10 of the best dishes we ate outside of Texas this year

The drunken noodles with smoked duck at Sandwich Me in Krabi, Thailand was one of the best dishes I ate outside of Texas this year.

I remember sunsets and monuments, evocative music and spectacular architecture. But what I most regularly recall from my travels are the meals. A great dish leaves its imprint on you. And it’s not just the components on the plate. It’s what the dish says about a place and about the people there. It’s a harmonic sense memory that blends smell, taste, sound and sight, lingering with you for months and sometimes years, always luring you back. These are some of the best dishes at some of the most memorable places I ate during my travels in 2017. (Follow me on Instagram for more tasty food photos and recs.)

The General Muir in Atlanta. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Avenue A at General Muir

The restaurant envy was real on the first day of 2017. Austin is in need of a Jewish deli, a home to kettle boiled bagels balanced with gloss and chew, along with smoked fish, like the velvety salmon that layered this open-faced sandwich dotted with avocado, grapefruit, cucumber and onion and layered with wisps of dill.

Los Claros near Todos Santos, Mexico. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Baja California Sur, Mexico

Smoked marlin and torito tacos at Los Claros

Nothing beats a stop at a roadside taco stand after a hunger-building dip in the ocean. The salsa bar at this open-air spot marked by a sign of a cartoon shrimp and marlin shaking hands rivals any taqueria in Austin. I could have visited this small outpost located between San Cristóbal and Cerritos daily for its meaty smoked marlin, enlivened with brilliant salsas and escabeche, or for the torito, a yellow pepper stuffed with shrimp and cheese, the taco sweet and crunchy with a mellow vegetal tang.

Nahm in Bangkok. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Ma hor at Nahm

David Thompson’s Michelin-starred restaurant is not considered traditional Thai, but it still exhibits layers of depth and flavors that electrify and seduce your palate. Lunch here started with ma hor, a wedge of pineapple (the pineapple in Thailand fortunately lacks the fruit’s trademark acidic sting back home) carrying toasty and sticky balls of palm-sugar-sweetened minced pork, chicken and prawns studded with peanuts and brightened with coriander.

Roister in Chicago. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Whole chicken at Roister

A slightly contained pandemonium vibrates through both the kitchen and dining room at Alinea’s kid brother in Fulton Market. Live fire cooking and roasted birds have been all the rage at American restaurants over the past couple of years, and the unique preparation by executive chef Andrew Brochu has few equals. The whole bird is used in a trio of ways. The supple poached breast, brined in chamomile sweet tea, is seared on the grill for a dark, lacquered finish, the heat caramelizing the sugars from the tea, and the buttermilk fried thighs are so airy they almost rise from the plate.

Sandwich Me in Krabi, Thailand. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Krabi, Thailand

Drunken noodles at Sandwich Me

Ask a server in Thailand what his favorite dish is and he’ll almost always just point you to the hottest option on the menu. But, more temperate palates like mine can ask for a milder kick, allowing the ability to savor the complex cornucopia of this dish that I loved so much I rented a scooter and went and picked up a to-go version on my final night in town. The stir-fried flat rice noodles wobbled with an elastic bounciness, twirling around medallions of rosy smoked duck breast. Tangled up in the mix, clustered baubles of fierce green peppercorns, fragrant hot basil, and, of course, the hallmark chilis.

Shaya in New Orleans. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

New Orleans

Maitake hummus at Shaya

As of press time, the excellent chef Alon Shaya was suing the embattled Besh Restaurant Group, its former leader accused of running an operation poisoned by a culture of sexual harassment. While he had given up trying to buy back his namesake restaurant, Shaya still wants to wrest back the use of his name. I hope the Israeli-born chef prevails. That name was built on the strength of dishes like his incredibly smooth hummus; this variation sways from the earth of roasted maitake mushrooms to the piquant rise of spicy chilies, with sunflower seeds adding crunch to the creamy affair. I’m positive we still have much more to hear and taste from Mr. Alon Shaya.

