Over the past month, we've introduced you to the top restaurant and bar talent in Austin as part of our 2017 Tastemaker Awards. These outstanding nominees, selected by an expert panel of judges, represent the very best of Austin's celebrated food and drink scene.
On Wednesday night, emcee and Texas restaurateur Tim Love revealed the winners at our annual Tastemaker Awards party, held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Join us in toasting the 2017 Tastemaker winners:
Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
The food at this Rainey Street gem is adventurous but familiar, and the atmosphere, service, and bar round out a terrific dining experience. Chef Kevin Fink is an advocate for sustainability, sourcing heirloom grains (milled in-house); relying on whole-animal butchery; and making his own vinegars, preserves, condiments, and pickles using natural fermentation.
Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
Duplechan opened Lenoir with his wife, Jessica Maher, in 2012. In 2013, he was awarded the Tastemaker in this category for his expert take on "hot weather food." Recently, he partnered with Jeffrey Weinberger on the reincarnation of Youngblood's fried chicken, which is now open in Mueller.
Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
Co-chefs James Dumapit and David Baek debuted Old Thousand in late 2016, and the east side hangout has become a go-to for Chinese food and cocktails. It's the first of four projects from SMGB, a new restaurant group comprised of talent from top spots like Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Hai Hospitality.
Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
Abby Love honed her pastry skills in positions throughout bakeries and restaurants. Her current dessert menu at Dai Due ranges from refreshing lime and fresh mint sorbet to a delicate grapefruit shortbread tart.
Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
King Bee Lounge is an unassuming cocktail mecca in East Austin. Owner Billy Hankey has created a destination for top-notch mixed drinks, as well as wine, mezcal, and live music.
Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
Loving has worn many hats in the local beverage scene, from his days as the wine buyer and bar manager at Fino to bartending at Midnight Cowboy and opening Weather Up. At his own venture, Small Victory, Loving continues his commitment to using the best possible ingredients, spirits, and ice to create memorable cocktails that break the mold while respecting the classics.
Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain Brewing
This little brewery has grown exponentially since opening in 2011, always with sustainability in mind. The crew is in the process of opening a new brewery and taproom in San Marcos, via an innovative crowd-funding and investment platform.
Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
Owner Steven Dilley prides himself on his wine list, which is surprisingly deep for a "pizza joint." Focusing primarily on French and Italian selections, the lists at Bufalina and Bufalina Due include cult Champagnes and grand cru Burgundies alongside easier-on-the-wallet options in a variety of styles.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All-Day
Named for award-winning Austin sommelier June Rodil, this French-inspired bistro on South Congress boasts an outstanding wine program and expertly crafted cocktails. The food is elegant and eclectic, with items ranging from bites like salted cod croquettes to a seriously overstuffed burger.
Best Burger: Contigo
Contigo's burger is accompanied by house-cured bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a house-made challah bun smeared with aioli. It may be simple, but that allows the flavors of the fresh ingredients to stand out — and win this special 2017 category.
Best New Restaurant: Sophia's
This sultry Italian restaurant stepped into the former Bess Bistro space in summer 2016. Sophia's classic entrees and pasta plates are complemented by an extensive wine list, plus cocktails with a special emphasis on barrel-aged creations, amaro, and house-made vermouth.
And we can't forget about our neighbors to the south. Here are the San Antonio Tastemaker winners for 2017:
- Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
- Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
- Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg