Photo courtesy of Birdie's

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 Olamaie

Austin's 6 best chefs nourish the food scene beyond their own front doors

Meet the Tastemakers

Most Austinites know their favorite restaurants, but the chefs are the real heart of the food scene. After all, it takes a lot more than knowing how to make something to run a successful restaurant, much less one that reflects its community. And although they're all unique enough to make something that really stands out, readers should notice some common themes across this list.

These culinary experts, our Tastemaker nominees for Chef of the Year, embody a few clear goals. Ingredients are number one; Good food is not possible without good ingredients, and these chefs often draw attention to the local farmers who make their work shine. Once those ingredients are sorted, cooking together is a big deal. Each of these chefs has a strong presence at local events, or has a very close working collaborator (including some life partners) — usually both. And finally, the people at the end of the chain, the diners, need to be seen and invited in.

In short, it's all about the people, and these six people were chosen by their peers. Our judges, a mix of last year's winners and the editorial staff who write these names over and over in stories all year, know these chefs beyond the food they put on the table.

There's still some time to get to know these chefs before the winner is announced. Read the many articles that have celebrated their work and the changing food scene over the past year, and then come find out who wins on May 11 at Fair Market for our annual Tastemaker Awards tasting event and awards ceremony. Tickets are on sale now.

\u200bChef Amanda Turner of Olamaie

Photo courtesy of Olamaie

Chef Amanda Turner of Olamaie somehow finds the time to show up at countless events while redefining Southern food.

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.

Bradley Nicholson, Lutie's
There's something uniquely inspiring about chef couples — the shared passion, the shared success in a notoriously competitive and tough industry. Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu are that couple in Austin. And it all takes place in a 70s-styled garden restaurant. When's the movie coming out? Nicholson, Rising Star Chef nominee in 2022 and current executive chef at Lutie's at the award-demolishing Commodore Perry Estate hotel, is good at sharing the spotlight. When it's not with his wife, it's with the local producers he highlights on the plate. Dishes at Lutie's back up Nicholson's claims that "regional heritage and responsibly-sourced cuisine are truly celebrated" here in Austin, often appearing as a pile of perfect vegetables.

Fermín Núñez, Suerte
Sometimes it's hard for non-Texans to understand the prestige that Mexican cuisine takes on thanks to chefs like Fermín Núñez. The chef was born in Torreon, Mexico, but has been in Austin for 14 years and has developed a huge presence through recognition by Food & Wine, the Food Network, Netflix, the New York Times, and more (including too many Tastemaker Awards to count between him, Suerte and Este). Although his inspiration is his heritage, his daily reality is full of local ingredients. Since you rarely get all that attention from hiding away, it shouldn't be a surprise that Núñez is very active on social media and is always pulling other chefs and restaurants into his limelight.

Grae Nonas, Bufalina
Grae Nonas isn't exactly a Tastemakers newcomer, but it's been seven years since he shared a nomination with Michael Fojtasek at Olamaie. A lot has changed since then: Nonas moved to and returned from Minneapolis, opened and closed pasta restaurant Le Cowboy during the pandemic, and ended up helming the new Bufalina in East Austin after the well-loved pizza restaurant let its decade-long lease lapse. It's a tall order to rebuild someone's favorite restaurant, but Nonas did it. The restaurant is back to serving its Neapolitan-style pizzas alongside Bufalina Due. It's not a far cry from Nonas' recent pasta venture, but here it's tradition that matters — not reinventing the wheel.

Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie
Pastry chef Sarah McIntosh really does it all. Currently nominated in the Pastry Chef of the Year category as well, she represents not just baked goods but an ideology about local foods at Épicerie. Part restaurant, part grocery, it's a little too quaint to call this a café and leave it at that. McIntosh's farm-to-table dishes go far beyond a brown paper bag lunch, from the must-haves (a croissant breakfast sandwich) to the luxurious (a local steak frites). She's another one of those busy Austin chefs who somehow makes all the events, but it's her slow bakes that really put her on the map. There's something beautiful about a pastry chef who branches out, but still stays caught in the layers of her first love.

Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, Birdie's
Birdie's gets a lot of attention for its wines, but the excellent food makes it a great place to really linger. (That's confirmed by its current nominations as Restaurant and Neighborhood Restaurant of the year.) Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and her husband Arjav Ezekiel co-own the restaurant, and the casual air surely comes from the homey origins as much as from the counter service model. (The fresh pasta certainly doesn't work against its approachability, either.) The environment Malechek-Ezekiel has helped to create has been admired by the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Esquire, and more, but Austinites are surely thankful that despite the recognition, this neighborhood restaurant stays down-to-earth.

Photo courtesy of Wanderlust Wine Co.

8 things to know in Austin food right now: Wine, coffee, and tacos come together on Barton Springs

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.


It's still early — more specifically, it's a soft launch — but Wanderlust Wine Co. is now operating its third location, this time at 1601 Barton Springs Rd. The two existing locations are known for commitment to the bit, through events and popups, as well as a fun wine tasting system that works on visitor-operated tap. The new location partners with Tacos TJ, which offers Tijuana-style birria tacos, and Vision Coffee, which serves up adaptogens in its brews. (Think helpful herbs and mushrooms.) During this stage of opening, this Wanderlust location operates Tuesday through Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm, and Sunday from 8 am - 6 pm.

OneTaco (stylized ONETACO.) is certainly more than just one, and it's growing. A new location at 5425 Burnet Rd. #110 makes eight of the fast-casual restaurants. The simple menu offers breakfast and street-style tacos with a few twists here and there, but an emphasis on authenticity since the restaurant's inception in 2009 as a food truck. A grand opening event on April 30 runs from noon to 3 pm with margaritas, face painting, a DJ, and a giveaway: the "Golden Ticket Taco" promises free tacos for a year. The location will donate 15 percent of proceeds from the opening week to the 4ATX Foundation.

Other news and notes

Rules & Regs at Fairmont Austin is changing its rules with a new happy hour (Thursday to Sunday, 6-8 pm) for deals on Modelo ($5), margaritas ($8), and suadero or carnitas tacos ($10). It also added two cocktails to the lineup: "The 7th Four" daiquiri sampling tower presents four cocktails — strawberry, mango, banana, and lime — on an Instagrammable stand, and the ‘Haily Mary’ Bloody Mary uses Grey Goose as a canvas for a guest to choose the perfect toppings. Reserve on OpenTable (or just walk in).

Bijan Mustardson, the alias of Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson in the form of a condiment for sale, is celebrating the upcoming NFL draft at Koko's Bavarian with a watch party on April 27. There will be drinks, snacks, "custom swag, and autographed gear," while the draft plays alongside a live performance by Thebrosfresh. Students get in free with a school ID, and further proceeds go toward Tankproof, a national swim lessons nonprofit. Tickets (starting at $10) available on Eventbrite.

The 2023 round of University of Texas graduates are about to embark on their post-grad lives (or maybe stick around the best grad school in Texas). To send them off, Cookie Rich and UT alum Lorin Peters collaborated to make a burnt orange treat (in color, not flavor) with a "dollop of salted caramel," perfect for a low-key gift ($39). Zombie Taco, the restaurant at The Moxy hotel, is also congratulating folks in a cap and gown on May 6 with buy-one-get-one tacos all day.

Zanzibar, a tiki bar on the rooftop of the Austin Marriott Downtown is turning up the tiki knob with a rotating cocktail series called Tiki Tuesdays. Once a month on a Tuesday, a different bartender will present a speciality cocktail in the tiki tradition. There's no one flavor profile to stick to, so some drinks may be sweet, spicy, or entirely unique, but they're all inspired by tropical flavors. Zanzibar also has a meals and snacks menu to work through on these repeat visits as new cocktails come out.