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Le Coucou in New York City. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

New York City

Pike quenelle in lobster sauce at Le Coucou

Grand and intimate. Rich but lithe. Mannered yet fun. Sophisticated but not stuffy. The perfect dining experience. One of my groomsmen used my description of Le Coucou during a toast at my bachelor party in an attempt to shame me for my overwrought Instagram captioning. But I’ve got no shame when it comes to the best meal I ate in America all year. Chef Daniel Rose transforms pike, cream and eggs into a cloudlike delicacy surrounded by a rich but not oppressive lobster sauce Américaine. The dish epitomizes all of the reasons to love this throwback French gem.

Il Corvo in Seattle. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Pastas at Il Corvo

Sometimes you fly halfway across the country to find yourself enjoying an experience that feels completely foreign and yet totally familiar. Such was the case as I stood on a hilly street in Seattle waiting and chatting with strangers almost an hour before Il Corvo opened. It was like the carb-friendly version of Franklin Barbecue. The shoebox-size restaurant’s tiny menu focuses on a trio of seasonal pastas, each priced around $10, with the stalwart being the pappardelle alla Bolognese. The star on my visit: bits of pattypan squash that clung to the ribbed lining of firm rigatoni sheened with lemon and butter, proving that summer can be both sunny and sumptuous, and worth the wait.

Shisen Hanten in Singapore. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Scallops with pickled chili pepper sauce at Shinsen Hanten

Imagine the massive multifloored dim sum halls in New York City’s Chinatown wedded with the gilded dining rooms of a casino in Las Vegas and then set it on the high floor of a hotel overlooking Singapore and you’ve got an idea of what Singapore’s most revered Chinese restaurant is all about. The menu here is boundless in the best way possible, with entire sections dedicated to barbecued dishes, abalone and live seafood. The plump and lightly seared Hokkaido scallops hide beneath a colorful confetti of a pickled chili pepper sauce that lights up the plate and palate.

Din Tai Fung in Taipei. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Spicy shrimp and pork wontons at Din Tai Fung

I don’t care if I just have an overnight layover in a city, I am going to get a taste of the place. I wrote a story about two years ago asking chefs and food professionals what Austin’s dining scene was missing. More than one person responded with Din Tai Fung, the xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings) specialists that opened their first restaurant in Taiwan in 1972. Peruse the lengthy menu while you wait and form a game plan at this casual restaurant that also feels part dumpling warehouse, a team of cooks and chefs in a windowed kitchen turning out dishes at an alarming pace. The dumplings may get top billing, but these were the best wontons I’ve ever eaten: the rippled and pinched folds glistening with a toasty chili sauce and just translucent enough to reveal the plump, pink shrimp inside. I now understand the craze that has extended to locations in California and Washington and remain hopeful maybe Texas will get its own someday.

Check out the biggest restaurant openings, closings and major news stories from 2017

The past year saw the Austin restaurant world start to find its footing again after a shaky 2016. The flow of restaurant openings slowed a little, allowing the scene to settle momentarily. The closures of historic spots and short-lived ideas continued apace, which also helped recalibrate the ecosystem, and existing businesses used their momentum and capital to open new locations and concepts.

Hearts and beef tongue at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, one of Austin’s best new restaurants. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin restaurants were not immune to the political and social rumblings in the country, with several restaurants speaking out against perceived injustice and inequality and others finding themselves embroiled in politically tinged controversy.

And, as in years past, the national media and restaurant industry organizations recognized some of the brightest stars in a city with a scene that is hopefully poised for a stronger 2018.

Here are some of the highlights from the year in Austin dining.

The inauguration of President Donald Trump coincided with groups taking a stand for women’s and immigrants’ rights and social justice at large. Members of the Austin restaurant world made their voices heard. Dai Due sold female-themed pastries to coincide with the Women’s March in Austin. Mueller favorite L’Oca d’Oro, a vocal proponent for a living wage and equal rights, opened its kitchen to a squad of female chefs for March on the Kitchen, a dinner that benefited SAFE Austin. Bouldin Creek Cafe, which donated proceeds on Jan. 20 to organizations that support civil rights, was one of of the Austin restaurants to protest Trump’s inauguration, and later in the winter, Weather Up hosted a benefit on Presidents Day weekend to support Planned Parenthood. A Day Without Immigrants in February saw more than a dozen restaurants close in a sign of solidarity with immigrant workers. The event also led to some uneasy tensions, with letters protesting the unofficial workers strike, posted in kitchens at a Maudie’s Tex-Mex and Chuy’s, stirring controversy.

