RICHARD CASTEEL
Food & Drink

The Best Places to Eat in Austin Right Now

Published On 10/09/2017
Courtesy of Alcomar

Alcomar

South First

The South First location of the much-adored El Chile didn’t close, per se. Rather it was transformed and reopened by the same restaurant group as Alcomar, an eatery specializing in what’s been dubbed a “Latin-inspired seafood concept.” Doors opened this spring, and whether you’re in the mood for ceviche, oysters, or something less familiar (octopus tostadas, anyone?), the menu is sure to offer something from the sea that will tempt your taste buds.

Courtesy of Juliet Ristorante

Juliet Ristorante

Barton Springs

We already praised Juliet for boasting one of the most beautiful bars in Austin, and the food at this Italian establishment is no joke either. The ristorante quite fittingly took over the Barton Springs location previously occupied by Romeo’s this summer, and boasts killer cuisine -- antipasti, zuppe, pizze... it sounds even more delicious in Italian -- and the same romantic factor that one would expect given the name’s Shakespearean connotations.

Courtesy of Emmer & Rye

Emmer & Rye

Downtown

If you’re choosing your restaurant based on resume, look no further than Rainey St’s Emmer & Rye, which has staff star power in the form of former Uchiko chef de cuisine and St. Philip executive chef Page Pressley. As far as actual food goes, as one would expect, it’s a winner, specializing in contemporary American cuisine with an array of options. And if you’re in the market for a more unique experience, you can opt to dine dim sum-style, and enjoy small plates, lots of different tastes, and an ever-changing menu featuring ultra-fresh ingredients.

Courtesy of Geraldine's

Geraldine's

Downtown

Geraldine’s promises three things: food, cocktails, and music. Conveniently, those happen to be three of our favorite things. A boutique restaurant located inside the sparkling new Hotel Van Zandt, Geraldine’s presents guests with a “Texas-style, chef-driven, and crave-worthy menu fueled with the freshest ingredients.” Fly solo and order your own dish or wrangle a few friends for shareables as you take in live music and serene views of Lady Bird Lake. One piece of advice: you might want to reserve a room in the hotel to recover from the inevitable food coma.

Courtesy of Italic

Italic

Downtown

An ELM Restaurant Group endeavor, this trendy spot is situated in the heart of Downtown and serves cuisine that tastes like it was shipped straight from the motherland. Start with the antipasti (salty olives, nutty cheeses, cured meats, fresh-baked focaccia...) before moving on to the main event, which might take the form of pizza, pasta, fresh seafood, or pillows of gnocchi. Also worth noting: a solid gluten-free menu for both lunch and dinner. Because everyone deserves to have their risotto and eat it too.

Veronica Meewes

Fukumoto

East Austin

A new establishment on the Austin cuisine scene, this airy, wood-dominated Japanese izakaya (no shame in your Wikipedia game), puts the focus on sushi and yakitori, accentuated flavor-wise by locally sourced produce. In terms of fanfare, Fukumoto has been hot on every Austin-dwelling food lover’s radar since opening in September -- largely due to kitchen wizard Kaz Fukumoto, who opened the eponymous spot after spending a decade perfecting his sushi skills as the head chef at Musashino.

Ali Slutsky

Juniper

East Cesar Chavez

Gin connotations and cocktails aside, Juniper’s allure lies in its take on what it describes as Northern Italian fare. Drop in for dinner or bring the whole gang for a less-typical take on brunch (think less French toast, more oxtail and rosemary lasagna... fewer migas, more duck confit carbonara). Have culinary commitment issues? Try out the happy hour, 5-6:30pm from Tuesday-Saturday, when you can enjoy nibbles and half-price beers and bubbles.

Courtesy of Launderette

Launderette

Holly

In an appetizing turn of events, a former laundromat was revamped into this hip cafe, which this year earned the title of Eater Austin’s Best Restaurant of the Year. Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner, Launderette is a gastronomy goldmine anytime of the day, but the best time to try it out would likely be during its short-but-sweet happy hour (5-6pm, Monday-Friday) when you can grab half-price cocktails, beer, and wine by the glass. Which are all best paired with some of the “snacky bits.”

Richard Casteel

Odd Duck

South 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.

Ashlyn Allison

VOX Table

South Lamar

This bright, modern space is one of the latest spots solidifying South Lamar as a go-to dining destination. Featuring New American food served in small-plate form (with inspiration derived from a variety of cultures and cuisines) and a farm-to-table philosophy, VOX fuses freshness and flavor. Menu categories sum up the wide variety of offerings -- leaves + roots, fins + shells, hooves, feathers + beaks -- but the dishes themselves are likely to change with the seasons and due to ingredient availability. (You can check out the local farms the resto works with here.) No matter how the menu fluctuates, however, what you can definitely bank on are the mad mixology skills of the award-winning beverage master. After all, it’s not what you eat... it’s what you wash it down with.

