Savor the 8 best Austin restaurants of 2023


Birdie's/ Facebook

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

Courtesy of L'Oca d'Oro

These 6 rising star Austin chefs are just getting started

meet the tastemakers

Austin has its fair share of celebrity chefs, and their ranks are always growing. And as much as we love poaching a well-liked chef from New York (at least, some of us do), there's something just chef's kiss about seeing our own local chefs rise through the ranks and open their own restaurants.

CultureMap's annual Tastemaker Awards feature a Rising Star Chef of the Year category, designed to pull some of Austin's most promising chefs out from the back of the house to the front of foodies' attention. Many of these chefs haven't won well-publicized awards, been featured in articles, or really had much of an online presence online before, so our judges — mostly the previous year's winners with a deep personal knowledge of the industry — are extra important here.

With the entire industry to choose from, the judges selected these six sous chefs, appointed executive chefs, and freshman small restaurant owners to represent the best chefs doing big things with fewer eyes on them. The winner of this category is someone our industry professionals want to see at the helm of their own culinary empire soon.

In order to dig deeper for these chefs' bios, CultureMap sent around a few questions about where these rising star chefs are from, what experience they've had, and what sets them apart in their industry. Please welcome — some for the first time — this class of Rising Star nominees. 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.

Harvard Aninye, Canje
This first-generation Nigerian-American chef is used to looking at things from several angles, saying his upbringing in San Antonio taught him to "continue to challenge and question life in general." Since his time in this cultural hot pot, Harvard Aninye landed at downtown Austin sushi restaurant TenTen as Chef de Cuisine, and then took the same position at Caribbean darling Canje, known for its vibrant takes on homey foods.

Javier Nuñez, Odd Duck
Loyalty is treasured but not always rewarded, especially in the fast-moving food industry. Javier Nuñez, however, has actually risen through the ranks as he's stuck with Odd Duck for the past decade — from a "server assistant" in 2014 to one of the most-admired sous chefs in Austin in 2023. The South Lamar staple has been similarly reliable, always a favorite among visitors and locals alike for the fresh ingredients and creative plates.

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.

Kareem El-Ghayesh, KG BBQ
In a barely alternate universe, Austin might have missed out on this chef's unique Middle Eastern art via his food truck, KG BBQ. From Cairo, Egypt, Kareem El-Ghayesh was in the corporate finance and banking world. After a visit to Austin he was hooked, he told the Austin Chronicle, and even learned his new trade through iconic Austin pit master Aaron Franklin. His contribution to Texas barbecue, he says, comes from "lighter and more balanced ingredients."

Kyle Mulligan
After a long personal history in Texas, including a culinary arts degree and several positions at Austin institutions as sous chef, Kyle Mulligan has finally moved on to more Northern things — but not without leaving his mark on the food scene. Most recently, and notably, it was as executive chef at 1417 French Bistro, where Mulligan created an example of something Austin doesn't see much thanks to its nontraditional bent: excellent, simple, and traditional French food.

Peter Klein, L'Oca D'Oro
The food world loves an unexpected twist, but sometimes we just need an East Coaster to make great Italian food. This New Jersey-raised chef honed his skills in New York City, finally arriving in Austin eight years ago. Fittingly, Peter Klein says his main inspiration is "leaning into simplicity." For this award, judges recognized his work as executive sous chef with L'Oca d'Oro, and he has now moved on to become executive chef at Holiday.

Photo courtesy of Fifth Street DMC

Meet the event architects of some of Austin's most unforgettable experiences

Doing Things Differently

If you've never heard of a DMC, it stands for destination management company. And if you're planning an event in Austin, you're going to want to know about the best DMC in town: Fifth Street DMC.

These event experts are all about shaking things up and delivering unforgettable experiences for their clients. They do it all, from venue sourcing and staffing to full-service event design and production, activities and excursions, corporate team-building, festivals and SXSW activations, and securing entertainment and talent.

This white-glove service ensures that quality never wavers, whether the event is for 50 people or 15,000.

At the helm is Kaitlyn Dineen. She may have been called crazy for buying a 20-year-old company (the first DMC in Austin) from her former employer during the pandemic, while pregnant and renovating her home — but crazy pays off.

Kaitlyn and the Fifth Street crew have produced some of the most visible events for the biggest brands in the city, and they're not slowing down anytime soon.

What sets Fifth Street apart? Their ability to dream up wild and unexpected experiences that you won't find anywhere else.

From cooking classes with Aaron Franklin to aura photobooths on the Four Seasons lawn, and even a group song recording with Grammy-winning producers, these guys know how to make team-building look different.

Heading to Austin for your corporate event and not sure where to go? This team can transform any space, from the Tesla facility for their grand opening to the infamous Troublemaker Studio for an oh-so top secret client — they’ve got a ton up their sleeve.

For this team, it’s not just about throwing killer events; Fifth Street is also committed to supporting local community and vendors.

For several clients, they have worked exclusively with minority-owned businesses, supporting operations like themselves (they are a WBENC-certified business).

Fifth Street DMC takes passion for place seriously, and it's committed to working with businesses that support the event community in Austin at large.

