HOTTEST HEADLINES OF 2023
Austin's tastiest food stories of 2023: Tex-Mex triumphs and barbecue slow burns
Editor's note: As 2023 comes to a close, we're looking back at the stories that defined Austin this year, and that includes our ever-changing restaurant scene. Austinites were most interested in new Mexican restaurants, recommendations from the pros, and barbecue rivalries. And that's all that matters in food, right? Winning. Here are the top 10 restaurant headlines of 2023.
1. Austin taco chain torches the competition in USA Today's best fast-casual list. Torchy's Tacos was honored alongside widespread favorites — the likes of Qdoba, Chipotle, and Mod Pizza — in USA Today's 10Best readers' choice awards.
2. Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant. Bacalar opened overlooking Town Lake, after years of preparation and following controversy surrounding the chef's departure from his last role, at Comedor.
3. 10 chilled sweets and drinks to cool down the blazing Austin summer. Most Austinites know where their favorite ice cream is, but these 10 businesses have new seasonal flavors, unique pastry offerings, and delicious drinks, too.
4. Live in your Barbie world with these 10+ themed Austin parties, treats, and more. Austin turned pink with excitement for Barbie, the Greta Gerwig film that had people everywhere obsessed with a movie they hadn't seen yet.
5. Mexico City restaurant group opens second U.S. location in Southwest Austin. Representing the genuine culture, traditions, and history of Mexico, La Popular brings authentic Mexican cuisine in an elevated, energetic atmosphere.
6. Austin gets the burnt end of the brisket in recent ranking of best U.S. barbecue cities. Barbecue should be a slow heat, but Austin was burnt to a crisp in a new list of the top U.S. cities for barbecue. The very chill, country-ish capital only made No. 12.
7. These 16 contenders are competing for the title of best new Austin restaurant. These nominees were picked by our Tastemakers judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — for you, the readers.
8. Austin outspends other Texas cities on brisket and ribs — but not on one other barbecue staple. In a contest of sorts, judged in retrospect by transaction processing app Square, the capital city spent $1.1 million on brisket.
9. East Austin barbecue family holds strong against neighborhood developers. The owner of Sam's BBQ, Brian Mays, remembers what it was like when his father first bought the restaurant from his friend, Sam, in 1957.
10. Austin's new favorite Mexican restaurant scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list. Este, the only Texas restaurant on the main list, earned recognition for its ceviche, oysters with salsa negra and chiltepin mignonette, fried fish tacos, and more.