Photo by Guillermo Rosas

On May 11, Austin foodies crossed 13 restaurants, bars, and desserts off their must-try lists — or enjoyed old favorites all in one room at our 2023 Tastemaker Awards. More than 700 visitors milled about Fair Market with cocktails and Topo Chico in hand, visiting booths and tasting creative Austin food.

A VIP hour welcomed some guests early for a toast to the nominees and our nonprofit beneficiary, the Southern Smoke Foundation, which shares funds for emergency relief and mental health resources with food industry workers. Lodgewell provided cocktails and insulated goodie bags with treats like Parch, LMNT, Siete, and SkinnyPop at its VIP lounge, where it gave away a 1-night stay in the famous Bloomhouse.

More sponsors provided specialty drinks and garnishes: Flor de Caña Rum brought sustainably crafted rum in its bar and lounge, with 70 percent cacao dark chocolate to pair with the more than 25-year-aged spirit. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brought several bottles of the Tennessee spirit to try neat, and Twang manned a booth for adding seasonings to the rim of favorite cocktails.

This year, even though the warehouse was busy right away, the tone was casual, and our vendors kept plates coming, so there was a free flow from booth to booth. Two vendors, Watertrade and Chapulín Cantina both brought chapulines — fried grasshoppers — for a salad and a taco, respectively. Lots of vendors brought handheld items for ease of snacking: Luminaire brought fried empanadas that could nearly fill a person up on their own, and Wunderkeks brought cookies to-go, so that visitors could keep the party going at home.

If there had been a theme of the day, it would have been sliders. A "Burger Throwdown" thanks to Goodstock by Nolan Ryan pitted three restaurants against each other in a friendly outdoor grilling competition. JewBoy Burgers and Honeymoon Spirit brought delicious contenders that couldn't be more different, but Lebowski's Grill charmed visitors with two different sandwiches and ultimately won the most of their votes. Although it wasn't part of the competition, BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya brought its own smoked brisket slider, emphasizing the versatility of these little party snacks.

The irreplaceable Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League emceed again, reading out nominees to pointed cheers from the crowd — a win for vendors even if the award went home with someone else — and finally revealing the winners. (Although there was not a fashion contest, we feel confident saying Chef Harvard Aninye's family and friends blew all of us away in their spangly threads.) See the full list of winners here.

All the smiling faces and (very) full stomachs made this Tastemaker Awards ceremony a night to remember; Try to remember these superstar restaurants, bars, chefs, and more next time you have some free time to try something local.

2023 Tastemaker Awards Austin

Photo by Guillermo Rosas

The 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards introduced Austinites to the city's top food and drinks on May 11.

Photo courtesy of Birdie's

Austin's top restaurant, chef, bar, and more revealed at 2023 Tastemaker Awards

Toast the Tastemakers

It’s that time of year again, when we take stock of our best hometown restaurants and industry players at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.

As always, we started with a group of editorial staff and past winners, our judges, and selected our favorite restaurants, chefs, beverage pros, and more. The resulting nominations all reflect the amazing accomplishments in the Austin culinary scene since our 2022 Tastemaker Awards. We looked to Austinites to choose their favorite new restaurant in a bracket-style competition, and selected the rest via a vote among the industry judges. Now, it’s time to let everyone in on the results.

On May 11, we gathered with foodies of all persuasions for the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards at Fair Market. Guests got to try bites by nominees they’ve never visited before as well as old favorites, sipped cocktails, and watched a live burger competition before the ceremony. Then, Alamo Drafthouse founder and local restaurant supporter Tim League returned to reprise his role as emcee, revealing this year’s winners.

Join us in raising a toast to the 2023 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards winners. Meet them below.

Restaurant of the Year: Birdie’s
After the cultural comeuppance of molecular gastronomy — its coffin nailed long before The Menu made it multiplex farce — nothing seems as current as a baguette smeared with washed-rind cheese. In post-pandemic Austin, the success of Birdie's casual model helped the entire culinary scene to reset. Why fuss with establishing restaurants as fiefdoms with chefs as their plundering lords? There's nothing more aspirational than serving orecchiette dressed in Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and dandelion greens.

