Courtesy of Lick Honest Ice Creams

Summer is officially here, and it burst through the proverbial doors of the solstice with a 105-degree vigor that Austinites were less than thrilled about. There's not much we can do except sweat it out, protect our pets, and splurge on a pool pass.

There is one more temporary solution: don a sunhat and dig into a sweet, ice-cold treat. Most Austinites know where their favorite ice cream is, but these 10 businesses have new seasonal flavors, unique pastry offerings, and delicious drinks, too. This list also includes lots of tropical fruits, no matter what culture inspired the dish, alongside some distinctly Texan ingredients.

Stay cool out there, Austin!

Gelato Paradiso
Of course we're going to start with ice cream, and Gelato Paradiso is some of the best available in Austin. These thick and creamy small-batch treats come in traditional flavors like stracciatella (basically a more delicate Italian chocolate chip), pistacchio, and nocciola (hazelnut), as well less-expected (but still not wild) seasonal flavors, like passion fruit, guava, and pineapple. Still, nothing beats a lemon sorbetto on a hot day. Nothing.

Lick Honest Ice Creams
If those flavors were a little tame for you, or celebrating Texas ingredients is more appealing than Italian escapism, look no further than Lick Honest Ice Creams. Four summer make an appearance at this gay-owned local favorite: strawberry margarita, "Orange You Glad It's Pride?," lemon poundcake, and peach leaf graham crunch. Its everyday flavors break the mold with combos like beets and mint, or goat cheese, thyme, and honey.

Beard Papa's
Most of this list is pretty local, but one Japanese company makes a chilled dessert too unique and delightful to pass up. Beard Papa's, at The Domain, makes semi-custom cream puffs in 24 combinations. First, choose a pastry shell from options like plain pastry, chocolate coated, green tea coated, oreo topped, and more. Then choose one of four fillings: vanilla, chocolate, green tea, or Vietnamese coffee, only available this June. Order a bunch to share with friends, but they're bigger than they look online!

Connor's Creamery
This one is for the transplants, especially from the Midwest and Northeast: Remember those soft-serve ice creams with the ribbon of flavored gel along the edges? You could get flavors like cherry, butterscotch, and blue goo. (Obviously, if you were 12 or younger, you got the latter.) According to the maker's website, there's only one place in Central Texas with a Flavor Burst soft-serve machine, and it's the Museum of Ice Cream. But we know that the truck outside Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster is selling them, too. Enjoy irresponsibly. Order every flavor.

Kalimotxo Cheesecake
All cheesecakes are no-bake if you didn't have to bake them. Kalimotxo, the trendy Basque cocktail by Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group, serves one of the most famous cheesecakes in the country, and by the time it gets to your plate, the singed top has all the benefits of a hot, hot oven, but has been long chilled. The Basque cheesecake is easily recognizable for its darkened, deflated top and a fluffy but very creamy center. The menu also features a corn ice cream sundae, for even more adventure.

Meanwhile Brewing
Formerly a brunch craze and now just part of many wine-lovers' routines, the frosé (frozen rosé) is a gentle departure from stronger cocktails and heavier desserts. Meanwhile Brewing — an unlikely suspect, perhaps — makes a special frosé with a tropical twist: hibiscus, basil, and passionfruit. The brewery has a solid list of other wine cocktails alongside its many beers, including a house-made fernet and sake sangria.

Uncle Nicky's
This combo may surprise some non-Italians, but melon (cantaloupe) and prosciutto are an elite sweet-and-salty team. Uncle Nicky's Italian Specialties serves this classic treat with ricotta and mint alongside other chilled brunch items like parfait and overnight oats, or savory dishes like chilled shrimp. Pair it with a morning spritz or an espresso martini for a luxurious breakfast that couldn't feel more chill — in every sense of the word.

Frutería Las Mazorcas
There are lots of fruterías around town, and one is basically as good as the next. But Frutería Las Mazorcas is known for its over-the-top fruit cocktails, and just opened a new location at 6419 US-183 Hwy. on June 18. Go for the traditional mango chamoyada topped with an entire paleta, a variety of aguas frescas, or a rusa en cantarito topped with cucumbers, sour candy, and more. Whatever decision you make, there is chamoy galore.

