Here’s the truth: the drive from San Antonio to Austin is actually pretty short. These two cities are a lot closer together than most people realize! But of course, San Antonio is a totally different culture and experience than Austin, so they can feel far apart. (And if it’s rush hour and you’re stuck on I35…forget about it. Totally different story.) Regardless, sometimes you just HAVE to stop and grab some food. If you’re wondering where to eat on the drive from San Antonio to Austin, here are some solid options. All chain restaurants and generic fast-food restaurants will be left off this list. Duh.
Even if you don’t NEED to stop, there are actually some really cool restaurants that are worth pulling over and getting out of the car to experience!
The sprinkling of historic towns between San Antonio and Austin include Gruene, New Braunfels, Lockhart, San Marcos, and Buda (among other small ones that are a bit further off the major interstate.)
There are some adorable bakeries, iconic BBQ restaurants, incredible taco huts, and even a world-famous pie company. Here’s where to eat on the drive from San Antonio to Austin.
Where Should I Eat On The Drive From San Antonio To Austin?
Note: these restaurants, breweries, and bakeries are listed in order of location, starting with those closest to San Antonio and ending with some options that are close to Austin. Feel free to use the map above to find one that’s in the desired location. Or read on for more photos and restaurant details.
1. Gather Brewing
Located just outside of San Antonio in Universal City, you can stop at Gather for a delicious brewpub meal before you even begin the drive! Gather Brewing is a family-owned veteran-owned Texas craft brewery that opened in 2021. They have a beautiful open layout, a large outdoor patio (great if you’re visiting with kids who need some space to get the car wiggles out), and a delicious menu.
The pub food is excellent here. They have snacky starters like a delicious German pretzel with a trio of dipping sauces (whiskey caramel, sweet onion mustard, and Gather beer cheese), spicy Korean wings, and some gorgeous crispy Brussels with balsamic and pomegranate reduction.
And then they’ve got their pizza menu of 12” pies, plenty of hand-holds like burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, and an entire section of the menu devoted to kid-friendly options.
If you’re in the middle of a drive, you probably won’t want to stop a drink very much. But if you want a taster, they offer half-pours and little tasters of their brews. Gather also offers a wide selection of non-alcoholic drinks, including house-made sodas in refreshingly fruity flavors, kombucha, and cold brew.
2. Naeglin’s German Bakery
There aren’t many Texas restaurants that have been around since the 1800s, so if you have a chance to stop at Naeglin’s German Bakery, it’s a pretty cool experience. The bakery has actually been in the exact same location since 1870! The owner and his wife and two kids lived in the apartment above the bakery.
It's located in the downtown square area of New Braunfels, which is actually adorable. Naegelin's is definitely a no-frills bakery, but both quality AND quantity are there!
The pastry case includes everything from Danish, kolache, and croissants to donuts, all sorts of strudels made with various fruit options, and giant sticky rolls. They sell Texas sheet cake and German chocolate cake, a huge selection of pies, homemade flour tortillas, breakfast bread and dinner loaves and burger buns, and…we’ll stop there. The list goes on and on.
Naeglin’s is a good place for a quick stop on the drive from San Antonio to Austin. It’s about 1 mile from I35 and they have a drive-thru, so you can quickly pull over, grab a cheese Danish, and get back on the road to Austin.
4. Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar
If you want to feel like you’re eating in a tree house, you need to check out this adorable restaurant in historic Gruene, Texas. Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar is a historic restaurant inside a renovated 1878 cotton gin. It has multiple levels of tree-shaded decks that overlook the river, and it’s seriously one of the most beautiful restaurants in Texas.
They’re famous for their onion rings, so be sure to get an order of those for the table. Beyond that, the menu is fairly self-explanatory! They have the classics you’d expect at a Texas restaurant like beef burgers, chicken fried steak, some soups and salads, and a few more upscale cuts of steak if you’re looking to splurge a bit.
5. Freiheit Country Store in New Braunfels for burger
This is a rustic, low-ceiling country store with live music, cold beer, and the BEST burgers in New Braunfels. (Seriously.) It’s been around since 1889 and it’s not slowing down. Both tourists and regular locals pack this place on any night of the week.
Of course, if you’re not into ⅓ pound (or half a pound!) burgers, they offer plenty of other Texas country food. Expect things like Frito chili pie, a chicken fried steak sandwich, and chicken strips, and a standard kids menu. If you need a place to get out of the car and stretch your legs while you enjoy a big Texas meal, be sure to stop by Freiheit Country Store on the drive from San Antonio to Austin.
Does it really need an introduction?
There’s a Buc-ee’s right off the highway on the drive from San Antonio to Austin. In addition to filling up your gas tank at one of the many (many, many, many) gas filling stations, you can head inside and buy, well….just about anything.
Grab some smoked BBQ sandwiches, some road trip candy from their colossal candy wall, soft drinks galore, or do some shopping for home goods, clothes, accessories, and a ton of other stuff you didn’t know you needed.
7. Hat Creek Burgers
There are two Hat Creek Burger locations on the drive from San Antonio to Austin: San Marcos and Buda. This popular burger chain has really good burgers, fries, and salads.
Their claim to fame among families with littles is that each location has a fenced-in playground. Parents can get a (very inexpensive) glass of wine or a can of beer to enjoy during dinner while the kids run around and burn off all that sugar they just consumed from their delicious Hat Creek milkshakes.
8. Herbert’s Taco Hut
If you’re looking for a glossy, beautifully-branded Tex Mex restaurant, this isn’t it. But if you want an old-school staple that’s been around for ages, swing by Herbert’s Taco Hut in San Marcos.
They’ve got all your classics like enchiladas, margaritas, queso, and tacos. It’s been around since 1976 (and looks like it!), so expect a charming and quirky restaurant experience.
9. Smitty’s Market
If you have some extra time on your road trip from San Antonio to Austin and you’re hoping to experience something cool, stop by Lockhart, TX! It’s not adjacent to I35, but it’s just a quick drive from the freeway. This historic Texas BBQ town is bursting with iconic smokehouses and barbecue restaurants. Smitty’s, Kreuz Market, and Black’s are three of your best options for BBQ in Lockhart.
10. Texas Pie Company
Texas Pie Company in Kyle, TX makes some incredible pies! Yes, it is a full restaurant with lunch specials each day, but the pies are where they really shine. Stop by and pick up a coconut cream pie or a Texas pecan and chocolate fudge pie to bring to your final destination in Austin. You’ll make someone happy when you show up with that pie!
11. Mud Bugs in Buda
Sure, once you make it to Buda you’re near to Austin…but if you have time to stop by Mud Bugs for some elevated cajun food, you won’t be disappointed.
This restaurant is incredible! They call themselves “elevated, not refined,” meaning the food is top-notch and beautifully prepared. Please be sure to try the Big Sexy Pasta, made with pappardelle, shrimp, lump crab, crawfish, AND andouille, all tossed in a decadent butter herb sauce.
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