The Thrillist Awards: Austin’s Best New Food & Drink of 2015
This year, Austin's been through a lot of new construction. As the city grows, so do our waistlines, because a lot of those new buildings are housing the excellent new bars, restaurants, and coffee shops that populate this list. To account for the broad range of places that have cut the ribbon this year, we are awarding our honors across a suitably number of categories. So, here are Austin's best of 2015:
Best new pizza place
Unit D Pizzeria, which is tucked behind Dai Due, opened quietly this year. However, there’s nothing quiet about the impression they’ve made on diners. From the stylish (albeit mellow) atmosphere, to the perfectly wood-fired “modern Neapolitan pizzas,” to a kale salad we actually crave, we’re fans.
Best new restaurant concept
There’s no doubt that seats at the chef’s table or counter here are highly coveted. Not only can you watch your food being prepared and served quickly, but often from the chef who conceived the dish. At Counter 3.FIVE.VII, whether you choose their three, five, or seven course menu, the ever-changing lineup of artful dishes served is phenomenal, as are the wine pairings, and service.
Best new Southern restaurant
This year we saw an influx of Southern-inspired heavy hitters, but a few things decided this for us: Fixe combines great modern Southern food, ridiculous hospitality, a gorgeous interior, kitchen talent, and badass cocktails. Most importantly to us, however, is that Fixe is the perfectly unstuffy type of place you’ll want to visit with friends, a date, or even your parents. Also, biscuits... man, those biscuits.
Best new hotel restaurant
Why should out-of-towners get to have all the fun? Geraldine’s is just an elevator ride up from street level at the brand spanking new Hotel Van Zandt. The menu, designed to be enjoyed as a shared dining experience, is decidedly “modern Austin,” and the cocktail program excellent. In addition to live music and a low-lit sexy interior, you can hang out near the pool on the rooftop deck, which boasts gorgeous views of Austin’s skyline. We love the Texas Strip Loin, served with cheddar tater tots and the “Willie’s Cup” cocktail -- High West double rye whiskey, hemp seed milk, and sage in a julep cup wrapped with a tiny red bandana.
Best new national burger chain with a cult following to land in Austin
Sorry In-N-Out, your fries suuuuck.
Best new place to camp out with your laptop
Café 605 is located on the first floor of the new Hotel Van Zandt located right off Rainey St. If you’re hungry, grab a ready-made sandwich, salad, breakfast or pastry to go with your coffee. The ample and swanky seating, free Wi-Fi, and available outlets make this the best new choice for camping out. And to seal the deal, Café 605 also serves boozy frozen cocktails and beer.
Best food truck
Romanouskas Delicatessen (address and info)
Romanouskas is the sister trailer to Micklethwait Craft Meats, and that should say enough about its quality. While everything on the menu is amazing, we’re especially taken with these: Romanouskas’ Reuben (cured & smoked pastrami and corned beef on rye, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing), and the smoked beef sandwich (smoked and sliced beef strip loin, pickled spring onions, arugula, and horseradish mayo on a potato roll).
Best new brewery
If you haven’t come across one of Blue Owl’s sour beers yet, you will, and you’ll like it. The line they’re brewing up is designed for the drinker at large, and boasts highly-accessible but unique flavor profiles. You can visit the tasting room Wed-Fri from 5-10pm, Sat from noon to 10pm, and Sun from noon to 5pm.
Best new cocktail bar
First off, it’s helmed by two of the best bartenders in Austin. Second, the menu is WTF-level creative, extensive, and unique. Enjoy drinks like the Cigar Box (mezcal, smoke black tea syrup, lavender bitters, tobacco bitters, flamed cinnamon stick) and the Lonesome Dove (tequila, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon syrup, vanilla, rose water). A giant menu above the bar lists what seems like a countless number of cocktails organized by era. If you can’t find something you like here, you just aren’t thirsty.
Best new Italian restaurant
Juniper does not serve lasagna. Juniper does not serve heaping Caesar salads. What Juniper does do is elegantly blend Northern Italian cuisine with a modern Central Texas sensibility. Menu standouts include: Puffy Potatoes served with whipped dijon; raw Oyster with fennel, amaro, and roasted orange; and the Pappardelle with oxtail ragu, rutabega, and horseradish.
Best new spot for those with a sweet tooth
Clad in tile and marble, Gelateria Gemelli is beautiful. The flavors are delicate, and inventive. Get a load of these: olive oil, fernet stracciatella, Vietnamese coffee, lemon curd, grapefruit beet sorbetto, lemon sorbetto. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they take it to the next level by serving a selection of amari (aka Italian herbal liqueurs) either neat or in a cocktail.
Best new pop-up
Monkey Town 6 is something we haven’t seen before. It fits somewhere between prix fixe dinner club in a warehouse and a large scale video installation. Essentially, diners sit in a giant cube with a rotating selection of projected video art coupled with live performances while eating a 4/5 course dinner designed by Austin’s Sonya Cote. Monkey Town 6 is in town until February 7th, 2016, get tickets while you can.
Best new Asian restaurant
Although they do serve sushi and yakitori, Fukumoto is not your run of the mill Japanese sushi spot. There’s a good energy and sense of fun here that’s hard to pinpoint but is undeniable. The expertly prepared sushi melts in your mouth. The yakitori is juicy and perfectly grilled. The selection of Japanese beer, sake and the service are impeccable. The best way to do Fukumoto, in our opinion, is to ask your server for recommendations and just let the plates arrive one after the other.
Best new line that's worth waiting in
Launderette is popular. And while popularity doesn’t always equate to “good food,” at Launderette, it clearly does. The atmosphere is undeniably chic and casual, the patrons are attractive, and the brunch menu will have you torn between fluffy buttermilk pancakes, crispy fried chicken, and their Plancha burger (who says you can’t have burgers for brunch?). FYI, in this case “line” means waiting 20 minutes while sitting on their sunny patio.
Best new restaurant
The Signature Tasting menu at Apis consists of what seems like 20 courses, each one just as special as the next. Course after complicated course consisting of oysters, aged Wagyu beef, caviar, octopus, truffle, foie gras, all kinds of herbs, roots, and fermented nuts... the dining experience is so special. Then when you think your heart can’t take any more, they escort you into the kitchen where Chef whips up a cocktail using liquid nitrogen. Just go. It’s ridiculous.
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Anastacia Uriegas is an Austin writer who knows Shake Shack is no Whataburger, but is still happy it's here. Follow her at @AnaUrie.