In the past year or so, neighborhood restaurants have become even more cherished, often going above and beyond to help get food to neighbors however they could while bringing a little culinary comfort to Austin’s pandemic-weary communities.
The CultureMap Tastemaker Awards honor these local eateries, which are essential to the neighborhoods they serve. Each of our 2021 Tastemaker nominees for Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year rose to the particularly weighty challenges of the past year and definitely possess the ambitious and hospitable spirit that makes Austin so unique.
Meet this year’s nominees below, then join us August 5 at Fair Market when the Tastemaker Awards returns with our signature tasting event and awards program. Tickets are on sale now. In the meantime, you can support these local eateries by popping into the ones in your ’hood for a tasty bite and a friendly smile.
If the classic taste of the Italian coast gives you a rise, then you’re probably already a rabid fan of Bufalina Due’s Neapolitan-style pizzas, cooked to perfection in a wood-burning oven that’s heated to 900 degrees. While the pizzeria’s sister restaurant on East Cesar Chavez Street, Bufalina, remains temporarily closed, Bufalina Due on Burnet Road has kept the Allandale, Brentwood, and Crestview neighborhoods rolling in dough, offering pizza takeout and pickup service throughout the pandemic. Bufalina Due’s dining room has reopened and guests are welcome to walk in for some slices without a reservation.
This Holly Street gem has become a beloved staple of Austin’s restaurant scene, thanks to the culinary genius of chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki. Long a go-to spot for casual gatherings with friends and Austin visitors, Launderette features a globally inspired menu of seafood dishes like wood-grilled charred octopus and mouthwatering crab toast alongside a variety of American specialties with contemporary flair. Pro tip: Don’t ditch dessert, as Sawicki’s sweet treats, her famed birthday cake ice cream sandwich among them, are delectable enough to make a full meal.
Buenos Aires Cafe
Tucked into a welcoming and particularly delicious-smelling east side spot, Buenos Aires Cafe is an Austin-grown boutique restaurant specializing in chef Reina Morris’ traditional Argentinian cuisine. And the dedication to her family’s heritage, culture, and culinary traditions are clearly displayed in each curated menu item. While the handmade empanadas may rightfully pull you into this neighborhood café, stay for the drool-worthy meaty entrees — and any dish that includes the restaurant’s spectacular organic chimichurri sauce.
There’s only one proper response when offered to dine at Hopfields, a French-style gastropub serving up modern and classic dishes with panache: "oui, s’il vous plait!" Yes, the popular Pascal Burger and fromage board are must-try items, but don’t discount the eatery’s excellent steak tartare, duck-leg confit, and ratatouille dishes (with the fried egg added, of course). Whatever you order, make sure to grab a side of pomme frites (it is a French restaurant, after all). While the restaurant’s university neighborhood location on Guadalupe Street earns the nom in our Tastemaker Awards this year, Hopfields’ new sister spot in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood is sure to become another darling of the local food scene.
Known for serving up perfect steaks and delicate snails, along with a truly impressive selection of wine, this bungalow-housed French and European eatery nestled into the east side is a charming neighborhood spot that boasts an eclectic and casual mood, daily chalkboard specials, and some of the best escargots this side of the Eiffel Tower. Justine’s is open again for dine-in service, with a reimagined yet still endearing space.
Texas French Bread
To the uninitiated, Texas French Bread may come across as a simple bakery. But that notion doesn’t hold a grain of truth. Since the early 1980s, this homegrown bakery and bistro has been treating Austin to freshly baked, made-from-scratch artisan breads, pastries, and desserts. With an emphasis on local, fresh, simple, and nutritious ingredients, Texas French Bread also crafts farm-to-table dishes, house-made sandwiches, soups, and salads, and offers an equally splendid selection of wine.
This peachy neighborhood joint, the brainchild of culinary mastermind Eric Silverstein, has become an Austin sensation, thanks in part to its menu of simple Southern comfort food with an Asian flair. The food is so good, in fact, that Peached Tortilla, which began as a single food truck, has not only blossomed into an adorable Burnet Road brick-and-mortar restaurant, but also spawned a full-service catering company and its Peached Social House venue space. The North Austin eatery, however, remains the go-to neighborhood spot for street-food-centric specialties like Malaysian laksa, charred Brussels, and pork belly bun.
Bouldin Creek Cafe
This beloved bohemian café fits right in in South Austin as the place for vegan and vegetarian fare, serving up handcrafted coffees alongside made-from-scratch breakfast plates, salads, sandwiches, and entrées (do yourself a favor and try the massaman curry bowl). With a very Austin-centric vibe, Bouldin Creek Cafe also embodies the spirit of the Austin community by committing to paying its employees a living wage, fundraising for local causes, donating to those in need, and amplifying the voices of the marginalized.
Chef Iliana de la Vega’s Oaxacan-style neighborhood restaurant in South Austin has garnered an array of accolades and awards throughout the years, thanks to the chef/owner’s dedication to sharing her family roots through traditional Oaxacan cuisine. House-made tortillas, enchiladas, and a variety of crafted sauces so good that you may find yourself licking the plate to get every last bit grace the menu alongside tacos, empanadas, and possibly the best ceviche in Texas.