Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Texas Monthly editor Patricia Sharpe has published her list of Texas' Best New Restaurants in 2023. Numbered one to 10, it’s open to establishments that opened between December 1, 2021 and December 1, 2022, and it must be a restaurant's first Texas location.

Notably, it’s Texas Monthly’s first ranked list of best new restaurants since 2020. Due to the challenges restaurants faced in 2021 and 2022, the magazine shared a longer list of favorite dishes and drinks from restaurants across the state. Now, the article has returned to its familiar format.

After riffing on a few topics, including the rise of shareable dishes — she calls out shared desserts where restaurants “hand you a spoon as if it were a five-year-old’s birthday party” — diners dressing casually at all styles of restaurants, and ever-earlier happy hours, Sharpe finds the overall state of Texas restaurants to be pretty strong.

“This relaxed approach to dining works well with the trend toward creative, mix-and-match cooking, which has been gaining ground for years,” she writes. After describing the various culinary traditions represented on this year’s list — including four French-influenced restaurants — she concludes with an observation, “Cross-cultural cooking used to be dismissed as ‘confusion cuisine.’ Now it’s business as usual.”

Two Austin establishments make Sharpe's top 10: Diner Bar(No. 2), a Southern-inspired restaurant from James Beard Award winner Mashama Bailey, and Maie Day (No. 9), a casual steakhouse from Olamaie chef-owner Michael Fojtasek. Suerte's sister concept,Este, makes the honorable mentions.

Sharpe praises Diner Bar as a "bastion of unpredictability," citing Bailey's seared lobe of duck liver on Texas heirloom grits topped with a dab of sweet strawberry mostarda. "But it's the experiments that dazzle," she write, "like savory-sweet roasted young carrots and dates with an Ethiopian spice mix on a bed of barley and farro. No wonder Bailey won the 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef."

Meanwhile, at Maie Day — which Sharpe says "might be the most unexpected steakhouse in town" — Michael Fojstasek's most exciting dishes are those with a novel twist, such as the ham plate appetizer with buttery cornbread muffins; "What the Fluke" flounder crudo with pickled blueberries and fresh seasonal fruit; and the "far-from-predictable cheesecake."

San Antonio also gets two restaurants on the list — French-influenced Southern spot Restaurant Claudine (No. 4) and French bistro Cullum’s Attaboy (No. 10). Italian restaurant Allora and Mediterranean restaurant Ladino (from Austin's Emmer & Rye group) receive honorable mentions.

Otherwise, Houston restaurants lead the way with three in the top 10. They are seafood restaurant Navy Blue (No. 1), modern Israeli restaurant Hamsa (No. 3), and Pacha Nikkei (No. 6), a restaurant serving Japanese-Peruvian fusion. Southern comfort food restaurant Gatlin’s Fins and Feathers and Mexican-inspired Flora earn honorable mentions.

Up north, two Dallas restaurants make the top 10: Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina (No. 5) and Au Troisième (No. 8), the French bistro in Preston Center. Chef Nick Badovinus' prime rib restaurant Brass Ram earns an honorable mention. Fort Worth's Don Artemio, the upscale Mexican restaurant in the Museum District, also make the top ten (No.7), while Tim Love’s Italian restaurant Caterina’s and the revamped Paris Coffee Shop make the list of honorable mentions.

In terms of notable omissions, three of the four Texas restaurants that earned James Beard Award semifinalist nominations for America’s Best New Restaurant do not appear on Texas Monthly’s list. They are: Houston Mexican restaurant Tatemó, Dallas sushi restaurant Tatsu, and Restaurant Beatrice, a Cajun restaurant in Dallas.

The full list in order is as follows:

  • Navy Blue, seafood restaurant in Houston (No. 1)
  • Diner Bar, Southern restaurant in Austin (No. 2)
  • Hamsa, modern Israeli restaurant in Houston (No. 3)
  • Claudine, French-influenced Southern restaurant in San Antonio (No.4)
  • Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina, Mexican in Dallas (No. 5)
  • Pacha Nikkei, Japanese-Peruvian fusion in Houston (No. 6)
  • Don Artemio, Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth (No. 7)
  • Au Troisième, French bistro in Dallas (No. 8)
  • Maie Day, casual steakhouse in Austin (No. 9)
  • Attaboy, French bistro in San Antonio (No. 10)

Classics, newcomers, and pop-ups: Our editors share their favorite Austin meals of 2022

Top Meals of 2022

We at CultureMap love sending readers to events before they happen, but sometimes we miss out on telling y’all how we really feel once we’ve seen them, too. We spent 2022 enjoying meals all over Austin — from public openings, to private events, to our everyday favorites that aren’t necessarily making news — and we’ll remember some of them for years to come.

