CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2017 Sophia's
Photo by Shelley Neuman

If you attended this year's CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards party, you might remember sampling a creamy, delicious pasta dish from the best new restaurant winner, Sophia's.

It was Orecchiette Tartufate, the Austin hot spot's No. 1 best-selling dish, and executive chef Mark Sparacino is revealing the recipe so you can make it at home. Join him as he shops Whole Foods Market for all the ingredients — from fresh to dried to specialty — and then follow the recipe below to whip up the famous pasta for yourself.

Orecchiette Tartufate

5 oz. fresh/dry orecchiette
2 cups heavy whipping cream (36%-40%)
3 oz. dry white wine
6 medium cremini mushrooms, quartered
5 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 halves sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1 tablespoon truffle paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
White truffle oil to drizzle
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to top
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch and shock asparagus; reserve the water for sun-dried tomatoes.

Pour 3 oz. of hot asparagus water over sun-dried tomatoes. Steep for 15-25 minutes (depending on the dryness of tomatoes), then strain.

Sauté cremini mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a 10-inch sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add cremini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until garlic starts to lightly brown.

De-glaze with white wine, turn heat up to high, and allow to reduce most of wine.

Add the heavy whipping cream, truffle paste, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Allow cream to reduce by 50 percent.

Add asparagus, then turn heat off and set aside.

In boiling salted water, (should taste like the ocean), cook according to directions on package or to desired texture. Pasta should be cooked al dente (slightly undercooked), as it will finish cooking in the sauce.

Bring truffle sauce back to a simmer while pasta is cooking.

Strain pasta but do not rinse. Add directly to sauce, stirring 1 to 2 minutes until pasta is well coated and sauce well reduced.

Finish with parsley, a drizzle of truffle oil, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper to taste.

Chef Mark Sparacino dishes up Orecchiette Tartufate at the 2017 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards.

CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2017 Sophia's
Photo by Shelley Neuman
Chef Mark Sparacino dishes up Orecchiette Tartufate at the 2017 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards.
Justin Holt/Ralph Smith Studios

These are the best restaurants and bars in Texas for 2017

Texas Tastemakers

Each year we hold a Texas-sized celebration of two of the things we love most: food and drink. The annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awardshonorsthe top restaurant and bar talent in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

The program started in Austin in 2012 and has expanded to include every city we cover. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on the people making the restaurant scene special and honor their innovation, energy, and creativity. Here's how it works. First, we collaborated with industry experts to determine a list of nominees in each city. Our local panels then selected winners in every category, except Best New Restaurant, which was determined by you, our savvy readers.

The winners were revealed at our swanky tasting events and awards ceremonies, held April 18-20 in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. (See highlights from the Austin party here.)

Meet the winners below, and join us in toasting the best of Texas dining right now.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
  • Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
  • Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
  • Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
  • Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All Day
  • Best Burger: Contigo
  • Best New Restaurant: Sophia's


  • Restaurant of the Year: Lucia
  • Chef of the Year: Julian Barsotti, Nonna, Carbone's, Sprezza
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Josh Sutcliff, Mirador
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sarah Green, The Joule
  • Bar of the Year: Armoury D.E.
  • Bartender of the Year: Charlie Papaceno, Industry Alley Bar
  • Wine Program of the Year: Gemma
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Bbbop Seoul Kitchen
  • Best Fried Chicken: The Slow Bone
  • Best New Restaurant: Pie Tap Pizza Workshop + Bar

Fort Worth

  • Restaurant of the Year: Tokyo Cafe
  • Chef of the Year: Jesus Garcia, Oni Ramen
  • Best New Restaurant: Tortaco


  • Restaurant of the Year: Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Chef of the Year: Ryan Pera, Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Martha de Leon, Pax Americana
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Victoria Dearmond, One Fifth/Underbelly
  • Bar of the Year: Eight Row Flint
  • Bartender of the Year: Leslie Ross Krockenberger, Reserve 101
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros Steakhouse
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: State of Grace
  • Favorite Taco: Tacos Tierra Caliente
  • Best New Restaurant: State Fare

San Antonio

  • Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
  • Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
  • Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg

Lucia, Dallas Restaurant of the Year.