Super Thai Cuisine
Americans are so obsessed with iced coffee, they'll drink it in any whether. But how about a sweeter alternative for that caffeine fix: Thai tea? For those who haven't tried it, Thai iced tea is a lightly spiced tea with sweetened milk, and it's one of the most refreshing summer drinks out there. Super Thai Cuisine serves all its teas hot or cold, including the green tea, which is served in the same style. For a side snack, the sweet sticky rice is served warm, but contrasted with chilled mango.

One of the best things the Texas heat brings every year is peach season, and Tillie's at Camp Lucy is making the most of it with a unique dessert recipe. A cross between an ice cream sandwich, a brown butter cake, and a peach cobbler, this layered dessert has Texas summer written all over it. They call it an ice box pie, and it's the invention of the restaurant's new pastry chef, Hannah Smith. The new and growing dessert menu looks worth the drive on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Yummi Joy

Toy Joy and Yummi Joy relocate to bigger play space on Burnet Road, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Austin real estate, to the reasons people want to live here in the first place, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Toy Joy and Yummi Joy relocate to bigger play space on Burnet Road. The cult-favorite toy store is getting a much larger space in North Austin. That means more room for events, and the candy store is going, too.

2. Tenacious D will play the best song in the world in Austin this fall. Jack Black and Kyle Glass will grace Austin with their rock godly presence this September at Germania Insurance Amphitheater.

3. Austin earned top 10 rank for highest number of build-to-rent homes last year. This makes sense for a city with as many transplants and students as Austin has. A total of 324 build-to-rent homes were completed here in 2022.

4. Austin nests top 10 spot in new rank of best U.S. cities for birdwatching. There's always something new and shiny to spend money on in Austin. Why not appreciate our bird life for free?

5. Georgetown breaks ground on phase 3 of San Gabriel Park improvements. Better roadways, parking, a multi-use performance pavilion, and more are planned. It should be finished by spring 2024.

Birdie's/ Facebook

Savor the 8 best Austin restaurants of 2023


If we were to roast the eight nominees for the CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Restaurant of the Year, we'd start by saying they need no introduction. That's undeniably true, but it would be tricky to get to the next part. Even in jest, we truly have no shady things to say.

So, allow us to gush. Together, these eateries are what makes Austin such a dynamic food city. Their eclectic menus, inspiring interiors, and dazzling beverage programs set the bar for where restaurants should be today. It pains us to have to pick a winner.

You can congratulate us on our bravery at our annual Tastemaker Awards party. Join us in giving one more round of applause below before we unveil the winner on May 11 at Fair Market.

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.

It may seem like ancient history, but it wasn't that long ago when Austin's palate was restricted to Tex-Mex, barbecue, and Americanized European cuisine. Thank goodness there has been a sea change. Tavel Bristol-Joseph's Caribbean cuisine fare is visionary — contemporizing the region's traditional fare without tempering its assertive use of spice. To be a truly world-class food city, we still need more diversity. We're exceedingly lucky to have Joseph as a harbinger.

Dai Due

We recently sang Dai Due's praises as a nominee for Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, so now we'll offer a tip. On a muggy Central Texas day, catch up with a friend over a bottle of Cinsault. Order the cold meat plate and perhaps some grilled sourdough (we wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the pleasures of whipped lard). We all grew up on Lunchables and now cater cocktail parties with grocery store charcuterie, but this is how meat should be enjoyed.

Épicerie Café & Grocery
Every neighborhood deserves a restaurant to call its own, but Allandale must have particularly good karma. Chef and owner Sarah McIntosh has a particular knack for bringing luxury to the everyday. Some days the vehicle may be a simple ricotta toast zsuzhed with piquillo peppers and Marcona almonds. Other days, it might be a hanger steak blanketed by a velvety demi-glace. Eternally, it is her featherweight beignets — the Platonic ideal of New Orlean's most famous pastry served without the bother of a flight.

La Condesa
From Jennifer Coolidge's career to the reunification of Bennifer, nothing captures our attention as a good comeback story. So, it was thrilling to see this almost 15-year-old restaurant back on the radar screen in 2023. Still, locals don't need the James Beard Foundation to tell them La Condesa's place in Austin's culinary scene. When it opened in 2009, it ushered in a new golden era in the city's contemporary Mexican cuisine. Under the longtime direction of chef Rick Lopez, it still remains the standard.

