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What Was the Biggest Dining Surprise of 2013?

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. Here's last year's run-down for the nostalgic. So far we've covered restaurant standbys, top newcomers, and more. Readers, please add your thoughts to the comments.
winebelly500123013.jpgWinebelly. [Photo: Winebelly/Facebook]

Q: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2013?
Megan Giller, editor of Zagat Austin: Winebelly. I love the casual atmosphere and the impeccable food.

Melanie Haupt, restaurant critic for The Chronicle and author of Historic Austin Restaurants: On a downer note, the sudden failure of Spin Modern Thai. I thought that place had a long, bright future ahead of it and I was shocked when they closed abruptly. It's a valuable lesson in how not to run a business for anyone who wants to open a restaurant. On a more positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by Bufalina. Who knew pizza could be such a transcendent experience?

Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist: The shakeups at La Condesa and Sway. The return of John Mueller.

Jane Ko, editor at A Taste of Koko and food photographer: Finn and Porter. Ignore the fact that it's inside the Hilton Hotel. The chef has created beautifully plated dishes with richly braised meats and flavorful salads. The 15-course dinner sent me into a 3 hour food coma.

Addie Broyles, Statesman columnist and editor of Relish Austin: Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki leaving La Condesa and Sway.

Meredith Bethune, CultureMap and Serious Eats contributor : Probably the success of Pieous, especially since they didn't even have a web presence until recently. I don't think the Kaners did much advertising-- it seemed like it was completely word-of-mouth. Despite plenty of great pizza in Central Austin, people are motivated to drive all the way out there. It really speaks to the quality of their food.

Melody Fury, Serious Eats contributor and blogger at Gourmet Fury: Austinites are finally taking ramen seriously. We still have a ways to go but the scene looks promising.

Patricia Sharpe, executive editor/food writer, Texas Monthly: The fried chicken at Mettle is fabulous! It comes with a buttermilk-grain mustard sauce and a couple of grilled shishito peppers. After some bad reports, I was astonished it was that good.

Tom Thornton, Eater Austin contributor and freelance food writer: How much great BBQ Austin is getting; the pleasure of realizing that some established spots (Home Slice, El Chile, Stiles Switch, Hopfields) improve and refine with age rather than coast.

Paula Forbes, deputy editor of Eater National and Eater Austin editor emeritus: I am honestly a huge fan of La Mancha off Burnet, a place I don't hear getting much buzz. It's just Tex-Mex that's a touch better than it has to be, but most of the time that's all anyone needs.

Andrea Grimes, Eater Austin editor emeritus and senior political reporter at RH Reality Check: Hi Hat Public House. My husband and I stopped in for brunch real early on in 2013 and were so pleasantly surprised by the meal we had. I love their quiche, and we had this fantastic French toast with root beer syrup that we kept ordering more of. Their sake Bloody Mary is one of my favorite brunch drinks in town. Hi Hat doesn't scream "gastro pub," but between the beer selection and the comfort food, it's become one of my favorite places to eat and drink.

Meghan McCarron, editor, Eater Austin: Between a fire and a high-profile chef shuffle, La Condesa has weathered one hell of a year, but by all reports both Condesa and sister restaurant Sway are doing great. Not to mention Cochi Superstars Laura Sawicki and Rene Ortiz are bringing a really exciting project, Launderette, to East Austin. The shuffle so many folks were following avidly seems to be resulting in nothing but good things.

It's no surprise that Qui is killing it, but I am constantly delighted by how innovative and wonderful their bar program is. Justin Elliott, Brian Floyd and Rachel Delrocco are doing truly exciting stuff over there, and I can't wait to see how their menu continues to grow.
· All Year in Eater 2013 [EATX]

Mettle [Closed]

507 Calles St, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 236-1022 Visit Website

La Condesa

400 West 2nd Street, , TX 78701 (512) 499-0300 Visit Website


2215 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 524-2523 Visit Website