The Austin food scene offers lots of variety not just in cuisine, but in service style, price, formality, and wisdom imparted. Some meals say something; others are just designed to be enjoyed. That our top 10 meals run the gamut means Austin is doing all of it well — and we want to make sure those wins are celebrated.

Here are the 10 meals we thought most about in 2022.

Classic: Juniper
With new restaurants opening almost every week, some Austin diners never settle on their select few favorites. But as the pandemic so painfully taught us, we also have to consistently support the restaurants we want to survive. Juniper is one that will always make my list. First, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, thanks to interior design from architect Chris Sanders. But unlike some more recent ‘Instagrammable’ spots, the menu is even better than the view. Chef Nic Yanes’ puffy potatoes are a must, paired with the Chef’s Negroni and my favorite cacio e pepe in town. These are just a few reasons why my husband and I chose Juniper for our small February wedding last year, but we’ve loved that absolute steal of a tasting menu for years. — Hannah J. Frías, Editor: Austin and San Antonio

Out-of-the-box: A Fun(gi) Night with Smallhold
When I told my friend I was growing mushrooms in my laundry room, he was horrified. Luckily (this was important context I forgot to add), I’d just spent an unreasonably fun night at Doc's Drive In Theatre and its neighbor, a mushroom farm called Smallhold, out in Buda. We got to tour the chilly, sterile farm; pick our own ‘shrooms and bring home the substrate blocks; and head over to Doc’s for snacks and a mycological presentation on the big screen. We tried mushroom shawarma and a very stealthily vegetarian frito pie (with mushrooms rather than beef) made at the concession stand. My lion’s mane mushies grew beautifully with little to no intervention, and I know I can always check Smallhold’s recipe collection for inspiration. —Brianna Caleri, Associate Editor

Sushi: Sushi | Bar (a tie with Uchi)
This speakeasy sushi spot has been one of the most coveted reservations in town since it started as a pop-up during the pandemic: One couple we shared the 10-person seating with had driven all the way from Temple just for the night. (They planned to drive back, but I am not convinced they didn’t find a last-minute Austin hotel after all that sake). Sushi | Bar is probably one of the most intimate and unique dining experiences I have ever had, so I’d say it’s well worth the hype (and the price), but I would nonetheless consider it a tie with Uchi for my best sushi of 2022. I risked my life driving there for happy hour during that crazy August flood, but pastry chef Ariana Quant’s desserts were honestly worth it. — HJF

Ramen: Preview dinner at Marufuku
I had to wait almost a month between publishing news of Marufuku (a well-loved San Francisco ramen restaurant) opening in Austin and the actual opening, and I thought about it the whole time. I’m a Tatsu-ya girl all the way — chewy yellow noodles and the black pepper at the bottom of the lighter assari broth in the ‘Ol’ Skool’ can’t be beat — but sometimes I need the world’s cloudiest tonkotsu broth. I was excited to have any new ramen joint, and I stayed excited because I couldn’t see anything beyond a millimeter of Marufuku’s tonkotsu, as opaque as Michi’s. The next day I took a congealed block of collagen out of my fridge. It’s also the only place I know of in Austin since Daruma closed that serves chicken slices instead of pork in some bowls, and the toppings are super generous. — BC

Best Views: Nido
Austin’s rapid development definitely drives a hot debate: Are we getting better or are we just getting bigger? Nido is a new spot that walks a fine line in that regard, nestled as it is in a new luxury condo and hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake. But even longtime Austinites who decry the decreasing number of protected views of the Texas State Capitol (hi, Mom!) would have to admit that Nido’s patio views are pretty matchless. As for the dining experience, our highlights were the Murder Point oysters (which we now seek out wherever we can find them) and the delightfully fresh cocktails. Be prepared to spend a pretty penny here, but the views did already lure us back, and I definitely plan to return in 2023. — HJF

