In the midst of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer for the Austin restaurant scene, it’s nice to be reminded that there are still some reasons to get excited. The latest silver lining to the dark cloud hovering over Capital City hospitality comes courtesy of Bon Appétit, which has once again deemed two new Austin restaurants as the best in the nation.
On July 31, the venerable magazine announced its annual list of the 50 best new restaurants in America. As was the case in 2017, two members of Austin’s 2018 freshman class made the cut — Suerte, the masa-obsessed East Austin eatery from Sam Hellman-Mass and executive chef Fermín Nuñez, and Sour Duck Market, Bryce Gilmore’s counter service departure from fine dining. The two restaurants have a deep connection. Although Hellman-Mass is no longer a chef at Gilmore’s Barley Swine and Odd Duck restaurants, he does remain a partner.
Unlike last year when the magazine wrote a separate blurb for each finalist, the magazine this year did not devote any column inches to saying what was so inspiring about the nominees. But editor-at-large Andrew Knowlton seems particularly in tune with the currents of Texas food this year, perhaps because he recently moved his family to Austin.
Of the four Lone Star spots selected as finalists for the coveted hot 10 list, three are counter service (only Suerte is full service). Houston chef Justin Yu will be vying for a twofer for his latest concept Better Luck Tomorrow with Bobby Huegel. He made it to the top 10 in 2012 for Oxheart.
Continuing its recent winning streak, San Antonio taco joint Carnitas Lonja also made it to the top 50. Along with Suerte, it was named on July 25 to Eater national restaurant editor Bill Addison’s list of the 18 Best New Restaurants in America.
The Austin nods continues Bon Appétit’s fascination with Austin. Since the magazine debuted the list in 2009, the Capital City has been a steady presence with top 10 wins for Olivia (2009), Congress (2011), Jeffrey’s and Josephine House (2013), Thai-Kun (2014), Dai Due (2015), and Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (2017).
Will Sour Duck and Suerte rise to the top, or be shut out like last year’s top 50 nominee June’s All day? Austinites will have to wait until August 14 to find out when the magazine will announce its coveted final 10 list.