Spoon made their voice heard this year, teaming with Veracruz All Natural to raise money for American Gateways, an organization that supports immigrants’ and refugees’ rights. Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The political climate also ensnared musicians. Austin-based band Spoon put a new spin on the history of musicians speaking out in support of social justice as the rockers teamed with Veracruz All Natural, makers of some of the best tacos in Austin, for the El Norteño taco. Proceeds from the sale of the taco benefited Austin-based American Gateways, a nonprofit dedicated to championing “the dignity and human rights of immigrants and refugees through legal services, education and advocacy.”

And, before he had unofficially become the Chef of the Resistance, Spanish chef José Andrés visited South by Southwest for some talks and dinners, at which he shared his thoughts on Trump and the need for a more distinguished manner of leadership in America.

Franklin Barbecue reopened after a fire gutted the building in late August. (Ralph Barrera/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Of course, not all the news in the restaurant world had a political angle. Aaron and Stacy Franklin lost their smokehouse to a fire at Franklin Barbecue in August, which led to a closure that lasted a few months. But the beloved barbecue institution in East Austin reopened in November.

Bonhomie (my review), the French bistro-meets-Waffle House restaurant from longtime Austin chef Philip Speer; Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (my review), the Japanese smokehouse from the owners of Ramen Tatsu-Ya; and Pitchfork Pretty (my review), an elegant and measured take on rusticity, led the brigade of new restaurants in 2017, and all received extremely positive reviews from me and landed in the Top 20 of my annual dining guide. Paul Qui also returned to the scene with Kuneho, though the restaurant that had a promising opening in January closed in November, with the chef saying he has plans for the future of the space

Other openings that were either notable to me or caught the attention of the public were the reincarnation of Veggie HeavenPizzeria Sorellina in Spicewood; J.T. Youngblood’s nostalgic fried chicken joint in Mueller; inventive barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis; the Phoenix rising from the post oak ashes that is John Mueller Black Box BBQ in Georgetown; Kula Revolving Sushi Bar, which has a better gimmick than sushi; Spanish restaurant El Chipirón; from-scratch Middle Eastern fast-casual concept Mezze Me; the irreverent and hearty Holy Roller; family-friendly Tex-Mex spot Eldorado Cafe in North Austin; Peruvian restaurant Yuyo from the El Chile group; Italian deli La Matta in East Austin; and swanky downtown additions ATX Cocina and Le Politique.

The iconic El Gallo closed this summer after 60 years. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For almost every story of new beginnings, a final chapter was written, as restaurants old and new announced they were closing. Venerable Tex-Mex restaurants El Gallo, which opened in 1957, and Porfirio’s Tacos, which enjoyed a 32-year run, both closed. Manuel “Cowboy” Donley performed with his daughter, Sylvia Donley, to commemorate the closing of El Gallo, which was opened by Abraham and Maria Kennedy 60 years ago. Celebrated Hudson’s on the Bend reopened with great expectations following the sale by founder Jeff Blank to new owners but closed after just three months. Ebullient South Austin staple Maria Corbalan said she was closing her Taco Xpress after 20 years in business, then the deal for a sale fell through, she postponed the sale, and then she finally decided to hold onto the restaurant, which is still selling Tex-Mex and welcoming hippies for church on Sunday.

Lamar Union, the sleek mixed-use development that is home to the Alamo South, struggled with the closings of Cantine and Delicious. After 32 years, Carmelo’s closed downtown. Other staples in the scene — Nubian Queen Lola’s in East Austin, the original Austin Java off Lamar Boulevard, and the relocated Dog and Duck — all closed, as did neighborhood favorites and leaders in their respective genres House Pizzeria and Apothecary Wine Bar & Cafe.