Via 313 Pizza

Via 313 Pizzeria

West Austin

Even teetotalers have been making the pizza pilgrimage to bars such as Craft Pride and Violet Crown to get a piece of this pie, and in 2015, a brick-and-mortar version of Via opened in Oak Hill. Think the same delicious crispy-chewy-cheesy Detroit-style pizza that was peddled from the trailers... but in this location, sans (most of) the less-than-sober people scarfing it down.

Courtesy of Bufalina Due

Bufalina Due

Cesar Chavez

Apparently, lines of hungry patrons almost every evening at Bufalina’s Cesar Chavez location were an indicator that Austin was ready for double the Neapolitan perfection. The new Bufalina Due is next door to Lick and Barley Swine’s new locations. It’s menu is slightly different from the one we already know; it includes a Brussels sprouts pizza (ham, scallion pesto, serrano, parmesan) and surprises like Peppercorn Ice Cream (strawberries, cashews, whipped cream).

Katie LeSueur

Chicon

East Austin

Gardner may have closed abruptly, but not for long; a quick transformation of the space and concept revealed Andrew Wiseheart and Ben Edgerton’’s new project, Chicon, a sister restaurant to uber-popular eatery Contigo. The dedication to locally sourced and inspired cuisine is still in place, but the menu has gone from Danish-influenced to elevated Texas ranch-style. The formerly zen-like space is colorful and casual. Chicon’s menu standouts are a Goat and Gnocchi dish, the Burger and Fries (served on a challah bun with aioli), and a whopping 36 oz T-Bone meant for sharing. The cocktail menu is great as well with unique takes on classics like the light, fresh, and bright green Concombre (tequila, cucumber, lime, jalapeno), perfect for summer patio sipping.

Julia Keim

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

East Austin

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 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” (crisp 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 “lucky cat” mug.

Grizzelda’s

Grizzelda's

East Austin

If you’re seeking a happy hour destination for creative cocktails and queso, Grizzelda’s is ideal. To call this new East Austin establishment stylish would be an undersell -- inside you’ll find wallpaper bursting with peonies and palm trees, marble tables with perfectly mismatched chairs, and hot-pink details everywhere you look. Our favorite menu offerings are the tostadas topped with fresh ahi tuna, chile aioli, crispy shallot, and avocado, and the birria de res (beef stew) tacos made of dry-aged beef from Jacoby’s ranch, crema, charred serrano, radish, cilantro, pickled red onion, and house fermented barrel-aged hot sauce. Grizzelda’s drink menu is full of concoctions like the Tropic Thunder, a breezy blend of vodka, mango, coconut, banana liqueur, and pomegranate simple.

Irene's

Irene's

Downtown

Irene’s has managed a genius balancing act serving cozy, casual Southern comfort in a trendy atmosphere that attracts flocks of patrons both young and less young. From ELM Restaurant Group (behind Easy Tiger, Italic, and 24 Diner), Irene’s has become a hopping happy hour and brunch hangout; every weekday from 3:30 to 6:30pm and all day Sunday, it hosts vinyl happy hour with $3 house spirits, $3 pints, and $10 pitchers. You can get coffee and sweet or savory toasts (or a pack of smokes) at the counter window, or the run of the full menu; think unfussy snacks and sandwiches, plus cocktails.

Jackie Klusmeyer

L'Oca D'Oro

Mueller

L’Oca d’Oro’s (Italian for “golden goose”) mushroom lasagna in no way, shape, or form resembles what we consider lasagna -- instead we’re presented with crispy sheets of pasta layered with earthy mushrooms, fermented funk, and a green onion sauce. Chef Tedesco makes complicated tweaks to the Italian cuisine he grew up with but also nails simple pleasures like the impossibly moist daily bread served with cultured butter and jam. The meatballs (tomato jam, pecorino, garlic toast) and brunch-only cacio e pepe (spaghetti, three cheeses, pepper) also sing.

Robert Jacob Lerma 

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill

Downtown

In a soaring industrial space at the Seaholm Power Plant, this concept is made up of the Deck Nine Observatory Bar, the rooftop bar; The Boiler Room, a very dark cocktail bar in the former boiler room; and Boiler Nine Bar + Grill sandwiched in the middle on the street level. The rooftop bar provides snacks and cocktails with a sweeping view magnified, literally, with old-school coin-operated binoculars. In the basement, patrons of The Boiler Room choose from cocktails named after beloved tunes, like the Jolene (vodka, pickled peach, ginger beer, sun tea bitters, mint) and bar bites like the highly addictive steak fries seasoned with grana padano and rosemary and served with aioli. Boiler Nine serves brunch, lunch, and dinner; one of many dinner standouts is the fire-kissed tomahawk pork chop served with heirloom beans, jicama slaw, pear mustard, and habanero honey.

