Buffalo Chicken Beer Cheese Fondue Fries Are Like an Edible Sports Bar
Modern food court with casual concepts from top eateries
At downtown food hall Fareground, you’ll find business people, students, tourists, and epicureans alike dining and socializing. Choose from a wide variety of cuisines crafted under one roof by some of the city's most loved chefs and restaurateurs, or just enjoy a drink in the sunken patio. Austin's first food hall features Antonelli's Cheese, Contigo, Dai Due Taquería, Easy Tiger, Henbit (a new concept from the team behind Emmer & Rye) and Ni-Komé (a mash-up of Komé and Daruma Ramen), as well as a full bar. Highlights include Dai Due’s wild boar al pastor taco on beautiful, from-scratch Sonoran wheat flour tortillas, Antonelli’s cheese & macaroni as well as Henbit’s lemongrass shrimp bowl.
Buzzy, seafood-forward spot from an Uchi alum executive chef
Highly anticipated eatery Guild just opened their doors to eager diners following a series of successful pop-ups. Head chef and partner Sterling Ridings, formerly executive chef at Uchiko, and his talented culinary team will roll out seafood-driven, seasonally inspired dinner service first. Ridings and his team have taken an ingredient-focused approach to curate a menu that will feature an extensive fresh raw bar, including fresh oysters, crudo, and ceviches, and cocktails (almost) as thoughtful as the cuisine; we’re intrigued by dishes like the turnip soup (beer-steamed mussels, chorizo aioli, lemon verbena) and cod (campfire squash, Swiss chard, toasted pine nuts).
All-day diner with exceptional coffee and cocktails
From the team behind coffee/beer bar Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, Better Half Coffee & Cocktails is serving the great coffee they’re known for along with Southern-inspired diner fare, cocktails, beer, and wine. The kitchen team is led by Josephine House and Jeffrey’s alumni Rich Reimbolt and Jennifer Tucker, and the all-day diner’s casual menu features offerings from breakfast sandwiches to chicken-fried steak and killer pastries like biscuits and beignets. What’s more, Better Half is open until 10pm, so you can enjoy adult beverages like their refreshing house vodka soda (made with Tito’s, aloe liqueur, aquavit, thyme, and topped with Topo Chico) well after dinner’s ended. Be on the lookout for Hold Out, Better Half’s neighboring brewery slated to open later this year.
Burgers and tiki drinks served in casual, beachy digs
Pool Burger is the funky new burger trailer/tiki bar concept located between Deep Eddy Pool and Deep Eddy Cabaret. The 1968 airstream trailer serves griddled, all-natural, hormone-and-antibiotic-free wagyu beef from Peeler Farms in Floresville, Texas, while the patio bar shakes up tiki cocktails (think mai tais and Zombies, perfect for sipping in the island-y atmosphere). Try The Loyal Forever (double cheeseburger, pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and ranch), then follow it up with Pool Burger’s homemade soft serve with candy toppings. Now we just have to wait for the pool to open.
New American spot with 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, current favorites include the fresh farmer’s cheese (green tomato, olive brine, White Sonora focaccia) and the White Sonora agnolotti (pork trotter, broth, smoked pecan, brown butter).
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 Asian
Known for their flavor-packed “Asian drinking food” -- and 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 kooky/tasty mashups like the Pho-Tine (with French fries, five-spice braised short rib, rice cake "curds", jalapeño, Sriracha, hoisin, vietnamese herbs, and pho gravy). Try the jumbo chicken wings; they attack every taste bud 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. Must-trys include the pickled quail egg, a perfect tart-and-onion bite, the beef jerky, a chef-y interpretation with habanero jelly and roasted peanut, and of course, the fried chicken. The cocktails alone are worth a visit; try the fresh A Drink Has No Name (yaupon tea, smoked ginger honey, clove, mint, lemon, bourbon, rum). Pro-tip: If you need an excuse to wake up earlier, Pitchfork Pretty serves breakfast from 7am-10:30am.
Comfort food and cocktails with a touch of whimsy, served all day
Acclaimed chef Callie Speer's brunch-all-day (and into the late night) diner is inspired by the spirit of punk rock with a hint of religious kitsch. Speer and the all-female team of industry vets are putting out nostalgic food with a bit of whimsy, seven days a week, and the bar menu (crafted by award-winning beverage director Jen Keyser) focuses on drinks that you can "drink all day," and which change seasonally to complement the food. Try the Casbah (fried chicken, comeback sauce, fried egg, and syrup on a hot honey-buttered biscuit) and the fries and soft serve combo -- it sounds weird, but tastes amazing.
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.
Rustic Italian dishes and modern sensibility where ingredients take center stage
L’Oca d’Oro’s (Italian for golden goose) chef Tedesco adds a modern sensibility 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. We love the homey appeal of the rigatoni alla Norcina (house pork sausage, taleggio cream, dried chile) and are impressed by the use of kitchen science to add complexity to dishes like the grilled shrimp risotto (green tomato, fermented chili, celery) and koji-rubbed Yonder Way Farm pork loin (scallop tonnato, grilled red cabbage).
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 Holy Cow is our favorite cocktail right now, combining Revolution gin, cream cheese whey, tarragon, and lime to make a gin gimlet with a tart creaminess and herbal aroma. "Holy cow” is an appropriate response to the first sip.
Multi-level concept with wood-fired eats and a rooftop bar
Located 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) by 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.