Food & Drink

The Best Places to Eat in Austin Right Now

Published On 10/09/2017 Published On 10/09/2017
RICHARD CASTEEL
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.

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1. Alcomar 1816 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

From the same restaurant group as El Chile and El Alma, Alcomar specializes in what's been dubbed a "Latin-inspired seafood concept." Set in a beachy and bright open space, it serves up ceviche, Gulf oysters, and fusion concepts like lobster enchiladas and octopus tostadas. Expect a variety of margaritas, served by the glass or pitcher, and a notable Bloody Mary served a single oyster.

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2. Juliet Ristorante 1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704

Juliet combines modern and classic Italian influence to deliver unique, rustic dishes with seasonal ingredients. Boasting an expansive outdoor dining area and an airy interior with a marble bar, this place has an elegant, joyful and comfortable vibe.

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3. Italic 123 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

From the team behind 24 Diner, Easy Tiger, and Arro, plus Executive Chef Andrew Curren, is Italic. Housed in the former Bar Louie space, the seasonal menu includes roasted half chicken, Florence-style T-bone steak, and wood-fired pizzas. Italic’s weekday happy hour is from 4:30-6:30.

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4. Fukumoto 514 Medina St, Austin, 78702

This place serves traditional sushi from renowned Chef Kasu Fukumoto. You are going to want to try the Hama Toro.

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5. Juniper 2400 E Cesar Chavez St Ste 304, Austin, TX 78702

With Chef Nicolas Yanes (Uchi) at the helm, this East Austin restaurant serves cuisines native to that of Piedmont, Lombardi, Emilia Romagna, and even Central Texas. Classic cocktails are offered alongside entrees such as blistered burrata and oxtail and rosemary lasagna.

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6. Launderette 2115 Holly St, Austin, TX 78702

Executive Chef Rene Ortiz and pastry chef Laura Sawicki are fearless in the kitchen. The flavor combinations on the menu at Launderette are both complex and approachable, featuring favorites like the charred octopus, plancha burger (quite possibly the best burger in Austin), roasted parsnips, birthday cake ice cream sandwich... scratch that. Everything. Try everything on this menu. Stop by for dinner, weekday lunch, weekend brunch, or for their weekly happy hour specials.

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7. Odd Duck 1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Communal seating, an expansive patio, and an open kitchen (the view is best from the bar) abet in the casual atmosphere at Odd Duck -- a second concept from the team behind Barley Swine -- on South Lamar Boulevard. Antithetical to its atmosphere, Odd Duck's menu features upscale, intricate dishes inspired by the daily pick at the local farmer's market, and thus the menu shifts with the Texan seasons. Odd Duck features craft cocktails, craft beer, and wine to pair with its flavor- and ingredient-forward dishes. If you happen upon the pimento cheeseburger, get it.

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8. VOX Table 1100 South Lamar Blvd, 2140, Austin , TX 78704

Vox Table is known around Austin for their killer New-American style small plates and lively craft cocktail bar, but this South Lamar restaurant serves up a serious brunch on the weekends. The must try of the menu is Olive Oil Pancakes with fig/walnut butter and maple syrup. If brunch isn't your thing, stop by and try dinner menu, featuring a wide variety of meat and fish entrees, or happy hour specials.

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9. Via 313 Pizzeria 6705 Highway 290 #503, Austin, TX 78735

Oak Hill is the proud home of a brick & mortar version of the insanely popular pizza truck. Their Detroit style pizza has a cheesey crust and crushed tomato sauce, and probably will also have your heart once you try it.

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10. Bufalina Due 6555 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78757

The lines of hungry customers at Bufalina's Cesar Chavez location were clearly an indication that Austin was ready for double the Neapolitan perfection. The result is Bufalina Due on Burnet Road, which also seats groups on a first come, first served basis. The menu is slightly different from that of the original location with new and improved pizzas, plus calzones and an expanded dessert menu.