L'Oca d'Oro
Across the country, parents are doubtlessly taming finicky kids with a heap of sketty and meatballs. Finicky adults can skip the limp Skinner noodles altogether. Instead, we give full permission to feed the inner child with this Mueller mainstay's luscious polpette. Made with Waygu brisket and heritage pork, the crackling orbs hardly feel chef-y. The sweet tang of the tomato jam only gently nudges the palate forward. Whether one is an epicure or a meat-and-potatoes mope, it's a successful dish. And it proves comfort food is not mere child's play.

With all of pop culture's country bumpkins, it's easy to forget that the South is just as cosmopolitan as backwater. And that the whole of Southern cooking is not found in a roadside meat-and-three. The powerhouse team of Michael Fojtasek and Amanda Turner don't turn their noses at common fare (one can't have Gulf shrimp without Tabasco) but find the elegance in an oft-maligned culinary region. That totality is breathtaking, whether presented as gumbo z'herbes or brown butter-drenched crudo.

Austinites have yet to glut their appetite for a buzzy restaurant interior, but far too often, diners gloss over the food. We humbly ask, "Por qué no los dos?" One's Gucci loafers will certainly look fetching dangling underneath the high tops crowding this east side standard bearer's entry. The mezcal selection definitely has enough horsepower to make any guest feel like a Hollywood ingenue. But chef Fermín Núñez's menu can delight with something as uncomplicated as refried lentils. Isn't it better to have substance with style?

Birdie's Austin

Restaurant of the Year: Birdie's

Photo courtesy of BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya

BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya quietly opens in former Contigo space in East Austin

Put That In Your Ramen And Smoke It

The Tatsu-ya group is slowly turning Austin into a theme park for Tatsu-ya restaurants, and Austinites are thrilled to wait in those lines. Following the sad closure of Contigo last year, BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya opened on the sly in the Anchor Lane space earlier this week, getting its feet under it before the guaranteed wave of customers.

Contigo — a very well-known and well-loved restaurant in the MLK neighborhood, known for emphasizing Texas cuisine — let go of its prized patio space in December of 2021 after 10 years of service. The Tatsu-ya group, coming up on its own 10-year milestone this fall, swooped in before it had decided on a name, announcing only that the concept would combine ramen and barbecue.

Word about Tatsu-ya travels fast, but this one actually stayed under wraps. As news in August came about more Ramen Tatsu-ya locations — just from ramen-obsessed Redditors noticing signs going up — curiosity was piqued, but still no announcement was made.

BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya sticks to the script, not venturing as far from the initial brand as DipDipDip Tatsu-ya or Tiki Tatsu-ya. Still, the menu does get creative as the name promises, and honors Contigo’s memory with a focus on Texas food.

“In Japanese, the word “en” translates to “circle” and means fate or karma, and this new project brings that to mind,” said owner and chef Tatsu Aikawa in a press release. “It feels like coming full-circle from seven years ago when Andrew and I were cooking together in the Contigo kitchen for an episode of ‘BBQ With Franklin’ and throwing it back to 2013 when smoked brisket ramen was born during a shift family meal. This is a serendipitous opportunity and we’re excited to bring new creative energy and serve the community.”

The meat is smoked on-site at 2027 Anchor Lane, for a relatively pared-down menu. Six creative appetizers use Japanese ingredients in a Texan format: the side sampler comes with “amazu slaw, chili cukes, J potato salad, ‘hot’ mustard on mustard greens, pickled shishito, and fermented radish.”

Flip those Texas-Japanese ratios and you’ll get fairly normal-looking ramen bowls with unexpected ingredients like tortilla chips, smoked pecan, and lemon. Of course one of the four bowls features brisket, while others include chicken, roast beef, and the obligatory pork belly.

The meats will likely be the focus for many diners, but most Texans already know what barbecue tastes like. The feat goes much deeper than adding some smoke. One bowl is based on a “chilled chili grapefruit dipping sauce,” and sounds nearly unrecognizable as ramen except that it contains some version of all the right parts — noodles, dipping sauce, meat, a vegetable, and an egg.
“Ramen and Central Texas barbecue are each their own craft that take time to make,” said Aikawa. “There are over 80 hours put into the making of the ingredients in each bowl.”

