With the ever-changing Austin dining scene, we are never short of new places to check out. This month, we offer seven standout new Austin restaurants for spring, from a Japanese izakaya to a classic French bistro and an offbeat taqueria. Dig in.
Austin Taco Project
This ambitious eatery took over the Liberty Tavern space at the Hilton Hotel. It features a menu of global street foods re-imagined and served inside house-made flour or corn tortillas, with a lettuce leaf as an option that works well. From the bar snacks, we loved the charcoal wings, which are brined, smoked, and grilled then tossed in your choice of Valentina’s hot sauce or a slightly sweet blueberry ghost pepper glaze. Salads offer enticing tastes, including a nopales salad with green papaya and soy for an Asian spin.
From the tacos, we highly recommend the Casa Blanca, lehmucan (Moroccan spiced lamb) dressed with red onion, radish, and harissa wrapped in a flour tortilla, or the Barbacoa on Deck, with melt-in-your-mouth rib eye cap barbacoa, onion, pickled radish, cilantro, and charred avocado inside a corn tortilla. ATP does not offer local beers, but it has a good selection of coast-to-coast craft brews, as well as a nice wine list and proprietary cocktails. The atmosphere is lively and service is professional, although those bar stools could be a tad comfier.
Chef Philip Speer's return to the Austin dining scene has been a hit since day one. A laid-back hybrid of French bistro and American waffle house, Bonhomie boasts large windows and booths clad in red, a small chef’s counter, and an ample bar with bistro stools. The open kitchen allows diners to watch the chefs at work while listening to a great playlist and sipping a glass of wine, beer, or craft cocktail.
The menu rounds up classic fare with Speer’s signature playfulness and farm-fresh ingredients. So far, the French dip croissant with pho broth, the simple but superb cheeseburger, and the many variations of pommes rosti are proving to be favorites. But don’t overlook the salads, including the lovely Tunisian carrots, and be sure to save room for dessert.
After years of research and planning, Lenoir executive chef Todd Duplechan realized his dream of reviving this 1940s eatery, joining forces with Jeffrey’s co-founder Jeffrey Weinberger and former Trio at the Four Seasons general manager Jeff Haber. J.T. Youngblood’s was a successful family restaurant specializing in fried chicken and Southern food, which had 30 locations across Texas before shuttering around 1970.
The humanely raised Smart Chicken brand birds are served fried to perfection, crunchy and juicy, in original or a cayenne-dusted spicy version, but are also available roasted. They are accompanied by sides like a sinful mac ‘n cheese, buttermilk mashed potatoes, or tangy and smoky green beans stewed in tomato sauce. There are also sandwiches and salads, along with handmade milkshakes and home style pies.
This super cool East Austin sibling to the trendsetting Ramen Tatsu-Ya blends the owners’ Japanese heritage with their Texas upbringing in a quirky and playful package. Decor is a mixture of izakaya meets Austin funky and Texas roadhouse, with walls and shelves covered in old license plates and beer cans, paper lanterns, kabuki masks, rusty horseshoes, and other exotica. The bar is small and cozy, featuring an excellent selection of sake and Japanese whisky, craft beer, and house cocktails. Out back, an airy patio greets diners with a tea garden vibe.
The food is fun and creative, based on traditional dishes with an added local spin. We loved the sticky rice tamale filled with beef tongue and chorizo; the sashimi of hamachi with orange, ponzu, chorizo oil, radish, and edible flowers; and a soft-shell crab tempura with cilantro chimichurri. The special chinmi menu of “exotics and rarities” caters to more adventurous palates with daily dishes featuring monkfish liver, marinated jellyfish, and the like. Oh, and definitely get the banana pudding for dessert.
Mattie’s at Green Pastures
The reincarnation of this venerable Austin restaurant is stunning in every way. The historic home was lovingly restored, the patio and porch revamped, and the menu overhauled to reflect a modern American cuisine with global influences. Executive chef Josh Thomas combines exotic Asian flavors with classic Southern staples, prepared with fresh ingredients sourced by farm-to-table veteran Valerie Broussard. Expect salads made with the crunchiest of greens, pâté made from Dewberry Farms chicken livers, and 44 Farms flank steak with shallot jus and frites.
The team has recently started serving a la carte brunch, reviving the old South Austin tradition, which still includes flaky biscuits and the famous milk punch. As is the case with all La Corsha Group properties, the beverage program is stellar, with cocktails by Jason Stevens and wine by sommelier Paula Rester. You will be hard-pressed to find a lovelier space for a leisurely afternoon, sipping a Kentucky punch under 300-year-old oaks and watching the peacocks strut their stuff.
Toulouse Café and Bar
Another eatery with locations in Dallas and Houston has arrived to Domain Northside. Founded by Alberto Lombardi (of Lombardi’s fame), Toulouse Café and Bar boasts a lively French bistro setting to match a traditional menu from French-born and -trained chef de cuisine Yoann Lardeux. The atmosphere is warm and casual, with bistro decor and furniture, honeycomb tile floors, and wicker chairs on the airy porch.
Aside from classic items like trout almondine, sole meunier, and beef bourguignon, Lardeux whips up dishes like seared diver scallops served over asparagus, pea, and black truffle risotto with a Parmesan crisp; frog legs provençales with garlic, capers, olives, tomato, Pernod, and fresh herbs; and pissaladier, a traditional Southern French onion tart. There are ambitious plates like boulliabase with half a lobster, and a whole menu of mussels with fries, including an unexpected twist in the Green Room mussels cooked with jalapeño, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, champagne, and garlic. For dessert try the Grand Marnier or the dark chocolate soufflé — fluffy, decadent pillows served fresh out of the oven.
This fast-casual spot in the Domain Northside is the newest location from a successful franchise specializing in playful modern tacos, with branches in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Chicago. They feature unique taco offerings such as the spicy tikka chicken, with crisp tenders, spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, and Thai basil in a flour tortilla; and shrimp and grits, with blackened shrimp over crispy pepper jack cheese grits topped with charred tomato poblano salsa, creole mayo, and micro cilantro in a corn tortilla.
One of the most popular items is the slow roasted Angus brisket taco, cooked barbacoa style and dressed with red chile mayo, avocado relish, queso blanco, and micro cilantro, wrapped in a comté cheese-encrusted flour tortilla. The counter service space is comfortable and brightly lit, with a floor-to-ceiling mural and whimsical planters lining an adjacent wall. There is counter seating and communal tables, plus a tree-shaded patio with plenty of tables where you can enjoy a margarita with a side of people watching.