Lucia Dallas
Justin Holt/Ralph Smith Studios
Lucia, Dallas Restaurant of the Year.
CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2017 Wine Program of the Year Bufalina
Photo by Shelley Neuman

Austin foodies get their fill at best Tastemakers party yet

A Taste of Tastemakers

A huge crowd gathered at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on April 19 for the sixth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our big event celebrating the top food and beverage talent in Austin and San Antonio.

Almost 800 foodies attended the swanky tasting event. It all culminated in an awards ceremony, emceed by beloved Texas chef Tim Love, in which the night's big winners were revealed.

Attendees noshed on bites from 827Ray's Kitchen + Cellar, Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden (San Antonio), Cannon + Belle, Culinary Dropout, Emmer & Rye, Geraldine's, Grizzelda's, Juniper, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Old Thousand, Parkside, Ritual (Houston), Rosemary's Catering, Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, Sophia's, Swift's Attic, Uchiko, and Wu Chow. A Sweet Suite featured treats from Chocolaterie Tessa, General Tso'Boy, The Cupcake Bar, Spread & Co., and Sugarfina.

Craft cocktails incorporating Woodford Reserve were flowing at the main bars, and the Bartender Showcase featured signature drinks from Natalie Mauser-Carter of Backbeat, Dennis Gobis of The Roosevelt Room, and Angela Zamora of Stay Gold. Wine from Sonoma-Cutrer and beer from Oskar Blues Brewery, Alaskan Brewing Co., and SweetWater Brewing Company rounded out the bar options. An Illy coffee bar got folks caffeinated, and Topo Chico kept them hydrated.

Nominees were treated to an exclusive lounge courtesy of Korbel, which featured free bubbly and swag bags filled with goodies from Jack Black Skincare, Kettle & Brine, Krave Jerky, Liber & Co., Nina Berenato Jewelry, Outdoor Voices, SoulCycle, Whole Foods Market, and Woodford Reserve.

A fun photo booth helmed by Ben Porter Photography and powered by Whole Foods Market had everyone smiling. Across the room, Priv pampered guests with fun, foodie nail art. The best part? Ten percent of the proceeds from the Tastemaker Awards supports the Austin Food & Wine Alliance.

Spotted in the crowd: Tyson Cole, Kevin Fink, Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Page Pressley, David Baek, James Dumapit, Abby Love, Jack Gilmore, Bill Norris, Billy Hankey,Justin Lavenue, Mark Sparacino, Paula Collins, Alexis Cawley, Simon Cawley, Stephanie Samuels, Kim Fuller, Kayluis Peña, Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, Shaun Monforte, William Jackson,Gabby Cikota, Stacy Hubrath, Holli Young, Hayden Walker, Misty Journey, Faez Khan, Melissa Kuo, Rebecca Kan, Craig Beveridge, Sarah O'Brien, Thien-Y Hoang, Melissa Grady, Torie Gehrig, W.H. Harris, and Marie Smyth.

Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, and Shaun Monforte.

CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2017 Mary Verhaeghe Dani Verhaeghe Lizzy Verhaeghe Shaun Monforte
Photo by Shelley Neuman
Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, and Shaun Monforte.
Photo by Melody Fury

Austin restaurant of the year, top chefs, and more revealed at 2017 Tastemaker Awards

Meet the Tastemakers

Over the past month, we've introduced you to the top restaurant and bar talent in Austin as part of our 2017 Tastemaker Awards. These outstanding nominees, selected by an expert panel of judges, represent the very best of Austin's celebrated food and drink scene.

On Wednesday night, emcee and Texas restaurateur Tim Love revealed the winners at our annual Tastemaker Awards party, held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Join us in toasting the 2017 Tastemaker winners:

Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
The food at this Rainey Street gem is adventurous but familiar, and the atmosphere, service, and bar round out a terrific dining experience. Chef Kevin Fink is an advocate for sustainability, sourcing heirloom grains (milled in-house); relying on whole-animal butchery; and making his own vinegars, preserves, condiments, and pickles using natural fermentation.

Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
Duplechan opened Lenoir with his wife, Jessica Maher, in 2012. In 2013, he was awarded the Tastemaker in this category for his expert take on "hot weather food." Recently, he partnered with Jeffrey Weinberger on the reincarnation of Youngblood's fried chicken, which is now open in Mueller.

Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
Co-chefs James Dumapit and David Baek debuted Old Thousand in late 2016, and the east side hangout has become a go-to for Chinese food and cocktails. It's the first of four projects from SMGB, a new restaurant group comprised of talent from top spots like Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Hai Hospitality.

Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
Abby Love honed her pastry skills in positions throughout bakeries and restaurants. Her current dessert menu at Dai Due ranges from refreshing lime and fresh mint sorbet to a delicate grapefruit shortbread tart.

Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
King Bee Lounge is an unassuming cocktail mecca in East Austin. Owner Billy Hankey has created a destination for top-notch mixed drinks, as well as wine, mezcal, and live music.

Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
Loving has worn many hats in the local beverage scene, from his days as the wine buyer and bar manager at Fino to bartending at Midnight Cowboy and opening Weather Up. At his own venture, Small Victory, Loving continues his commitment to using the best possible ingredients, spirits, and ice to create memorable cocktails that break the mold while respecting the classics.

Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain Brewing
This little brewery has grown exponentially since opening in 2011, always with sustainability in mind. The crew is in the process of opening a new brewery and taproom in San Marcos, via an innovative crowd-funding and investment platform.

Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
Owner Steven Dilley prides himself on his wine list, which is surprisingly deep for a "pizza joint." Focusing primarily on French and Italian selections, the lists at Bufalina and Bufalina Due include cult Champagnes and grand cru Burgundies alongside easier-on-the-wallet options in a variety of styles.

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All-Day
Named for award-winning Austin sommelier June Rodil, this French-inspired bistro on South Congress boasts an outstanding wine program and expertly crafted cocktails. The food is elegant and eclectic, with items ranging from bites like salted cod croquettes to a seriously overstuffed burger.

Best Burger: Contigo
Contigo's burger is accompanied by house-cured bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a house-made challah bun smeared with aioli. It may be simple, but that allows the flavors of the fresh ingredients to stand out — and win this special 2017 category.

Best New Restaurant: Sophia's
This sultry Italian restaurant stepped into the former Bess Bistro space in summer 2016. Sophia's classic entrees and pasta plates are complemented by an extensive wine list, plus cocktails with a special emphasis on barrel-aged creations, amaro, and house-made vermouth.

And we can't forget about our neighbors to the south. Here are the San Antonio Tastemaker winners for 2017:

  • Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
  • Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
  • Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg

Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye.

Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant grain salad
Photo by Melody Fury
Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye.
Barley Swine/Facebook

Get a taste of the best Austin restaurants for 2017

Restaurant of the Year

If you've dined at any of these restaurants, you will agree that they are all worthy of the title of Restaurant of the Year in our annual Tastemaker Awards. Representing many cuisines and ethnic roots, these fabulous spots have contributed to making Austin one of the hottest culinary destinations in the country.

Get a taste of the nominees below, and join us as we unveil the winner at our big event on April 19.

Barley Swine
At Barley Swine, local and seasonal are not just trendy adjectives. The menu here changes daily depending on ingredients available and whatever they inspire the chefs to create. Although chef/owner Bryce Gilmore gets the credit — and the James Beard nominations — his kitchen is egalitarian and everyone contributes to the greater whole. Now with an expanded space that allows more people to enjoy the nightly delights, Barley Swine continues wowing with impeccably beautiful plates, garden-to-glass cocktails, and excellent beer and wine lists.

Emmer & Rye
This gem in the heart of the Rainey Street District could very well find a home in a corner of any major U.S. city, except for the hyper-local nature of its menu. Chef Kevin Fink is an advocate (dare we say activist) of sustainability, and he walks the walk by sourcing heirloom grains (which are milled in-house); relying on whole-animal butchery; and making his own vinegars, preserves, condiments, and pickles using natural fermentation. As expected, the food is adventurous but familiar, and the atmosphere, service, and bar round out a terrific dining experience.

