Where to Eat Austin
Where to Eat Right Now

Where to eat in Austin right now: 6 new restaurants from favorite local chefs

Where to eat right now: 6 new restaurants from favorite Austin chefs

Launderette Endive
Launderette's endive with blue cheese and thyme.  Photo by Melody Fury
Italic Austin
Italic's plates are made for sharing. Photo by Vanessa Escobedo Barba
Counter 3 Five XII duck/uni
Counter's duck and uni dish.  Counter 3.FIVE.XII/Facebook
Launderette Endive
Italic Austin
Counter 3 Five XII duck/uni

Austin's restaurant scene is in full bloom this spring. This season, a number of veteran Austin chefs and restaurateurs are debuting concepts that have long been in the works.

Here are a handful of the best new restaurants from some of Austin's favorite chefs. Experience these new ideas from familiar faces behind some of your past favorites.

Leading the charge in Austin's 2015 debuts: Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki's newest project, Launderette. As the previous chef team behind La Condesa and Sway, expectations were high for this new project. The medium-sized East Austin space is tucked south of Cesar Chavez on a quiet corner and offers a lengthy menu of comfortable favorites.
On a recent visit, our favorites were selections from the toasts (try the crab or soft egg) and vegetables (we recommend the endive with bleu cheese and thyme or the sticky Brussels with pecorino, almond and pickled apple). Reservations are only taken for large groups, so come early, or be prepared to have a drink while you wait. A Cremant or Lambrusco from the sparkling section is a good bet.
Monger's Market & Kitchen
Seafood enthusiasts will be doubly familiar with the partners behind Monger's: Chef Shane Stark helmed the kitchen at Kenichi and Paggi House, while Roberto San Miguel has been a staple at Austin farmers markets for years. Together, they've brought a much-needed fish market and restaurant to 78702.
Early feedback gives high marks to the fish BLT with smoked bacon and chile aioli and the smoked fish dip with pickled chile. A sizable open patio means that evening crowds have discovered this new hangout, so order a bottle of white wine (we suggest the Colomé Torrontes, a bargain at $26) and some oysters upon arrival.
Chef Drew Curren's ELM Restaurant Group just can't miss. 24 Diner, Arro and Easy Tiger have become Austin mainstays over the past six years. Italic offers beloved Italian staples like pizza, fresh pastas and contorni at moderate pricing in downtown. It also takes the mid-century Starr Building modern, while leaving the classic spirit of the space intact.
Master Sommelier Craig Collins curates a wine list that is all Italian yet surprisingly affordable: Few bottles cross the $100 mark, and the menu offers aged selections from as far back as 1987. Plates are designed for sharing: Try the shaved Brussels sprouts salad, crispy polenta and roasted cauliflower to share as starters. Pastas are reasonably priced ($10-$18) and are available in small and large portions. A generous selection of Italian amari and desserts are available to finish your evening.
Sala & Betty
Teresa Wilson's Aquarelle was a downtown mainstay for anniversary dinners and special occasions; it shuttered less from indifference than from the changing real estate market. Wilson's newest idea embraces a locavore focus and the reality of 2015 Austin: It's designed for diners who have good taste but limited time. The restaurant debuted with a drive-thru counter, which presents a selection of to-go meals for four priced at $34. Meals include a pound of beef sirloin, roasted pork shoulder, rotisserie chicken or grilled veggies paired with two sides. There are also build-your-own breakfast biscuits for morning commuters and sandwiches and salads for the lunch crowd.
Inside you'll find the same breakfast selection, but lunch expands with entrees like gulf shrimp with polenta and pickled okra ($10) and a vegetable quiche ($8). For dinner you can get extravagant with lamb chops or albacore tuna or stay casual with fried chicken or a bowl of chicken and dumplings. Patio enthusiasts will dig the large outdoor dining area.
Austin's burgeoning cocktail scene has been missing a reliable tiki bar, but the 2014 debut of Pleasant Storage Room simply didn't connect. Neighbors at classic cocktail bar Peché seized on the bar's surprise closure and have opened their own tiki concept in the space.
There's a generous happy hour with $6 cocktails, a lengthy Caribbean and seafood menu and an excellent drink list focused on rum and tiki specialties. Of those we've sampled, we'd strongly suggest the Jungle Bird (Blackstrap, Campari, lime, Orgeat) and the Barrel of Rum (spiced rum, grapefruit, lime, passion fruit syrup, Angostura) as must-orders. Tip: Isla and Peché make excellent pregame spots for ACL Live and Austin Music Hall shows.
Counter 3.Five.VII
Chef Lawrence Kocurek is no stranger to Austin fine dining. Over the past decade he's helmed the kitchen at Roy's, TRACE and Hyatt Lost Pines and kept a farmers market presence with Kocurek Family Charcuterie. This latest outing, though, feels more like a destination than a mile marker. Nestled just below Swift's Attic on Congress Avenue, the space is distinctive despite its limited size.
The setup is simple: Diners choose a three-, five- or seven-course menu, priced at $45, $75 or $95 (wine pairings are available at an additional charge). There is no traditional wait staff; the chefs take your order and serve your dishes, leading to quite a bit of interaction and chatter. For those patrons who aren't hungry enough for a lengthy meal, a small wine bar offers rare bottles, 16 by the glass selections and charcuterie and cheese boards. A helpful and descriptive video preview is available on Counter's website.