After a somewhat sluggish summer, Austin’s restaurant scene is picking up steam, with a slate of new restaurants adding to our city’s culinary diversity. For this month’s Where to Eat, we are going on a global journey, sampling flavors from Mexico, India, Thailand, Italy, and France — all without leaving the Austin city limits.
Aviary Wine & Kitchen
When Aviary was a whimsical home goods store, it always had a great wine selection. Now former Lenoir chef Thomas Calhoun is at the head of a full-service restaurant, offering dishes to match all the fine bottles. Expect Mediterranean-inspired plates like a lamb burger smothered in harissa aioli, red mussels in white wine, romesco vegetables, and a whole fish in anchovy beurre blanc — all served in a charming, jewel-box space.
The opening of this contemporary barbecue restaurant makes Dripping Springs' Treaty Oak Brewery and Distilling even more of a weekend day trip destination. Chef Chris Andrews, formerly of the Carillon, is using an onsite smoker to fire up brisket bánh mì sandwiches, sesame-bourbon glazed pork spare ribs, and achiote roasted pork shoulder. The heady cocktails are simple enough not to overwhelm the flavors.
Classic French food is having a moment this year with Austin chefs returning to the basics after years of dabbling in molecular gastronomy and New American cuisine. The latest entry is downtown Austin’s swank Le Politique — offering the soignée atmosphere of a Parisian brasserie and traditional dishes like croque madames, trout almandine, and steak frites. The luscious Paris-Brest, topped with a scoop of house hazelnut ice cream, is not to be missed.
The owners of Winebelly looked to '50s greasy spoons for this South Austin AM diner, but don’t look for midcentury kitsch. Instead, the dining room brings the populuxe age into the 21st century with clean lines and warm woods. New takes on diner classics are the draw here. Ex-Fork and Vine chef Camden Stuerzenberger’s interpretations of club sandwiches (here with a fried green tomato) and macaroni and cheese (with smoked cheddar, bleu cheese, and Swiss) are comfort food at its finest.
Chef Max Snyder’s fried chicken, breaded in chickpea flour and served with a sweet potato salad and buttermilk dressing, has already found a spot on the list of legendary Austin dishes. But the rest of the Hill Country-meets-Asia menu is just as good. Start with slathering the gluten-free buckwheat corn bread with honey-miso butter before moving on to the refreshing snapper aguachile. The botanical cocktails, using everything from hoja santa to licorice root, are some of the most innovative in town.
Chef Deepa Shridhar has long been a farmers market favorite for the naan croissants sold under the Anjore brand. Now she has a permanent trailer at South Austin’s Still distillery, serving dishes that split the difference between Indian and Texan cuisine. Try the Cowboy Bread topped with veggie hash and barbecue sambal, chai brisket tacos served in roti, or the decadent apple sticky bun with Still whiskey cured pork belly and TX BeeTree chèvre frosting.
Stella Public House
This second location of a San Antonio favorite brings Neapolitan-style pizza to the bustling Mueller neighborhood. Families will love the wide-ranging menu that offers pepperoni and four cheese for the kids and more sophisticated pies like the veggie-heavy Verdura Amor and rich wild mushroom for the adults (they’ll also appreciate the beer cocktails). Soul-warming small plates like duck confit bolognese and lamb meatballs round out the menu.
The new Corner Bar trailer in the East Side King family focuses on all things chicken. For now, the simple menu only features a few specialties like grilled chicken by the half pound, but the khao gai yung — coconut-marinated grilled chicken thigh served on a bed of steamed jasmine rice and topped with cucumbers, cilantro, pickles, serrano nam jim (plus a side of chicken jus) — keeps us coming back.
Veracruz All Natural
North Austin taco lovers will no longer have to travel eastward to get the cult trailer’s essential breakfast tacos. A new brick-and-mortar on Burnet Road opened this month, serving menu classics like migas tacos and aguas frescas, plus a variety of new dishes like chilaquiles with fried plantains, chicken mole enchiladas, and cochinita pibil. Machine Head Coffee has a separate counter for caffeine heads.