From Italian to dim sum: Local chefs dish on what's missing from Austin's restaurant scene
We live in a city saturated with restaurants, bars, breweries, bakeries, farmers markets and food trailers. It's no secret that Austin has garnered acclaim over the years for its evolving food scene, and while that acclaim is deserved, we — like any other city — have our culinary shortcomings. Cities like New York, New Orleans, San Francisco and Los Angeles serve as melting pots for culturally diverse fare. And when diversity is present, an exciting level of creativity and experimentation can be achieved throughout the whole dining scene.
Sure, we have our glorious breakfast tacos, up-and-coming barbecue stops, signature farm-to-table fare and craft breweries, but there are gaps that need to be filled. So, just where could the Austin food scene use improvement? CultureMap reached out to local chefs to find out just what's missing in Austin's culinary landscape.
KoreanBarbecue — "Korean barbecue and ethnic food in general is missing in South Austin, which is where I live. There are a lot of more upscale ethnic foods in South Austin, but the more down-home ethnic options are further up north." — Jessica Maher, co-owner and executive pastry chef of Lenoir
Parrillada — "I wish there was a South American parrillada in Austin. Parrilla, which is a style of grill used for cooking, is something I miss and crave pretty often. Grilled sweet breads with lots of lemon juice, blood sausage, chinchulin, choto, chorizo — that’s all stuff I grew up eating in Uruguay. There are a lot of steak houses and barbecue joints here, and I don’t know why we don’t have parrilladas here. I think it would go over well in a state that loves its meat." — Natalie Gazaui, pastry chef of Perla's and Jeffrey's
Italian-American — "Italian-American food is missing. I miss the hell out of East Coast-style spaghetti and meatballs, veal Parmesan, escarole soup, chicken marsala — the classic-type places. Even an Italian specialty market that sells lupini beans, stuffed cherry peppers, soups, sausage and peppers, bakery pizza, Italian ice ... you get the idea." — Sonya Cote, chef/owner of Eden East
African cuisines — "Obviously, I feel like Chinese food of a certain quality is underrepresented in Austin, and we’re aiming to change that with [my new restaurant] Wu Chow. Beyond that, I feel like a good souvlaki is really hard to find. African food, as well." — Mat Clouser, executive chef of Swift’s Attic and Wu Chow
Lebanese, Thai and Peruvian — “[I’d like to see] more ethnic food, like Lebanese and authentic Thai that isn’t fusion. Peruvian food, too. Austin is growing exponentially and the beauty of that is more cultural diversity, but I don’t think opening more ethnic restaurants has caught on just yet.” — Alex Taylor, owner of Due Forni
Diversity outside of downtown — "I think generally spreading out diversity geographically, and having cuisines represented in both North and South Austin [is necessary].” — Jessica Maher, co-owner and executive pastry chef of Lenoir
"We don't have that many different kinds of ethnic neighborhoods so we can't just point to a specific part of town and say, 'Go there and try to find what you like' in a way that you can in cities like Los Angeles or New York ... We'll get there, but I think the population has boomed well ahead of those types of places." — Mat Clouser, executive chef of Swift’s Attic and Wu Chow
Asian fare — "I'm a sucker for all things Asian. I would stay in Austin forever if there were more healthy, fresh, ingredient-driven Thai joints, Korean barbecue and good, clean dim sum." — Sonya Cote, chef/owner of Eden East
Reasonable prices — "I eat out a lot and what always strikes me is how challenging it is to find restaurants that offer high-quality food at reasonable prices. The farm-to-table movement has been transformative in the Austin food scene — and I mean transformative in a positive way — but just because a meal is locally sourced doesn’t mean the bill for two people should approach $100. There are some standby places like Hyde Park Bar & Grill and Bouldin Creek Café that consistently deliver a great product at a reasonable price, but they’re the exception rather than the rule." — Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Cafe
Family-friendly — "Family-friendly restaurants with really good food [are missing]. If we could combine Dai Due and a playground, that would be perfect." — Jessica Maher of Lenoir
Wild game — "I don't know why we don't see a wild game restaurant in town. A lot of people have one or possibly two dishes utilizing wild game, but I would love to see a full menu of cool, cutting-edge proteins. There are some options within driving distance that are very cool, but it is hard to get out to these options for many people. I'm sure there is a market for exotic and wild game in Austin, and I would definitely be a customer." — Rob Snow of The Scarlet Rabbit