These Mac & Cheese Nachos Just Won the Comfort Food Game
Texas-inspired cuisine in new Zilker boutique hotel
This opening was a big one for the Austin food community; we gained the chic Carpenter Hotel, as well as a fantastic onsite restaurant. Grae Nonas (formerly of Olamaie) is the executive chef, and his “new eyes on old Texas” ethos plays out in the form of comfort food that takes inspiration from Texas’ German, Czech, and Mexican influences; think breakfast tacos, kolaches, club sandwiches, schnitzels, and burgers. The look of the all-day eatery is reminiscent of food halls you might find in Copenhagen, mixed with a VFW hall and an ounce of Wes Anderson whimsy.
Cocktails and Japanese curries from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team
Austin’s ramen kings have expanded their empire to include yet another concept, Domo Alley-Gato. Domo’s patio kitchen, Karē Ban Ban, is serving a small, mouth-watering menu of Japan-meets-Texas-BBQ bar food. Try the 23-spice curry served over shredded beef, breaded pork cutlet, or veggies, and the must-try OG Wings which are tossed in peanut cashew miso, cilantro, and furikake seasoning, and served with a side of fermented yuzu crema. The cocktail menu is from beverage director Michael Phillips: expect highballs (Japanese whisky lengthened with carbonated water) as well as mix-and-match Chu-Hi cocktails, and frozen beer foam boilermakers.
Whiskey and gin distillery’s on-site restaurant serving rustic fare and cocktails
Spicewood’s Treaty Oak Distillery has gone through recent changes including rebranding their line of spirits, adding the innovative new Cocktail Lab and renaming their on-site restaurant to Alice’s Restaurant, after owner Daniel Barnes’ mother. The new concept highlights Texas flavors and incorporates distillation and fermentation from the distilling side of Treaty Oak. Menu standouts include the chicken fried steak with a bourbon mushroom gravy, and an enormous tomahawk steak on the specials board, cooked to a beautiful pink medium-rare. Don’t forget the booze, either: we love the bright, vegetal “What It Loo” (Waterloo No.9 Gin, lime juice, and arugula tincture),
New brick-and-mortar location for newly crowned princes of pastrami
Otherside Deli, the truck originally found at Back Lot bar (formerly Nasty’s), has opened a restaurant on 38th and Lamar. While the location and size have changed, what hasn’t is the (dare we say?) best pastrami in Austin, which consequently means you'll find the best Reuben sandwich here as well. Derrick Smith and Conor Mack brine their beef, coat it in a thick coat of black pepper and coriander seeds, and then smoke it until it’s perfectly pink with a juicy fat cap. The sliced pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and buttered house rye from Texas French Bread are then grilled until the bread is crisp and the cheese is gooey. Hungry yet? You should be.
All-day bakery serving handmade French pastries, lunch and dinner options
Bakery Lorraine is the darling of San Antonio’s food renaissance, its location at the posh and idyllic Pearl Brewery complex has exposed residents and visitors alike to their charming and accessible French pastries. Now, Bakery Lorraine has a location at the Domain Northside where Austinites can indulge in tarts, croissants, and their beautiful-to behold-and-taste macarons. But, don’t you dare write off the savory selections -- pot pies, quiches, and sandwiches boast beautiful dough and bread as well as fillings. Bakery Lorraine’s Cuban sandwich is one of the best we’ve ever tasted -- moist roasted pork loin, French ham, fontina cheese, arugula, pickles, and fresh-baked bread, served hot. Trust us.
James Beard Award-nominated chef serving elevated poke
The typical poke experience generally involves pointing at sad avocado and squeeze bottles through a smudged sneeze-guard while your poke artist goes nuts with thick orange aioli. If the Subway dining experience isn’t your tempo, try the very new Malibu Poke from lauded chef Matt McCallister, who’s managed to make poke exciting with his New American approach. Orders are placed via touchscreen kiosks; choose from their menu of poke bowls, or build your own with ingredients that are unique to most poke joints like micro radish, cauliflower rice, coconut curry, chive oil, and crispy shallots. Pair your bowl with a glass of frosé or sparkling sake!
