The capital of Texas might be best known for its live music, but Austin boasts a food scene that is as equally vibrant and creative. In 2018, celebrated chefs showed us that culinary finesse doesn’t need to come in the form of fine dining — the city’s talent snagged eight James Beard nominations.
The next time you visit, be sure to plan your boot shopping, two-stepping and bar hopping around meals at these top spots.
You don’t have to go far to stumble upon good Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine in Austin, but you won’t find any place quite like Suerte. Last spring, owner Sam Hellman-Mass and chef Fermín Núñez (formerly of Launderette) launched this concept to immediate acclaim, including a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant.
Suerte features Mexican cuisine with central Texas ingredients, right down to the heirloom corn used to make the masa that serves as the backbone of the menu. On tap, you’ll find carnitas tlacoyos (stuffed masa patties), confit brisket suadero tacos, goat barbacoa and plenty of vegetarian options, like carrot tostadas and squash tamales.
Start your experience with one of the expertly crafted cocktails before letting your server guide you through the lengthy list of “succulent spirits” (tequila, mezcal, raicilla, bacanora and sotol) to accompany each dish.
The Brewer’s Table
These days, any restaurant worth its literal salt is expected to carry a selection of craft beer. But true hops lovers will revel in both the microbrew and the dishes at The Brewer’s Table.
Owner Jake Maddux’s concept transcends pairing and instead weaves together beer and food in a unique way: kitchen scraps are utilized in the brewing process and beer byproducts used in the kitchen.
The resulting dishes, conceived by chef Zach Hunter, include creations like chicken paprikash with beer grain spaetzle, aged pork ribs with black beer vinegar and a next-level dessert made with toasted barley ice cream, yeast caramel, hop honey and a beer-grain waffle.
And of course, everything is enhanced by head brewer Drew Durish’s food-friendly, foeder (barrel)-fermented beers, like Idee Fixe, a dark Czech lager made with black tea leaves and candied lemon, or Baltic Hash, a porter brewed with sweet potato, mesquite pod syrup and grapefruit zest.
Last spring, chef Clint Elmore brought back his beloved Neapolitan pizza with the opening of 40 North’s first brick-and-mortar location (the original venue was a trailer) in a little bungalow in central Austin.
Now with much more kitchen space, the restaurant expanded its menu to include a porchetta sandwich, an unmissable burger, several crisp and delicious salads and small plates like labneh (strained Greek-style yogurt) and olive flatbread.
In addition to fan favorites like Hot Honey (tomato, ricotta, coppa salami, Parmesan, Mike’s Hot Honey) and Eggplant (mozzarella, garlic, ricotta, olive, Parmesan, chili flakes, parsley), look for rotating collaboration pies like the Spicy Pickle Pizza with Austin eatery La Barbecue’s housemade spicy pickles and pickled garlic, Fresno chile and dill.
When the hip Carpenter Hotel opened this fall just a stone’s throw from Zilker Park, its signature restaurant — and the attached Hot L Coffee shop — quickly became the talk of the town.
Chef Grae Nonas (formerly of the lauded Olamaie) refines simple classics, like a lunchtime turkey club or a chicken schnitzel dinner plate, with the best possible ingredients and a detailed eye for culinary aesthetics. Not to be missed are the craveable items found exclusively on the late menu, like a melty griddle burger and hash browns topped with hot pepper Béarnaise and hackleback caviar.
After your meal, be sure to grab a delectable pastry to go or linger at the bar with a cocktail or a glass of pét-nat (or pétillant-naturel, a type of sparkling wine that’s bottled only partially fermented).
This all-day café from the team behind Wright Bros. Brew & Brew is just one year old and drawing bigger crowds than ever for simple and comforting dishes done well: hash brown waffles, pastrami-loaded queso, tasso ham biscuits and one of the city’s best breakfast sandwiches.
The sleek counter-service restaurant, which also offers plenty of backyard picnic tables, is equal parts coffee shop and bar (as the name promises), which means you can expect high-quality beans (from Portland-based Heart Roasters and local Flat Track Coffee) along with well-done draft cocktails and a wine list that certainly tops any other café in town.
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Austin recently revamped its restaurant and bar concepts, and this lakeside dining room is a flavorful new addition.
A collaboration between the hotel’s longtime chef de cuisine James Flowers and restaurateur Richard Sandoval, Ciclo offers Latin- and Peruvian-inspired dishes made from mostly Texas-sourced ingredients, resulting in hearty dishes like pork belly al pastor, and mesquite-grilled lamb rack with mole verde.
After dinner, relax upstairs with a libation at Live Oak, the hotel’s new bar and lounge serving Guadalajara-inspired bites, craft cocktails and tequila flights.
When the partners behind East Austin’s Chinese concept Old Thousand opened this Asian-Pacific-themed eatery this past summer, they brightened up Second Street with tropical murals and a fresh and flavorful menu of sushi, maki, temaki and dishes like pan-seared bream with green mango salad, and banana leaf roasted pork with cantaloupe relish.
Wednesday through Saturday, a late-night menu provides a nice post-date accompaniment to a movie at the neighboring Violet Crown Theater.
When Dolce Vita closed its doors in the fall, Hyde Park residents couldn’t imagine a replacement for the iconic café and gelato shop until Uncle Nicky’s debuted in the space early this year.
This collaboration between the owners of local bar Nickle City, Detroit-style pizza venue VIA 313 and upscale restaurant Juniper is an Italian café channeling vintage vibes and carrying a menu of antipasti (like crudo and meatballs), salads (think caprese and classic Caesar) and pane tostato (Italian toast) topped with accoutrements like prosciutto, ricotta and chili honey.
The bar may look like an old-fashioned soda fountain, but the focus is on spritzes and negronis — though there is an off-menu option for housemade gelato topped with herbaceous Fernet liqueur.
The acclaimed toques behind dim sum restaurant Emmer & Rye recently teamed up with chef Berty Richter of food truck Hummus Among Us to create this Israeli venue. Named after Tel Aviv’s airport code, the street food concept has breathed new life into Fareground, the city’s first downtown food hall.
Rise and shine to snag the savory borekas (Balkan-style pastries) and sufganiyah (doughnuts) flavorfully filled with rosewater custard.
For lunch and dinner, enjoy hummus bowls, falafel and kofta sandwiches and sides bursting with flavor, thanks to the team’s house spice blends and perfected pickles.
While not in Austin proper, chef Jacob Hilbert’s newest venture is well worth the hour drive north to the small town of Salado, Texas.
Here, you will find the type of thoughtful, well-executed cuisine Hilbert crafted at The Hollow in Georgetown, but now he uses the environment as his palette, foraging most of the greens and herbs and locally sourcing the rest.
Order from an à la carte menu or opt for the adventurous tasting selection, which reads like a poem and features smaller portions of each beautifully plated creation. For a more casual experience, relax in the expansive garden patio, order a burger from the outdoor Farmhouse Grill and, when the sun sets, linger around the fire pits.