Food & Drink

The Thrillist Awards: Austin’s Best New Food & Drink of 2015

Published On 12/29/2015 Published On 12/29/2015

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:

Unit-D Pizzeria

Best new pizza place

Unit-D Pizzeria

Address and Info

Manor Road

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.

Couter 3.Five.VII

Best new restaurant concept

Counter 3. FIVE. VII

Address and Info

Congress Avenue

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.

Fixe

Best new Southern restaurant

Fixe

Address and Info

Downtown

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.

Geraldine's

Best new hotel restaurant

Geraldine’s

Address and Info

Rainey Street

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.

Anastacia Uriegas/Thrillist

Best new national burger chain with a cult following to land in Austin

Shake Shack

Address and Info

South Lamar (& Other Locations)

Sorry In-N-Out, your fries suuuuck.

Cafe 605

Best new place to camp out with your laptop

Café 605

Address and Info

Rainey Street

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.

Romanouskas

Best food truck

Romanouskas Delicatessen (address and info)
East Sixth
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). 

Blue Owl Brewing

Best new brewery

Blue Owl Brewing

Address 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.

The Roosevelt Room

Best new cocktail bar

The Roosevelt Room

Address and Info

Congress Avenue

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.

Juniper

Best new Italian restaurant

Juniper

Address 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.

Gemelli

Best new spot for those with a sweet tooth

Gelateria Gemelli

Address and Info

East Sixth

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.

Monkey Town

Best new pop-up

Monkey Town 6

Address and Info

East Sixth

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.

Anastacia Uriegas/Thrillist

Best new Asian restaurant

Fukumoto

Address and Info

East Sixth

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.

Courtesy of Launderette

Best new line that's worth waiting in

Brunch at Launderette

Address and Info

East Austin

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.

Apis

Best new restaurant

Apis Restaurant and Apiary

Address and Info

Spicewood

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Unit-D Pizzeria 2406 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722

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.

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2. COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII 315 Congress Ave Ste 100, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

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).

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3. Fixe 500 W 5th St, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Fixe, with its very experienced chef/management team, is doing upscale-Southern with a dedicated grits menu and a barrel-aged craft cocktail program.

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4. Shake Shack 1100 S Lamar Blvd, Suite 2100, Austin, TX 78704

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.

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5. Cafe 605 Hotel Van Zandt 605 Davis St, Austin, TX 78701

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.

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6. Blue Owl Brewing 2400 E Caesar Chavez #300 , Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)

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.

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7. The Roosevelt Room 307 W 5th St, Austin, TX 78701

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.

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8. 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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9. Gelateria Gemelli 1009 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703 (East Austin)

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.

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10. monkey town 2416 E. 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

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.

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11. Fukumoto 514 Medina St, Austin, 78702 (East Austin)

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

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12. 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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13. Apis 23526 TX-71, Spicewood, TX 78669 (Spicewood Springs)

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.

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

Geraldine’s -- located on the fourth floor of the swanky Hotel Van Zandt -- combines great food, great cocktails, and live music in a huge, gorgeous space. Executive chef Frank Mnuk’s resume includes working in Michelin-rated eateries in New York, and he has created a menu of dishes that are meant to be shared and paired with the craft cocktails on offer. You can also grab a drink on the rooftop patio bar next to the pool, with incredible views of Lady Bird Lake.

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