Most camp: Tiki Tatsu-ya x Howler Brothers Launch Luau
We don’t have theme parks in Austin (and if we did, I wouldn’t wait in line), so Tiki Tatsu-ya’s island oasis is especially exciting stuff. I included this luau in our weekly food news column but lassoed a friend into paying full price with me, with little difficulty. We ate fancy spam (novel and exciting!), fried rice, and delicious tropical jams in the dimly-lit upper deck, where early afternoon does not exist. The star(s) of the show were the cocktails in fun tiki mugs and shot glasses served in rounds on model ships, with an immersive side of stormy lights and rumbling thunder. Tiki Tatsu-ya did something other serious bars often shy away from, serving us seriously over-the-top, sweet, and playful cocktails without anything understated to hide behind. — BC

Rebrand: 1417 French Bistro
Originally opened in 2021 as 1417 Bistro, this little South First Street spot rebranded to 1417 French Bistro in 2022 to reflect its more zeroed-in focus on French cuisine. In August, I sampled their fresh takes on French classics like escargot, French onion soup, and poisson meunière. Each dish shined in its simplicity, striking a savory balance without going overboard — and isn’t that really the beauty of French cuisine? That is certainly the goal chef Kyle Mulligan shared with us at our first visit, and while we haven’t made it back yet, I am sure he is only continuing to improve upon that foundation with each seasonal rotation. Bonus: Romantic date night atmosphere where you can actually enjoy an intimate conversation without shouting. — HJF

Reliable: Plow Burger
Sometimes, as a food writer, you assume your next meal will be a no-brainer. You check your calendar — nothing. You didn’t buy groceries. So you head to your favorite burger joint that absolves you of meat-guilt, Plow Burger. The trucks at Hyde Park Market and the Buzz Mill saved my day countless times in 2022, while simultaneously giving me excuses to visit great neighborhood spots. The Hyde Park truck sadly closed, but the other two Austin locations (including the brick-and-mortar on East 7th) are still happily slinging Beyond Meat patties, amazing vegan American cheese, beefy fries, and crispy “chicken” nuggets. I wish I could tell you what the specials are like, but I can’t convince myself to sacrifice a Campfire Burger for it. — BC

Homemade: Chicken Pozole Verde from The Big Texas Cookbook by Texas Monthly
Food writers might hate to admit it, but we do sometimes eat at home, so it was a delightful surprise to receive an extensive guide to Texas’ most iconic foods right on my doorstep in early fall. For their impressive roundup of Lone Star State staples, Texas Monthly surveyed both award-winning chefs and longtime Texans for homemade recipes from across the state. Even if you don’t try a single recipe, the book is a treasure trove of Texas culinary history. But experiment, I did, making the chicken pozole verde (p. 86) for my El-Paso born husband, which delighted him so much, we added it to our Christmas menu for his family’s holiday visit. Many thanks to Texas Monthly for a new staple in our home — and to Dallas chef Anastacia Quinones-Pittman for helping me hit a home run with the in-laws. — HJF

Communal: Chef Andrew Zimmern’s South by Southwest dinner at Malverde
Some press dinners are run like dinner parties, and no one throws a dinner party like Chef Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods. Chef Zimmern, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme in a Grateful Dead apron, was celebrating the filming of Hope In The Water, a docuseries about sustainably sourcing “blue foods” (i.e. anything that comes from the water). My favorite parts of the four-course dinner were Chef Ann Kim’s poke-like “bibim” bowl with farmed trout and Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s very famous Basque cheesecake with salty sea grapes. It was interesting to learn about overfishing solutions besides not consuming fish, but I would have been happy just snacking on Easy Tiger’s bread and kelp butter, too. — BC



The cool color palette matches Juniper's namesake tree.

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Behind the scenes with the photo studio that captured Austin's attention at SXSW

ATX Exposure

Nativas Studios has been on 5th Street since last summer, but it was all-in street marketing during South by Southwest (SXSW) that brought its biggest crowds. Co-owner and stylist Liz Valadez stationed her husband at the door like a town crier offering free professional headshots, which the team turned out in minutes flat. This, the founders decided, would mark the studio’s official launch.

