The Best New Dishes We Ate This Year in Austin

From mouthwatering Korean braised beef to fully loaded vegan waffle fries.

There ain’t much that can come between a Texan and gastronomical goodness (nice try Delta, winter grid lockdown, and the rest), and much like in 2020, new eateries have continued to fling open their doors to hungry folks down south. That’s not to say Austinites have been reckless—safety measures were still very much in place, albeit a tad more lenient than for friends elsewhere—but with wide-open spaces and the sun continuously working its charms, we’ve had the means to keep the party going, and going longer.

New openings have diversified the scene more than ever before, and honestly, the Texan palate has moved on beyond Hopdoddy some time ago. Come to the end of 2021, and we’re being tantalized by debut European bistros, vegan food trucks, and innovative Asian dining, alongside all that tender brisket. Austin’s stayed on the fast lane of America’s culinary race, and things are only getting more delicious. Here are our picks for the best new dishes of 2021.

Simi Estiatorio Swordfish
Simi Estiatorio Swordfish | Photo by Emma Ramirez

The dish: Swordfish Souvlaki at Simi Estiatorio

Maybe you usually go for oysters and crab at a seafood spot. Maybe you just haven't had that much swordfish in your day. But do yourself a favor and don't sleep on this juicy, flavorful version served kabob-style on a pillowy bed of spanakorizo (AKA rice mixed with spinach) from this high-end Greek addition that turned heads when it debuted downtown last May. Paired with a cold, crisp white off the spot's neatly curated wine list, it's an absolute all-star dish you'll be thinking about long into the next day.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.
—Raf Miastkowski, Thrillist Contributor

Mumtaz Market
Photo courtesy of Mumtaz Market

The dish: Pork Rechaad at Mumtaz Market

Bouldin Creek
A manifestation of Austin’s beloved G’Raj Mahal, this instantly popular successor—not to mention one of Austin’s top Indian restaurants—has dusted Bouldin Creek with a wave of South Asian flavors and a wide-eyed sense of adventure, with one particular dish becoming a bonafide local obsession. The Pork Rechaad features the most succulent meat in town (and that’s in face of mighty competition), stewed with the perfect blend of herbs, spices, and fresh ginger. A heap of warm braised cabbage and a candied pineapple finish the beautifully sensuous bowl.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.
—James Wong, Thrillist Contributor

Panisse at Birdie's
Panisse at Birdie's | Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

The dish: Panisse at Birdie's

East Austin
Imagine a world without fries—a dire thought indeed, but in such a regrettable situation, the Panisse served at this East Austin European-inflected wine bar darling may be the next-best thing. Landing on East 12th Street last July, Chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel's addictive chickpea fritters come topped with salty Pecorino cheese and zesty black pepper—a nice combination that absolutely sings with a squeeze of lemon. You may want to put in two orders.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Jjim BBQ
Photo courtesy of Jjim BBQ

The dish: Beef Galbi at Jjim BBQ

South Lamar
As far as comfort food goes, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying meal than the spicy, sweet, and hearty Beef Galbi at this South Lamar Korean showstopper that launched last February. Jjim, a slow and steady braising technique, is front and center here, so it only makes sense that the star dish ranks among the year's best. Consisting of braised beef short rib, potatoes, carrots, onions, and peppers, and served with steamed rice, it's like climbing under a cozy blanket of flavor. Get a side of spicy rice cakes to really level up.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out or delivery online.

Sunnys Backyard fries
Photo courtesy of Sunnys Backyard

The dish: Loaded Fries at Sunny's Backyard

East Austin
Sunny’s Backyard, the summer's hottest new patio bar and food truck kitchen combo from Husband-and-wife team Merritt and Charrissa Vaughn, is nothing short of a taste-trip. Their 100% vegan “meat” and “dairy” items are so impossibly realistic, and each bite of their Loaded Fries comes with a pang of guilt. It’s made with crispy beer-battered waffle fries generously topped with a cashew credo queso, vegan spare rib, jalapeños, and garlic aioli. If plant-based eats tasted this good throughout Texas, there’d definitely be a lot less cattle ranches.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

1417 bone marrow
Photo courtesy of 1417

The dish: Bone Marrow at 1417

Bouldin Creek
This inviting and appropriately named bistro took over the breezy space previously occupied by Sway at 1417 S 1st Street last July, and hasn't stopped wooing Bouldin Creek diners ever since. Executive chef James Flowers' approachable French-inspired lineup boasts several worthwhile picks, but the Bone Marrow stands out as a decadent dish worth ordering and reordering. Crowned with garlic gremolata and served with a sweet blueberry mostarda and sourdough bread, it'll make you feel alive and on top of the food chain.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out via Toast.

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James Wong is a contributor for Thrillist.
Raf Miastkowski is a contributor for Thrillist.