Whether you're looking for a view of the kitchen and more personal service, hoping for a shorter wait time, or dining alone, pull up a chair at these Austin counters for a fine dining experience you won't forget.
Both locations of Austin’s most authentic pizzeria are continually hopping—but luckily for small parties, the counter is quite an entertaining option. Grab a drink and watch the pizzaiolo expertly orchestrate the 90-second cooking time in a 900-degree oven. Their classic version of margherita pizza is a great light option for summer, but don’t skip their inventive desserts (the tangy grapefruit tart is a refreshing finisher). 1519 E Cesar Chavez St., 512-524-2523; 6555 Burnet Rd., 512-215-8662
Odd Duck keeps its reputation in town for two reasons: Food that excites and service that excels. In addition to being given the royal treatment at the bar, the seats offer a better view of the genius happening in the kitchen. Dishes change often based on what’s fresh, though the Parker House roll with pig face and sesame is a savory standby (and if goat is on the menu, it’s a must-try). If you enjoy the show happening behind the bar, don’t forget to send beer to the kitchen for $1. 1201 S. Lamar, 512-433-6521
The diner counter is a piece of classic Americana, and 24 Diner offers an upscale twist on this favorite pastime. When this hotspot is buzzing on the weekends, snag a spot at the counter to skip the wait. The thick waffles with Madagascar vanilla are some of Austin’s best—and why not enjoy with fried chicken and brown sugar butter along with that? The veggie burgers are also stellar, while the Mexican peach cocktail made with tequila, peach jam, mint, lime, and Topo Chico is a perfect summer cooler. 600 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-472-5400
The counter at Uchiko is the best seat in the house—watching the sushi chefs at work is half the fun. Entrust your fate with your chef, as they steer you towards what’s fresh. Even non-fans of sushi will enjoy the steamed white fish with tom yum and kaffir lime, and the sweet fried milk for dessert. 4200 N. Lamar, 512-916-4808
The group behind Swift’s Attic has done it again: Featuring dishes representative of all eight styles of Chinese cuisine, including a refreshingly authentic dim sum service, Wu Chow is set to be a downtown standby. Cozy up to their countertop for dumplings on dumplings—the Shanghai pork soup dumplings practically have a fan club. 500 W. Fifth St., 512-476-2469
For a front row seat to a chef’s theater, grab one of 25 available at intimate 3.FIVE.VII. Diners choose a prix-fixe of three, five, or seven courses (wine pairings optional) and will leave with their palates dazzled—plus, when you're seated so closely to the action, you might learn a few things. If you're stopping in for a quick bite, come during happy hour for exclusively priced oysters and bubbles. 315 Congress Ave. Ste. 100, 512-291-3327