Mark Weatherford

Kuneho

East Austin

Chef Paul Qui’s focus at Kuneho is on creating Japanese food -- interpreted in the way only Qui is capable of -- via a la carte perfect bites, sushi, crudo (and more). Borough, Kuneho’s cocktail bar, mirrors the inventiveness of the food in drinks like the Cloak of Feathers, made with coconut oil-washed dark rums, five spice, kombucha, maple, lime, and bitters.

Robert Lerma

Red Ash

Warehouse District

Executive Chef John Carver -- formerly of Eddie V’s -- and his partners opened Red Ash last fall in the new Colorado Tower building. With influences from both Northern and Southern Italy, the cuisine includes pasta made fresh daily, classic seafood dishes, seasonal veggies, and meat of the highest quality grilled in the (actual) wood-burning grill which serves as the heart of the eatery. Start with thick-cut garlic bread and meatballs with cheesy polenta before moving on to pasta like the pappardelle with wild boar bolognese. The focus of the restaurant’s concept shines in dishes like the wood-grilled cold-water lobster tails served “scampi style” with lemon and garlic. In addition to classic cocktails with a twist, Red Ash boasts an impressive selection of Old and New World wines.

Kristyn Miller

Nightcap

Clarksville

Nightcap opened as a restaurant with an emphasis on desserts, but it has pivoted its focus to include works of art that also double as delicious sustenance. Fuschia slices of watermelon radish, teeny violet florets, and delicate microgreens play across proteins and veggies -- entrees that deliver in both flavor and balance. Try the lamb shoulder with cucumber ribbons, lime foam, smoked yogurt, harissa jam, and a naan crumble, paired with a cocktail like the Kraken Me Up (Kraken rum, Smith and Cross rum, lime, simple syrup, egg white foam), or ask your server to recommend a wine from the expertly curated selection.

Up Next
Mattie's | Nick Simonite
Food & Drink

Austin's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
T here were plenty of restaurant openings in Austin this year, but the best ones all had a few things in common: comforting, un-gimmicky foods, served in chic surroundings, by (unsurprisingly) the top culinary talent in the city. They may not be the places with 4-dollar-sign price points, or the ones with two-hour weekend waits, but each of the restaurants below quickly earned top spots on Austin’s “You’ve gotta eat here” board. Whether you start with pimento and peacocks on the patio of a historic Victorian home, or by submitting your naughtiest behavior into a confessional box after an order of fries and soft serve, you’ll enjoy eating your way through Austin’s best new restaurants of 2017.
Thomas Allison / Thrillist

Bonhomie

Burnet Avenue

Casual-yet-refined French/American diner with classic cocktails
Chosen as one of Thrillist's Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017, this French bistro/American diner mashup features the tinge of Asian flavors you’d expect from chef Philip Speer, former director of culinary operations at Uchi. Don’t expect to find any pretension here -- Bonhomie is approachable, casual, comforting, and yes, affordable! The double-meat burger is oozing with Dijonnaise and cheese, the pommes rosti are crispy potato birds’ nests with toppings like roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach (our favorite), and the croque monsieur and French onion soup are so over-the-top-rich that you practically have to share them. There are no literally no wrong choices, except not dining here -- or drinking here, thanks to the full bar and fantastic cocktail list.

Robert Lerma

Holy Roller

Downtown

Comfort food, cocktails, and kitsch from pastry chef Callie Speer
Callie Speer, former pastry chef of Swift’s Attic and Geraldine’s, opened punk rock diner Holy Roller as a labor of love, alongside an all-star team of women including beverage director Jen Keyser. The menu is full of comfort food, and each Texas classic is stamped with Callie Speer’s signature whimsy, like the addictive Trash Fries (gravy, sunny-side egg, sour cream, corn, lime, and cotija cheese) and the migas kolache (stuffed with queso, crispy potatoes, and jalapeño). Better still, Holy Roller caters to Austin’s brunch-obsessed masses by serving it all day on Sundays, including the Sunday School menu of pastries and tasty cocktails based off the Seven Deadly Sins. Drop a confession note in the box by the bathroom, and it might just get chosen as inspiration for Holy Roller’s next special cocktail.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

East Austin

Mash-up of a Texas smokehouse and a Japanese gastropub
Describing Kemuri Tatsu-ya to the uninitiated gets convoluted: a Japanese izakaya in a former Eastside BBQ joint, with Texas influences and a killer Japanese whisky selection? Sure. The menu starts with bites like the uber-popular, Gouda-and-brisket-stuffed Hot Pocketz, and ends with ramen served with a thick dipping broth and fiery jalapeños, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. The “odd bits” menu offers tiny dishes of the (very) funky squid marinated in its own guts, as well as sweet and sour marinated jellyfish, while the yakitori offerings range from familiar chicken meatballs to challenging chicken hearts. And don’t even get us started on the cocktail program; arguably one of the best in Austin, the menu features fun, shareable portions served in kitschy vessels (like the Matcha Pain Killer, served in a cat-shaped cup). Think of Kemuri Tatsu-ya as a choose-your-own-adventure dining experience; stay in your comfort zone or get weird, it’s all up to you. Whatever you do, though, order a crisp Orion lager: it gives your go-to light beer a run for its money.

