If you want a snapshot of where Austin food is in 2018, take a look at the Best New Restaurant nominees for the annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards — all proof positive of the robust nature of the city’s culinary scene.
Ranging from a diner with a punk rock edge to two vendors reinventing the food hall game, these 16 restaurants are offering the freshest takes on food in the ATX. Start checking them off your bucket list now, and vote for your favorite in our bracket-style tournament, powered by Whole Foods Market, where they will be vying for the title of Austin's Best New Restaurant.
Contemporary Mexican fare is the name of the game at this swanky downtown haunt open since July 2017. The menu ranges from delicate crudos to upscale versions of lamb adobo and pork pibil, all made with the best ingredients and plated beautifully. One warning before you set out on your dining adventure: The vibe is a little more dressed up here than at most Austin restaurants. Leave the shorts and flip-flops at home.
Be More Pacific
Like many local favorites, this North Austin eatery started out as a food truck. The Filipino-American fare was so popular, Be More Pacific decided to give a brick-and-mortar a-go. The new space allowed the kitchen to expand the menu, and even offer desserts like halo halo, a collaboration with Amy's Ice Cream that features purple yam ice cream, fruit jellies, flan, and a drizzle of evaporated milk. Check out the cocktail menu for some wildly creative drinks. (One even uses a hunk of feta cheese.)
This Mueller neighborhood restaurant, featuring modern takes on traditional Southern fare, comes from Ashley and Sean Fric, co-owners of J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge and popular South Austin cocktail bar Golden Goose. Named after Ashley's aunt, the restaurant pays tribute to her hospitality and features her various collections in the interior. There's lots of bubbly drinks at the bar and a sizable patio.
Dai Due Taqueria
This Fareground food hall attraction from chef Jesse Griffiths, the name behind locavore favorite Dai Due, serves tacos and tortas that have the same careful ethos as the flagship restaurant. Interior Mexican favorites like picadillo and al pastor are made with Texas game. Don’t forget to order a brown rice horchata to go with your meal.
Chef Pablo Gomez's approach to Spanish cuisine takes classic dishes and adds a few modern touches while preserving the traditional flavors. The airy, urban-modern space, which first welcomed guests in June 2017, is anchored by a curvy marble bar, where you get a ringside seat to chefs preparing a number of tapas and pinchos. The gin and tonics are a must-try.
This funky Allandale eatery has an old Austin vibe, complete with tattooed servers and bright walls. The menu features many Tex-Mex favorites like tacos and queso, mixed with original comfort food like sweet arbol chili-glazed "Shiny Ribs" and puzchkas — fried dumplings filled with a lick-your-chops mixture of mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, and bacon. The margaritas are some of the most creative in town.
Opening in January 2018 at Fareground, this food hall vendor comes from the team at lauded Rainey Street restaurant Emmer & Rye. Although fast casual, expect the same level of quality as the flagship restaurant, with a focus on healthy, locally sourced meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try the ham and cheese kolache for a transcendent experience.
Specializing in brunch all day, the menu at Holy Roller features hearty dishes like "Grilled Cheesus" and migas kolaches, but the dinner blue plate specials (think a juicy pan-roasted pork chop or a baked-to-order chicken pot pie) are just as much of a wake up. The punk attitude sets this diner apart. Dine under a giant portrait of patron saint Iggy Pop while sipping the appropriately named cocktail, Lust for Life.
The latest entry into the Austin Italian race is nestled in the former Bud’s Motorcycle Shop, but the warm wood-clad dining room hardly feels industrial. Former Vespaio chef Ian Thurwachter and his wife, Crave Chocolate’s Krystal Craig, focus on snout-to-tail cooking. On the way out the door, make sure to take home a selection of truffles, barks, and sipping chocolates from the chocolate counter.
This casual east side shop has Italian sandwiches galore like a prosciutto panini and a vegan version filled with grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, avocado, basil, and olive paté or a quinoa salad with crab, papaya, capers, lime, and red radish. Both are so flavorful, you’ll never miss the burrata, but we highly advise you order it anyway.
The elegant space, modeled after a French brasserie, opened in September 2017 from New Waterloo, the team behind Austin favorites like La Condesa, Sway, and Café No Sé. The menu offers solid classic French dishes like steak frites, salade lyonnaise, and trout almandine. The Gallic leanings extend to the spectacular desserts.
Native Bar & Kitchen
The restaurant inside the luxury hostel serves a comfort food menu of flat top burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and waffle fry nachos. But it is just as known for its boozy cocktails. Like the rest of the property, it is hiply decorated with custom fittings and a scattering of outsider art. On weekends especially, it hosts a see-and-be-seen crowd.
This ’04 neighborhood joint takes its inspiration from the 1950s — both in subtle decor touches like a checkerboard floor and in the menu of comfort classics like flapjacks, club sandwiches, fried chicken, and hashbrown casserole. As with any good diner, Phoebe’s has killer seasonal pies, which should always be ordered a la mode.
Texas Hill Country-inspired Pitchfork Pretty's regional, seasonal dinner menu is broken into four sections: snacks, appetizers, entrees, and sweets. The Lone Star State is a melting pot of international influences, from German to Mexican, and Pitchfork Pretty fuses those ingredients in a modern way while also incorporating old-world and wood-fired cooking methods.
Fancy burgers meet tiki cocktails in this Airstream trailer parked by the legendary bar Deep Eddy Cabaret. The atmosphere is casual, but like all McGuire Moorman Hospitality restaurants, it practically begs to go on your Instagram feed. End your meal with a scoop of soft serve ice cream, which can be topped with Butterfinger or strawberries for the kids or boozy cherries or rum soaked pineapple for the adults.
This colorful restaurant from the owners of El Chile is a departure from the group’s usual Mexican-inspired fare. Instead, Yuyo focuses on a contemporary Peruvian menu with lots of fresh seafood. Choose from a variety of imaginative cebiches, classics like pollo a la brasa or lomo saltado, or several superb vegetable dishes. The drink menu has a focus on spirits tailored to the cuisine, like pisco.