It’s difficult to keep up with all the recent restaurant openings in town, and there's more to come (including the reopening of Hudson's on the Bend, chef Joe Anguiano’s new concept El Burro, Jacoby’s sister Grizzelda’s, and Chinese-American Old Thousand). To tide you over, here are eight brand-new, high-profile restaurants to dine in Austin right now.
Café Blue Downtown
The new outpost of this seafood-centric favorite has opened, aptly, in the space once occupied by Roy’s. The ample menu by executive chef Ben Nathan is similar to the Bee Cave location, with daily featured specials unique to the downtown spot and a raw oyster bar. We liked the fried calamari with an inventive Asian slant and the redfish Louisiane, blackened and topped with Cajun shrimp and crawfish in a brandy cream sauce, but there are plenty of options for those who prefer turf to surf. Happy hour goes on all day Monday and 3-6 pm Tuesday-Friday with half-price select oysters on the half shell; shrimp appetizers; and wines by the glass, frozen margaritas, draft beer, and pitchers of cocktails.
Austin’s newest plant-based restaurant is off to a successful start thanks to its inventive menu and fast-casual setting. Try one of the signature botanical cocktails — the current selection includes a seasonal blend of spiced rum infused with persimmons and fall flavors, topped with Kosmic Kombucha’s Purple Haze — while nibbling on seasoned roasted cashews. The burgers make a satisfying lunch, with protein-rich, house-made vegetarian patties piled high with fresh lettuce and tomato, grilled onions, and various signature sauces. For dinner, try a heartier alternative like the fresh-cut vegetable noodles topped with a savory bolognese tinged with Southwestern spices.
Culinary Dropout/Flower Child
Although these Domain Northside newcomers are mini-chain outposts from Fox Restaurant Group, their vibe, ambiance, and menu offerings fit right in with Austin’s youthful culture.
Culinary Dropout, opening November 17, is a fun hangout open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. The airy patio offers a backyard vibe with lawn games, while the spacious dining room features live music five nights a week and a stunning glass-enclosed kitchen. We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the offerings, from the signature cocktails to the varied menu items. We enjoyed the sweet-and-spicy kick of the Thai chile wings, the texture and flavor combination of the butternut squash and kale salad, and the savory simplicity of the perfectly-cooked Korean-style rib-eye. Flower Child is a fast-casual, counter-service option for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free fare in a contemporary setting. Expect salads, wraps, and grain bowls with choice of protein in enticing international flavors.
We are thrilled with this lovely new South Lamar spot, from the incredible decor to the seasonal menu. The Cedar Tavern is ideal to kick off that special evening with a glass of bubbles or to meet over drinks with friends. Move to the dining room and order the wood-roasted oysters Angelina or a charcuterie and cheese board, then take your time deciding on one of the enticing entrees offered. If your wallet permits, try one of the sharable selections like the Pot of Goodness, featuring lobster tails, Gulf Coast redfish and shrimp, littleneck clams, lobster broth, and wood-roasted vegetables. Do not overlook dessert, as executive pastry chef Natalie Gazaui is dishing some exciting and delightful options.
Mour Café + Pantry
The South Shore District is thrilled to have this cute cafe and specialty convenience grocery store in the area. The comfortable, bright space offers a few tables and a bar counter serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in addition to wine by the glass and local brews by the growler. Breakfast goes from fruit and yogurt parfaits to breakfast tacos and sandwiches, sunny side up egg over creamy grits, and fresh squeezed juices and smoothies. Lunch is sandwich-focused, including a tasty grilled cheese with apples, but there are also pulled pork tacos with chunky mango pico de gallo, individual pizzas, and salads. We enjoyed a scratch-made broccoli cheese soup, perfect for the changing weather. Dinner gets a little fancier, with items like beef carpaccio and lobster linguini.
This anticipated Italian eatery from prolific restaurateurs Larry Foles, Guy Villavaso, and executive chef John Carver opened in the Colorado Tower last month, and we cannot recommend it highly enough. Although its design leans toward modern industrial, the space exudes warmth, thanks in part to the smell of the oak firewood emanating from the open kitchen. The downstairs bar and lounge area are outfitted with cozy leather booths, while a mezzanine dining room provides city views.
Carver, former executive chef and partner of Eddie V’s, Wildfish, and Roaring Fork, spent time traveling throughout Italy and cooking in some of New York’s most popular Italian eateries in preparation for opening Red Ash. The menu comprises Italian classics and modern dishes, with appetizers that go from elegant crudos to oreganata-style clams baked with garlic, white wine, and herbed Grana Padano bread crumbs. The potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and speck may be the best we’ve ever had — so soft and fluffy they melt in the mouth. The giant portion of fork-tender veal osso buco, topped with gremolata and served with traditional risotto milanese, is enough for two. The bar offers specialty cocktails and a thoughtful wine selection, with specials during a weekday happy hour. Go there now.
Salt Traders Coastal Cooking
This latest endeavor from executive chef Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s fame is a welcome addition to Round Rock’s growing restaurant scene. The space is ample and comfortable, with a seaside vibe, lots of character, and a unique aesthetic. Although heavily seafood-centric, the ample menu includes options for all tastes, with salads, soups, and even a steak from the oak-fired grill. State-of-the-art kettles allow staff to prepare soups and stews in minutes, as well as special seafood boils and oyster bakes.
From the regular menu we loved the New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, which comes with grilled slices of an amazing house-made sourdough to sop up every drop of the sauce, and the crunchy fried shrimp and fish combo, served with hand-cut fries and house tartar and cocktail sauces. Daily happy hour features drink specials and half-off all "beginnings." Don’t miss the best Bloody Mary in town, a light yet flavorful drink made with Tito’s, fresh tomato water, and a blend of spices that includes house Worcestershire sauce.