In-hotel, lakeside eatery from Top Chef winner Kristen Kish
While boutique hotel The LINE Austin is still partially under renovation, taking over the former Radisson Hotel on Cesar Chavez and South Congress, Arlo Grey’s door are open. The debut restaurant from Top Chef’s season 10 winner Kristen Kish will feature her fresh take on classic dishes and techniques using Texas ingredients. Standouts already include the burger, which arrives topped with fermented pickles, caramelized onions, mustard greens and Kewpie mayo and the gorgeous burrata in cucumber water with delicately placed, indigo-hued borage blossoms. Also, expect equally impressive cocktails from beverage director Brian Floyd; we like the Devil’s Backbone, a mezcal-based sipper with pineapple and lime juice.
Fast-casual, breakfast- and lunch-only biscuit spot with savory and sweet options
Bird Bird Biscuit is the new biscuit spot from Chef Brian Batch and Ryan McElroy, former GM and current co-owner, respectively, of Thunderbird Coffee. The restaurant’s small menu focuses exclusively on biscuits, with the exception of cinnamon-sugar biscuit doughnut holes they’re calling Dough Doughs. You can’t go wrong with the Bird Bird Bacon sandwich: it’s got crispy bacon, organic over-medium egg, cheddar, and bacon-infused chipotle mayo. Mmmm.
Situated in a cozy, renovated former military building from the 1950’s, this long-anticipated restaurant/brewery has not only created a menu using local ingredients, but also a relationship between the beers and food. For example, spent grains from the brewery make their way into bread, and leftover fruit peels add unique flavors to the beers. Menu highlights include the Hearth Bread (served with mesquite butter and roasted garlic), Aged Pork Ribs (black beer vinegar, garden dry rub, spring onion), and warm-weather beer like the Idée Fixe, which is described as having flavors of “summer, English breakfast, lemon zest, black tea leaves.”
East Martin Luther King
Casual all-day restaurant featuring a from-scratch kitchen, bakery, and bar
The third concept from Odd Duck and Barley Swine’s owners, Sour Duck serves as a bakery, cafe, neighborhood restaurant, and bar. The space is divided into the main building where food and pastries are ordered, a covered beer/cocktail picnic table garden, and a building with a full bar in back. The menu is an easygoing list of soups and salads, snacky things, and sandwiches including a Wagyu burger. A serious smokehouse, all-star pastry and bread team, and the cocktails we have come to love from Odd Duck are all here, including a frozen margarita with swirl options.
Former trailer Neapolitan pizzeria re-opened in new bungalow digs
40 North was quietly killing it before its temporary closing, as anyone who scarfed an entire pizza while sitting at one of the picnic tables outside the trailer knows. Charred, simultaneously thin and puffy crust with flavorful toppings are what we’ve come to expect from 40 North, and after its grand reopenings in May, we can also enjoy a menu with a new sandwich and burger, desserts, wine list, and blessed air conditioning. Try the Hot Honey (tomato sauce, ricotta, coppa, parmesan, fresno, charred scallion, Mike’s Hot Honey) or the Dandelion (fontina, dandelion greens, onion jam, pancetta, parmesan).
Asian smokehouse from Austin’s most celebrated and influential chefs
Chef Tyson Cole (of Uchi and Uchiko) and Aaron Franklin (of Franklin Barbecue), both James Beard Award winners, have joined forces to create a uniquely Austin mashup. You’ll find that concept embodied perfectly in dishes like the Texas Smoked Sweet Corn with yuzu kosho aioli, lime, and sunburst tomato, and the Smoked Beef Brisket with chili gastrique, thai herbs, and coconut-scented rice embody. In true Franklin Barbecue fashion, there is often a wait; but, with plenty of seating inside and on the spacious patio, time will fly by (especially with a mango sake slushee in hand).
East Austin eatery making modern Mexican cuisine with local ingredients
Suerte is really, really into masa (aka corn-based dough), and while many associate the ingredient solely with tamales, masa serves as the foundation of Mexican cuisine. Suerte’s owner Sam Hellman-Mass (founding partner of Barley Swine and Odd Duck) and executive chef Fermín Núñez (formerly at Launderette and Uchiko) traveled to Central Mexico, including Núñez’s hometown of Torreón, to gather inspiration from the region’s vibrant culture; the resulting menu highlights Texas ingredients, including masa made with local heirloom grains, using Mexican techniques. Molotes (fresh masa dough filled and fried, chorizo is the current selection) are a fun intro, along with the flavor-packed green chorizo tlayuda (imagine a giant chalupa), while we can confidently say the suadero tacos (confit brisket, black magic oil, avocado salsa) are among the best dishes we've tasted all year. Also, don’t miss the creative cocktails and a well-curated mezcal list.
New American spot with an emphasis on local ingredients
Emmer & Rye brings a unique dining experience to Austin, as the restaurant is the city’s first to offer contemporary American seasonal small plates passed on circulating carts as part of their meal. Guests are able to order these items in addition to a weekly rotating menu using local farm-to-table ingredients. Emmer & Rye opened in late 2015, and chef Fink immediately began racking up the accolades, including being named one of Food & Wine's best new chefs and one of the best new restaurants of 2017 by Bon Appétit. While the menu does rotate based on season, current favorites include the White Sonora tajarin (thin pasta) with radish top pesto, confit fennel, Meyer lemon, and pecan as well as the paneer (fresh cheese), with butternut squash, miso, beer vinegar, and young Brassicas.
Stylish diner serving eclectic comfort food along a tourist corridor
Stepping into June’s All Day, it’s easy to forget what city you’re in; the deliberate high-low chicness of the space screams “hip NYC fern bar,” not “hey, this used to be a Wahoo’s Fish Taco.” June’s is from Moorman McGuire Hospitality, the same group responsible for Josephine House and Elizabeth Street Cafe (among others). The all-day cafe has a very accessible menu of fancy diner fare, sophisticated cocktails, and one of the top wine programs in Austin, thanks to its master sommelier -- and namesake! -- June Rodil.
Truck serving non-typical BBQ and sides from an acclaimed pitmaster
LeRoy and Lewis is the new-school barbecue truck offering a rotating selection of alternative cuts and creative sides made with locally sourced product. Known for his innovative takes on Texas barbecue, pitmaster/chef Evan LeRoy incorporates elements of fine dining and from-scratch cooking into the menu, shining a new light on the traditional cuisine. Guests can expect old-school, market-style service of meats sliced to order and served by the pound; accompanying the meats are seasonally inspired, picnic-style sides beyond the basics, home-style desserts, and even barbecue bagels for breakfast. You can find LeRoy and Lewis adjacent to the new Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden.
Offbeat Asian street food influenced by the cuisine of Southeast Asia
Known for their flavor-packed “Asian drinking food” -- and a strange obsession with Guy Fieri -- the gang at Soursop are having a lot of fun, and it shows. Finding inspiration in Southeast Asian fare from Thailand and Vietnam to Malaysia and Indonesia, Soursop’s menu features a handful of permanent fixtures and a revolving cast of bar food hits like the SopBurger (two fresh ground patties, adobo glaze, Achara special sauce, swiss cheese, bacon fat roasted onions, shoestring potatoes). Do not skip the jumbo sambal chicken wings; they attack every taste bud in the best possible way with Thai chili, palm sugar, fish sauce, coconut vinegar, peanut, and mint. Soursop is found on the outdoor patio next to St. Elmo Brewing, who conveniently brews light, bright beers, which complement Soursop’s flavors perfectly.
Elegant Southern fare served in a Victorian estate setting
Impress your parents or invite your friends for a dressed-up brunch at Mattie’s, where the grounds are covered in ancient live oaks and peacocks roam freely. Unveiled in spring of 2017, Mattie’s is located inside a legendary 19th-century Victorian home on the Green Pastures estate. The team took great pains to honor the property’s rich history and restore it to its original elegance -- and then then take it a step further by giving the space modern touches. Continuing the tradition and legacy of its predecessors, Mattie’s features regionally inspired dishes and thoughtfully sourced ingredients and cocktails; we love Mattie’s fried chicken (Yukon pomme purée, spinach, pickled onions, chipotle-yogurt dressing) paired with a Green Pastures Julep (Woodford Reserve bourbon, peach rooibos brandy, spearmint bouquet).
East Cesar Chavez
Rustic Texan cuisine meets refinement by a chef with a notable resume
It’s difficult to describe Pitchfork Pretty; chef Max Snyder considers his cuisine “straight up Hill Country” -- a mix of German, Mexican, and Texan influence, with a lighter, fresher take. Yet, their most popular entree, the fried chicken, is treated like a Korean-style fried chicken -- spiced with red chile and served with pickled daikon. Point being, Pitchfork Pretty is as playful and refined as it is impossible to categorize and Snyder has continued to elevate the experience and surprise diners with unexpected and amazing flavors. Current must-trys include the bursting-with-flavor red snapper crudo; the wonderfully-textured potato gnocchi with arugula, broccoli and sunflower seed; and the red shrimp with crisp edges served over creamy potatoes. The cocktails alone are worth a visit, too -- try the seasonally-appropriate Fall and Oats (Angostura di Amaro, walnut, maple toasted oat milk, Wild Turkey). Also, every Monday night Pitchfork Pretty serves Banchan & Barbecue, a “Korean-ish” prix fixe, family-style dinner that is not to be missed.
