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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.