Chef of the Year: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
If there's a list of chefs — participants in a food festival or a fundraiser, honorees in an award ceremony — Amanda Turner's name is on it. In fact, before she made this list, she made the class of Rising Star Chefs in 2019 (with Juniper) and in 2022, winning both and proving some awesome foresight from those judges. As chef de cuisine at Restaurant of the Year nominee Olamaie, she somehow finds time while helping to define Southern cuisine — from the complicated position of a Black woman chef, she sometimes points out — to be one of the most public-facing chefs in Austin. About a year and a half into this new position, she's clearly hit her stride, and showing no signs of stopping.

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Joaquin Ceballos, Este
Joaquin Ceballos has always been international, and it's his "love for multicultural environments" that he says sets him apart. Born in Laredo, Texas, and raised across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, he now represents the latter country at Este, the upscale seafood restaurant in East Austin. If he'd never left, however, he'd never had a chance to return to those roots, so thank Parisian bistro Racines NY for holding on to him in between.

Pastry Chef of the Year: Mariela Camacho, Comadre Panadería
A first-generation American and daughter of Mexican immigrants, Mariela Camacho creates high-quality bread and pastries inspired by her experience growing up Xicana in America. Comadre Panadería started as a pop-up in Seattle in 2017 before moving back to Camacho’s home state of Texas, where she recently expanded into a space next to Nixta Taqueria.

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Nixta Taqueria
Owners Edgar Rico and Sara Mardanbigi bootstrapped this East Austin taqueria to James Beard acclaim, and one gets the sense that they take nothing for granted. Building on early triumphs like the sensuous duck carnitas taco, the joint keeps expanding its scope to antojitos like Yucatan Sikil P'aak and endearingly tasty goofs like the Space Glizzy crispy dog.

Bar of the Year: Nickel City
When this East Austin bar arrived, Capital City nightlife was under the thrall of mustachioed mixologists. The Nickel City team took the piss out with a frozen Irish coffee in a Styrofoam cup. It's not that the cocktails here require a less exacting palate (a current selection employs shiitake mushrooms and seaweed), it just turns out that barcraft with a sense of humor is a hell of a lot more fun.

Bartender of the Year: Erin Ashford, Olamaie
Erin Ashford spent seven years as bar manager, wine buyer, and assistant general manager at Restaurant of the Year nominee and former winner Olamaie. With all that practice, she's moved on to become the co-owner of brand-new cocktail bar Holiday with Rising Star nominee Peter Klein. It's a different venue but with Erin, it still feels like the same party — her favorite part of the job.

Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
This acclaimed pizza joint has always put as much work into its wine list as its Neapolitan pies. In the early days, it miraculously squeezed 400 bottles into its tiny former East Austin space. These days, it brings wine to the masses through its monthly wine club, whose members get special discounts, pizza pairings, and witty tasting notes from wine director Rania Zayyat.

Brewery of the Year: Lazarus Brewing Co.
Owned by a Presbyterian pastor, the two locations of Lazarus wink to Christianity throughout with apocalyptic stained-glass installations and beer names like Walks on Water. Secular Austin still can't get enough of the boozy, most European brews — including rarer styles like Kellerbier and Belgian Dubbel.

Best New Restaurant:
Maie Day
Helmed by Olamaie founder and executive chef Michael Fojtasek, Maie Day took over for Central Standard at South Congress Hotel last May. With playful takes on a classic steakhouse menu, highlights include ribeye, a butcher’s steak, and a plethora of hearty sides.

Best Burger: Dai Due
Best to clear your afternoon before diving into the Dai Due burger, which is sure to induce a nice REM cycle with its double patty, ground with Dai Due bacon. Multiple James Beard Award winner chef Jesse Griffiths remains a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, sourcing ingredients from Texas and primarily in the Austin region — and the burger is no exception. A sesame cemita bun sandwiches Stryk cheddar cheese, house-made dill pickles and onions, and the whole heavenly ensemble comes with a side of french fries and unbelievable beet ketchup.

Birdie's plate

Photo courtesy of Birdie's

Birdie's is 2023's Restaurant of the Year.


Hannah J. Frías, Brianna Caleri, and Brandon Watson contributed to this article.

