If there were ever a more challenging time to open a new restaurant than during a hospitality-industry-crushing pandemic, we’ll eat our words. But we’re pretty sure Austin diners will agree that the city’s newest restaurants deserve some serious kudos served up on a silver platter.
Above and beyond the normal obstacles involved with opening an eatery, these new Austin restaurants faced unrivaled barriers to their success — yet exceeded all expectations to become shining stars in the vast, unrelenting cosmos that is the Austin restaurant scene. That’s why we’re delighted to highlight Austin’s 16 best new restaurants of the past year during our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards event.
But new restaurants can’t exist in a vacuum; they rely on the regular support and feedback from local foodies like you. So, we’re turning to our readers to weigh in and choose the 2021 winner for Austin’s Best New Restaurant.
Our annual tournament begins with 16 nominees — read all about them below — but only those with the most votes will advance to the next round. Vote for your favorites here, and come back once a day to vote throughout the tournament, which runs through August 3.
Then join us August 5 at Fair Market for the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. We’ll reveal the winner during our live awards ceremony and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Austin’s restaurants and bars. Tickets are on sale now.
Abby Jane Bakeshop
Pastry chef and Austin restaurant industry veteran Abby Jane Love is one smart cookie. That’s why she cooked up a symbiotic working relationship with Barton Springs Mill, which is housed in the same Dripping Springs locale as Abby Jane Bakeshop. The association means Austin-area lovers of all things baked reap the rewards in the form of amazingly satisfying pastries, pizzas, quiches, cakes, and breads — all made with stone-milled, heritage flours.
It’s fair to say Austin’s barbecue fanatics have gone hog wild for pitmaster and chef Damien Brockway’s Distant Relatives barbecue food truck. Specializing in “modern African American” eats and leaning into flavors of pecan and smoke and kicked-up spice, Distant Relatives features a meat-tastic menu of pulled-pork and brisket sandwiches, craveable snacks and sides (we’re looking at you, green mango slaw!), and, of course, all the pork spareribs, chicken legs, and beef brisket barbecue connoisseurs get fired up for.
Now located at Meanwhile Brewing Company, Dough Boys doesn’t use the excuse that just because it’s a food truck, it can’t cook up some stellar pizza creations. Dough Boys Tony Curet and Max Tilka toil over an 800-pound wood-fired oven to bake up truly impressive Neapolitan-style pies so good you’ll be perfectly happy to burn the roof of your mouth while scrambling for that first saucy bite. From pizza classics to veggie focused pies like the Live From the Garden pizza featuring rotating seasonal ingredients, you can’t go wrong. And don’t forget to grab a side of dang delicious garlic knots.
Fil N’ Viet
Chef Kevin Truong’s East Austin food truck is the epitome of fusion food done well. Featuring a blend of authentic Filipino and Vietnamese cuisine that reps his Vietnamese background and wife Rosie Mina-Truong’s Filipino heritage, Fil N’ Viet’s menu is comprised of drool-worthy snacks (try the Sing Sang Wings), rice plates (the braised and grilled beef ribs plate is a must-try dish), and sammies (the Crispy Sisig banh mi will change your life), but the food won’t be outdone by the drinks menu. The Vietnamese cold brew with condensed milk may be Austin’s best pick-me-up.
Honey Moon Spirit Lounge
Austin has fallen head over heels for this adorable new campus-area eatery and bar. And what’s not to love? The passion project of Austin couple Reed Calhoun and Adrienne Wiggins, Honey Moon Spirit Lounge is bedecked with lavish décor, vintage elements, and lots of lounge-y corners. And the menu — ranging from bites that pair perfectly with the craft cocktails to heavier fare like a Wagyu burger and rabbit confit — features locally sourced ingredients prepared by the deft hands of chef Manuel Rocha.
JewBoy Sub Shop
As they say at JewBoy Sub Shop, “It’s time to get meshugganah!” This feast of a sandwich parlor — inspired by owner Mo Pittle’s ties to Cleveland and Philadelphia and his upbringing in El Paso — offers a blend of border and Jewish culture, not unlike Pittle’s other popular concept, JewBoy Burgers. A scrumptious variety of hot and cold sandwiches anchor the menu, from the Southside Carne Asada to the Chutzpah Chicken Schnitzel and the sirloin-smothered Deep End Dip — all for not a lot of bread.
If you’ve never had Korean braised barbecue, you’re missing out on some seriously special cuisine. Luckily, you don’t have to go far to enjoy this spicy, meaty fare. South Lamar spot Jjim specializes in soul-satisfying dumplings, Korean pancakes, tofu-based soups, grilled and sauteed dishes like bulgogi and baby octopus stir-fry, and, of course, an unforgettable array of braised barbecue like the beef short rib jjim, spicy pork rib jjim, and beef oxtail jjim.