Austinites curious about growing food in their semi-urban home can get a closer look at the food system at Urban Roots' annual Tour de Farm. The organization says it's "the only farm-based youth leadership organization in Austin," and operates two farms with paid learning opportunities. During the May 3 event at Meanwhile Brewing, the organization will highlight some of its youth participants' ideas alongside cooking by Chef Damian Rockway of Distant Relatives. Tickets ($175) available at betterunite.com.

Maie Day, the steakhouse offshoot of southern restaurant Olamaie, is celebrating its first birthday with a party on May 4. Visitors can purchase a wristband ($35) to sample bites by the restaurant and access the bar all night through a sort of pre-existing afterparty; The South Congress hotel, Maie Day's home, hosts a monthly event called First Thursday that brings together local businesses and up-and-coming artists for a community get together. Birthday visitors get early access to First Thursday. Tickets available on Tock.

Photo courtesy of Sarah McIntosh

The top 8 pastry chefs in Austin bake up a colorful community

Meet the Tastemakers

No one changes hats like a pastry chef, serving up the savory, the sweet, and everything in between. A great meal may start with bread, encase something herbaceous in a puff pastry, and end with a beautiful meringue. These fatty, carb-heavy foods are the core of both comfort and celebration, but it’s easy to miss the mark — it’s a high-stakes, high-reward field, and most pastry heroes don’t see their names on the front of a restaurant.

This year’s Tastemaker Award nominees in the Best Pastry category show that no matter how highbrow or homemade, the passion transcends the plate — or the pastry box.

Sarah McIntosh of \u00c9picerie

Photo courtesy of Sarah McIntosh

Sarah McIntosh's creations at Épicerie mean you don't have to visit New Orleans for the best beignets.

Consider your wildest dreams and your mellowest comfort cravings, and then get ready to see them challenged on May 11 at Fair Market for our annual Tastemaker Awards tasting event and awards ceremony. Early Bird tickets are on sale now.

Abby Love, Abby Jane Bakeshop
Local ingredients are always hot as far as meats and veggies are concerned, but is anyone asking where their flour is coming from? Abby Love is. Products from Abby Jane Bakeshop are made exclusively from stone-milled heritage flours processed feet away at the Barton Springs Mill facility. Surprisingly at this bakeshop, the pizzas steal the show.

Amanda Rockman, New Waterloo
This charismatic pastry chef had some experience in Michelin star dining, but decided it just wasn’t for her and dove instead into the more personable "polished casual" world. Now she has fun with sprinkles and oversees the sweet and flaky goings on at New Waterloo properties including fellow Tastemaker nominees Maie Day, Watertrade, and La Condesa.

Aurora Soleil, Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group
Despite flying under the radar in name alone, Aurora Soleil has made a big impact on the Austin pastry scene. Endorsed via her hiring at Hestia by one of Austin’s pastry giants, Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Soleil upheld the hospitality group's refined, but adventurous image with unexpected ingredients, unusual flavor combinations, and an insuppressible joie de vivre in plating.

Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei, Wunderkeks
Anyone can make a good chocolate chip cookie, but married couple Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei are baking up a stronger, more supportive community. The cookies are a cult classic — thick and toasty after a mandatory oven warm-up — and the award-winning business supports safe spaces for LGBTQ people, immigrants, and anyone who embraces their true self.

Courtney Mullin, Juniper
There are a few staples that have sweetened the Juniper menu since it opened in 2015, but Courtney Mullin gets the credit for keeping the pastry program innovative and delicious. Mullins started out as a pastry cook in South Carolina before moving to Atlanta, Chicago, and now Austin, where she also concocts the classic crullers and more for Uncle Nicky’s.

Jules Stoddart, Little Ola's Biscuits
After pivoting to a temporary biscuit shop during the pandemic, Olamaie chef and owner Michael Fojtasek announced plans to open a permanent biscuit shop in North Austin. Formerly Olamaie’s executive pastry chef and culinary director Jules Stoddart now leads Little Ola’s, serving the fresh, delicious and from-scratch biscuits to tempt Austinites daily.

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.

Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie
Even Café Du Monde canonists can confess that Sarah McIntosh’s beignets are not just bigger, but better. Sure, there’s no street jazz band serenading every powdery bite, but McIntosh’s creations are fluffier, fresher, and more satisfying — and that’s not even touching on her kougin-amanns, flaky croissants, almond croix, and the best sprinkle cookies in town.

B.D. Riley's Irish Pub & Restaurant Facebook

Find your pot of gold at the end of these 8 St. Patrick’s Day events in Austin


We may not have a river to dye green, but Austin knows how to celebrate an international holiday — even in the midst of SXSW. Green beer seems to be one of the main talking points for this upcoming St. Patrick's Day. Is it tacky or is it tradition-worthy? You'll have to try it and find out.

Lucky for you, we've gathered eight events for you to sham-rock your way through the weekend.

B.D. Riley’s
Embrace Irish hospitality at B.D. Riley’s, a pub with live music performances, this time by Irish native Daithi Arwine, The Chancers, and the Kristen Gibbs Band. Enjoy the classic Irish menu with a full Irish breakfast available all day, but you won’t see any green beer at this establishment. Doors open at 10 am. The restaurant will not be accepting reservations or take-out orders.

Yard House
Beer lovers can get their fill of Guinness and some famous house brews at Yard House. The bar will offer a special Dublin Mule cocktail that features both Jameson Irish Whiskey and Guinness Dry Irish Stout. Green beer will be available on tap.

Lick Honest Ice Creams
Enjoy a bright green treat that isn't beer: Lick’s peach leaf graham crunch ice cream during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. The almond-flavored ice cream features peach leaves from Hausbar Urban Farm in Austin. The leaves are also folded in with cinnamon crumble for a crunchy texture. Top it off with some housemade green whipped cream to make it the best sweet treat.

Otopia Rooftop Party
Have you ever seen the city from 11 stories above the skyline? Get a look at Otopia’s St. Paddy’s rooftop party from 5-11 pm. Try a specialty cocktail or green beer while enjoying music by a live DJ. If you buy the cocktail, you’ll be entered to win a free resort experience with the winner selected at 9 pm. Eight-person VIP booths ($500-$600) with a complimentary bottle of Jameson and general admission tickets ($20) are available on Eventbrite.

Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social is inviting everyone to test their “Irish luck” at its many games while enjoying music by a live DJ and $7 beer and shot specials all weekend at both locations. They’ll also have special Paddy’s Irish Whiskey cocktails. RSVPs are encouraged and can be found on Eventbrite.

Cork & Barrel
In celebration of its two-year anniversary, Round Rock’s own Cork & Barrel will be throwing a birthday party full of live music and games beginning at 11 am. Selected performers will be providing the entertainment throughout the day, including Ryan The Bagpiper, Irish dancers, and Sean Orr’s Celtic Gold Acoustic, with a final performance from 9-11 pm by The Damn Quails. The head chef will be cooking up some Irish specialities for the occasion, as well as Irish Car Bomb cocktails.

Burger Bar on Campus
For the entire month of March, guests will be able to try Burger Bar on Campus’ special Guinness Burger and hand-spun mint milkshake in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day. The burger has two beef patties, Irish cheddar cheese, bacon, and sweet onion Guinness jam. The bright minty milkshake will be topped with whipped cream and gold flakes.

St. Nicholas at Hyde Park Theatre
This one-man show on March 17 is all about an Irish theater critic’s yearlong experience being employed by vampires. Doors open at 7:30 pm, and the show begins at 8 pm. Tickets are half price for opening weekend ($11.50) and can be found via TicketWeb.

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Austin "cookie gays" offer safe spaces and investment opportunity after SXSW panel

safe spaces and cookies

Wunderkeks, a gay and immigrant-owned cookie company with a staggering amount of depth for something that could be sold on sugar content alone, has been showered with praise in the last three years. And it’s fundraising for another push into the stratosphere.

