Ramen, cocktails that don't suck, and Top Chefs

New trends can catch even insiders off-guard, as evidenced by Austin's 80x noodle markup slipping past the cool-hunters at Maruchan. To spotlight 2012's supreme unexpectedness, we asked a crew of Beard award-winners, bootmakers, attic-dwellers, and noble porkers to share what surprised them the most.Midnight Cowboy was a great surprise for the street. They took a sh*thole and turned it into a really cool hangout. Well done Tim League. Another cool Austin brand on E. 6th.- Doug Guller, Bikinis/Pelon's

Willie unveiling his statue in front of ACL on 4/20 at 4:20pm.- Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

The surprise of the year for me was KOME. I'm completely addicted to their ramen & carpaccio. I can't go a week without it!- Sonya Cote, Hillside Farmacy

How much LICK ice cream my family can consume.- Joshua Bingaman, HELM Boots

That a good cocktail program is now standard operating procedure in town. Bars on Rainey Street, the East Side and downtown are upping their game, and guests are asking for and demanding better from all levels of bars and restaurants.- Bill Norris, Midnight Cowboy

The invasion of and Austin's total surrender to ramen! Watch out there are more coming.- John Bates, Noble Pig Sandwiches

The seemingly endless stream of steak houses that continue opening downtown is mind-boggling.- Mat Clouser, Swift's Attic

The high-octane barbecue drama. John Mueller reopened in a South Austin trailer with fantastic brisket then abruptly announced that he's quitting the business for good. And on the other side of town, the longest running central Texas BBQ feud (between estranged Lockhart brother and sister restaurants Kruetz vs Smittys) is apparently over. They have buried the hatchet and are opening up a joint family restaurant in Bee Caves. - Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse