On May 11, Austin foodies crossed 13 restaurants, bars, and desserts off their must-try lists — or enjoyed old favorites all in one room at our 2023 Tastemaker Awards. More than 700 visitors milled about Fair Market with cocktails and Topo Chico in hand, visiting booths and tasting creative Austin food.
A VIP hour welcomed some guests early for a toast to the nominees and our nonprofit beneficiary, the Southern Smoke Foundation, which shares funds for emergency relief and mental health resources with food industry workers. Lodgewell provided cocktails and insulated goodie bags with treats like Parch, LMNT, Siete, and SkinnyPop at its VIP lounge, where it gave away a 1-night stay in the famous Bloomhouse.
More sponsors provided specialty drinks and garnishes: Flor de Caña Rum brought sustainably crafted rum in its bar and lounge, with 70 percent cacao dark chocolate to pair with the more than 25-year-aged spirit. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brought several bottles of the Tennessee spirit to try neat, and Twang manned a booth for adding seasonings to the rim of favorite cocktails.
This year, even though the warehouse was busy right away, the tone was casual, and our vendors kept plates coming, so there was a free flow from booth to booth. Two vendors, Watertrade and Chapulín Cantina both brought chapulines — fried grasshoppers — for a salad and a taco, respectively. Lots of vendors brought handheld items for ease of snacking: Luminaire brought fried empanadas that could nearly fill a person up on their own, and Wunderkeks brought cookies to-go, so that visitors could keep the party going at home.
If there had been a theme of the day, it would have been sliders. A "Burger Throwdown" thanks to Goodstock by Nolan Ryan pitted three restaurants against each other in a friendly outdoor grilling competition. JewBoy Burgers and Honeymoon Spirit brought delicious contenders that couldn't be more different, but Lebowski's Grill charmed visitors with two different sandwiches and ultimately won the most of their votes. Although it wasn't part of the competition, BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya brought its own smoked brisket slider, emphasizing the versatility of these little party snacks.
The irreplaceable Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League emceed again, reading out nominees to pointed cheers from the crowd — a win for vendors even if the award went home with someone else — and finally revealing the winners. (Although there was not a fashion contest, we feel confident saying Chef Harvard Aninye's family and friends blew all of us away in their spangly threads.) See the full list of winners here.
All the smiling faces and (very) full stomachs made this Tastemaker Awards ceremony a night to remember; Try to remember these superstar restaurants, bars, chefs, and more next time you have some free time to try something local.