Photo courtesy of Bulevar Mexican Kitchen

10 Austin places to enjoy Cinco de Mayo with a margarita in your hand


If you’ve been yearning for more ways to drink through Austin after National Margarita Day, CultureMap’s got you covered. While most of these events take place on May 5, we’ve sprinkled a few fun ones leading up to the day and throughout the weekend. From margarita-making classes, to slushies, to churros, we’ve explored the many ways you can enjoy Cinco de Mayo in Austin with (or without) a drink in your hand.

Tuesday, May 2

Moxy Austin
Austinites wanting to learn mixology techniques can find their teacher at Moxy YOUniversity with the make-your-own margarita class at the Guadalupe Street location from 6:30-8:30 pm. In partnership with Socorro Tequila, attendees will get to participate in a tequila tasting with complimentary chips and salsa provided by Zombie Taco, and then dive right into the process of making their own specialty margarita. Tickets ($35 for adults and $15 for 21+ students with valid ID) can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Friday, May 5

Bulevar Mexican Kitchen
ATX Cocina’s sister concept Bulevar is offering a special lunch service for Cinco de Mayo, inviting patrons to enjoy its killer signature cocktails and mouth-watering duck carnitas huarache much earlier in the day. The lunch menu begins service at 11:30 am and the happy hour specials will also begin early at 3 pm. Reserve on OpenTable.

La Popular
This Mexico City-based restaurant group recently opened its second U.S. location right here in Southwest Austin. Known for their authentic Mexican cuisine and their brilliant cocktails, they'll be serving all-day food and drink specials on Cinco de Mayo starting with their signature LP margaritas ($10), al pastor tacos ($5), and Corona beers ($5). Reservations can be made on their website.

Blue Owl Brewing
“Slushie de Mayo” is the theme for this year’s celebration at Blue Owl Brewing, featuring two delicious flavors that will keep you wanting more: paloma and spicy beer-rita. The slushie machines will be working double time to keep the drinks flowing for guests from noon to 5 pm. Take them to-go, or stay awhile to enjoy locally-made empanadas from Mmmpanadas with complimentary chips and dip. More information can be found at blueowlbrewing.com.

La Condesa
This James Beard-nominated Mexican restaurant in downtown Austin will provide six drink and food specials for diners, curated by Chef Rick Lopez. Drink specials include mezcal-oriented La Batalla and tequila-based El Soldado, and La Bandera, which is a flight of Carabuena Blanco tequila served between red and green sangrita. Guests can also take their pick of holiday food specials like the fish tacos, tostadas de chapulines, or grilled skirt steak. Reserve on OpenTable.

De Nada Cantina
East Austin's favorite cantina is going all out for Cinco de Mayo with a pig roast, giveaways, cornhole, face painting, and an outdoor bar in their parking lot tent. Live mariachi is scheduled from 6-8 pm, and a DJ will take over from 8-10 pm. Keep an eye out for a special edition release for their margarita cups. Reservations are fully booked, but walk-ins will be accepted.

Bar Peached
Who doesn’t love sipping on a marg while lounging on a beautiful downtown Austin patio? You can’t go wrong at Bar Peached, with beverage director Kevin Kok’s specially-made mixed berry margarita. Don’t forget to pair your cocktail with one of the unique food offerings like the bánh mì or miso garlic sweet potato tacos. And if you time your visit during the social hour from 5-6:30 pm, you can also enjoy fan faves like the margarita de peached, paloma, and more for $7. Reservations can be made via OpenTable.

The Salty
It’s not a holiday without a special treat. The Salty’s signature brioche dough is getting a Cinco de Mayo treatment for this one-day-only special all day on May 5. The bite-size mini churros will be sold in a set of three ($3.25), and guests can add The Salty’s indulgent homemade salted caramel or chocolate sauces ($2 each). Orders can be made in-person or online, to-go, and for delivery via saltydonut.com.

Saturday, May 6

Fiesta Austin
The city’s premiere Cinco de Mayo celebration will host an array of musical acts, cultural dances, arts, and food on May 6 from 10 am to 11 pm. Scheduled performers include Grammy-nominated group Houston’s Powerhouse, all-female mariachi band Las Valquirias, Chris Castaneda Band, and more. Presale tickets are $5, with no cover charge until noon ($7). Admission for children 12 and under is free. More information is available at fiestaaustin.org.