To recap, this brand almost folded the year South by Southwest (SXSW) got canceled out of concern for the pandemic. They made some famous friends, and won audiences over with earnest branding (and to-die-for chocolate chip cookies). They went to the Oscars, partnered with an increasingly impactful music festival, created a recipe with actress Tori Spelling, won a prestigious award from the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and still had time to produce tons of cookies. Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei, co-founders and recipe developers, are among the Pastry Chef of the Year nominees for CultureMap's 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

This year the brand came full-circle with a panel at SXSW 2023 discussing safe spaces with VP of Communications at Virgin Atlantic Laura Brander, lead singer of Neon Trees Tyler Glenn, and the first openly gay statewide officer in Pennsylvania, Brian Sims. This topic has been central to Wunderkeks’ impact, and has elevated the company beyond a snack brand.

It turns out, not even the sky’s the limit for this married duo, whose cookies are soon to be warmed up and passed out on all outbound Virgin Atlantic flights (making these, unofficially, the best airplane snacks anyone has tasted) — if they can get the funding. Despite Wunderkeks’ meteoric success, it’ll take a little more than some careful planning to increase production and distribution by 100,000 cookies per month.

That’s the initial volume needed to get the partnership off the ground. Wunderkeks also hopes to offer a similar partnership to Delta, Virgin Atlantic’s U.S. partner, which the founders say would add up to "millions of people daily being touched by our message of building Safe Spaces."

Virgin Atlantic made news in 2022 for allowing cabin crew to choose the uniforms that best suit their gender identities. This made the company a great example for the panel — mostly building on ideas about making staff feel at home and enabling them to redirect their energy from suppressing self-expression to supporting guests — but also a corporate soulmate for the young retailers.

Gramajo, who moderated the panel, passed along the goodwill of Virgin Atlantic employees he interviewed when considering the partnership. Those employees had nothing to gain, he pointed out, in speaking highly of the company in private. They just felt seen.

Gramajo pointed out the similarities between this approach and the cookie brand’s, in all its pink glory. None of it was intentionally queer signaling. It wasn’t that Wunderkeks, itself, was queer.

“It’s that it’s us,” he concluded. “It’s amazing the energy that we waste when we code switch.”

Preserving that energy is also the purview of the Loveloud Festival, which another panelist, Tyler Glenn, founded with Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons to uplift LGBTQ+ youth in Utah. As a defected Mormon, Glenn was specifically pushing the boundaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Although he found the church much more powerful than he ever realized, the first years’ trials and tribulations paid off in an effusive show of love, support, and safe space for both the youth and their parents. Wunderkeks preaches the gospel of the tangible supportive atmosphere at the festival, and has previously partnered with Loveloud for joint branding on cookie boxes during pride month. A dollar from every box sold went to the foundation.

The third panelist did not represent any business partnerships, but he did articulate some of the day's most empowering messages from a perspective formerly inside the political beast. Brian Sims (D), now retired as a legislator, discussed largely Republican-led motivations of building momentum in transphobic attacks. Sims attributed an influx of trans-critical bills to a desire to separate the least vocally-supported and often the most politically-active portion of the gender and sexuality-diverse movement from the rest (the "T" from the "LGB").

Sims also shared a conversation he says he had with a Republican legislator about a similar effort, in which the legislator admitted he did not think the bill would ever pass. The panelist pointed out that such bills are often more about the showmanship than a desire to effect real change, but hopes that this chaos will lead to a strong pushback in the form of codifying protections that will put an end to copycat bills.

Wunderkeks needs $100,000 in this round of funding, lasting about two more weeks. This will get its cookies on flights and in the hands of cookie lovers and safe space champions in the air by April. The company is using Wefunder to sell future equity starting as low as $100-investments. In addition to the equity, there are tiered perks including a 10 percent discount, team T-shirt, and free cookies for a year. As of this writing, the current round has already reached $51,650 from a total of 30 investors.

More information about Wunderks, its business plan, and the terms of the future equity investments are available at wefunder.com.

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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.