Meet The Tastemakers
Austin's 16 best new restaurants compete in Tastemakers tournament
Each year, the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards toasts the top talent in Austin's culinary scene — and that includes an exciting look at the newest restaurants to heat up local dining.
Our 2022 nominees for Best New Restaurant range from chic counter service cafes and Caribbean hot spots to innovative food trucks and a few concepts from other cities making their Austin debut. While the nominees were selected by our panel of industry experts, the winner is up to you.
Now through April 26, you're invited to vote in our Best New Restaurant tournament, sponsored by Tock. The tournament starts with the 16 restaurants below, and the winner from each matchup moves on to the next round, until only one remains.
Read about the nominees below, vote for your favorites once a day, then join us on April 28 at Fair Market when we'll unveil the winner in our live awards ceremony. Tickets to our signature party are on sale now.
Al fresco dining is an essential Austin undertaking, and this new neighborhood eatery offers an exemplary patio space for dining on fresh seafood catches and unexpected delicacies like blue cheese beignets, duck confit crepes, and top-notch caviar. Named after its South First Street address, 1417 also offers an excellent weekend brunch featuring everything from raw bar specialties to pastries, quiches, and stacked burgers. And with a full bar and cocktail program — and an impressive wine selection — as well as an extensive coffee program, lounging here is an easy, breezy way to spend an afternoon.
5280 Burger & Taphouse
This meaty joint may hail from Colorado, but it’s got deep Austin roots, too. 5280 restaurateur Clay McPhail was a co-owner of local Tex-Mex favorite El Arroyo some years ago, so he has a keen understanding of Austin’s palate. And his west side 5280 Burger & Taphouse makes a special effort to tap into Austin-centric flavors. All burgers are made with Texas Black Angus beef, and there are lots of locally adored ingredients sprinkled throughout the menu, from guacamole and chili to pepper jack cheese, brisket, and habaneros. Plus, 5280 offers non-burger fare, including a Maine lobster roll, fried chicken, tons of different french fry dishes, tacos, egg rolls, salads, and even local and regional beers, as well as wine, draft cocktails, and “shaketinis.”
It didn’t take long for this new adorable east side cafe and natural wine bar to start toasting the accolades. Though it’s only been open since July 2021, Birdie’s has already garnered praise from Texas Monthly, which named it among the state’s best new restaurants, as well as from the New York Times, which called Birdie’s one of the 50 American restaurants it’s “most excited about right now.” Husband-and-wife team Arjav Ezekiel and Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel definitely deserve the kudos, as they painstakingly ensure every dish — from Birdie’s shareable snacks and small plates to its entrees and desserts — are immaculately crafted and delightfully presented. And here, sipping wine is a real treat, with Birdie’s offering a curated wine list (as well as its “gem” wine list) that evolves alongside the specials Malechek-Ezekiel is cooking up in the kitchen.
If there’s one genre of fare Austin could use more of, it’s Caribbean cuisine. And the genius culinary minds behind prolific local restaurant group Emmer & Rye are happy to lead the way with their newest local showpiece: Canje. The “new-age Caribbean restaurant,” helmed by executive chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph, features an inspired menu that pays tribute to the chef’s Caribbean roots, including some unexpected offerings influenced by the various cultures of the Caribbean, such as Indian, French, and African dishes. But Bristol-Joseph also makes sure he’s appealing to Texas palates, so there’s plenty of beef and pork and peppers to be enjoyed. It all melds together in a tantalizing menu of uniquely succulent cuisine that virtually transports diners to Bristol-Joseph’s grandmother’s home for an authentic Caribbean meal.
If you like your tacos RGV-style con todo, then this North Austin taco truck is for you. Inspired by chef Joseph Gomez’s family roots in Northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley, Con Todo brings some truly special flavors to this taco town. But don’t call it Tex-Mex — these tacos offer a different experience than the many Tex-Mex tacos Austinites chow down on every day. Gomez kicks up the flavor with rich fillings, rounds things out with acid from lots of lime, plays up the crisp factor with ripe veggies and piquant salsa, and serves it all on fresh tortillas that could likely make a tasty meal of their own. In bringing the 956 to the 512, Con Todo is “here to have our voices heard and to fill your daily taco needs.” Pro tip: When the chilaquiles roja special makes a menu appearance, drop everything you’re doing and get to Con Todo for a practically life-changing food experience.
Curry Pizza House
The Austin area’s crafty new fusion spot is slicing into those boring old pizza offerings with its fresh and spicy take on the classic pie. Curry Pizza House, which originated in the Bay Area a decade ago, has made its way to Texas with its first restaurant outside the state of California rising in the Cedar Park community. Indian-inspired craft pizza may sound like an odd mashup, but trust us, it’s a delicious one. Specialties include curry chicken masala pizza, the palak paneer pizza, the shahi paneer pizza, and the aloo chaat pizza. Persnickety pizza pickers can still opt for more traditional pies, like the meat lover’s, veggie, and supreme pizzas, but our suggestion is to live a little and dig into a totally different and flavor-forward pie, no matter how you slice it.
Like many Mexican-Americans, Delicious Tamales founder Valerie Gonzalez honed the art of tamale making during annual Christmas tamaladas with relatives. After decades in business as San Antonio's leading tamale maker, Delicious Tamales unwrapped its first Austin location just in time for the 2021 holiday season. Tamales include pork, bean, chicken and tomatillo chicken, vegetarian, various jalapeño offerings, and even sweet varieties.
New east side hot spot Koko’s Bavarian is named for the actual prince of Bavaria, Konstantin Prinz von Bayern. The prince is a partner in the local project, an Austin tribute to German beer and brats. The property includes a 400-seat outdoor biergarten and tons of German-style brews, from lagers and hefeweizens to bocks and even IPAs. The food menu celebrates Central Texas’ rich German culture, featuring Bavarian specialties like house-made sausages and schnitzels, giant pretzels, and potato pancakes. If you plan well, you can also imbibe to a backdrop of live music.