Sunday, May 7

All Tequila, All Shade Drag Brunch with DJ Eriq Stylez at La Condesa
La Condesa is bringing back its popular drag brunch for the Cinco de Mayo weekend with several of its well-loved brunch staples and themed cocktails beginning at 11 am. Indulge in rich flavors with the tostada de atún or a themed cocktail while Texas-based queens Nazareth, Joselyn Breezy, and Celia Light perform at 12:15 pm. A portion of all drink special proceeds will be donated to The Equality Alliance Texas. Reservations ($25) can be made via OpenTable.

Photo by Carlos Alfonso on Unsplash

Food & Wine commends Austin among best food cities in new global ranking


Local naysayers of Austin’s food scene will need to change their tune after hearing our beloved city was regarded as one of the best in the nation in a new report by Food & Wine.

The first-ever 2023 Global Tastemakers Awards is a reader’s choice collection of the best culinary experiences, restaurants, bars, cruises, destinations, and airlines and airports around the world. Categories for Food & Wine’s rankings can range from the most creative bars to best cities for neighborhood restaurants, to best cruises for onboard culinary experiences, and many more.

In the overall report for best cities in the United States for food, Austin ranked No. 10. The report specifically calls the city a “Tex-Mex paradise” while giving recognition to our food truck scene, local barbecue, and talented chefs.

Special consideration was also given to Austin’s many local breweries, such as Live Oak Brewing Company, Oddwood Brewing, and Meanwhile Beer (which won our own CultureMap Tastemaker award in 2022).

Other cities that made it on Food & Wine’s best U.S. cities for food list are (predictably) from well-established food cities like New York City, which earned the No. 1 spot, and more diverse cultural areas like New Orleans (No. 2) and Miami (No. 8). Ever the dominant presence in national reports on food scenes, California cities earned three places in this year’s ranking: San Francisco (No. 3), Los Angeles (No. 4), and San Diego (No. 9).

The 10 best cities for food in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – New York City, New York
  • No. 2 – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • No. 3 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 4 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 5 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 6 – Chicago, Illinois
  • No. 7 – Charleston, South Carolina
  • No. 8 – Miami, Florida
  • No. 9 – San Diego, California
  • No. 10 – Austin, Texas

In Food & Wine’s “10 Best Food Truck Cities in the U.S.”, Austin came in much higher with the third best food truck scene in the nation. The report states there are over 1,000 food trucks operating in the city, all offering some of the most unique dining experiences for their patrons. Accessibility is the dominating factor that gave Austin its No. 3 spot. Food trucks have lower overhead costs than traditional restaurants do, giving vendors the ability to provide high-quality food options at lower prices. The report recommends visiting Thicket South Austin Food Park and trying one of their many eateries.

Houston was the only other Texas city to make the list, ranking No. 8. The city’s renowned culinary scene is amplified by the lack of zoning restrictions, which lets food truck vendors operate anywhere around the city. This has also led to culinary gatherings like Food Truck Fridays at Axelrad Beer Garden. Recommendations include Vietnamese-Mexican Pho-jita Fusion, known for their pho tacos and banh mi burritos, and The Waffle Bus.

Many of the overall best food cities also earned top spots on the best food truck cities list, including two that outranked Austin on both lists: Portland, Oregon (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2). However, the Texas Capital City outranked New York City (No. 4), San Francisco (No. 5), and San Diego (No. 7).

The 10 best food truck cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 3 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 4 – New York City, New York
  • No. 5 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 6 – Honolulu, Hawaii
  • No. 7 – San Diego, California
  • No. 8 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 9 – Oakland, California
  • No. 10 – Raleigh, North Carolina

The full list of Food & Wine’s 2023 Global Tastemakers award winners can be found on their website.

