Just when we thought we’d seen our last Italian joint (for a while at least), the subterranean-chic Sophia’s rolls in and starts serving dishes which are simultaneously modern and comforting. The brick chicken is a standout -- moist, juicy chicken fragrant with garlic, rosemary, and lemon -- as are the pastas, which are so satisfyingly simple. The dark, luxe space lends itself to late weekend nights where the bar is serving Italian-inspired cocktails like the barrel-aged Negroni (Dripping Springs gin, Cocchi Torino, Cappelletti, Campari).
Because Austinites can never have too much beer, or music venues, or food trucks, Colorado-based brewery Oskar Blues -- makers of Dale’s Pale Ale and Mama’s Little Yella Pils, among others -- is setting up an outpost off of Metric Blvd in a former recycling plant. The newest Sunday Funday destination has a food truck park, live music, and lots and lots of beer.
Brand-new from Moorman McGuire Hospitality (Clark’s, Perla’s, Jeffrey’s) and housed in the former Wahoo’s Fish Taco, June’s is now serving wine, cocktails, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The immaculate space is making wine the focus and is appropriately named after beverage director and master sommelier June Rodil. Try the shaved ham & butter sandwich while people watching on the dog-friendly patio.
The original Fresa’s on South Lamar is a drive-thru serving mostly tacos and moist chicken & beef for family meals. The new location (in the old Freddie’s Place) on South First unleashes a whole new side of the popular eatery. You can dine in the bright modern dining room or grab takeout at the window. It has a full bar. Bold acidity and spice dominate the expanded menu. Standouts include the Mexican street corn (mayo, cotija, chile), chimichurri skirt steak (Mexican rice, charro beans, grilled onion, jalapeño, lime, salsas, fresh corn tortillas) and the cheesy flor de calabaza quesadilla (squash blossom, zucchini, goat cheese, oaxaca cheese, corn tortilla).
The OG Picnik was founded in 2013 in a shipping container on South Lamar and focused on Paleo-friendly food and drinks (no gluten, grains, peanut, and soy) like bone broth, desserts, and coffee with butter or MCT oil. The new full-service brick-and-mortar restaurant expands on the philosophy with much later hours (Sun-Thurs, 7am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 7am-10pm) and a menu including tacos, dinner entrees, and an even more extensive selection of butter coffees. Into Paleo? Check out the Marshmallow Chai, which is made with grass-fed butter, MCT oil, herbal rooibos, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, maple syrup, grass-fed whey protein, collagen, colostrum, and vanilla bean.
When the much-beloved East Side Showroom announced it was closing, we were devastated, but not for long; Ah Sing Den (from the same owners) immediately took its place. While the new concept -- inspired from the real Victorian-era opium den in London frequented by writer Charles Dickens -- is far from perfect, it’s a welcome start to what could potentially be the next East Sixth crown jewel. The food menu is a mishmash of Asian and Polynesian classics like dumplings and poke, and the newly pared-down cocktail menu has similarly inspired drinks, like the Guyanese Sour, made with grilled pineapple and a spicy syrup.
Next door to the Four Seasons Hotel, Forthright has everything anyone could ever want in a casual cafe: a curated wine selection, classic cocktails, local beer, Sightglass Coffee, large, un-fussy breakfast/lunch portions, a bright modern interior, and a shady patio next to the lake. And if that doesn’t convince you, happy hour is from 4-7pm, with discounts on every drink.
Perched on the hill next door to The Brixton, Revelry Kitchen + Bar is East Sixth’s newest neighborhood spot. Owner Jonathan Lochrie, who also owns Corner Bar, quietly opened his new concept, which is now serving beer, cocktails, and bar fare like wings, chili fries, and the signature RKB burger.
Owners Trish and Jason McVearry opened their first location in bustling Venice Beach, and by all accounts were the first to bring the fresh Hawaiian specialty to LA. Fast-forward six years and Poke-Poke’s new South Congress restaurant is one of a handful of new poke spots in Austin. What is poke? It’s Hawaiian-style ceviche, so cubed, raw sashimi-grade fish typically dressed in soy, sesame oil, and other seasonings made to order and served in a bowl; Poke-Poke’s bowls all feature ahi tuna. For a little kick, order the spicy poke bowl (ahi tuna, shoyu, sesame oil, white & green onions, sesame seeds, Sriracha mayo, Sriracha).
Kyōten, the stylish Japanese sushi trailer that formerly occupied East Sixth, now has permanent digs in Mueller. Chef/owner Otto Phan honed his craft under Tatsu Aikawa and Tako Matsumoto before the two opened Ramen Tatsuya, and has worked at acclaimed restaurants like Nobu, Masa, and Uchi/Uchiko. At his Kyōten Sushiko, gorgeous, traditional offerings will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Right now, they are serving an eight-person dinner twice nightly for $150, omakase-style, aka chef’s choice, but a walk-in, casual lunch menu is coming soon.