Perhaps this careful remixing is why BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya points out that it “politely decline[s] BBQ only.” Cocktails are equally creative, containing mostly Texas favorites like mezcal and tequila, but also surprising additions like smoked beef tallow. (If Tiki Tatsu-ya has taught Austin anything, it’s to trust Tatsu-ya bartending.) The dessert menu is short and simple, offering one banana and black sesame ice cream sandwich.

BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya is open from 5-10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 5-11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, with plans to eventually offer lunch as well. The Tatsu-ya group shares that it is hiring for expansions, including new restaurants and a possible lunch service for BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya. More information is available at bbqramen-tatsuya.com.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

A whimsical new brunch, brisket croissants, and Negroni week top Austin's tastiest food news

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.


Shake Shack, the famous fast-casual burger chain, is opening the Greater Austin area's first drive-through on September 28. Although much of the appeal of Shake Shack is the not-quite-fast-food atmosphere, sometimes you just need a burger quickly — thankfully, both dine-in and drive-through experiences will be offered at this location. The "first wave" of guests on opening day at 1402 N. Interstate Hwy. 35 will receive branded keychains and matchbooks. The company will also donate $1 for every sandwich sold at the location that day to local high school career exploration group Ladders for Leaders.

Austin loves JuiceLand, its homegrown juice and smoothie staple that's been around for more than 20 years and just opened its 35th Texas location. The new location on Menchaca Road and Slaughter Lane brings the chain deeper than ever into far South Austin (1807 W. Slaughter Ln.) and neighbor's the company's corporate office. Like any other location, the menu includes lots of fruits, veggies, and supplements, making it good both for a tasty refreshment and an easy meal replacement on a busy day.

ICYMI: Uchi spin-off Uchibāannounced its opening date: October 6. While Uchi focuses on sushi, this Dallas-born concept will be all about the bar and more casual snacks — things like bao, dumplings, and yakitori. The bar will offer some unique cocktail and spirits experiences that are like omakase for delicious drinks. Meanwhile, an aging Austin staple of 15 years, Circle Brewing, is in its final hours as it permanently closes, and a new Hill Country wine tasting room by Invention Vineyards may be a consolation prize for those willing to make the drive.

Other news and notes

Austinites have been excited about Elementary, the pop-up-turned-culinary-playground, since its opening in July. Now it's adding even more whimsy via a new brunch service. Some food highlights include the "Furikake Grown Up PB & J" on sourdough toast, augmented with tahini mascarpone, honey, and sesame, and the "Frosted Flake White Russian" with oat-infused Tito's Cereal Milk and...corn, somehow. Brunch service kicks off this weekend, September 23-24, from 10 am to 3 pm. Reserve on Resy.

Two big names in the Austin food scene — Sarah McIntosh of Épicerie and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue — have joined forces for one fatty treat. (Don't worry, that's where all the flavor comes from.) The limited-edition brisket-filled croissant is garnished with candied jalapeños, cream cheese, and watermelon rind relish for a decadent snack that has all the elements of a well-balanced sandwich. They'll be for sale at Épicerie until mid-October.

If Negroni are sbagliato, we don't want to be right. The classic drink, most commonly made with Campari, is in the spotlight until September 24 as part of "Negroni Week," a worldwide charity campaign launched a decade ago by the spirit company and Imbibe Magazine. In Austin, participating bitter-but-citrusy drinks can be found at Eberly (in three variations including sour and tequila twists), Kalimotxo (featuring salted vanilla), Uncle Nicky's (one of Austin's most aperitivo-friendly locales), Otoko (more news from them up next), and more.

Otoko and Watertrade, the luxe omakase and bar combo at the South Congress Hotel, have announced their fall "Dram Sessions." No, we're not talking about the viral rapper, but this is "capers on a square plate" energy. These small whisky pours ("drams," to Scots) will educate tasters via different distilleries around the world, and they'll come with paired bites and optional caviar to elevate the already fancy experience. Nikka Whisky gets the spotlight first on September 24. Book as early as possible on Tock.

Anticipated Japanese spin-off Uchibā sets opening date in downtown Austin

See You at the Bā

The newest Uchi group restaurant has been looking stately at the base of the Google Tower on 2nd Street, with signs up that it's opening soon. Now Austinites can save the date for the much-anticipated opening of Uchibā: October 6.