Sunny, nautical space with raw bar, grill, and cocktails
Clark’s is a cozy neighborhood spot with a fantastic raw bar, fresh fish, one of Austin’s top burgers, and cocktails that run the gamut from tiki to modern classics. The white-washed walls, aqua and yellow color scheme, and fish tank all contribute to Clark’s chic, beachy vibe. Try their very popular pan-roasted black angus hamburger (sauce gribiche, Gruyere with Clark’s fries or slaw), or a dozen oysters on the half shell -- both are a great deal during Clark’s happy hour (Monday-Friday, 3pm-6pm), where guests receive 50 cents off oysters, half-off burgers, and $5 martinis, oyster shooters, and draft beer.
Twelve-seat Japanese omakase with an esteemed and eccentric chef
Quite possibly one of the priciest and most exclusive dining experiences in town, Japanese restaurant Otoko could easily slip into bougie hell left in the wrong hands. However, Japan native executive chef Yoshi Okai’s energy, punk rock attitude, and childlike enthusiasm makes Otoko’s omakase offerings the hottest -- and most fun -- ticket in town. While we’d love to share menu highlights and recommendations, we don’t know what chef Yoshi has up his sleeve from one day to the next, other than a perfect balance of reverence and rule-breaking and the ability to surprise and delight all who sit at his counter.
Relaxed Japanese izakaya with a focus on seasonality
This airy, wood-dominated Japanese izakaya puts the focus on sushi and yakitori, accentuated flavor-wise by locally sourced produce. Chef/owner Kazu Fukumoto, who opened the eponymous spot after spending a decade perfecting his sushi skills as the head chef at Musashino, is humble and gentle in demeanor -- he grills meat and slices sashimi behind the bar and greets everyone who enters. While the menu is chock-full of appetizers and seafood, Fukumoto is best explored by the specials board. And sake! Always sake.
Award-winning, iconic pitmaster’s restaurant famous for melt-in-your-mouth brisket
James Beard Award-winning chef Aaron Franklin and his meat wizardry have become famous all over the country, attracting tourists and locals alike to happily wait in line for a taste of the magic. Franklin’s smoked meats are the most tender, juicy, and flavorful around, and taste especially great after four hours of beer drinking and chatting in line! Try the brisket (duh), pulled pork, and ribs for the holy trinity of Franklin’s smoked meats.
East Cesar Chavez
Flavorful, perfectly smoked meats from a member of a revered BBQ family
The boys have got nothing on barbecue royalty LeAnn Mueller and wife Ali Clem; the granddaughter of legendary pitmaster Louis Mueller and the popular ‘cue truck have garnered more attention than ever this year, and for good reason: Their meat is incredible and rivals you-know-who. The operation has moved from the sweltering food truck park into the air conditioned Quickie Pickie (thank you, Jesus) on East Cesar Chavez, and the lines and buzz don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Try the fatty brisket, pork ribs, or a sandwich with a hilarious name like El Sancho (sausage and pulled pork or chopped beef topped with pickled red onion on a Martin’s potato bun).
Southern dishes executed with classic technique from a celebrated chef
Olamaie has been consistently pleasing discerning palates since opening in 2014, with chef Michael Fojtasek and his culinary team serving fine dining renditions of Southern classics. For example, “Hoppin’ John,” a dish traditionally consisting of black-eyed peas and rice, is elevated and given complexity in flavor and texture with the addition of smoky likker (liquid left after boiling collard greens), creamy rice, a soft-boiled egg, and heirloom Sea Island red peas. Don’t skip Olamaie’s famous and perfectly flaky biscuits served with cultured butter or the restaurant’s cocktails, some of the best in Austin.
Though not a brand-new restaurant on the block, Odd Duck wins points for its consistently good cuisine which accounts for its popularity. Approaching its one-year anniversary, the South Lamar restaurant is the reincarnation of Bryce and Dylan Gilmore’s original food trailer -- opened post-Bryce’s Barley Swine success -- and operates with the same focus on supporting local farmers, featuring local ingredients, and working from scratch. The result? Food and drinks that are always, always evolving.
Square, Detroit-style deep dish pizza
There have been some changes for Via 313 (arguably Austin’s favorite pizza joint) with the long-awaited East Sixth brick and mortar now open to the public, and the OG trailer having moved to West Sixth -- what has not changed, though, is the almost-too-cheesy square pizza of our (dirty?) dreams. Detroit natives and brothers, Brandon and Zane Hunt introduced Austin to the deep dish square pizza with crispy cheese edges, and it became the ultimate post-drinking food. Every pizza on the menu is outstanding, but we’re loyal to the Detroiter: natural-casing pepperoni on top, lots of cheese underneath, smoked pepperoni underneath that, and perfect dollops of marinara.
Funky, casual ramen shop where toothsome broths reign
Fellow chefs and DJs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto wanted to create a ramen shop that rivaled those found in Japan and LA; this is how Ramen Tatsu-ya came to exist. The restaurant specializes in slow-cooked pork tonkotsu broth that serves as the base for a thin noodle and assortment of additions like moist chashu (pork), ajitama (marinated soft-boiled eggs), and wood ear mushrooms. The rich ramen is nicely accompanied by bright appetizers like the Sweet and Sour Yodas: deep-fried Brussel sprouts tossed in apricot vinegar and curry. And remember: Slurping is encouraged!
Real Neapolitan pies and a well-curated wine list in an intimate space
Bufalina’s authentic Neapolitan pizzas are the real deal, following strict guidelines set by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (try saying that three times). After adding toppings, the pies are baked in a 900-degree Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven for about 90 seconds; pizzas emerge properly charred and slightly wet in the middle, a Neapolitan hallmark. While all are good choices, we’re slightly obsessed with two of them: the simple and slightly spicy Calabrese (tomato, mozzarella, salami, serrano, garlic, basil) and the simultaneously earthy, herbal, and mildly sweet roasted mushroom (caramelized onion, comté, mozzarella, herbs). Bufalina’s wine list is thoughtful and interesting, too, so you should definitely ask your server for a rec based on your pie.
Funky Texas smokehouse/Japanese izakaya mash-up
Kemuri Tatsu-ya is the Austin restaurant that swept 2017, collecting national accolades from top critics and publications. If the name of East Austin’s new izakaya sounds familiar and/or induces salivation, it’s because Tatsu Aikawa -- the “Tatsu” half of Ramen Tatsu-ya -- is the chef/owner. Like Aikawa, who is Japanese-born and Texas-raised, the new concept is an atypical mash-up of these two cultures; this cultural rendezvous is most evident in dishes like the Texas ramen (a bowl of traditional ramen save the tenacious beef broth and house-smoked brisket) and the smoked fish collar (a seldom-utilized but succulent cut teeming with brightness from a lemon and yuzu salt rub). Other must-trys include the “Hot Pocketz” (crispy tofu filled with brisket and gooey Gouda) and one of the playful cocktails, like the Matcha Painkiller: a Tiki-inspired blend of buckwheat shochu, tequila, pineapple, coconut, and matcha tea served in a ceramic maneki-neko or “lucky cat” vessel.
Modern Japanese from Austin’s original celebrity chef
Translated from the Japanese word “house,” the award-winning Uchi is located in a refurbished South Austin bungalow. Award-winning chef Tyson Cole’s signature, non-traditional take on Japanese food has delighted Austin’s diverse dining crowd as well as visitors from all over since 2003. Uchi is also THE restaurant that put Austin on the culinary map and produced a pool of extremely talented alumni who have gone on to also contribute to Austin’s food culture. Here’s what to expect at Uchi (and sister restaurant Uchiko): fresh fish accented by bright fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains and other flavors inspired by both Japan and Texas, with favorites from the cool tastings menu include the hama chili (yellowtail, ponzu, Thai chili, orange) and sake kosho (salmon, clementine, kiwi, puffed rice).
Experimental yet unassuming small plates served with a side of hospitality
Now settled into its spacious new home on Burnet Road, Barley Swine not only remains one of Austin’s top restaurants, but also makes dining fun. In true New American fashion, the menu is a list of ingredients, so you often don’t expect the flavors or techniques presented in front of you. Each small plate is a gem; our favorite is the Shiitake Dumplings -- tiny wonton packages filled with flavorful broth and served over creamy scrambled eggs, meant to be eaten in one bite. The cocktail menu also sings: The Thai One On is our favorite cocktail right now, combining Revolution gin, lemongrass, coconut Milk, copper canyon, and lime.