There are certain things that happen right now where everything, at least for a moment, almost feels normal — a casual chat with a neighbor, driving with the windows down and the radio up, the release of a perennial best-of list. The most recent list, compiled by Food & Wine, declares one Austin taqueria among the 10 Best New Restaurants in the U.S.
Food & Wine acknowledges the timing of its Best New Restaurants roundup, released June 16, during these strange, extraordinary times.
"Do we really need a list of the country’s best new restaurants, or chefs, right now at this moment in our country’s history?" asks F&W restaurant editor Khushbu Shah in the introduction. "I say yes. A pandemic doesn’t cancel the work that these remarkable chefs and restaurant owners have done over the past year. Maybe these sorts of declarations are cliché at this point, but it was truly an incredible year for dining in America."
In Austin, Food & Wine named Nixta Taqueria among those remarkable restaurants. The unassuming East Austin eatery, tucked away on East 12th Street in Rosewood, opened in October 2019 and has since become one of the buzziest hot spots in the city.
The magazine calls co-owners Edgar Rico and Sara Mardanbigi's decision to open a taco spot in Austin "bold" and praises chef Rico's homemade tortillas made by grinding heirloom corn in-house. "I would pay a very large sum of money to once again spend an afternoon tearing through a plate of duck confit tacos at Nixta Taqueria in Austin," Shah writes.
Nixta has also had its share of pandemic-induced difficulties. Just a few months into a successful launch, COVID-19 gripped the city, causing the pair to pivot to a takeout-only model.
"Though they are surviving for now," Shah writes, "Mardanbigi says she feels like they are operating on borrowed time: 'It makes planning for the future really hard.'"
Nixta joins nine other restaurants from across the U.S., including Los Angeles, Birmingham, and New Orleans. It was the only Texas restaurant to make the list.