Pizzerias are on the rise in Austin these days, but new Manor Road pie shop Love Supreme has the distinction of being backed by successful restaurateurs and brothers Ryan McElroy and Wade McElroy, who, between them, have launched several sought-after concepts, including Austin’s Bird Bird Biscuit and Thunderbird Coffee. At Love Supreme, pizza and good vibes live as one, and the 13-inch pies, particularly the roasted garlic pizza and the eponymous Love Supreme pizza, will definitely leave you smitten.
Lutie’s Garden Restaurant at the Commodore Perry Estate is Austin’s Jazz Age-inspired embodiment of The Great Gatsby, featuring a chic blend of European charm and Texas hospitality. The restaurant’s overwhelmingly charming interior and surroundings, including lush sunken gardens, are almost as bewitching as executive chef Bradley Nicholson’s and executive pastry chef Susana Querejazu’s cuisine. Menu highlights include Yonder Way pork with pickled cabbage and creamer peas, charcoal-grilled chicken with leeks and hominy, and royal red shrimp with daikon and celery. For dessert, the kouign-amann ice cream can’t be beat.
Featuring “cuisine fit for a queen,” Mumtaz Market, the sister restaurant of now-shuttered longtime Austin fave G’Raj Mahal, serves up a “sensuous” menu of South Asian creations in the cherished South Austin neighborhood of Bouldin Creek. Highlights include starters like the scrumptious deconstructed samosa, a variety of traditional curry dishes, lunch and happy hour specials, and excellent entrées, including mutton vindaloo, seafood bouillabaisse, pork rechaad, and gnocchi saag.
Plank Seafood Provisions
Newly opened at the Domain, Plank Seafood Provisions is a coastally inspired oyster bar and seafood grill. And while the décor includes wooden boat-shaped sculptures, nautical rope accents, and sea-style artwork, there’s nothing fishy about how this eatery approaches seafood. Plank is committed to sustainably and responsibly sourcing seafood, even going so far as to provide sourcing details about every fish, fish roe, shellfish, and meat product on its menu. From an impressive raw bar to sharable plates and wood-grilled selections, Austin’s seafood lovers are sure to get hooked.
Farm-driven Qi Modern Asian Kitchen is focused on traditional Chinese cuisine created with the freshest ingredients from partner farm Wu Lanfang in Manor. Farm-fresh produce, herbs, honey, and eggs — along with chef Ling Qi’s family recipes — contribute to the superiority of her lunch, dinner, and brunch dishes. While entrées like the Szechuan peppercorn alligator, Cantonese fried whole fish, and Jingdo pork chop are standouts, the dim sum apps (and more significant dim sum brunch menu) make a pretty spectacular meal on their own.
Vegan fare has gone rogue at this darling “outdoor restaurant on wheels” on the east side. With the goal of providing Austinites with a tasty, balanced lunch option, Rogue Radish founders Max Snyder and his wife, Jenny, are serving up vegan grain bowls, soups, salads, and sides that are so good, you won’t miss the meat or dairy. But for those who aren’t ready to take the vegan plunge, just get your goat: Rogue’s Goat on Rice (marinated organic goat loin served with sticky rice, black beans, and veggies).
Pizza pop-up turned west side pizza shop Sammataro brings the beloved pizza culture of New York to the Capital City, with founder Issac Flores’ menu embracing both tradition and just enough playful irreverence to make it a great fit for Austin. The 48-hour fermented dough makes for a perfectly thin and chewy crust, and the white pie, with a ricotta cream base, everything bagel crust, chives, and freshly squeezed lemon juice, is a little slice of heaven.
Small but mighty market and deli Tiny Grocer on South Congress Avenue in the heart of South Austin is owner Steph Steele’s adorable pandemic-born neighborhood creation. And having purchased the building that previously housed longtime Austin treasure Farm to Market Grocery, she has a keen understanding of the space’s importance to locals, humbly presenting her Tiny Grocer to a neighborhood happy to welcome her. Featuring breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, pastries, pre-made grab-and-go items, and a good selection of beer and wine, Tiny Grocer can absolutely be considered a super market.
In this day and age, there are those times when you’re simultaneously desperate for a muffuletta, a daiquiri to go, and, well, a notary public. Thankfully, Rachelle Fox and Chadwick Leger created just such a concept with Wicky’s Walkup, a fast-casual walkup bodega located in East Austin at their neighborhood bar, The Cavalier. In addition to the muffulettas and daiquiris, Wicky’s features tasty salads, rolls, tots, and ridiculously good breakfast biscuits. Try the Naughty Girl (ham, egg, and Swiss cheese on a buttermilk biscuit) to start your day off the right way.