Rendering courtesy of Truluck's

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Downtown seafood staple gets a major upgrade

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Whether it's luck or just a natural result of serving great, reliable seafood in Texas since 1992, the downtown Truluck's is getting an upgrade at 300 Colorado St. The relocation occurs only a block from its current space, but it comes with big updates like a two-level dining space with skyline views, a more technologically advanced kitchen, and a more modern atmosphere overall. A rendering shows a new corner exterior that's hard to miss, with a flat roof with a big gap to let in more light, an outdoor patio on the second floor, large windows, high ceilings, and a bar. The new restaurant plans to open in May 2023.

Circle Brewing, a North Austin beer spot near Q2 Stadium known for its friendly atmosphere, is bringing that attitude east to Elgin. The charming Texas town will house the brewery's second location at 816 Lexington Rd., about a 40 minute drive from the original. Photos of the location on Instagram show a long beer hall in its own clearing with outdoor seating and plenty of shade. It will be ready to visit on April 28, and an opening ceremony on May 6 will include live music, family activities, and of course, freshly brewed beer. Operating hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 4-10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 10 pm; and Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm.

Chef Stephan Pyles, often credited with single-handedly establishing a Southwestern culinary style, has broken another culinary boundary by turning his sought-after attention toward senior living. His new restaurant, Alma, is opening with the brand-new Hacienda at Georgetown on April 15 with a ticketed tasting experience ($35). The 12-time James Beard nominee is donating $25 from each ticket purchase to No Kid Hungry, a profit addressing food insecurity for youth in the United States. Even though it's in an unusual venue, Alma is just a regular restaurant that anyone can — and will likely want to — visit. Reserve on OpenTable.

Other news and notes

Devil May Care, one of 6th Street's more glamorous and jazzy destinations, is adding non-alcoholic and low-alcohol menu options for visitors who just want to enjoy the vibes without the buzz. Some new cocktails include the "Red Light District," like a Shirley Temple with a rosemary twist, and a "Blue Devil" with pineapple, Coco Lopez, blue spirulina powder, and more flavors. It's also hosting a new event every Thursday called "The Groove," with R&B DJ sets half-price espresso martinis. Reserve on OpenTable.

Those who celebrate the Thai New Year or friends who want to start have some great foodie options this year. Thai restaurant Sway hosts a long Songkran celebration from April 13-20, with some special menu items including pork belly khao soi (noodles), a prawn stir fry, and a mango sorbet, plus creative cocktails. Fierce Whiskers Distillery offers a night market on April 15 with authentic food vendors, Thai dancing, Laotian musical performances, and a water balloon fight (an actual Songkran tradition).

The much-anticipated Umlauf Garden Party is just around the corner on April 20. The annual event is in its 24th iteration, using that long-established influence to bring together some of Austin's top restaurants for eats in the unique setting. Participants include Uchi, Uchiba, Intero, Barley Swine, Juliet, True Foods, and others not often seen at similar events. There will also be wines to taste and live performances by local artists. Proceeds benefit the sculpture garden's community outreach initiatives. Tickets available at umlaufsculpture.org.

Photo courtesy of sweetgreen

7 things to know in Austin food right now: 2 healthy fast casual chains make a home in Mueller

news you can eat

Update: A previous version of this story said Ike's Love & Sandwiches would host a grand opening on March 3. The company has changed the date of the event to March 9. It is already open to the public.

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


We’ll always need more love and more sandwiches, so it’s good news that Ike’s Love & Sandwiches has opened a fifth Austin-area location, this time in the Mueller neighborhood at 1201 Barbara Jordan Boulevard #1210. This sandwich chain has an unbelievably long menu, especially noted for its many vegetarian, halal, and gluten-free options. Two sandwiches will be available exclusively at this new location: the “Mueller, Mueller” with chicken fried steak, Ike's Creamy Orange Buffalo Sauce, and cheddar cheese; and the “Sunny Came Home,” a vegetarian version with vegan fried chicken. There will be a grand opening celebration starting at 10 am on March 9, with $7.97 sandwiches for rewards members.

Sweetgreen, a staple counter service restaurant for Austinites who both love and tolerate salad, is opening a fourth location in the Mueller neighborhood "soon." The business started with three college students who wanted something accessible, but healthy, and the brand is still popular among the same demographic. The menu combines leafy greens, grains, fruit, proteins, starches, and more well-balanced spreads — not that a cheeseburger can't also do it, but sometimes a bowl is best. The brand also voices a commitment to animal welfare and becoming carbon neutral by 2027. The location is part of the new development in the Mueller neighborhood, across from the park amphitheater.

