As is tradition, in late 2020 Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry guys, and local bloggers for their views on the past year of culinary delights in Austin. Given the madness of this year, Eater has turned the standard survey into a survey that reflects the new realities of takeaways, restaurant stores, and a shaky industry. All answers are published before the end of the year – cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited and in no particular order. Question number eight:
Was there a restaurant that you believed was really important to your local community?
Pat Sharpe, editor-in-chief and food writer for Texas monthly
Although Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation is not based in Austin, it has provided tremendous help to people in the restaurant industry across the country who are experiencing hard times. It has spent $ 4.7 million since its inception in 2017, most of it recently. His fundraising expertise has a lot to do with founder Chris Shepherd’s expansive personality. The chef apparently knows everyone in the restaurant community.
Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
As someone who runs hospitals, it was amazing to see how many places went out of their way to feed my staff at the beginning of the pandemic. Stiles Switch, Kemuri, Nixta, Hopdoddy and many others refused to take our money. It was touching to see that places want to take care of others when they are fighting on their own.
Katie Friel, Editor, CultureMap Austin
L’Oca d’Oro. What they did with Good Work Austin and Safe Table was remarkable. They saw big holes in our food system – farmers with produce, starving Austinites – and found a way to complete that circle. To make matters worse, there is no safety net, but I am extremely proud that L’Oca d’Oro came up like this.
Jane Ko, blogger, A taste of Koko
Easy Tiger donated more than 10,000 loaves of fresh bread to food banks in the Austin area and pledged to donate 100,000 by Labor Day 2021.
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
I don’t think any particular restaurant did more than the other. I have seen many stepping up to bring meals to health care workers when hospital numbers are high. Some have participated in fundraising drives to raise funds for local charities. Everyone tried to make the most of what they got.
Sarah Engstrand, who contributes to this writer, Eater Austin
Crema Bakery and Cafe. At the beginning of the pandemic, they offered children free packed lunches without asking. When they found the need was even greater, they opened it up to those in need. This is a small company that literally gives away hundreds of meals to people and has put themselves in a difficult position financially because they believed it was the right thing to do.
Erin Russell, Associate Editor of Eater Austin
The Austin dining community has really shone this year, and there are so many ways to answer that question. Some that immediately spring to mind:
Vic and Al’s: When the opening of the Cajun restaurant was delayed, they turned into a free communal kitchen for those in need.
L’Oca d’Oro: You were a leader in organizing Good Work Austin for Safe Reopening, Restaurant Advocacy, and the Safety of Their Own Employees. No wonder one of the first Austin restaurants is offering its employees a living wage with health insurance!
Nixta Taqueria: I love their free fridge – and I’ve seen co-owner Sara Mardanbigi activate her full hospitality for visitors who stop by to use it.
Tiff’s Treats: The cookie company is pretty quiet about their extensive community service, but those $ 10,000 donations to the NAACP and the Austin Justice Coalition?
Nickel City: I thought they had a unique attitude towards supporting black-owned businesses in Austin. Not only did they donate a portion of each ball to the Austin Justice Coalition, but they also offered heavily discounted drinks with a receipt from one of their black-owned neighboring companies.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
I will continue to praise L’Oca d’Oro for speaking very loudly about what the Austin restaurants needed while caring for the community, and Nixta Taqueria for making her the first to join the Austin Free Fridge Project and really do it had in stock. I also add Tso Chinese Delivery for continuing to operate while giving away free groceries to those in need, and Joe’s Bakery for how co-owner Regina Estrada continues to unite and educate the East Austin community.
And I’ll end up with all of the small, food-centric businesses who have done their best to keep operating, giving back to the community, and being safe for both their employees and their customers.