Food & Drink

The Best New Bars and Restaurants in Austin

Published On 09/29/2016 Published On 09/29/2016
Sophia's
Cocktails at Sophia's | Courtesy of Sophia’s (edited)
Courtesy of Sophia’s

Sophia's

Warehouse District

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).

Oskar Blues Brewery Austin

Oskar Blues Brewery

North Austin

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.

Elise Reinemann/Courtesy of BeccaPR

June's

South Congress

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.

Fresa's Chicken al Carbon

Fresa's

South First

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).

Sarah Doliver

Picnik

Burnet Rd

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.

Jessica Fradono

Ah Sing Den

East Sixth

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.

Forthright

Forthright

Downtown

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.

Revelry Kitchen + Bar

Revelry Kitchen + Bar

East Sixth

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.

Hans Geel/Shutterstock

Poke-Poke

South Congress

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 Sushiko

Kyōten Sushiko

Mueller

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.

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1. Sophia's 500 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Sophia’s Supper Club on West 6th Street yearns to make you feel every bit as sophisticated as the Italian restaurant’s namesake, Sophia Loren. Here, you enter the indulgent world of a speakeasy, dotted with plush blue velvet dining chairs and covered by a pewter coffered ceiling. But Sophia’s is also sophisticated in its menu’s perfected simplicity; traditional Italian dishes like Cappellini Al Pesto and Cacio e Pepe showcase the eatery’s house-made and imported pastas, while the no-frills Brick Chicken’s crisp exterior only enhances the thick pan juices flavoring the dish. The 3,700 square-foot restaurant suits a date night best, and, at that, a date night after pay day. The pro move is to come on a night when Sophia’s is open until late; but if you blink, you might miss the fireplace as it slides out to become a DJ booth.

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2. Oskar Blues Brewery 10420 Metric Blvd, Austin, TX 78758

Colorado-based brewery Oskar Blues, known for its in-yo-face canned beers, has set up a Texan brick-and-mortar in a former recycling plant off of Metric Blvd. If the 5,000 square-foot Tasty Weasel Taproom isn’t enough to draw you here during your next free weekend, perhaps the lineup of Dale’s Pale Ale, Pinner Throwback IPA, and Mama’s Little Yella Pils is. At Oskar Blues, you’ll get down and dirty with your best friends. Without a TV in sight, you’ll have all that you need: catchy tunes, tasty food trucks, and great brews.

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3. June's All Day 1722 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

June’s All Day Austin is a wine-centered bistro whose quirky, playful menu offers plates of all sizes. Dishes from around the world are recreated here, but with a certain Austin je ne sais quoi. Breakfast is simultaneously a house-made granola and a chalupa; bar snacks are at once a tomato and cantaloupe salad and a jambon Paris, complete with cornichon, mustard brown butter, and horseradish. The relaxed, bright atmosphere encourages you to wash your bites down with a drink or two, which is convenient because June’s All Day’s beverage program, directed by master sommelier June Rodil, is the restaurant’s real prize. Try the Agave Cocktail or June’s Punch; bonus points if you can snag a spot on the dog-friendly patio to enjoy some barks with your buzz.

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4. Fresa's South First 1703 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

Fresa’s South First is the bigger, badder brother of what remains a Mexican poultry-focused drive-thru location of the same name on 9th and Lamar. Fresa’s South First is a casual sit-down eatery, ideal for a quick lunch or bonding with your crew over the complexities of the three different guacomoles on the menu. Whether you are interested in tacos, bowls, chicken, steak, fish, or really any combination of the above, you can be sure that Fresa’s South First will deliver, and in a spicy way that will invariably make your taste buds tingle. Gems on the menu include the Mexican street corn and the chimichurri skirt steak.

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5. Picnik 4801 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78756

Picnik’s full service brick and mortar restaurant was born out of founder Naomi Seifter’s experiment with a Paleo-friendly business, which she operated from a repurposed shipping container. The health-conscious eatery aims to serve people of all dietary backgrounds, and is a living, breathing reminder that delicious food can be good for both the body and the mind. Picnik’s positive vibes reverberate throughout the open layout of the restaurant and bounce from dish to dish, from the chicken bone broth to the meatlovers breakfast taco and even into the Candy Cane Mocha (make sure you try Picnik’s coffee selection). Considering that the food both tastes great and is great for you, Picnik’s prices are an absolute steal.

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6. Ah Sing Den 1100 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

From the owners of beloved East Side Showroom (RIP), Ah Sing Den is an East 6th hideaway modeled after the Victorian-era opium den in London that was frequented by Charles Dickens. Interest piqued? Asian-inspired dishes like dumplings, salmon nori cigars, and poke are at the heart of the menu here, which can be paired with similarly influenced craft cocktails, such as the Guyanese Sour with grilled pineapple and a spicy syrup.

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7. Forthright 98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Forthright goes above and beyond the expectations of a neighborhood coffee shop. Next to the Four Seasons Hotel, this bright and chic spot downtown offers a curated wine selection, classic cocktails, and local beer alongside Sightglass Coffee and large portions of simple breakfast and lunch dishes. Stop in with a book or a date, and nosh on menu items like avocado toast, an English muffin with a fried egg, and a Niçoise salad. The shady lakeside patio will call your name upon arrival -- let it, and opt for a table there.

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8. Revelry Kitchen + Bar 1410 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

The owner of Corner Bar is also behind Revelry Kitchen + Bar, a vibrant neighborhood spot perched atop a hill in East 6th, where craft cocktails and upscale bar food reign supreme. The elephant in the room at Revelry is literally an elephant mural in the room, which adds some unexpected jungle flare to the wood-laden space and an awkward stare-down as you nosh on eats like wings, chili fries, and the signature RBK burger.

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9. Poke Poke 3100 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

The owners of this bright, casual South Congress spot sparked a revolution across the country, being the first on mainland US to offer made-to-order poke bowls. These trendy Hawaiian dishes contain raw, cubed sashimi-grade fish typically dressed in soy, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and onions. Here, the focus of the poke bowls is ahi tuna, like with the spicy poke bowl, in which it's topped with shoyu, sesame oil, white and green onions, sesame seeds, and Sriracha. You have the option to DIY or order a vegetable or acai-based bowl, too.

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10. Kyōten Sushiko 4600 Mueller Blvd, Austin, TX 78723 (Mueller)

Kyōten Sushiko is the sushi spot in Austin for an authentic omasake dining experience. Chef Otto Phan is at the helm of this elegantly minimalist spot, which began as a stylish sushi trailer, calling on his seasoned background at acclaimed restaurants like Nobu, Masa, and Uchi/Uchiko. If you're willing to spend a little extra, or if it's a special occasion, make a reservation for the omasake dinner and get ready to dine around a sushi bar with just eight people, where you'll watch course after course of prime sushi expertly prepared right before your eyes.