Sweetgreen salad
Photo courtesy of sweetgreen

Sweetgreen's salads and bowls make a refreshing lunch fast and inexpensive.

Other news and notes

Este, known for coastal Mexican cuisine, is inviting in some Filipino influence for a “Panaderia” morning pop-up on February 24 from 8-11 am. Pastry chef Derrick Flynn and his team are serving up pan de ube, beef asado siopao, leche flan croissant, and more. This takes place in Este’s event space, Bar Toti, and an Instagram post has shown that the inaugural bake sale will be popular, so interested shoppers should arrive early.

One of Austin’s longest-running top restaurants, La Condesa, is celebrating its 14th birthday. Try Hard Coffee owner Raechel Hurd was part of the Condesa pastry team before opening the coffee and record shop, so she’s returning with a live vinyl DJ, coffee specials, and cocktails. Chef Rick Lopez contributes brunch dishes like conchas, breakfast tortas, and chilaquiles. The celebration on February 25 and 26, from 11 am to 2 pm, benefits The Perez Family Farm: El Diamante in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Reserve at lacondesa.com.

If your dream is to leave the regular 9-to-5 for a more beer-heavy lifestyle, Meanwhile Brewing is hosting a job fair in the hopes to “diversify the Texas craft brewing industry,” says a release. On March 1 from 10 am to 1 pm, meet industry professionals and members of Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the event organizer. Some of the listed opportunities include general managers, marketing professionals, data analysts, drivers, and packing technicians. RSVP at texascraftbrewersguild.org.

The historicDriskill hotel is hosting its grand Texas Independence Day festivities on March 2 from 4-7 pm. The food and drinks are just part of it (including two rescued longhorns, but we're going to stay focused): sparkling water courtesy of Rambler Sparkling Water, complementary tastings by Independence Brewing, William Chris Vineyards, and Desert Door Texas Sotol (hailing from Driftwood), brisket slides or grapefruit salad by Mark Dayanandan, lots of dessert bites by pastry chef Kristen Groth, plus specials at 1886 Cafe & Bakery like Texas chili and Texas "caviar" (bean salad).

Hank's Austin, a sunny Southern restaurant up in Northeast Austin, knows all about the Tuesday slump. It’s bringing some life back to the weekday by offering half-off deals on all bottles of wine every Tuesday going forward, recommending the Valmorena Barbera D'Asti and the Antinori Il Bruciato Super Tuscan. It’s also celebrating its fifth anniversary on April 15 from 10 am to 3 pm with a bounce house, cotton candy, and donations to the Austin Humane Society.

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6 things to know in Austin food right now: Whiskey distillery launches floating bar at "secret" lake locale

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Getting to the bar just got harder — but way more fun. Fierce Whiskers Distillery is literally launching a new pop-up called the Stubborn Bar, floating off the shores of Town Lake. The location is a secret, but not one too closely kept; Join the mailing list to receive updates and sign up to snag a spot. The bar operates June 3-4, June 17-18, and June 24-25. Visitors' hard work will be rewarded with a chance to taste the new two-year Texas Straight Rye, which the distillery says was very hard to make, and "the first pour should go to those who are just as determined." They're also celebrating the new release on land with a performance by Neil Frances and Thebrosfresh on June 10. Tickets ($30-120) available on Eventbrite.

Carve American Grille (stylized CARVE) has been working on its second location for more than a year, and the date has been moved one last time — hopefully. Instead of opening on June 8, it'll be June 12. It's taking up residence at The Grove (2613 Perseverance Dr.), a mixed-use community covering 75 acres. Carve, sister restaurant to Perry's Steakhouse, is well-known for its creative twists on a classic steakhouse menu, which can often border on austere. So, postpone your visit, but keep Carve on your list.

Other news and notes

Even after Memorial Day, we're all ready for a Fri-yay celebration, and thankfully this week brings another day of observance: National Donut Day. The Salty is ready with a limited-edition mini French toast donut, available only on June 2. This creative donut is made with a 24-hour brioche base, filled with a "homemade French toast filling," and topped with maple treats and mascarpone whipped cream. The shop is also celebrating with a 25 percent merch discount and free delivery to Salty Rewards Members using the app or website.

