Where to Eat Austin
Where to Eat Now

Where to eat in Austin right now: 7 hot new restaurants for summer 2016

Where to eat in Austin now: 7 hot new restaurants for summer 2016

Irene's Austin
Kick back with no-frills cocktails and loaded sandwiches on Irene's expansive patio. Photo by Melody Fury
Otoko chef Yoshi Okai
Otoko's head chef Yoshi Oakai dishes up an impressive omakase menu. Photo by Melody Fury
Chicon offers a range of bar snacks, small plates, and more substantial mains for sharing. Photo by Melody Fury
This cozy Clarksville hangout is best know for its desserts, but Nightcap's savory plates and cocktails are also worth the trip. Photo by Melody Fury
Irene's Austin
Otoko chef Yoshi Okai

A wave of new restaurants has crashed into Austin’s ever-evolving dining scene. Fiery Thai cuisine, exquisite kaiseki, and a quirky daytime eatery make up a few of the hottest new spots for summer dining. Check out our top picks for the freshest arrivals to try now.

​East Austin did not mourn the loss of avant garde Gardner for long. The Contigo team unveiled this revamped concept that more closely reflects the neighborhood’s laid-back vibe. Warm leather and comfy fabrics replace the once gleaming white walls. The menu stays true to the original locavore concept but now offers a range of bar snacks, small plates, and more substantial mains for sharing. Eclectic flavors like Sea Island pea falafel on pillowy camp bread and grilled octopus with vibrant chili aioli and chimichurri offer diners plenty of options. Cocktails that combine outside-the-box ingredients like fenugreek and arugula surprisingly work.

Dedicated to restaurant partner Chad Gluckson’s grandmother, this spacious urban oasis is Elm Restaurant Group’s latest venture. Authentic airplane panels and old tapestries catch the eye in the dining room, while repurposed garage doors hang over the exterior bar. From 7 am to 2 am, expect easygoing eats like morning pastries, thick-cut sweet and savory toast, blue-plate specials, and loaded sandwiches served on Easy Tiger bread. Kick back with no-frills cocktails along the wire-brushed red pinewood bar or on the expansive, dog-friendly patio.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
This interactive, communal dining experience is a popular way to eat in many East Asian cultures. At Little Sheep, guests are given a hot pot filled with rich broth containing Chinese medicinal herbs, dried chilies, and handfuls of garlic cloves. Diners then place their selection of sliced meats, seafood, and vegetables into the broth to simmer. We recommend ordering the house-made meat and seafood balls, ground lamb dumplings, and porous frozen tofu that soaks up all the goodness. Finish the meal with herbaceous tong-ho (tastes like a cross between watercress and arugula) and the beautiful, springy handmade noodles. Best of all, it’s all-you-can-eat Tuesday nights.

This cozy Clarksville hangout might be best known for its desserts, but Executive Chef Drew Dunston also plates up playful savory dishes ideal for sharing. The sizable charcuterie plate with house-made pretzel chips and the fried chicken with an everything biscuit are especially memorable. Seasonal sweets like the Dreamsicle (vanilla ice cream, orange, creme fraiche, and olive oil cake) is the perfect way to wind down any evening. The cocktail menu leans on the refreshing and nonfussy side and even includes boozy milkshakes.

​Home to the most elusive ticket in town, this 12-seat restaurant offers an intimate and interactive dining experience unlike any Austin has seen. Head Chef Yoshi Okai and his team dish up an impressive, ever-changing omakase menu that combines Tokyo-style sushi and Kyoto-style kaiseki. When diners walk up the nondescript stairs at South Congress Hotel, they enter a dimly lit cocktail bar showcasing unlikely ingredients like squid ink and matcha. Transitioning into the dining room, the personable chef crafts nigiri and intricate small plates that feature hard-to-source ingredients like Shigoku oysters from Washington and incredibly creamy Hokkaido uni. The light-hearted environment, attentive service, and thoughtfully paired plates sweep diners to a faraway place. 

Snooze an A.M. Eatery
Although this morning-fare restaurant is part of a success story that began in Denver, the hip concept fits nicely into Austin’s brunch-loving culture. Add a variety of sparkling morning cocktails and Bloody Marys and this daytime diner is definitely worth a mention. Both south and north locations highlight signatures like the breakfast pot pie (creamy rosemary sausage gravy topped with puff pastry and an egg any style) and the OMG! French Toast (mascarpone-stuffed brioche topped with vanilla creme, salted caramel, fresh strawberries, and toasted coconut). Tailored for Texans, Snooze also dishes up familiar eats like breakfast tacos and a chilaquiles Benedict.

Chef Thai Changthong's long-awaited brick-and-mortar swung its doors open in Rock Rose at The Domain in February to diners' praise. Fans of the food truck can now enjoy snacky appetizers like taro crisps and chicken skins, and hearty family-style plates like sizzling clay pot with shrimp and bean thread noodles. Noodle and rice dishes like Kao Man Gai dominate the lunch menu. Be ready to sweat when ordering seriously spicy staples like larb and papaya salad and wash it down with low ABV cocktails, draft beer, and wine.