At East Austin eatery Llama Kid, the specialty is Peruvian fare. And if you’re not sure what that exactly entails, maybe it’s time to venture into a new neck of the woods, culinarily speaking. Llama Kid’s cebiche bar is a great place to start and highlights proteins like ahi tuna, wild halibut, fried calamari, and even veggie options. Before you know it, you’ll be gobbling up larger plates of pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), arroz chaufa (fried rice with tenderloin), and pulpo anticuchero (grilled octopus).
Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls
It’s fair to say that when this Maryland-based seafood chain rolled into Austin with its first Texas location, lobster lovers happily clawed their way to the downtown oasis. While Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls specializes in the classic roll, the menu also includes additional seafood rolls, like the Connecticut Roll, a lobster BLT roll, a shrimp roll, and the combo Bar Harbor roll, any of the famous rolls topped with more than a pound of lobster. The lobster bisque and clam chowder are pretty darn good, too.
The pandemic has caused all kinds of havoc for the restaurant industry, and even Austin’s most resilient restaurateurs have had to adapt in the light of so much change. That’s one of the more appealing characteristics of chef Christopher Haydostian, who originally opened popular East Austin taqueria Reunion 19 (along with Esdras Ochoa, a semifinalist on Netflix’s The Final Table, and several other chefs) in early 2020, but ended up shuttering the establishment in late 2021. Prior to its closure, the undaunted Haydostian launched his R19 concept as a food trailer in the Hudson Bend community, where it was so well received that the chef was able to parlay that win into a brand-new R19 Taqueria in Lakeway. With a super cool mural backdrop and a smattering of “propah tacos” (served on a variety of stellar house-made tortillas), R19 Taqueria is proof that the comeback is always greater than the setback.
Rosen's Bagel Co.
In 2017, after exhaustively researching the best way to make a quality version of the morning staple, the smart man behind Rosen’s Bagel Co., Tom Rosen, began rolling out his perfect bagels at pop-ups — and consistently sold out. That success led to Rosen’s Bagels landing in a variety of coffee shops and supermarkets (including Whole Foods) throughout town. But it was the opening of Rosen’s own brick-and-mortar bagel shop on Burnet Road in early 2022 that propelled the brand to cream-cheese-of-the-crop status. As they say at Rosen’s, the Austin shop specializes in “traditional bagels, artisanal schmears, house-cured lox, and all other bagel-related needs.”
Austin’s sweeping love of tacos and its insatiable desire for sushi come together in this innovative food truck concept. Texas Sushiko was born from executive chef Michael Carranza’s desire to create an accessible form of the popular omakase sushi experience, one that didn’t require a reservation months in advance and that would appeal to even his non-sushi-loving family members. His idea? Present sushi in the fashion of a well-loved, ubiquitous dish: the taco. The result is Texas Sushiko’s omakase-quality open-faced hand rolls. Menu highlights include the king crab hand roll topped with fresh truffles, the fatty bluefin tuna hand roll with seasonal ingredients, the sous vide and grilled pork belly hand roll with kimchi, and Black River Russian Oscietra caviar served with sour-cream-and-onion Pringles. And since the truck is located outside the Texas Sake Company tasting room in South Austin, a perfectly paired sake beverage is just steps away.
Trudy's Del Mar
Longtime Austin restaurant company Trudy's made a completely different splash in the local restaurant scene when it recently premiered its new Trudy’s Del Mar seafood concept. Located in the alluring space that formerly housed South Congress Cafe, Trudy’s Del Mar, aka the “Tex-Mex of the sea,” features a menu of seafood specialties inspired by traditional coastal Mexican recipes, including lobster tacos, seared fish smothered in Veracruz sauce, and the bountiful Del Mar Grill, with shrimp diablos, lobster tail, and steak fajitas. Small plates like crab cakes and crispy calamari, as well as ceviche and crudos, round out the menu. And it is a spinoff of Trudy’s after all, so of course you can still get an excellent margarita or martini.
Austin’s hot, y’all, so when it was announced that new linked hotel properties Thompson Austin and tommie Austin would house a sumptuous poolside restaurant and bar, it didn’t take much for locals to dive into the indoor-outdoor concept. Wax Myrtle’s, dubbed “a laid-back hideaway among downtown Austin’s urban jungle,” offers everything a summer pool lounger requires: covered cabanas, an oversized fireplace, monthly programming, a menu of contemporary American cuisine, and plenty of curated cocktails ideal for sipping poolside and basking in the gorgeous downtown skyline views. The Wax Myrtle’s menu includes perfect pool snacks (we’re looking at you, charred octopus skewer), as well as heartier fare like burgers, pork chops, and beef ribs. And with an extensive menu of cocktails, beer, and wine, Wax Myrtle’s supplies everything you need to while away an afternoon by the pool.
Originally opened as a pop-up, this permanent food trailer parked at the Aristocrat Lounge in North Austin takes culinary fusion seriously. Named after chef-owner Yeni Rosdiyani, Yeni’s Fusion merges the bold flavors of Indonesian food with the best of American, Mexican, and Tex-Mex fare to create a whole new — and intensely crave-worthy — type of cuisine. Rosdiyani cooks everything from scratch with precision and a real passion for the craft. Start with a tropically spiced wonton pocket appetizer served with tamarind-chile dipping sauce, then move on to chicken porridge (an Indonesian street food known as bubur ayam) and curry over rice, or opt for the Texan-Indonesian fusion dish: coconut cream soup with smoked brisket.