For those who just can't get enough rosé at brunch, there's the Rosé Dinner at Lost Draw Cellars. On June 3, the winery will open up its new space for a rosé tasting featuring its four new releases, all from 2022. These sips will be paired with a live fire dinner of beef and chicken from Hill Country Beef and Cielito Lindo Farm, respectively, and fresh vegetables from Hat & Heart Farm. Tickets ($85) are available at williamchriswines.com.

Austin wouldn't be Austin without the endless markets, and two more are popping up on June 4. One at Bar Toti gives an excuse to visit the chic space behind one of the city's most talked-about restaurants, Este. This Mercado del Girasol celebrates the Este Garden's third anniversary, with goods by local artisans and creatives, drinks, DJ sets, and more. Three raffles benefit Casa Marianella, which supports displaced immigrants in Austin, and visitors can pick sunflowers and try signature cocktails by Bar Toti. The other establishes a new weekly event at the Hill Country Galleria: the Bee Cave Farmers Market. In addition to the usual farmers' fare (from 40 vendors), these markets will offer live music performances, starting aptly with The Hens.

Starting this week — "as soon as I buy the buttermilk," according to the chef — Radio Coffee & Beer's food truck, Shortwave Diner, will be offering monthly specials centered on fried chicken and burgers. The pending special is a sweet and very crispy tarragon chicken with maple syrup, and the rest is a mystery. The breakfast truck stands at the ready at the popular work site for freelancers and remote workers, serving daily chicken and waffles, smash burgers, and more. Follow Shortwave on Instagram to see when the new series launches.

5 tips to build stunning sand sculptures from 2023 Texas SandFest winners

Fun at the beach

As summer fast approaches, sandy vacations to coastal destinations are on the horizon for many travelers. For those with kids in tow, sandcastle-making might top the list of beach trip must-dos.

But “playing” in the sand isn’t just an activity for children, as proven by the 22 professional sand sculptors from around the world who recently competed in the 26th annual Texas SandFest, held in Port Aransas in April. The internationally recognized event, started by Port A locals in 1997, is the largest native-sand sculptor competition in the nation; nearly 70,000 people attended this year.

Competition entries featured everything from mermaids to the Grim Reaper, all intricately carved, brushed, and chiseled from sand, ocean water, and perhaps a little diluted spray glue that sculptors say helps maintain detail. The competitors work on their masterpieces during the event, allowing spectators to witness their progress from start to finish.

“I do around five international sand sculpting competitions per year. It’s always a great challenge to compete a high level,” says Benoit Dutherage, a competitive sculptor from France who also creates snow sculptures in the French Alps during the winter.

Dutherage took first place in the Duo Masters category, along with his sand sculpting partner Sue McGrew, for their work called “Wish You Were Here.” Comprised of two loving faces (one mystically cut in half), the sculpture was a tribute to Pink Floyd.

“We like to reflect human emotions in our sculptures,” he says. “It is never easy to pick an idea among the thousands of ideas we have.”

Florida resident Thomas Koet, whose sculpture called “The Prospector” won first place in the People’s Choice category, intended to create something with horses and a cowboy as an homage to Mustang Island, where the competition took place. High tides just before the event thwarted his plans.

“The high tide washed away so much of the sand, I had only enough left for a mule or a foal,” he says. “So I decided to make an old prospector with a mule.”

Thinking out of the box when it comes to carving sand is just one of several suggestions Koet has for recreational sand sculptors. (“Who says it has to be a castle?” he says.) He and other winners from the 2023 Texas SandFest say they are always happy to see novices get creative.

Here are five of the pros' top tips for producing a beachfront masterpiece.

1. Think beyond the standard sandcastle
“Design and sculpt outside of your comfort zone,” says Abe Waterman, a sculptor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who took first place in the Solo Masters division with his sculpture, “Sleeps with Angels.” The mega sculpture featured four angels at four corners holding a blanket carrying a sleeping woman. “While this may not lead to the best sculpture results, one will improve faster by doing this.”