While some struggled, several existing brands added to their portfolios. Poke PokeFlyrite ChickenOpal Divine’s, El ChilitoJack Allen’s KitchenPapalote Taco House and Veracruz All Natural all opened new locations; haute dog slingers Frank took over food-and-beverage operations at the 151 year-old Scholz Garten; barbecue wizards La Barbecue moved into the Quickie Pickie in East Austin.

Foodies gathered at events throughout the year. The Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce hosted its inaugural Taste of Black Austin event at the end of January. The fifth installment of Austin Food & Wine Festival was highlighted by Uchi chef-founder Tyson Cole’s third Rock Your Taco win in five years and appearances by nationally recognized chefs Ludo Lefebvre of Los Angeles and Alon Shaya of New Orleans. And Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck welcomed Daniel Johnston, Roy Choi, Andy Ricker and Robert Ellis and many more for a wild and tasty weekend at the inaugural fest that will return in the spring.

The nation continued to set its adoring gaze on Austin. Barley Swine owner Bryce Gilmore earned his fifth consecutive finalist nod for James Beard Best Chef: Southwest award, and Launderette partner Laura Sawicki garnered a semifinalist nomination for best pastry chef. Otoko chef Yoshi Okai was named one of the Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine. GQ and Bon Appetit both declared Kemuri Tatsu-Ya one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America, and McGuire Moorman’s June’s All Day landed on a similar list from Food & Wine magazine.

Fonda San Miguel co-founder Miguel Ravago died in June at the age of 72. (Shelley Wood AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Finally, the Austin restaurant scene said goodbye to two pioneers. One of the early leaders of the city’s culinary scene and a co-founder of seminal interior Mexican restaurant Fonda San Miguel, chef Miguel Ravago died in June at the age of 72. Ravago, who opened trailblazing Fonda San Miguel with Tom Gilliland in 1975, prided his restaurant on high quality ingredients sourced directly from Mexico. Equally well known for his personality as for his mastery of Mexican cuisine, Ravago spent most of his final years living in Spain and England.

Later in the summer, Austin lost another of its leading lights. An explorer and visionary with a passion for community and wellness, Casa de Luz co-founder Maryann Rose died in August at the age of 73. A native of Dallas, Rose moved to Austin during its bohemian heyday. She met Wayo Longoria at the East West Center in 1984, and together they opened the community center-restaurant Casa de Luz on Rose’s 47th birthday, Jan. 27, 1991.

Here are Austin’s three best new restaurants of 2017 — and 9 of our favorite stand-bys

As the year in dining (and everything else wraps up), publications and individual writers like to take a look back at the year, often in list form. Eater Austin is collecting highlights and lowlights from critics, reporters, editors and bloggers. I contributed my thoughts this year, and while Eater is slowly rolling them out (beginning with a list of top stand-by restaurants here), you can see my complete list below. Follow the restaurant links to my thoughts on them from the Austin360 Dining Guide.

Ruby trout poached in olive oil with roasted tomatoes, fennel and breadcrumbs at Pitchfork Pretty 2708 E Cesar Chavez, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (Stephen Spillman/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

What were your top restaurant standbys of 2017?  In alphabetical order: Emmer & Rye, Fresa’s, Home Slice Pizza, Luke’s Inside Out, Mezze Me, Odd Duck, Olamaie, P. Terry’s and Veracruz All Natural

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2017?  Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, Pitchfork Pretty, Bonhomie

Sum up the 2017 restaurant world in one word. Fraught.

What was the best dining neighborhood of 2017?  East Austin had of my Top 5 of my Top 11 in my Austin360.com/eats Dining GuideDai Due (#3), Juniper (#6), Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (#9), Franklin Barbecue (#10) and Pitchfork Pretty (#11), so I’ll say broadly say “East Austin.” (And L’Oca d’Oro, #8, and Kyoten Sushiko, #14, are kind of in East Austin, despite being in Mueller neighborhood.)

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2017? Pitchfork Pretty. I was worried that “Hill Country Cuisine” was marketing jargon run amok. I was wrong to worry.

What was your biggest dining grievance of 2017? Overpriced mediocrity.

What was your best restaurant meal of 2017? Dinner at Olamaie.