Fifth Street DMC is revolutionizing the landscape of destination management with its out-of-the ordinary approaches and pursuit of fresh ideas. They are ushering in a new era, where DMCs and their vendors and partners seek to grow with their cities and guests’ expectations — but never lose the soul, push the status quo, and continue showing the power that gathering has for our health and society.

Fifth Street DMC is truly a DMC doing things differently, and the sky's the limit for what’s next.

To learn more about Fifth Street DMC, visit its website.


People in cowboy hats smiling

Photo courtesy of Fifth Street DMC

These are experiences you won't find anywhere else.

Fifth Street DMC has recently been nominated for the Best DMC in the Southwest region at the Stella Awards, a huge recognition of their hard work and dedication in the industry.

Even better, you can vote and help them win — simply go to this link, click “vote for this nomination,” create an account when prompted, and don't forget to click "verify your vote." Note that you can only vote once.

Photo courtesy of Este

These 16 contenders are competing for the title of best new Austin restaurant

Meet the Tastemakers

It feels like every day that we read about a new restaurant concept in Austin — probably because it is. As the city changes, so does the culinary landscape, staying grounded at food trucks and fun places to meet up for a casual lunch, or breaking through the perceived limits of what this city has to offer, sometimes to the tune of James Beard Nominations.

As much as Austinites want to hold onto Old Austin, life changes, and supporting the best incoming restaurants may mean bolstering a new 40-odd-year institution that generations will look back on fondly. These 16 new restaurants tease a future of more East-West ethnic fusion (alongside some traditional favorites that will never die, like Mexican street food and pizza), local ingredients, and slow-cooked meats.

These nominees were picked by our Tastemakers judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — for you, the readers. Your votes will determine which restaurants progress to an eventual win for Best New Restaurant at the 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

Our first brackets match up pairs of restaurants with a similar style, conceptual focus, or rules broken, to make sure we're comparing apples to apples — or more accurately, brisket to brisket. Visit the interactive page to make your selections; one vote per bracket.

To vote, click here. Don't delay: The first bracket ends at 11:59 pm on April 24.

Then, find out which restaurant wins on May 11 at the Tastemaker Awards party at Fair Market. Nominated restaurants and chefs will show off their best bites and the winners in each category will be revealed. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Here are our nominees for Best New Restaurant:

The beauty of barbecue is it’s never just one thing, and these Tastemakers prove that the art will always keep expanding, multiculturally.
BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya
If ramen and Texas barbecue have one thing in common, it’s that you could cook either forever and it’ll just keep getting better. The Tatsu-ya franchise tightens its grip on ramen aficionados with a new venture combining the two deep flavors in BBQ Ramen Tatsuya.
KG BBQ is what happens when Southwestern smoking meets Middle Eastern flavors like pomegranate and tahini. Brisket is the restaurant’s pride and joy, but the sides really call attention to how variable classics like potato salad, rice, and mac and cheese can be.

Both a little nontraditional, these new restaurants take well-known, casual foods from non-American cultures and turn up the Texas flavor.
Side Eye Pie
Food truck Side Eye Pie isn’t doing anything wildly off-book, but it’s on a mission of “creating & defining Texas Pizza.” Eschewing imports for local products including flour and yeast, the spirit of rebellion also shows up in the “Sweet & Spicy Nutz” pie with Texas pecans.
Tiny Diner
Tiny Diner is all about Japanese breakfast. Eggs are the star of the show, especially in the breakfast sandwich, over easy on bacon, greens, spices and a toasted bun. The okonomiyaki, a savory pancake, may expand some diners’ horizons and is topped with a poached egg.

A food truck and a farmers market favorite, these two new restaurants are making big moves in small spaces.
Mum Foods
Known for its pastrami, sliced in front of shoppers and dripping with rendered fat, Mum Foods made a triumphant move to a small standalone smokehouse and deli counter. Now it serves huge spreads with sausages, matzah ball soup, and more.
Ensenada is doing what many other food trucks shy away from — an entirely fish- and shrimp-focused menu. The fried fish tacos are already a street food staple; Shrimp cocktail doesn’t sound like one until you see its colorful layers stacked in a smoothie cup.

Two of Austin’s newest Mexican restaurants show the range of the cuisine — from upscale to fast-casual — while focusing on the power of smaller regions.
Masa y Más
A stop at Masa y Más is like a tour through Mexico without leaving South Lamar, with each dish made in its specific regional style. Authenticity is a big focus here, and as the name suggests, there’s a lot more to try than just tacos, plus the big space is a great hangout spot.
Chapulín Cantina
The successor of longtime South Congress restaurant Enoteca, Chapulín Cantina shifted the Italian focus to Oaxaca, Mexico. The semi-upscale newcomer is named for a Oaxacan delicacy — fried grasshoppers — and they are on the menu. The tequila bar alone is worth a long visit.

