried cauliflower substitutes for chicken, will get you fed on comfort food that looks so good you might forget it's all meat-free. The "I Used to Eat Fish" Filet Sandwich could make you a believer. On the corner, there's also a cocktail bar, Busy Signal, which bills itself as a Jazz Age-appropriate "speakeasy." It's located at the back of The Breakfast Bar, which occupies the building where the Victory Grill once hosted music legends like Chuck Berry, James Brown, B.B. King, and Tina Turner.

This deeper sense of history and culture adds to the food truck experience in and around Kenny Dorham's. Again, it's not just trucks and trailers that have made East 11th Street a magnet for foodies, either. As its punny name implies, the Hillside Farmacy serves farm-to-table food out of a former drugstore. Venues like this give East 11th Street more than enough local color to keep Austin weird (and well-fed).