What are your headline predictions for 2018? Rebound year for Austin.

Where to eat on New Year’s Eve

You could stay in and cook on New Year’s Eve, but what fun would that be? Many restaurants around town will be serving their regular menu on the big night, but this is a night for lobster, caviar, New York strips, chocolate, bubbles and prix fixe menus. The restaurants included here are pulling out the stops. Check their websites or give them a call for more details or to make reservations.

Juniper in East Austin. (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Andiamo Ristorante. 2521 Rutland Drive. 512-719- 3377, andiamoitaliano.com. The North Austin Italian restaurant will serve a four-course dinner. The menu includes salmon and scallops, risotto with lobster, filet mignon and more. Cost is $85.

Barley Swine. 6555 Burnet Road, #400. 512-394-8150, barleyswine.com. Bryce Gilmore’s exceptional restaurant serves a special tasting menu for $120 (wine pairings an additional $60). Though walk-in space will be limited, there will also be a limited a la carte menu for walk-ins and guests in the lounge and bar areas.

Brix and Ale. 1101 Woodlawn Ave., Georgetown. 737-444-2700, sheratongeorgetowntexas.com. The restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel in Georgetown serves a four-course New Year’s Eve menu for $75 (additional $49 for wine pairings). Menu will include chicken-fried frog legs, pan-seared scallops, grilled beef tenderloin and more. Dinner guests can participate in a promotion that includes a night’s stay at the hotel for an additional $99.

The Carillon. 1900 University Ave. 512-404-3655, thecarillonrestaurant.com. The restaurant at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center is serving a four-course New Year’s Eve dinner for $110 (additional $40 for wine pairings), with a menu that includes New York strip with bone marrow demi-glace, and king crab with squid ink pasta, Meyer lemon, tomato, Texas rose garlic and uni butter. The hotel is also offering a special starting at $619 that includes dinner for two, a stay at the hotel and breakfast for two.

Contigo. 2027 Anchor Lane. 512-614-2260, contigotexas.com. The ranch-inspired restaurant won’t have its regular Sunday brunch on New Year’s Eve, but they will be throwing their annual party, with open bar, passed appetizers, charcuterie and a dinner featuring prime rib and rotisserie chicken. The cost is $125.

Chicon. 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-354-1480, contigotexas.com/chicon. The East Austin sister restaurant to Contigo will serve a three-course meal for $55. Menu includes foie gras, quail and a grapefruit tart.

District Kitchen + Cocktails. 5900 W. Slaughter Lane. 512-351-8436, districtaustin.com. The Circle C restaurant serves a three-course dinner including butternut squash bisque, beef tartare and lobster roll. Cost is $75.

Fonda San Miguel. 2330 W. North Loop Blvd. 512-459-4121, fondasanmiguel.com. The venerable Mexican restaurant hosts a special edition of their Sunday Hacienda Brunch on New Year’s Eve.

Geraldine’s. 605 Davis St. 512-476-4755, geraldinesaustin.com. The restaurant on the fourth floor of the Hotel Van Zandt will serve a three-course New Year’s Eve menu for those who book dinner for 8 p.m. or later. The menu includes options like ceviche tacos, oxtail gnocchi, Gulf redfish and more. Cost is $80 (additional $15 for champagne flights). Akina Adderley and the Vintage Playboys perform at 9 p.m.

Goodall’s Kitchen. 1900 Rio Grande St. 512-495-1800, goodallskitchen.com. The four-course menu at the restaurant inside the Hotel Ella near the University of Texas includes winter squash ravioli, sea bass, lamb shoulder, New York strip and more. Cost is $98 (additional $40 for wine pairings).

Horseshoe Bay Resort. 200 Hi Circle North, Horseshoe Bay. 877-611-0112, hsbresort.com. Stay the night at the resort west of Austin, party with musical group Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes and dine on a land-and-sea buffet dinner from 7 to 9 p.m. Selection includes herb-roasted chicken, swordfish and lobster.

Jeffrey’s. 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584, jeffreysofaustin.com. The ritzy steakhouse serves a four-course menu for $100, with offerings like lobster and fennel bisque, grilled beef tenderloin and Dover sole.