After honing his skills at some of the best kitchens in Austin and Dallas, chef Nicholas Yanes opened this lovely east side eatery to showcase his love for Northern Italian fare. At Juniper he delivers creative dishes inspired by his travels, showcasing Central Texas products as they marry with Old World techniques. The space is modern and inviting, and it features a convivial atmosphere augmented by a solid bar program.

L'Oca d'Oro
The "Golden Goose" has wowed since opening day, thanks to chef Fiore Tedesco’s adventurous Italian cuisine matched by Adam Orman’s sensational bar program. While it is a casual neighborhood hangout with personable, professional service, it is not your typical checkered tablecloth Italian. Here, classic and family recipes receive a modern interpretation using Texas ingredients from nearby farms, served in individual or sharable family-style formats. The restaurant is also a pioneer in paying servers a living wage, and it is one of only two Sanctuary Restaurants in Austin.

The lovely Lenoir continues to dazzle diners with chefs Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher’s “hot weather food,” sourced almost exclusively from Texas’ farmers and food artisans. The prix fixe menu changes weekly, and the wine list evolves through the seasons to match the cuisine. The atmosphere is exquisite and romantic without being stuffy, and the wine garden under the oaks adds yet another beautiful space to wine and dine.

Dining at Otoko is much more than just going out to dinner — it is a culinary experience for all the senses. Recently named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2017, Yoshi Okai treats this intimate Japanese restaurant as his own private playground where he uses local produce, wild foraged herbs, and fish flown daily from Japan to create an omakase dinner like no other in town. The exclusive experience has a price tag, but from the moment you sip a cocktail at the low-lit Watertrade bar before entering the 12-seat dining room, you know you’re in for something very special indeed.

Swanky Sway brings Thai cuisine to a higher level in exotic surrounds that transport you to a faraway locale. Executive chef Martin Wilda offers a modern take on iconic dishes and shares creations of his own inspired by the ingredients and flavors of Southeast Asia, while the bar strives to offer beer and wine to match. They have a varied list of non-alcoholic house-made sodas and drinking vinegars that are a welcome addition. The chef’s counter provides the perfect perch for watching the chefs in action, and the large communal tables are perfect for large groups.

What more can we say about this duo of Japanese, trendsetting restaurants helmed by award-winning chef Tyson Cole? Uchi was one of the pioneers in shaping the Austin restaurant scene we know now, and Uchiko — loosely translating as "son of Uchi" — followed suit with even more adventurous sushi and cutting-edge dishes like the Jar Jar Duck. Both remain relevant and innovative in a city where new restaurants pop up on a weekly basis.

Wu Chow
This younger sibling to Swift’s Attic was one of the most anticipated openings of 2015, and it did not disappoint. Executive chef Ji Peng Chen and dim sum chef Ling Qi Wu prepare traditional Sichuan dishes like spicy deep fried chicken, soup dumplings, and mapo dofu in classic style, in a modern space that is sophisticated yet comfortable. Weekend dim sum service includes all the favorites and cool Tiki drinks.


Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on April 19 at Bullock Texas State History Museum. Learn more about the event here.

Barley Swine.

Barley Swine
Barley Swine/Facebook
Barley Swine.
Photo by Kate LeSueur

Meet the best chefs in Austin for 2017

Top Chef

It's time to celebrate the nominees for Chef of the Year in our sixth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. These are the chefs that dish up our favorite meals in Austin — and always leave us hungry for more.

Meet the nominees below, then join us for the big reveal on April 19 at the Bullock State History Museum.

Tatsu Aikawa and Tako Matsumoto, Ramen Tatsu-Ya
​These co-executive chefs are responsible for Austin's ramen craze. There are now two Ramen Tatsu-Ya outposts in Austin, plus a brand-new, well-received branch in Houston. And earlier this year, the team debuted Texas-influenced izakaya Kemuri Tatsu-Ya in East Austin.

Tyson Cole, Uchi, Uchiko
Cole is the mastermind behind Austin's most famous sushi restaurant and the first Austin chef to be named Best Chef: Southwest by the James Beard Foundation. He recently announced plans to take his restaurant empire across state lines: Uchi Denver will debut in 2018.

Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
Duplechan opened Lenoir with his wife, Jessica Maher, in 2012. In 2013, he was awarded the Tastemaker in this category for his expert take on "hot weather food." He recently partnered with Jeffrey Weinberger on the reincarnation of Youngblood's fried chicken, now cooking in Mueller.

Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye
Grains are the star of the show at Fink's Rainey Street hot spot, Emmer & Rye. Lauded as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2016, Fink transforms grains into a celebrated selection of breads, pastas, desserts, dim sum, and more.

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Odd Duck
This darling of the Austin restaurant industry won the Tastemaker in this category in 2014 and is eligible again this year. The son of veteran chef Jack Gilmore, Bryce hit the local scene with his Odd Duck trailer before opening standout restaurant Barley Swine. In late 2013, he introduced a brick-and-mortar version of Odd Duck, and last year, Barley Swine made the move to a bigger, better location on Burnet Road.

Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen's Kitchen
There's no doubt that Jack Gilmore is one of Austin's favorite chefs. His beloved Jack Allen's Kitchen concept has three locations around the area — with a North Central Austin outpost in the works. In 2016, Gilmore opened Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, bringing his signature Southern approach to coastal fare.

Yoshi Okai, Otoko
At the exclusive 12-seat Otoko, Okai executes a menu that honors Japanese tradition, while seamlessly incorporating local ingredients and regional tastes. It's what makes him "Austin’s Best New Chef" for 2017, according to Food & Wine.

Fiore Tedesco, L'Oca d'Oro
Tedesco's anticipated Italian restaurant debuted in the Mueller district last summer after three years of pop-ups and supper clubs. The result is pure gold, drawing from Tedesco's experience at top restaurants like New York's Roberta's and Gramercy Tavern.

Nicolas Yanes, Juniper
Our 2016 Rising Star Chef of the Year winner, Yanes advances to the Chef of the Year category for 2017. He opened East Austin restaurant Juniper as executive chef and partner in 2015; the endeavor, a fun place to experiment and enjoy high-end cuisine, is inspired by his travels through northern Italy.


Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on April 19 at Bullock Texas State History Museum. Learn more about the event here.

Yoshi Okai, Otoko.

Yoshi Okai chef
Photo by Kate LeSueur
Yoshi Okai, Otoko.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Lubbock luminaries on what ignites the Hub City

Faces and Places

In Lubbock, Texas, where locals have been pouring their livelihood into both the city and their craft, the community has created a Texas experience like no other. What sets apart a destination from others is the welcoming faces who meet travelers with open doors and a willingness to share the West Texas way of life with all who wander through.

CultureMap recently checked in with three Lubbock luminaries to learn what drew them to the city, what dreams they're making come true, and how visitors can take part in the magic.

Matt Bostick, sommelier and hospitality director of Llano Estacado Winery
Though his roots are in Texas, Matt Bostick found his passion for wine in Italy. While studying hospitality in Florence in 2011, he met Parisian sommelier Quinton Paillard, who encouraged his budding love of vino and set Bostick on the path toward becoming a sommelier himself.

After earning his degree in restaurant, hotel, and institutional management from Texas Tech University in 2012, Bostick joined Jackson Family Estates in Los Angeles. From there, he further honed his expertise as the lead sommelier for Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, under the mentorship of Sarah Clarke A few years later, Bostick co-founded a restaurant called Baldoria and even developed a line of ready-to-drink cocktails with his business partner, David King.

"When David and I decided to create B&K Cocktail Company, our business venture brought us back to Texas," Bostick says. "With my family residing in Lubbock, it was a natural choice to settle here. Lubbock holds significant personal and professional values for me. It's my hometown, where I was born and raised, and where most of my family continues to live and contribute to this community."

Today, Bostick is the events director and sommelier at Llano Estacado Winery, Texas’ second oldest winery. Bostick guides visitors through a sensory journey, introducing them to the complexities of different wines, regions, and vintages while offering insights into history, production techniques, and the unique characteristics of each varietal.

"I help individuals identify tasting notes, appreciate nuances, and even recommend food pairings that enhance the overall culinary experience," he says.

