Much of Austin’s restaurant opening bandwidth is gobbled up by the big names, those eateries with well-known chefs and PR firms that do everything but throw a ticker tape parade to let locals know their new concept has arrived.
Meanwhile, some of the most interesting things happening in the city’s food scene go woefully unnoticed. Over the last few months, a variety of low-key openings have brought global flavors to neighborhoods across town. If you are looking for an alternative to yet another $15 burger, give one (or all) of them a try this month.
Of all of 2018’s restaurant trends, the wave of Eastern European eateries this year (see Kosmos below) has been the most surprising. The latest newcomer Brama ups the ante with contemporary plating and an unfussy warm interior that transcends its strip mall locale. The 3301 Steck Ave. eatery features food from throughout Eastern Europe, like a rotating selection of pierogi, kielbasa and sauerkraut, pork or chicken schnitzel, and beef stroganoff. The wine and beer selection pulls from the same locale, offering bottles difficult to find anywhere else.
The Highland-area dining scene continues its resurgence with this casual Mediterranean restaurant at 6929 Airport Blvd. #158. The menu covers all the heavy hitters like hummus, shawarma, gyros, and kabob, along with more unexpected fare like French cut lamb chops and grilled fish. Not in the mood for meze? Take home a classic white pizza or choose from more than a dozen flavors of wings.
Located on 2709 Rogge Ln. just off Manor Road, this unassuming joint snuck on the scene in the summer, but has been steadily ramping up its menu offerings this fall. The specialty of the house is wings, with new flavors like jalapeño ranch and tangy General Tso’s coming out of the kitchen on a seemingly weekly basis. The desserts, like a rainbow cotton candy cheesecake and fried waffles sprinkled with powdered sugar and sprinkles, are all about fun.
Reversing the usual pathway of food truck to brick-and-mortar, the team behind Russia House are now rolling with a trailer at 2718 Guadalupe St. across from Torchy’s Tacos. Specializing in the more Western-friendly side of Russian cuisine (no herring under a fur coat), Kosmos features a menu of dumplings like meat-filled pelmeni and vegetarian vareniki. Like its downtown cousin, the truck doesn’t take itself too seriously. The lamb and mint pelmeni is named Four-Twenty and a gothy squid ink variety is called Dracula.
In October, this Cedar Park favorite branched out with a second location at 4894 US-290 W. in Sunset Valley. Fans of the original Southern Indian eatery will find much of the same: chicken, mutton, and veggie biryani; stuffed dosa served with three varieties of chutney; and addictive gobi Manchurian. Setting itself apart from many buffet eateries, Nala’s also has a curated wine and beer program.
Austin’s bagel battalion grew stronger in September with the opening of this shop at 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. near Thai mainstay Titaya’s. For true Big Apple flavor (it’s all in the water), the owners ship in frozen dough from New York City, then bake it in house. In addition to crowd-pleasing flavors like poppy, everything, and sesame, Nervous Charlie’s also has a few surprises like sun dried tomato and jalapeño cheddar. Eat them with a schmear or stuffed with ham, pastrami, or lox.