June’s All Day. 1722 S. Congress Ave. 512-416-1722, junesallday.com. The lively upscale cafe from McGuire Moorman Hospitality serves a three-course menu at 6 and 8 p.m. ($65) and a later seating at 10 p.m. ($80). The menu includes French onion soup, grilled prime strip and bone marrow bolognese. Also expect a nice selection of bubbles from master sommelier June Rodil.

Juniper. 2400 E. Cesar Chavez St. #304. 512-220-9421, juniperaustin.com. The Italian spot, one of the city’s 10 best restaurants, serves a five-course menu for $70, with options that include squid ink risotto, halibut and blue crab with fennel gratin and New York strip with chimichurri.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya. 2713 E. Second St. 512-893-5561, kemuri-tatsuya.com. The izakaya smokehouse serves an eight-course dinner for $99. The menu include oysters, snow crab, Japanese fried chicken, pork ribs and more. Cost includes a choice of two Kemuri cocktails, a bottle of sake or a pitcher of beer, plus all nonalcoholic beverages.

Le Politique. 110 San Antonio St. 512-580-7651, lepolitiqueaustin.com. The downtown French bistro will serve a five-course menu for $90 (additional $65 for wine pairings). Options include caviar, risotto and roasted hen. There will also be a special children’s menu.

L’Oca d’Oro. 1900 Simond Ave. 737-212-1876, locadoroaustin.com. The neighborhood Italian restaurant that helped turn Mueller into a culinary draw is hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner and Venetian Masquerade Party. The restaurant will serve four- ($55) and five-course ($85) prix fixe menus featuring Northern Italian cuisine. Selections will include straciatella and caviar toast, shrimp bolognese, lamb tartare and more.

Mattie’s at Green Pastures. 811 W. Live Oak St. 512-444-1888, mattiesaustin.com. The renovated classic offers two seatings on New Year’s Eve. The three-course dinner at 5:30 p.m. costs $75, and the five-course meal at 8:30 p.m. costs $125.

Odd Duck. 1201 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-433-6521, oddduckaustin.com. Groups of six or more will be offered a fixed menu for $60, while smaller parties will be able to order from the regular menu, which will include some special dishes.

Ruth’s Chris. 107 W. Sixth St. 512-477-7884, ruthschris.com. The renovated steakhouse downtown serves a three-course dinner. Cost ranges from $59.95 to $69.95, depending on entree selection.

Searsucker. 415 Colorado St. 512-394-8000, searsucker.com/austin. The Warehouse restaurant features a four-course meal for $75. Options include Spanish chorizo croquettes, beef cheek cassoulet, rack of lamb and more.

Second Bar & Kitchen at Domain Northside. 3121 Palm Way. 737-300-4800, sbkdomain.com. The restaurant will serve a four-course menu on New Year’s Eve that includes charred salmon belly, white crab bisque, grilled rib-eye loin and more. Cost is $75 (additional $55 for wine pairings).

St. Genevieve. 11500 Rock Rose Ave. 512-659-5537, stgen.co. The upscale lounge at Rock Rose will serve a five-course dinner for $50 (additional $25 for champagne pairing). There will be a $20 cover after 9 p.m. for the New Year’s party.

Swift’s Attic. 315 Congress Ave. 512-482-8842, swiftsattic.com. Swift’s Attic will be offering a special four-course dinner for $75; options include bacon-wrapped dates, foie gras torchon, lamb tartare, dry-aged rib-eye and more.

Texas French Bread. 2900 Rio Grande St. 512-499-0544, texasfrenchbread.com. The campus-area stalwart serves a three-course menu that includes Gulf fish and beef short rib for $55. Seatings are available between 6 and 6:30 p.m. and 8 and 8:30 p.m.

Trace at the W Hotel Austin. 200 Lavaca St. 512-542-3660, traceaustin.com. The swanky downtown restaurant serves a four-course dinner for $115. Options include escargot, stuffed quail, lobster spanakopita, beef Wellington, tiramisu and more.

