After a few sluggish months marked by more closings than openings, Austin’s restaurant scene has finally started picking up steam. In November, the most promising openings all adopted accessibility as their mantra. We say bring on the carbs and add another slice of cheese. As 2018 comes to a close, comfort is just what we need.
Unless you’ve been living off the social media grid, you’ve probably seen an influencer’s perfectly manicured hand reaching for a Bakery Lorraine macaron. But the San Antonio import is much more than a selfie opportunity. Menu highlights include a quiche that manages to stay light despite a heaping helping of bacon, Gruyère, and caramelized onion and an egg salad that surprises with kewpie mayonnaise, pickled carrots, and furikake. Overall, this new Domain Northside cafe is best enjoyed in the moment. Besides, it's difficult to snap a picture when your eyes are rolled back in your head.
When the Four Seasons Austin announced in July that it was revamping its on-site restaurant, it seemed more of the same. Sometime during the renovation, inspiration hit. The downtown eatery ditched the original name — The Arborist — and brought in celebrity chef Richard Sandoval to collaborate with chef de cuisine James Flowers. The result is a sharpened menu that brings in Latin-inspired dishes like sweet corn empanadas, ceviche amarillo, and lomo saltado while still keeping the seasonality and sourcing that Austin diners expect.
Dean’s One Trick Pony
Richard Olney may have used the phrase “international hotel cooking” as the ultimate sneer, but a lot has changed since his day. A slew of 2018 openings have proved that location matters less than heart. Whereas the legendarily snobby food writer surely would have turned up his nose at Dean’s lineup of globally inspired sandwiches and gasped at the sight of the yellow cheese sprinkled on its country club wedge salad, the rest of us welcome the shift to accessible food in a city that not so long ago mistook careful plating for artful cuisine.
We have to hand it to Darcy’s Donkey owner Neville Joyce. It takes conviction to open an Irish pub when the rest of the Austin hospitality scene has bought into the idea of all-day restaurants hook, line, and sinker. Still, the best restaurants are often the riskiest. Darcy’s succeeds because it's intensely personal, from the wood-wrapped interior inspired by taverns in Joyce’s native Ireland to a menu that skips avocado toast in favor of slow-braised lamb shank, corned beef and cabbage, and Scotch eggs. It's unknown exactly what goes into the hand pie’s sweet and tangy sauce, but it could put England’s beloved HP Sauce out of business.
Joann’s Fine Foods
I’ll admit that my populist side bristles at the idea of a $32 chicken fried steak, but the side that relishes the pleasure of a complete dining experience can’t get enough of McGuire Moorman Hospitality’s stylish new haunt. From the attentive service to the lips-shaped chocolate left with the check, every detail is immaculate. And the food, pricy or not, flirts with nostalgia without ever feeling like old hat. The pozole rojo — spiked with guajillo braised pork and plump hominy — continues MMH’s winning streak of creating the best soups in the city.