Waterman noted that there are different types of sand depending on location. Some are better suited for detailed work while others work well for verticality. “But something can always be sculpted regardless of the sand quality, the design just may need to be altered,” he says.

Koet recommends picking something that will fit your attention span. “You can make anything you want,” he says. “You can make a cat, a shark, a monster truck, your high school mascot, a sneaker, or a shark eating an ice cream cone.”

2. Use the right tools
Forgo the cheap tourist shop plastic bucket and shovel set. “You definitely need proper tools to get a good result: A solid shovel, a few trowels – not too big – and a wall painting brush to clean your sculpture,” says Dutherage. “You’ll also need buckets.”

Think big painter’s buckets, he says, used to make what’s essentially “sand mud” consisting of lots of water and sand. Which leads to the next tip ...

3. Create a form mold
Consider this the secret to head-turning sand sculptures. Whether it’s a 10-foot-tall wooden box with sides that come off, or a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, a “form mold” is an open-top vessel used to hold packed sand and water to create a carve-able structure.

“It’s a very useful thing to have in order to get a solid block, and to go high,” says Dutherage. “If you are a handyman, you can build your own forms. But a quick solution is to take a bucket, no matter what size, and cut out the bottom. Then put that bucket upside down on the sand. Add a few inches of sand, some water, mix with your trowel and compact that layer. Repeat until the bucket is full. Then gently pull the bucket up and surprise! You will get a nice block of sand ready for a sandcastle full of windows, arches, and gates.”

The compacted layers of sand and water almost act as cement, creating a sturdy base for carving. Dutherage says folks can easily repeat the form mold process to create multiple bases, either side by side or stacked.

4. Use plenty of water, for the sculpture and yourself
Benoit recommends adding even more water during the sculpting process.

“Bring a plant sprayer,” he says. “Sand needs to be wet to be sculptable.”

Even rain during sand sculpture building isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that rain will destroy a sand sculpture,” says Waterman. “While this is possible, most often it just textures the surface.”

Water is also essential for the sculptor, as staying hydrated is key during the process, Waterman adds.

Texas SandFest

Texas SandFest

"The Prospector" took first place in the 2023 Texas SandFest People's Choice category

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“The biggest misconception is that I do anything different than anybody who does it only for the first time,” says Koet, who’s been sculpting sand for 25 years. “Sure, I bring more and bigger tools and I spend much more time shoveling the sand high and mixing it with water. But there is no magic other than years of practice.”

Waterman, who admits sand sculpting has taken over his life, competes in up to 10 contests a year and also creates sculptures for exhibits and corporate commissions.

“Tricks and tips will only get a person so far,” he says. “But ultimately practice and putting the time in will get them a whole lot further.”

Benoit agrees. “Making a sand sculpture requires a lot of work and the more you practice, the better you will get,” he says. “But first of all, you have to enjoy the fun of it.”

New Hill Country farmers market debuts in Bee Cave this month


Over 40 local farmers and makers will bring their goods to the Hill Country Galleria on Sunday, June 4 for the launch of the new Bee Cave Farmers Market. Visitors can shop at the Central Plaza Lawn from 10 am to 2 pm.

Locally-grown, fresh produce will be sold by Farmer Dave's, Citizen Mushroom, Pedernales River Farm, Persnickety Gardens, and Smyrna Farms. Gift and creative vendors include Auntie Gigi's Dog Treats, Austin Fine Jewelry, B&G Artisan Gifts, Herbal Root Collective, Luminosa Vida, Plant Lady ATX, and many more.

The farmers market doesn't just provide opportunities to shop local: Nonprofits that would like to spread the word about their cause can also find a place at the market with their free booth application.

Organizers have also dedicated an entire row of booths to young entrepreneurs looking to start their own small business, and provide any planning or decorating assistance as necessary, free of charge.

The market will also feature plenty of live music and family-friendly activities. Local bands will perform from 11 am to 2 pm every week in June. The Hens are scheduled to perform during the market's debut on June 4, and Rent Party will perform on June 11. Honeybee Jazz will bring their sultry vocals to the stage on June 18, and The Boss Jaguars will close out the month on June 25.

More information about the Bee Cave Farmer's Market can be found on their website.