From the outside, it looks very similar to North Austin's Uchiko, with plenty of casual outdoor seating and shade that will welcome visitors who are just stopping by or are waiting for tables. The downtown location — much more in the thick of things than Uchiko or even the original Uchi location on South Lamar — will likely get significantly more foot traffic, so the welcoming patios look like they'll be in use often.

Inside, key words are "relaxed hideaway" and "intimate," despite the 117 seats across the 5600 square feet. This will be achieved, according to the release, by warm "furniture, fabric, art, accessories, [and] lighting."

Uchibā will serve up some of its sister restaurants' popular dishes, but the main concept is the bar, which is right there in the name (loosely translating to Uchi Bar). The new restaurant features a full bar, and sushi bar with a yakitori grill — those skewered meats and occasional veggies that bring the charred flavor to Japanese cuisine.

Unique to Uchibā are:

  • Two menu categories: Izakaya-inspired Buns, and Bao and Dumplings
  • Uchibā Salad
  • Crispy Tofu
  • Hot Rock
  • Karaage
  • Fried Green Tomato
  • Sake Maki
  • Spicy Tuna Roll
  • Every dessert on the menu

Although Uchi is one of the most famous sushi restaurants in the country, drawing notable visitors, these newer arrivals expand the brand to something a little more accessible to casual visitors who may not want to order (or spend on) an entire omakase meal. The option is certainly there to splurge, but a quick stop at the bar will likely lure new visitors in.

"The core of Uchibā is inspired by the Izakayas that our team visited when traveling through Japan," said Chef and Owner Tyson Cole in a release. "Like Uchi and Uchiko, we have a sushi bar; cool and hot tastings, but we really lean into items like Bao, Buns, Skewers and Dumplings as a part of the intimate bar experience and we are pushing the boundaries of cocktails beyond their role as a complement to food."

By "beyond," Cole is talking about an expansive menu of wines, beers, and more than 30 Japanese whiskies, including one that'll run visitors $300 a pour: a Yamazaki 18-year old Mizunara 100th Anniversary Edition. Most interesting, this new restaurant isn't leaving the omakase spirit behind; It's applying it to drinks, making "perfect bites" of food and spirit pairings, and designing well thought-out journeys through specific categories, like agave spirits.

Uchibā is located at 601 West 2nd Street, near the bridge to Austin Public Library's central location. Operating hours will be Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-11 pm. Happy Hour at Uchibā will be from 4-5:30 pm on weekdays. Reserve at uchirestaurants.com or call 512-916-4808.

\u200bUchib\u0101 Austin plates

Photo courtesy of Uchibā

Uchibā announced it will open on October 6.

Amazon goes on holiday hiring spree with 4.1K open positions in Austin

Holiday News

Soon the holidays will be here, and that means an influx of seasonal work from Amazon, which is on a holiday hiring spree.

According to a release, the company is hiring 250,000 employees throughout the U.S. in full-time, seasonal, and part-time roles across its operations network.

More than 28,000 of those will be in Texas with nearly half — 13,000 employees — to be hired in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Houston will be hiring more than 5,100, Austin more than 4,100, and San Antonio more than 2,600 workers. Waco gets 1,700-plus new positions, and El Paso, more than 300.)

Those include a diverse range of roles, from packing and picking to sorting and shipping, available to applicants from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Customer fulfillment and transportation employees can earn, on average, over $20.50 per hour for those roles, and up to $28 depending on location. Interested candidates can see hiring locations and open positions at amazon.com/apply.

"The holiday season is always a special time at Amazon and we’re excited to hire 250,000 additional people this year to help serve customers across the country," says Amazon SVP John Felton. "Whether someone is looking for a short-term way to make extra money, or is hoping to take their first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career at Amazon, there’s a role available for them."

According to Felton, a fulfillment or transportation employee who starts today will see a 13 percent increase in pay over the next three years, on top of offerings like pre-paid college tuition and health care benefits on day one.

Jobs in Amazon’s operations network include: stowing, picking, packing, sorting, shipping customer orders, and more, available in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., with a range of full- or part-time hours.

For anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Amazon, they offer free behind-the-scenes tours to the public at amazontours.com.