There were already signs that Suerte restaurateur Sam Hellman-Mass and executive chef Fermín Nuñez would have a very good year back in July 2018. Barely three months after debuting their East Austin Mexican concept that March, it landed on Eater national restaurant editor Bill Addison’s annual Best New Restaurants in America list.
Six days after that, Bon Appétit weighed in, placing the restaurant among the finalists for its best new restaurants list. Since then, everyone from Texas Monthly to the James Beard Foundation to CultureMap’s own Tastemaker Awards panel has agreed that Suerte was the valedictorian of Austin’s 2018 freshman class.
Now the East Sixth Street restaurant is adding another feather to its cap. On May 21, Food & Wine named Suerte a Best New Restaurant for 2019. The masa-obsessed eatery came in at No. 2, behind Philadelphia’s Cadence. The only other Texas restaurant to land a spot was Houston’s Indigo, which placed at No. 7. Notably, 2019 marks the first year that the magazine presented the feature as a ranked list.
Coming up with the list was no easy task, explained editor in chief Hunter Lewis in a release.
“Over the past year, [restaurant editor-at-large] Jordana Rothman and our team pulled up chairs at new restaurants all over the country — from Queens to Austin, and New Orleans to Los Angeles, and dozens of cities in between. Each of the 10 Best New Restaurants that made the list inspired us with their dedication to their communities and the work cultures they’ve created.”
Rothman was particularly taken with the heirloom masa program at the restaurant, calling it the "earthy bedrock that supports everything at Suerte." As has become a near-universal refrain for national critics, the "black magic oil" used on the suadero tacos was also singled out for casting an "irresistible spell."
Though many copy inches have been devoted to Suerte's appeal, Rothman may have summed it up most neatly. "In a city with generations of Tex-Mex bona fides, Núñez has flipped the ratio on its head. 2019: the year of Mex-Tex."