Suerte’s little sister and this brand new dual concept at the Seaholm District prove that Austin is primed and ready for elevated Latin fare.
The award-winning team behind Suerte opened their long-awaited second concept last year on Manor Road. Celebrating coastal Mexican cuisine, the restaurant already looks set to become as cherished a spot as the space’s former tenant, East Side Cafe.
Ember Kitchen
The Seaholm District welcomed the arrival of dual concept Ember Kitchen & Subterra Agave Bar in January 2023. Ember offers a live-fire experience with Latin flare, while Subterra serves a curated selection of agave cocktails and Latin spirits in a speakeasy setting.

Two new steakhouses stampeded Congress in the past year, one north of the river — and right next to the Paramount Theatre — and one South, in the heart of trendy South Congress.
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.
Luminaire took up residence at the brand new Hyatt Hotel Centric in February 2023. Devoted fans of Cured at the Pearl in San Antonio no longer have to trek down I-35 for Chef Steve McHugh’s signature cured meats, but the Angus beef Luminaire burger is also a major draw.

From cult favorite soup dumplings to incredible views, these two restaurants show the increasing range of cuisine we’re blessed to find in Austin these days.
Ling Kitchen
Chef Ling Qi Wu has been quietly changing the game for Chinese cuisine in Austin since opening Lin Asian Kitchen in 2018. She now has four total concepts to her growing empire, with Ling Kitchen as the latest outpost to find her famous soup dumplings.
Nestled in Austin’s newest luxury condo and hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake, Nido claims some of the best views of downtown Austin. Murder Point oysters are a highlight, and the cocktails are equally fresh.

Austin is still finding its way as a potential pizza city, and these two freshmen born from older favorite restaurants embody two styles that have stood the test of time.
Bufalina (Due)
Proponents of a truly Italian pizza were enamored with Bufalina and now, Bufalina Due, the resurrection of the original restaurant in new digs. This Neapolitan style pizza is rimmed with charred dough, swimming in sauce, and serves as a generous vehicle for toppings.
Dovetail Pizza
A group of industry vets came together to create Dovetail Pizza for those who can’t choose between the New York and Neapolitan styles that dominate the category. The fermented dough stays light, but gets crispy enough to support its weight under the Italian toppings.

Este Austin
Photo courtesy of Este

These 16 restaurants represent the best of Austin's newcomers. You choose the winner! Este's Mexican seafood and garden vibes have swept Austin since opening.

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.

APT 115/ Facebook

These renowned Austin spots uncork the city's best wine programs


Over the last few years, something shifted in the wine world. Suddenly, what once was wheezing in rarified air was able to finally exhale. Restaurants and bars across Austin let go of the gatekeeping that made vino seem more philosophical than fun.

That's not to say that the nominees for the Tastemaker Award for Wine Program of the Year don't know their stuff. Each is happy to nerd out about a varietal's body, fruit, and finish. But they are just as excited to sell guests a juicy patio pounder for whiling the day away.

Whether one chooses to chug or savor, that's something to celebrate. Join us in raising a glass to our city's standard-bearers below, then pop open the bubbly as we crown the winners at Fair Market on May 11. Early Bird tickets are on sale now.

APT 115
In a social media-obsessed Austin, APT 115 owner Joe Pannenbacker has somehow revived the lost art of the hang. Lounge and gossip with friends in the corner, or sit at the bar to chat with the staff. Either way, the experience feels like a magical impromptu house party. The conversation, of course, is animated by a hand-selected array of small production and low-intervention wines.

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.

Dong Nai
While some of its fellow nominees dazzle with comprehensive wine lists, this strip mall gem keeps it simple. That's perfect, of course, for a spot specializing in Vietnamese comfort food. The selections — honing in mostly on acidic whites and medium-bodied reds — let the complex flavors of the cuisine shine. A sturdy sake list adds to the appeal.

A seafood restaurant has its share of pairing challenges — ones this East Austin hot spot has solved by heavily investing in the fresh and bright. Still, this wine program doesn't use crutches. Along with crisp whites and zingy reds, there's a library of flavor profiles explained with matter-of-fact language. And keeping with the fine dining spirit, there's a list of "tesoros," treasures to be relished during a truly memorable experience.

Golden Hour
Sure, one can't judge a wine from its label. Still, one can't help but marvel at the artwork on display at this South Austin hot spot. A spacey print takes off on Subject to Change's Lune Juice, a minimalist doodle speckles Broc Cellars' Love Rosé, and a cartoon beefs up Mas Coutelou's Matubu. The curated selection isn't just for show, of course, but it's still lovely to drink with your eyes.

This contemporary Mexican eatery has received tons of fanfare for its spirits program, starring nuanced tequilas and mezcals. But its wine list deserves its own meet-and-greet. The globe-trotting menu stands up to the assertive flavors coming from the kitchen. Try one of the skin-contact wines with earthy refried lentils or a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc with carnitas.

Wine For the People

Winemaker Rae Wilson first made Austin blush with the wonderfully sippable Dandy Rosé. Now, she has a proper tasting room to showcase the full breadth of her skill. Her wines are a sharp rejoinder to those who have traditionally poo-pooed the idea of Texas-grown grapes. The La Valentía line pairs finely with the most elegant celebrations, while Dandy remains the standard for the everyday table.

APT 115

Best wine program: APT 115.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.