Where This Award-Winning Austin Chef Eats on His Days Off

Tatsu Aikawa dishes on his favorite meals in town

March 8, 2022 7:54 am
Tatsu Aikawa
Tatsu Aikawa
Kirsten Kaiser

Consult any Austin dining and drinking resource, and you’re bound to come across a Tatsu Aikawa-owned joint. The Tokyo-born, Texas-bred chef makes food that’s rooted in Japanese traditions while evoking his state’s spirit and penchant for smoke. His restaurants, Ramen Tatsu-ya and Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, helped to establish ramen culture and izakaya-style dining in Austin, brought national recognition from The James Beard Foundation, and landed him on several national best-of lists. 

Since then, Tatsu has opened DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya, which merges a new-school shabu-shabu concept with a fun ice cream kiosk, as well as his most recent project, a bar called Tiki Tatsu-Ya that transports visitors to an island paradise. Naturally, he’s also a solid resource if you need a recommendation on where to eat. 

Here are five Tatsu-approved spots, where you can spend a very productive day taking down three meals, a snack and drinks.

Breakfast: Pacha Organic Cafe

“There are times that I take a break from intermittent fasting and spend time ruminating on which places to cheat my diet and carbo-load. This one is on the top of my list. Pacha, which relocated from their Burnet location to Guadalupe, still to this day serves up the bacon cheese pancake. Add eggs on the side sourced from Coyote Creek Farms, and you got a guaranteed deed to Sleepytown, where everyday is a slow and easy Sunday.”

Lunch: Tan My Restaurant

“We started Ramen Tatsu-ya in 2012 at a shopping strip full of wonderful Asian restaurants. One in particular has stood the test of time not only because of its friendly, family-run environment, but its unyielding insistence on how their pho is made. Go early because they will run out. The beef pho at Tan My hits your table with a waft of anise, clove, and a little hint of wet beef. You take a sip of the broth, and you know. Dotted with family portraits on the wall along with an envelopment of steam in your face from the broth, you’ll feel like you’ve been struck by a giant puppy pile. And who doesn’t like that?”

Snack: Tommy Want Wingy

“They do one thing and one thing very, very, very well. Trimmed and manipulated to spec, their chicken lollipops are fried to perfect gold, tossed in a wide range of sauces from a buttery but dry ‘ranch on fire’ to their ‘original,’ reminiscent of honey-sweetened sriracha. Fresh out, the smell is one of the greatest testaments to fried goods and butter that the world has ever known.”

Dinner: Olamaie

“Go for the biscuits, everyone will tell you. Stay for their technical prowess in executing a tight and rotating Southern-inspired menu. Come back for the hope that you’ll get a chance to experience what Chef Michael would describe as the best wagyu in Texas, Ranger Cattle.”

Drinks: Lala’s

“What more can you say about a year-round Christmas themed dive bar?” 


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