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 PizzeriaAddress and Info
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
Counter 3. FIVE. VIIAddress and Info
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
FixeAddress and Info
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
Geraldine’sAddress and Info
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
Shake ShackAddress and Info
South Lamar (& Other Locations)
Sorry In-N-Out, your fries suuuuck.
Best new place to camp out with your laptop
Café 605Address and Info
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
Blue Owl BrewingAddress and Info
East Cesar Chavez
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
The Roosevelt RoomAddress and Info
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
JuniperAddress and Info
East Cesar Chavez
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
Gelateria GemelliAddress and Info
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 6Address and Info
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
FukumotoAddress and Info
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
Brunch at LaunderetteAddress and Info
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
Apis Restaurant and ApiaryAddress and Info
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.
1. Unit-D Pizzeria2406 Manor Rd, Austin
2. COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII315 Congress Ave Ste 100, Austin
3. Fixe500 W 5th St, Austin
4. Shake Shack1100 S Lamar Blvd, Suite 2100, Austin
5. Cafe 605 Hotel Van Zandt605 Davis St, Austin
6. Blue Owl Brewing2400 E Caesar Chavez #300 , Austin
7. The Roosevelt Room307 W 5th St, Austin
8. Juniper2400 E Cesar Chavez St Ste 304, Austin
9. Gelateria Gemelli1009 W 6th St, Austin
10. monkey town2416 E. 6th St, Austin
11. Fukumoto514 Medina St, Austin
12. Launderette2115 Holly St, Austin
13. Apis23526 TX-71, Spicewood
14. Geraldine's605 Davis St Ste 400, Austin
Unit-D Pizzeria offers wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, small plates, salads, and a dynamic craft beer and wine list at this modern spot on Manor Road. The oven, created by a Naples-based oven maker that has been in the business for over 100 years, cranks out bubbly crusted Neapolitans in winning combinations like the pepperoni primo (tomato, pepperoni, bresaola, lardo ibérico, mozzarella, spicy Calabrian peppers), which are taken to the next level thanks to fresh side garnishes like oregano sprigs and crushed chiles.
Nestled below Swift’s Attic on Congress Ave, this tiny restaurant has no servers, no tables, and tipping is not allowed. Instead, diners choose from three-, five-, or seven-course tasting menus served at a chef’s counter. The cuisine is seasonally-based New American and the team is led by Lawrence Kocrek (formerly of Trace).
Fixe, with its very experienced chef/management team, is doing upscale-Southern with a dedicated grits menu and a barrel-aged craft cocktail program.
From humble beginnings as a hot dog cart in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park in 2001 to more than 60 locations in the US and abroad, Shake Shack has become a cult favorite. This South Lamar location (Austin's first) even has Austin-inspired menu items, like the Lockhart Link Burger with topped with a Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage link.
Located on the first floor of the Hotel Van Zandt, this homey cafe is a great place to camp out with your laptop. Ready-made sandwiches, salads and breakfast pastries are ready to grab and go but if you'd like to stick around, grab one of their frozen cocktails or beers.
This brewery's game is sour-mashing, the process of biologically acidifying beer to give it a tart flavor. As such, every beer on Blue Owl's roster is sour-mashed, and the brews are categorized by their tartness and your familiarity to sours -- there's Little Boss wheat for beginners, Spirit Animal IPA for intermediates, and Professor Black stout for advanced drinkers. The tasting room includes a selection of limited release brews.
This industrial-chic cocktail bar supplies over 70 different mixed drinks categorized by era. The Roosevelt Room also features a comfortable upstairs lounge for a more intimate setting.
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.
The flavors at the gelateria include Olive Oil, Valrhona Chocolate, Pistachio, Salted Caramel, Basil & Pine Nut, and Toasted Hazelnut -- among others. The organic small-batch flavors are all made on location. They also serve coffee, sweet pops, and even some cocktails.
This large-scale video installation and pre-fixe dinner party hybrid is an awesome Austin pop-up where diners sit in a giant cube with a rotating selection of video art.
This place serves traditional sushi from renowned Chef Kasu Fukumoto. You are going to want to try the Hama Toro.
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.
Named for and inspired by the honeybee and its bounty, Apis Restaurant and Apiary in Hill Country sits on six acres overlooking the Pedernales River, and serves contemporary American cuisine "complemented by honey yielded from twenty on premise [docile] bee hives." The honeybee served as inspiration not only for the cuisine, but also for the the way they work harmoniously with nature.
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.