It feels like every day that we read about a new restaurant concept in Austin — probably because it is. As the city changes, so does the culinary landscape, staying grounded at food trucks and fun places to meet up for a casual lunch, or breaking through the perceived limits of what this city has to offer, sometimes to the tune of James Beard Nominations.
As much as Austinites want to hold onto Old Austin, life changes, and supporting the best incoming restaurants may mean bolstering a new 40-odd-year institution that generations will look back on fondly. These 16 new restaurants tease a future of more East-West ethnic fusion (alongside some traditional favorites that will never die, like Mexican street food and pizza), local ingredients, and slow-cooked meats.
These nominees were picked by our Tastemakers judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — for you, the readers. Your votes will determine which restaurants progress to an eventual win for Best New Restaurant at the 2023 Tastemaker Awards.
Our first brackets match up pairs of restaurants with a similar style, conceptual focus, or rules broken, to make sure we're comparing apples to apples — or more accurately, brisket to brisket. Visit the interactive page to make your selections; one vote per bracket.
To vote, click here. Don't delay: The first bracket ends at 11:59 pm on April 24.
Then, find out which restaurant wins on May 11 at the Tastemaker Awards party at Fair Market. Nominated restaurants and chefs will show off their best bites and the winners in each category will be revealed. Buy tickets now before they sell out.
Here are our nominees for Best New Restaurant:
The beauty of barbecue is it’s never just one thing, and these Tastemakers prove that the art will always keep expanding, multiculturally.
BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya
If ramen and Texas barbecue have one thing in common, it’s that you could cook either forever and it’ll just keep getting better. The Tatsu-ya franchise tightens its grip on ramen aficionados with a new venture combining the two deep flavors in BBQ Ramen Tatsuya.
KG BBQ is what happens when Southwestern smoking meets Middle Eastern flavors like pomegranate and tahini. Brisket is the restaurant’s pride and joy, but the sides really call attention to how variable classics like potato salad, rice, and mac and cheese can be.
Both a little nontraditional, these new restaurants take well-known, casual foods from non-American cultures and turn up the Texas flavor.
Side Eye Pie
Food truck Side Eye Pie isn’t doing anything wildly off-book, but it’s on a mission of “creating & defining Texas Pizza.” Eschewing imports for local products including flour and yeast, the spirit of rebellion also shows up in the “Sweet & Spicy Nutz” pie with Texas pecans.
Tiny Diner is all about Japanese breakfast. Eggs are the star of the show, especially in the breakfast sandwich, over easy on bacon, greens, spices and a toasted bun. The okonomiyaki, a savory pancake, may expand some diners’ horizons and is topped with a poached egg.
A food truck and a farmers market favorite, these two new restaurants are making big moves in small spaces.
Known for its pastrami, sliced in front of shoppers and dripping with rendered fat, Mum Foods made a triumphant move to a small standalone smokehouse and deli counter. Now it serves huge spreads with sausages, matzah ball soup, and more.
Ensenada is doing what many other food trucks shy away from — an entirely fish- and shrimp-focused menu. The fried fish tacos are already a street food staple; Shrimp cocktail doesn’t sound like one until you see its colorful layers stacked in a smoothie cup.
Two of Austin’s newest Mexican restaurants show the range of the cuisine — from upscale to fast-casual — while focusing on the power of smaller regions.
Masa y Más
A stop at Masa y Más is like a tour through Mexico without leaving South Lamar, with each dish made in its specific regional style. Authenticity is a big focus here, and as the name suggests, there’s a lot more to try than just tacos, plus the big space is a great hangout spot.
The successor of longtime South Congress restaurant Enoteca, Chapulín Cantina shifted the Italian focus to Oaxaca, Mexico. The semi-upscale newcomer is named for a Oaxacan delicacy — fried grasshoppers — and they are on the menu. The tequila bar alone is worth a long visit.
Suerte’s little sister and this brand new dual concept at the Seaholm District prove that Austin is primed and ready for elevated Latin fare.
The award-winning team behind Suerte opened their long-awaited second concept last year on Manor Road. Celebrating coastal Mexican cuisine, the restaurant already looks set to become as cherished a spot as the space’s former tenant, East Side Cafe.
The Seaholm District welcomed the arrival of dual concept Ember Kitchen & Subterra Agave Bar in January 2023. Ember offers a live-fire experience with Latin flare, while Subterra serves a curated selection of agave cocktails and Latin spirits in a speakeasy setting.
Two new steakhouses stampeded Congress in the past year, one north of the river — and right next to the Paramount Theatre — and one South, in the heart of trendy South Congress.
Helmed by Olamaie founder and executive chef Michael Fojtasek, Maie Day took over for Central Standard at South Congress Hotel last May. With playful takes on a classic steakhouse menu, highlights include ribeye, a butcher’s steak, and a plethora of hearty sides.
Luminaire took up residence at the brand new Hyatt Hotel Centric in February 2023. Devoted fans of Cured at the Pearl in San Antonio no longer have to trek down I-35 for Chef Steve McHugh’s signature cured meats, but the Angus beef Luminaire burger is also a major draw.
From cult favorite soup dumplings to incredible views, these two restaurants show the increasing range of cuisine we’re blessed to find in Austin these days.
Chef Ling Qi Wu has been quietly changing the game for Chinese cuisine in Austin since opening Lin Asian Kitchen in 2018. She now has four total concepts to her growing empire, with Ling Kitchen as the latest outpost to find her famous soup dumplings.
Nestled in Austin’s newest luxury condo and hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake, Nido claims some of the best views of downtown Austin. Murder Point oysters are a highlight, and the cocktails are equally fresh.
Austin is still finding its way as a potential pizza city, and these two freshmen born from older favorite restaurants embody two styles that have stood the test of time.
Proponents of a truly Italian pizza were enamored with Bufalina and now, Bufalina Due, the resurrection of the original restaurant in new digs. This Neapolitan style pizza is rimmed with charred dough, swimming in sauce, and serves as a generous vehicle for toppings.
A group of industry vets came together to create Dovetail Pizza for those who can’t choose between the New York and Neapolitan styles that dominate the category. The fermented dough stays light, but gets crispy enough to support its weight under the Italian toppings.