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11. Chicon 1914 E 6th, Austin, TX

Chicon, brought to you by the same team behind Contigo, promises laid-back, Texas ranch-style eatery with a neighborhood vibe. This space is perfect for happy hour cocktails or dinner- we suggest starting with a cocktail like the Mash & Wash (bourbon, hops, grapefruit, black pepper), work your way over to the Little Neck clams (sauerkraut, ham hock, smoked pork, potato broth) and then on down to the cheeseburger & fries (challah bun, aĂŻoli, pickles). If you saved some extra room, the seasonal dessert offerings are worth it.

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13. Grizzelda's 105 Tillery St, Austin, TX 78702

Grizzelda’s is serving upscale Mexican cuisine in a chic, modern space with rustic accents, marble tabletops, and bright pops of color throughout. The Cesar Chavez eatery is breezy and lively with an emphasis on coastal cuisine and agave spirits -- seafood is at the forefront of the menu, and tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails (with kitschy names like Grizz Mizz and Bidi Bidi, Bom Bom) dominate the beverage list. Grizzelda’s is your Mexican beach vacation from its storefront on Tillery Street.

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15. L'Oca D'Oro 1900 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723

With food proffer like house-made charcuterie, fermented mushrooms, and unorthodox pasta shapes, the craftsmanship at L'Oca D'Oro (aka The Golden Goose) can't be beat. The restaurant lives in an airy, contemporary space, and is home to ample seating and a full-service, wrap-around bar. Pasta dishes like rabbit canneloni and black pepper tagliatelle provide unique flavor with the comfort of Italian familiarity, alongside other Italian inflections like pork Milanesa and mushroom lasagna.

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16. Boiler Nine Bar + Grill 800 W Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701

If there's one word to describe Seaholm District's Boiler Nine, it's "refreshing." The spick-and-span white, industrial interior is doused in natural light from the massive windows and the open back patio, which happens to have a stunning view of West Austin and the Colorado River, and the cocktails follow suit, embracing mostly light liquors and fruits (mostly citrus; they really like their shandies here).

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19. Nightcap 1401 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Nightcap offers a menu with some of the best things in life: booze, brunch, and pastries. The pastry-centric spot has everything from desserts to brunch to cocktails, with savory options as well. The unique concept boasts this assortment: Cookie Cereal (puffed rice, meringue, mint milk), Coffee & Donut (coffee panna cotta, cardamom cream, crispy ham, ricotta beignet), and cocktails like the Embarasse Moi (Hendricks gin, lemon juice, St. Germain, sparkling champagne). Anyone up for a nightcap?

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20. Emmer & Rye 51 Rainey St, Ste 110, Austin, TX 78701

Named after two grains, Emmer & Rye is a contemporary American restaurant that, unsurprisingly, serves a grain-heavy menu in a dining room where bundles of wheat are on full display. More than 15 heirloom grains, including White Sonora, Blue Beard Durum, and Red Fife, are house-milled and used in baguette sandwiches, pastries, and pastas like the creamy, slightly nutty cacio e pepe with Challerhocker cheese. The menu also emphasizes fermented vegetables and meat-centric plates (the fermenting and butchering are also done in-house). In addition to à la carte service, Emmer & Rye has a food cart that circles the dining room during brunch and dinner with dim sum-style small plates. Offerings change daily but you’ll always find innovative compositions with unusual ingredients -- how often do you see Blue Beard Durum wheat on a menu, after all?

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21. Geraldine's 605 Davis St Ste 400, Austin, TX 78701

Geraldine’s -- located on the fourth floor of the swanky Hotel Van Zandt -- offers up elevated American cuisine, craft cocktails, and live music in a chic, massive space. The menu features dishes inflected by local Austin flavors, like fermented chile hush puppies with pickled fennel ranch, cornmeal-fried oyster mushrooms, and local goat tartare. Head to the rooftop bar and enjoy unparalleled views of Lady Bird Lake as you sip cocktails poolside.