Austin diners are opinionated and vocal, always equipped with a list of favorite spots in their back pocket. But if forced to pick your favorite, which would you choose?
It’s no easy task, but we have honed in on the city's best dining options, only one of which will be named Restaurant of the Year at our annual Tastemaker Awards on May 17. Before the party, let us introduce you to this year’s top contenders.
Pizza lovers spoke (by consistently wrapping the petite East Austin eatery with long lines), and Bufalina listened; what began as a humble Neapolitan-style pizza joint has expanded with a second location on Burnet Road. In the face of the recent growth, diners are glad to see that Bufalina not only stayed true to dishing up exceptional ingredients on bubbly crusts, but that it also continues to push boundaries (think harissa or braised goat on pizza). Owner Steven Dilley was a wine enthusiast first, so naturally, the ever-changing wine menu continues to be on point.
Counter 3. Five. VII
This striking 25-seat chef’s counter restaurant offers one of the most progressive dining experiences in town. With no room to hide, Executive Chef Damien Brockway and his team plate up avant-garde fare for diners seated around their theater kitchen. Since its conception, Counter 3. Five. VII has been able to serve intricate portions by tapering down the menu size. The beverages are always paired meticulously, often featuring rarer wines and libations. The newish addition of bar bites and “counter hour” boosts its accessibility.
Standing tall on Manor Road, it’s difficult to imagine that this bright and airy eatery was once a crowd pleaser at the farmers market. Today, Jesse Griffiths and his team continue to channel their vision to promote fair, eco-conscious food. This popular butcher shop and supper club gained its neighborhood fanfare quickly by offering unconventional comfort fare. From Texas wines and game meats to local farm produce, it’s no surprise that Dai Due is a hub for diners seeking honest (yet sometimes quirky) nourishment.
As a shock to few, the dynamic duo of Sawicki and Rene Ortiz have exceeded expectations by flipping a laundromat into one of the hottest dining destinations on the east side. Thinking back to when we interviewed Ortiz during the opening, he hinted that they were set out to serve eclectic meals they enjoy cooking at home, without script or necessary reason. This free-spirited approach has proven to be a ticket to success, as Launderette woos diners with notables like brick chicken with sauce aligot and birthday cake ice cream sandwich.
For four years, husband-and-wife team Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher have been doing things their way. Like many other prominent restaurants, they focus on sourcing ingredients as close to home as possible. What sets their approach apart is that their menu's flavor profiles evolve seasonally by drawing inspiration from other parts of the world experiencing similar climate, or simply, hot weather food. Lenoir's whimsical backyard wine garden is the ideal spot to enjoy this globally inspired fare.
Paul Qui and his team consistently deliver some of the most exciting, forward-thinking food in town. From the thoughtful menus that showcase up-market ingredients with Filipino flair to the top-notch cocktails and beverage pairings, it's evident why this continues to be a go-to in East Austin for those seeking new flavors or celebrating special occasions.
Last fall, Austin diners readily welcomed Wu Chow, a high-end Chinese restaurant that does not compromise on authenticity. Executive Chef Ji Peng Chen's dim-sum service, wok-fired dishes, and elevated aesthetics have set a new bar for modern Chinese-American dining, and the city is eating it up with enthusiasm.