Nicolai McCrary

Soursop

South Congress

Pan-Asian fusion served on the patio of a craft brewery
Soursop, the pan-Asian trailer serving bar food on the patio of St. Elmo Brewing Co. is a standout in the neighborhood, the food truck landscape, and Austin in general for a few reasons: inventive flavor profiles, the fact that St. Elmo’s beers magically pair with everything on the menu, and the culinary team’s (possibly tongue-in-cheek?) shrine to Guy Fieri. Menu offerings occasionally change, but our favorites don’t appear to be going anywhere -- namely the Water-Burger (a refreshing burger made with ground chuck and brisket, caramelized onion ranch, lettuce, marinated cucumber, garlic pepper, and toasted rice powder), and the huge, sticky sambal wings (jumbo whole wings, Thai chili, palm sugar, fish sauce, coconut vinegar, peanut, mint).

Charles Reagan

Native Hostel

East Austin

Upscale hostel and bar serving modern diner classics
Hip digs and a kitchen with generous hours add up to Austin’s newest hotspot for sleeping, eating, drinking, and checking out live music and DJs. The kitchen has everything an Austin guest (or resident) could want, comforting diner food, brunch and lots of vegetarian options. With picks like the fried chicken sandwich (pickle brined chicken, dill pickles, pickled peppers, mayo) and the meatless chilaquiles (veggie chorizo, corn tortilla chips, pickled peppers, tomato, avocado, queso and sunny-side-up egg), this is the sort of food that late dinners and (ahem, challenging) breakfasts require. Pro tip: Native serves brunch until 3pm on weekends.

El Chipirón

South Lamar

Spanish tapas and cocktails found on first floor of residential building
A new kid on the block, El Chipirón earns its stripes with Spanish tapas and pintxos in a modern Euro setting alongside a lovely cocktail menu with an emphasis on gin and tonics (like The Tejano, which involves lots of smoke and herbs). The menu is decked out with meat and cheese boards, small plates, and a couple of large options like the juicy lomo de vaca (44 Farms strip steak, Padrón pepper, LaFou demi-glace, tomato, potato); standouts include the squid ink (colored and flavored) black rice with squid, mussels and scallops and tabla de ibéricos loaded with Spanish chorizo, Iberian ham, salchichón, and accoutrements.

Laura Hajar

Pitchfork Pretty

East Cesar Chavez

Stylish eatery taking a chef-forward approach to modern Southern fare
Helmed by executive chef Max Snyder, Pitchfork Pretty appeared seemingly out of nowhere -- before anyone realized what happened, East Cesar Chavez was home to a design-forward, A-frame building with a mix of chef-y small plates and hearty fried chicken, and cocktails that satisfy both the cucumber margarita and whiskey crowds. The concept is hard to pin down but easy to fall in love with. Critics are rightly swooning over the pickled quail egg on crispy leeks -- a perfect bite consumed like you would an oyster -- and the gluten-free, chickpea flour-breaded fried chicken brined in a habanero vinegar.

bao'd up

Bao'd Up

Mueller

Fast casual joint for steamed buns and bubble tea
Bao’d Up, Mueller’s new steamed-bun-dedicated restaurant from chef Ting Li, is making waves with its bite-size offerings made with the sticky, steamed bread in multiple forms: baozi, mantou, gua bao, and bao fries. We like the simple BBQ pork bao and Szechuan fries topped with spicy mayo, sesame, and green onion, and no trip to Bao’d Up is complete without a build-your-own bubble drink; the matcha and taro are favorites.

Nick Simonite

Mattie's

Bouldin Creek

Elevated Southern cuisine served among live oaks and peacocks
The former Green Pastures (which now refers solely to the event space), Mattie’s is the revamped new concept from Austin developer Greg Porter and La Corsha Hospitality -- which operates Second Bar + Kitchen and Boiler Nine. With its marble countertops, exquisite light fixtures, copper hardware, and textured wallpaper that begs to be touched, the new skin applied to the home’s old bones is incredibly gorgeous to behold. The menu is also just as impressive, whether you’re having dinner in one of the many dining rooms or on the lawn alongside the resident peacocks. Southern dishes sprinkled with French and Asian influence as well as untouched classics like pimento cheese and fried chicken eggs Benedict sparkle at Mattie’s... just as much as the dreamy surroundings.

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Published On 09/20/2017