Inside were Valadez herself, co-owner and photographer Richelle Monae, and their favorite makeup artist, Angelo Pegran, each working on different steps of an editorial process sped up for curious crowds.

“It was so cool just to see how, when people actually said that they were going to go, that they showed up,” says Monae, marveling over the reliability of Austinites they met at the chaotic festival, and perhaps forgetting that free headshots are a contemporary holy grail.

The Nativas creators, from Los Angeles, are still getting used to their new surroundings. It was a trial by fire — or more accurately, ice — when the two first arrived in 2021 with their partners, considering a personal move before the photo idea was even born. Staying in an Airbnb, the group had its first impression of the Texas city completely overwritten by Winter Storm Uri.

Thankfully, the house was close enough to the hospital that its power never went out, so the visitors hosted friends in the area who weren’t so lucky. Stuck inside, they discovered a treasure trove of costumes and had such a morale-boosting photoshoot that it became a professional genesis. When Nativas was ready for business, the friends’ shared real estate agent was their first client.

“What we learned from doing this and [about] people from Austin,” Monae concluded, “is the amount of support — just how amazing people really are.”

Given more time than the hectic pace that day allowed, the Nativas Team is all about folding clients into a professional experience without assuming any prior experience or modeling prowess. It starts with a consultation, then moves through talks about wardrobe — either selecting the client's pieces or using Valadez’s resources — and even vision boards. When it comes time to shoot, the client gets a modeling lesson and a killer playlist.

In our very short, impromptu window before I had to run to a different reservation, Monae cued me to think of my favorite celebrity, and embody them. My frazzled mind went directly to Liam O’Brien, a voice actor I don’t think I would ever look like in a photo. I crossed my arms in an O’Brienish way. It’s not how I would normally choose to be represented in a photo, but an interesting departure from my usual instinct.

Breaking through the clients’ preexisting mentality is not just Nativas’ mission, but both creators’ raison d'être. Both Latinas from families with native heritage, they point out a generational pattern they’ve noticed.

“A lot of times when you're born into a situation, you think that situation defines who you are,” says Monae. “And then you get stuck in that conversation, and it's a conversation that you didn't even make up. It's a conversation that was generations before youm, from your mom and from…your mom's mom's mom.”

Valadez co-signs the thought. “If you start thinking of yourself in that [limited] manner, then your pictures are not going to look good. We're not therapists, but we definitely want to be able to help them facilitate [change] by the outside, and the inside, and the voices in your head.”

Much like Queer Eye ethos that swept the world up in a supportive embrace, this philosophy, the Nativas team hopes, will empower clients to see themselves in a new light, then carrying that confidence onward to more real-world achievements.

Nativas hopes clients will use photos for more charismatic corporate headshots, dating profiles, and creative self-promotion. To help build up the latter portfolio and help visiting artists during SXSW, the team set up free shoots for Austin local Moody Bank$, South African singer-songwriter Manny Walters, and Norwegian alt-pop duo Ask Carol.

A photoshoot at Nativas Studios is inherently flexible, so the team is still nailing down its pricing. So far, a three-look photoshoot inclusive of all planning, styling, and makeup starts at $800. Because Nativas hopes to work with creatives, it will also factor in some sliding scale negotiations to work with clients who are still getting established.

More information about Nativas Studios is available at nativasstudios.com.

Shiner Beer crafts new barbecue joint at iconic Texas brewery

Shiner BBQ

Lewis and Clark, Sonny and Cher, SpongeBob and Patrick. Duos float in and out of pop culture at hummingbird speed. But few have quite as much staying power as beer and barbecue. So, it’s only natural that one of Texas’ most iconic breweries would want to break out the smoker.

According to a release, Shiner Beer is untapping a new market with the April 1 grand opening of K. Spoetzl BBQ Co. Housed at the newly expanded Spoetzl Brewery, the eatery will welcome carnivores seven days a week.

Pitmaster Tommy Schuette, the former proprietor of the Shiner Barbeque Co., will lead the charge with the state’s holy trinity of smoked meats, including brisket, sausage, and ribs. Other favorites like pulled pork and chicken will be served alongside a meaty assortment of salads, loaded potatoes, and sandwiches.

