This month we celebrate new discoveries. In this case, they're the kind that are often overshadowed on menus at celebrated Austin restaurants by more widely known showstoppers. We asked a few local industry experts to reveal some of their favorite unexpected, underrated or unsung menu heroes around town.
Jessica Dupuy, CultureMap
I've always been a creature of habit at Home Slice Pizza, ordering variations of my favorite pizza when I visit. (Although I love the Sicilian pizza on Monday nights.) But I recently discovered their sub sandwiches. (The Italian sub in particular.) They're all made on a special house-made Italian bread that's crisp and crunchy on the outside, but soft and seductive inside. Layered with ham, dry salami, capicola, Genoa salami and Provolone cheese, it's a fantastic treat. I'm also usually too full to indulge in dessert, but the Home Slice cheesecake is phenomenal. It's light and airy, but big on flavor. I think lemon zest is the key. Also, this may not be a big secret, but while I'm usually dazzled by the myriad sushi dishes at Uchiko, I can't help but order the "karaage" chicken. It's basically just fried chicken marinated in a sweet chili sauce. I could swear it's laced with crack, but either way, I find myself craving it regularly.
Craig Collins, beverage director for Arro, 24 Diner and Easy Tiger
"Ever since 24 Diner opened, I've loved the Caesar salad. It's amazing and has honestly ruined all other versions for me. The BBQ sandwich at Whole Foods Market on Lamar is delicious, as is the "The Tricky" breakfast taco at Fresa's. And if you have a chance, try the Cubano sandwich at Live Oak Market — Convenience Store on Manchaca."
Philip Speer, director of culinary operations, Uchi restaurants
"At Pieous near Dripping Springs, their house-made pastrami sandwich with fresh homemade bread really blew me away. Although, I agree about the Home Slice Pizza sandwich, too. Also, Swift's Attic did an amazing ramen using housemade noodles that they just ran for a special for a few days. Not sure if they are bringing it back, but I had it with a few other chef friends one day, and we all were surprised and impressed."
Andrew Wiseheart, executive chef/owner Contigo
"Right now, my girlfriend and I are liking Winebelly as an unexpected find in Austin. The pig ears are a nice surprise and something I order every time, but the entire menu is thoughtful and tasty."
Wes Mickel, Argus Cidery
"Not everyone knows, but you can buy a puck of dough for $5 at Home Slice Pizza for a "Make Your Own Pizza Party" at home. Also, pretty much everything croissant at Elizabeth Street Cafe is amazing. Lulu B's food trailer has a brisket bahn mi special, and it's probably one of the best briskets in town. And one more, at Wholy Bagel, the owner sometimes makes the best pizza. He sells it early in the morning. I call it 'Hungover Pizza.' It's really good."
Josh Hare, Hops & Grain Brewery
"I'm a huge fan of Pinthouse Pizza for the pizza and beer, but my favorite thing on the menu is their Pinthouse Salad with spinach, red onion, dried cranberries, blue cheese, candied pecans and poppyseed dressing. A new place that has just opened on the east side is Haymaker. They have a hefty menu of meat and cheese dishes, but their black bean burger is one of the best in town."
Sarah McIntosh, chef/owner Epicerie
"My first thought was also the Italian sub at Home Slice — It's my personal favorite, too. Also, at Din Ho Chinese BBQ, the BBQ is amazing, but my favorite thing is the wonton noodle soup."