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 two:
Which newcomer in the scene got you excited this year?
Sarah Engstrand, who contributes to this writer, Eater Austin
LE Meals because I had never heard of Gullah Geechee cuisine and I think the chef’s personal story is really powerful.
Katie Friel, Editor, CultureMap Austin
Bad Larry Burger Club. Matthew Bolick made a burger night the city’s must-see food ticket for his friends, and that’s pretty extraordinary. It’s testament to his finger-on-the-plus instincts and the social media voice of “Larry” is so funny and ridiculous.
Pat Sharpe, editor-in-chief and food writer for Texas monthly
I really love the tiny Gati, a pure love affair from owner Jam Sanitchat who many people at Thai Fresh know. Gati is in a small building on Holly Street and has just enough space for vegan, gluten-free pastries, cookies, and a few dozen coconut milk-based ice creams. If I had to choose just one, it would be the amazing golden milk that reminded me of a turmeric latte.
Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, The infatuation
I was really excited about the rise of the Smashburger last year. And I know this isn’t really a single restaurant, but between places like Buddy’s Burgers, Bad Larry Burger Club, and Golden Castle, there was just this massive influx of new spots that I greet with burger-filled arms. Golden Castle even fired a pusher from a burger cannon that exploded against the wall behind me.
Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
La Tunita 512. I love everything you do. The birria and consommé would make any Mexican grandma proud.
Erin Russell, Associate Editor of Eater Austin
Le cowboy. Austinites – if you are looking for real Italian food this is it. Second place: the new tasting room of two of my favorites, Wine for the People and CL Butaud; Little Ola’s Biscuits (the world could use ever cheaper olamaie and more cookie sandwiches); and Abby Jane Bakeshop (I got my first taste at their pizza pop-up and I’m even more excited about their final product at Barton Springs Mill).
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
Tsuke Honten’s Omakase.
Jane Ko, blogger, A taste of Koko
Aba – although this Mediterranean concept originated in Chicago, I love the spacious terrace on the South Congress and the food is really good.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
It was the year of amazing pop-ups and delivery / pick-up services in Austin – the flexibility of working without dining / table service allowed chefs and bakers to really move around and share creative food with the city. There’s the thoughtful mix of Gullah Geechee and New Orleans Creole by Chef Alexandria Hollowell at LE Meals (I often think of shrimp and grits); all pop-up burgers (the Bad Larry Burger Club Smashburger is perfection); the month-long Daijoubu Asian pop-up market (RIP 33 Tigers, but hello Gan Bei Gals); Malaysian Food Service Pandan Skies (the nasi lemak is so comforting); the short-lived Bufalina Deli; and so on.
It was also a particularly good time for baked goods delivery services: the pampering butter creations from Vivian’s Boulangerie; chewy mochi donuts from Bom Bakeshop; great babkas and bagels from Dō by CVG; Jewish Delights from Top Nosh; Thai sweets from Hhom Dee.
In terms of bars, I was impressed with my take-away cocktails from High Noon and the Frozens from Low Down Lounge.
Before the pandemic: I loved Tsuke Honten’s affordable, exciting, personal granny. Also, I went to a new natural wine bar four times in the first month of February to shop LoLo, and I really miss the social atmosphere. But I still order bottles to take away.