Of course, no Texas barbecue joint can get away with skimping on the sides. Potato salad and pinto beans are served throughout the week, but weekend guests get a little extra. Diners can also opt for green beans, coleslaw, creamed corn, and giblet rice from Thursday through Saturday.

In celebration of K. Spoetzl BBQ’s debut, samples will be passed out between 10:30 am-6 pm on April 1. QR codes will also be scattered across the grounds giving visitors a chance to win gift cards, shirts, hats, and more. Diners will also be given a free beer token for every $25 spent at the restaurant that day.

In addition, budding influencers can post a picture of Schuette to social media to get a coupon for 10 percent off. (As a rule, pitmasters do not need a yassify filter.)

After the grand opening celebration, K. Spoetzl BBQ will be open daily. Hours are 10 am-4 pm, so plan accordingly.

Ethan Hawke explores Paul Newman's West at special Austin Film Society screenings

Paul Newman's West

Lucky local cinephiles enjoyed a uniquely Austin experience this week at a special series hosted by the Austin Film Society. Taking place March 24-26 at the AFS Cinema, the program featured five Westerns featuring Paul Newman. Austin-born actor Ethan Hawke introduced each film in the series, adding context from Newman's life based on research he did for his recent HBO docuseries, The Last Movie Stars.

Hawke co-curated the series with AFS Head of Film Holly Herrick, with participation from AFS Lead Film Programmer Lars Nilsen. The five films in the program included: The Left Handed Gun, Hombre, Hud, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,and Buffalo Bill and the Indians. With the exception of Buffalo Bill and the Indians, the films were shown in 35mm for an extra dose of nostalgia.

Giving the series the unofficial subtitle of "Paul Newman's Personal War with John Wayne," Hawke framed Newman's performances as substitutes for the previously established archetypes of earlier Westerns. Whereas Wayne's Westerns played into mythological portrayals of the American frontier, Newman's Westerns present more anti-heroic characters. Most of the films — if not all five — were neither box office successes nor critically acclaimed, but each one pushed the boundaries of its genre to present timeless elements audiences can still enjoy today.

After screenings of Hombre (March 25) and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (March 26), Hawke joined Adam Piron (Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and Mohawk), Director of the Sundance Institute's Indigenous Program, for deep dives on each film. The discussions gave viewers the chance to hear even more about Hawke's research in his recent docuseries and engage with some of the more difficult themes in the films.

For Hombre, the pair touched on how they felt Newman and director Martin Ritt's work on the film was an attempt to change cultural conversations around Indigenous communities. Hawke said, "I think [Newman and Ritt] are talking to white people ... and trying to wake them up at a place where they're available to be woken up, from the inside." With regards to one of the film's final scenes,Piron added: "It's Newman and Ritt's way of saying — in terms of a larger history of American genocide with Indigenous people — we have to give back what's of value that we've taken... "

Following The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, the pair explored Newman's portrayal of the masculine identity in Westerns. Referring to the film's cast and director John Huston, Hawke said, "These are some of the most macho guys you can imagine, and so you're like, do they even get the joke? We're not sure. They must; there's a certain intelligence to everything John Huston did."

Hawke also elaborated on Newman's relationship to fame and celebrity as seen through his performances in the Westerns chosen for the series: "There's this thing about celebrity that puts you in a glass box … One of the reasons why I like Newman in this movie is because it's him tapping with a hammer really hard on that box going, 'I'm not Paul Newman. I am a human being, and I'm going to be weird.' ... If you're not an actor, you don't know the pressure that gets put on performers to play into their mythology … That's why I love him, and that's why I care about him, care about his work, is because he's constantly breaking out of it … "

Through his research, Hawke said you can see Newman start making peace with that celebrity status in the latter part of his career: "He starts to allow himself to play likable characters again, and I find that kinda touching too in a personal way. He's really resisting being Paul Newman in these [Westerns], and I both love that and am happy he later decided it was OK to be Paul Newman."

Austinites who missed the series can still dive into Newman's career in The Last Movie Stars: Directed by Hawke, the six-part documentary on HBO chronicles Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership.

Ethan Hawke

Courtesy Austin Film Society

Hawke added context to each film based on research he did for his HBO docuseries, The Last Movie Stars about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.