Grape Day on October 21 is an ideal time to visit the winery to see Bostick in action. To celebrate the end of the harvest, which spans late July to early October, Llano features captivating self-guided tours, diverse art booths, delicious offerings from the finest local vendors, exciting games for kids, and a mesmerizing lineup of live music on the Lubbock Listening Room stage.

Admission is free, but for $35 attendees will receive a commemorative Grape Day wine glass along with two tickets redeemable for a glass of wine. Pre-sale drink tickets will also be available for purchase in a bundle of three tickets for $15 (otherwise each ticket is $8 at the event).

"Grape Day holds immense significance to me. It's a celebration that represents the culmination of hard work and a sense of community," Bostick says. "Llano Estacado Winery has not only been a pioneer in the Texas wine industry but has also contributed to our local community's growth. Events like this shine a light on the rich heritage and traditions of winemaking, connecting our community to a broader narrative of craftsmanship and appreciation for the finer things in life."

Ian Timmons, pitmaster and third-generation owner of Tom & Bingo’s BBQ
It's been called a West Texas legend since 1952, and as soon as you step inside Tom & Bingo's BBQ, you'll understand why. This old-school barbecue joint — and Lubbock’s oldest restaurant — is packed with nostalgia and dishes out authentic barbecue that would make original owners Tom and Bettye Clanton proud, and current owner Ian Timmons intends to keep it that way.

While studying at Texas Tech, Timmons worked under Dwayne Clanton (Tom and Bettye's son, who gained ownership of the restaurant in 1980) and earned hands-on experience as a pitmaster. Upon graduation, he moved to Denver with his wife, Kristi, where he worked at Denver Biscuit Company.

"I’ve always worked in restaurants," says Timmons. "From my first job at Dairy Queen to a local restaurant called Orlando’s, where I was a server and got fired for making pizzas during my shift."

Timmons' wife also happens to be Dwayne and Liz Clanton's daughter, making him the obvious choice to carry on the legacy when the couple was ready to retire in 2017.

Now, Timmons pays homage to Tom & Bingo's 70-year legacy by smoking modern bark-on-brisket, his own coarsely ground smoked beef sausage, and pork spare ribs on the original brick pits the predecessors used for decades. He's also expanded the menu to include scratch-made potato salad and slaw, but one item remains a constant since the early days of the restaurant: the steak burger.

"This fall we are switching from our legendary brick pits to a new Centex offset smoker, so it’s back to square one for us," reveals Timmons. "This fall will be a learning season for us! But we are excited to see what a new smoker can do for us."

You can also catch the eatery's new food truck out and about and look forward to more biscuit collaborations with Monomyth Coffee (inspired by Timmons' time in Denver, of course). "We'll also hopefully open a Biscuit Club location to help grow the breakfast scene in Lubbock," Timmons hints.

But perhaps the tastiest way to experience Tom & Bingo's, besides visiting the restaurant itself, is by sampling its goods at the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in November. Held in Lockhart, November 4-5, the event helps raise funds for Feeding Texas and a network of food banks across the state.

Yung Cry Baby, aka Aaliyah Limon, resident artist with Charles Adams Studio Project
Full-time musician and vocalist Aaliyah Limon was born and raised in Lubbock, but when she was younger, she didn't feel the city had a place for her yet. After graduation, the aspiring talent took off to explore both coasts, working as a model and artist, but after a while realized she wasn’t as fulfilled as she had hoped and missed her family.

"I needed a break from my fast-paced lifestyle," she says. "I came back home to be with family, take a step back, and reassess what I really wanted to do with my life. When I moved back, my music took off much faster than I ever anticipated."

Now Limon is professionally known as Yung Cry Baby and serves as a resident artist with the Charles Adams Studio Project, a nonprofit that supports working artists in Lubbock.

"Because I'm passionate about it and motivated by the people who resonate with what I sing about, I've kind of kept with the momentum of things," Limon says. "I'm excited about what I do, and I love helping people heal through my music. Even if it only helps a little, it gives me a lot of joy knowing I can maybe help someone not feel alone."