Visconti Ristorante. 320 Loop 360. 512-306-6400, granducaaustin.com. The Italian restaurant at the Hotel Granduca in West Austin has seatings at 6 and 9:30 p.m. The early seating is a three-course dinner with items like roasted beets and beef fillet, and the later seating is a five-course dinner with butter-braised lobster and seared scallops and beef fillet and seared foie gras. The 6 p.m. dinner costs $120; the 9:30 p.m. costs $140 (additional $60 for wine pairings for each meal).

Vox Table. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. #2140. 512-375-4869, voxtableaustin.com. The modern restaurant near Alamo South Lamar will serve a five-course meal for $125. The menu includes Kumamoto oysters, roasted chestnut soup with truffles, Maine lobster with caramelized sunchokes, New York strip and more.

Wu Chow. 500 W. Fifth St. 512-476-2469, wuchowaustin.com. The upmarket Chinese restaurant downtown will serve dim sum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and an eight-course dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. for $65. The dinner includes Gulf crab and scallop soup, salt-and-pepper alligator, crispy soft shell crab, Lion’s Head meatballs and more.

Fareground food hall opens downtown on January 18 with some of Austin’s biggest names

Fareground, Austin’s first major food hall concept, will open on Congress Avenue between Cesar Chavez and Second streets on January 18, operators announced today. The food hall will feature some of the biggest names in Austin dining.

The space will include Easy Tiger; a taqueria from Dai Due; Henbit, an all-day concept from Emmer & Rye; Contigo Fareground; Antonelli’s Cheese Shop; and Ni-Kome, a hybrid ramen and sushibar from the owners of Kome.

Jesse Griffith’s Dai Due Taquería, a collaboration with chef Gabe Erales, will source hyper locally for its tacos, with options like venison barbacoa and wild boar al pastor. Easy Tiger will serve its trademark pretzels and sandwiches, along with offering two bars. Henbit, the new cafe concept from Emmer & Rye, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Antonelli’s will move beyond cheese and cured meats, to serve gourmet sandwiches, mac and cheese and soup.

In addition to the restaurants, Elm Restaurant Group’s beverage director, master sommelier Craig Collins, will oversee two bars at the space.

Fareground’s will be open weekdays from 7 am to 10 pm Monday and 9 am to 10 pm on weekends. Contigo, Dai Due Taquería, Easy Tiger and Henbit will open with breakfast service; Antonelli’s Cheese and Ni-Komé will open at lunchtime.

Chef-partner Adam Brick out at Vino Vino, has plans for own restaurant

Less than a month after coming on with sommelier Paul Ozbirn as a partner and executive chef at Hyde Park staple Vino Vino, Adam Brick and the restaurant/wine bar have parted ways.

Vino Vino in 2016. (Erika Rich FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
“We have not made a decision as to whom will take the kitchen into 2018, but are exploring options and keeping an open mind,” said Ozbirn, who gave no details on the split. “Adam’s incredibly talented and we wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”
Chef Adam Brick.
Ozbirn, a longtime veteran of Parkside Projects, and Brick, who left Apis at the end of October, announced in November that they had joined Vino Vino co-founder Kelly Bell as partners and intended to take the restaurant in a new direction, serving food built around classic wine regions from around the world.
Brick, a native Austinite and veteran of esteemed New York City restaurants Daniel, Aureole and Momofuku Ssäm Bar, told the Statesman he has plans to open his own restaurant in late 2018, but is not legally allowed to disclose concept or location yet.

Healthy-eating haven Flower Child opens on Second Street

The Austin division of the Fox Restaurant Concept’s empire expands with the opening of Flower Child in the “Google building” downtown. Fox already operates North Italia, Culinary Dropout and Flower Child at the Domain and Domain Northside and True Food Kitchen at Seaholm.

Skinny Cobb, Chopped Vegetable, and Organic Kale salads at Flower Child. (Credit: Facebook.com/EatFlowerChild)

As with the original location, the Flower Child at 500 W. Second St. focuses on clean food like salads, wraps and grain bowls using responsibly sourced ingredients like grass-fed steak, organic non-GMO tofu, organic vegetables and more.