Fans can see Yung Cry Baby perform not only at the karaoke bar she hosts at, but also at First Friday Art Trail, a monthly arts festival located in downtown Lubbock with a mission to bring together collectors, artists, and community friends for an evening of art, music, and fun. Participants are ever-changing, offering something for everyone.

"I love doing community-based things, especially when it comes to art," Limon says. "First Friday is always a blast for me."

Yung Cry Baby is currently working on her first full album, following the earlier release of her EP. Follow her on social media for updates.


Experience the people and places of Lubbock yourself by planning your next vacation here.

Llano Estacado Winery wine glass

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

Matt Bostick helps visitors appreciate the wine at Llano Estacado Winery.

UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024

go longhorns

The University of Texas at Austin continues its streak of high rankings for its high-quality educational experiences. The home of the Longhorns earned a coveted top three spot on U.S. News and World Report's just-released list of the Best Colleges in Texas for 2024.

UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. The public institution had an undergraduate enrollment of more than 41,300 students in fall 2022. The school, which costs $11,698 in tuition for in-state students and fees each year, ranks No. 9 for "Top Public Schools" by U.S. News.

In April, UT's Cockrell School of Engineering ranked No. 7 in U.S. News' ranking of the best graduate schools in the country, while McCombs School of Business earned the No. 20 spot among business schools.

UT Austin actually fared similarly in Niche'slist of top public universities, in which it ranked No. 6 nationally.

U.S. News' profile of UT Austin says the university prides itself on being a top-tier research institution.

"UT Austin has been a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities since 1929," the site says. "The university attracts nearly $800 million annually for research. Top accolades include the creation of the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines and the worlds’ fastest supercomputers for open research."

The university also boasts a rich campus culture that encourages students to participate in different organizations and activities.

"Students can participate in more than 1,000 clubs and organizations or in the sizable UT Greek system," the site says. "The university has several student media outlets, and its sports teams are notorious competitors in the Division I Big 12 Conference. UT also offers hundreds of study abroad programs, with the most popular destinations being Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and China."

Ahead of UT Austin in the ranking is Rice University in Houston. The "Ivy League of the South" ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 17 nationally.

Just behind UT Austin is College Station's Texas A&M University, which placed No. 3 in the Texas rankings and No. 47 nationally.

U.S. News' top 10 best colleges in Texas in 2024 are:

  • No. 1 – Rice University, Houston
  • No. 2 – University of Texas at Austin
  • No. 3 – Texas A&M University, College Station
  • No. 4 – Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • No. 5 – Baylor University, Waco
  • No. 6 – Texas Christian University, Fort Worth
  • No. 7 – The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson
  • No. 8 – University of Houston
  • No. 9 – Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • No. 10 – University of St. Thomas, Houston

The full rankings can be found on usnews.com.

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck says hi to Austin on cross-country tour

in her tour era

The famously pink Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is making its way down to Austin in October for a special day of treats and cartoon cat collectibles.

The cutesy vehicle will bring a horde of new Hello Kitty clothing, plushies, and accessories to The Domain from 10 am to 7 pm on October 14.

Among the new items is a bright pink tote bag with rainbow straps and desserts decorating the front, an assortment of Hello Kitty baked goods, and a transparent coffee mug with sprinkles in the handle and different desserts printed on glass body. Visitors can also snag an adorable lunchbox and a 18-ounce or 32-ounce stainless steel rainbow thermos.

Hello Kitty rainbow tote bagThe bright pink reusable tote bag has rainbow straps.Photo courtesy of Sanrio

As for the hand-decorated baked goods, guests can expect to see Hello Kitty's classic friends Keroppi the frog and Chococat appear on petit fours. The leading lady appears on miniature cakes, a giant sugar cookie, small box sets of madeleines, and French macarons.

The popular attraction has been touring around the country for nearly a decade, drawing crowds of thousands of people every year. Austin will be its third Texas stop on the tour, before it visits San Antonio's North Star Mall on Tuesday, October 21.

As a note, the cafe truck only accepts debit or credit cards, and not cash.

Other Texas cities on the tour route include:

  • September 30 – Arlington
  • October 7 – Houston
  • October 21 — San Antonio
  • October 28 – El Paso