Flower Child downtown is open daily from 11 a.m. to  9 p.m. and offers indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a separate to-go line.



It’s Italian Cucina and Manin Pasta now open on South Lamar

The stretch of South Lamar Boulevard between Barton Springs Road and Ben White has added two new Italian options. It’s Italian Cucina recently opened at 1500 S. Lamar Blvd. (in the Post complex that is home to Barlata).

Owner Al Fini’s Northern Italian-influenced restaurant, which grew out of a former market of the same name in East Austin, serves dinner nightly, with a menu that includes pastas such pumpkin ravioli with garlic brown butter sauce, linguine with clams, agnolotti filled with osso bucco and classic entrees like veal marsala and chicken with prosciutto.

It’s Italian Cucina on South Lamar is one of two new options from the peninsula. (Facebook.com/itsitaliancucina)

It’s Italian Cucina, which offers  indoor and outdoor dining, serves half-priced appetizers at happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) and sells bottles of  wine to-go at a 25-percent discount. It is open Sunday-Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It also serves Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Manin Pasta serves Neapolitan pizza in addition to a slew of housemade pastas. (Facebook.com/ManInPastaItalianRestaurant)

Further south, Manin Pasta has taken over the former Aroma Italian Kitchen space at 3403 S. Lamar Blvd. The restaurant serves a lunch menu that includes pastas, salads, Neapolitan pizzas and panini, and expand on that menu at night for a broad selection of more than 15 pastas, including housemade fettuccine with salmon and spaghetti carbonara and shaped and filled pastas such as squid ink ravioli stuffed with crab meat. The bar serves Italian-inspired cocktails and more than a dozen Italian wines by the glass, and Tuesday night is half-price pizza night. 

Manin Pasta is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.


Seafood-centric restaurant TLC opens next to Alamo South Lamar next week

If you’ve been to the Alamo Drafthouse (or Vox Table or Lick Honest Ice Creams et al) over the past year, you’ve seen the work-in-progress that is TLC for months. Well, the wait is almost over. The restaurant from the Manera Restaurant Group, which also operates J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge, will open the comfort spot that draws on coastal inspiration on Tuesday.

The menu from chef Jeff Parks (formerly of Gumbo’s) will include a variety of seafood boils, sandwiches sandwiches, Gulf redfish, oysters and shrimp, along with comfort staples like deviled eggs and chicken fried steak. The restaurant states in a release that the seafood will be “local, and sustainably sourced when possible.” See the complete menu below. 

The counter-service restaurant will serve 30 beers on tap and feature large tables for communal seating, outdoor space for dining and drinking, TVs set to spots and a game room area with classic arcade games.

TLC opens softly next week with service Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Follow this link to get 25 percent off your meal on Tuesday night. After its soft opening, TLC will be open Monday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.



Holy Roller hosts pie-eating contest Tuesday to benefit SAFE

Update from the organizers: Casey Wilcox from Central Standard won the contest,  finishing one pound and three ounces of pie in under three minutes. Launderette’s Laura Sawicki came in 2nd place, finishing nearly one pound of pie, and Parkside Projects’ Shawn Cirkiel was just shy of one pound, earning third place honors. The night raised nearly $1600 for SAFE. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar by the Dell Foundation.


Raising money for a great organization while watching famous chefs gorge themselves on pie? Sounds like a win-win situation. Chef Callie Speer’s irreverent comfort-food spot Holy Roller (509 Rio Grande St.) hosts a pie-eating contest tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. to benefit SAFE (the organization that has joined Safe Place and Austin Children’s Center). Attendees can purchase tickets to bet on their favorite chefs, with all proceeds from sales going to SAFE.  Those holding tickets from the winning chef will have a chance to win prizes from Neon Jungle’s Evan Voyles, Yeti and more. Guests will also get free pie and be able to purchase drink specials.

Credit: Facebook.com/holyrolleratx

So, who’s gonna be making a mess of themselves? The contestants include Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, Tyson Cole (Uchi), Shane Stiles (Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew), Philip Speer (Bonhomie), Laura Sawicki (Launderette) and more. Complete roster of pie eaters and more details on Facebook.