As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2014. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.
What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2014?
Melanie Haupt, restaurant critic for The Chronicle and author of Historic Austin Restaurants
laV, Odd Duck
Megan Giller, editor of Zagat Austin
laV, Dai Due, Olamaie
Jane Ko, editor at A Taste of Koko and food photographer
Peached Tortilla! After 4 years on the streets, Peached Tortilla has finally opened its highly anticipated brick & mortar featuring Asian and Southern comfort food. Loved the slow braised pork belly bowl & Hainan chicken!
Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist
Red Star Southern, Dai Due, Thai-Kun, Licha Cantina, Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors, Cuvee Coffee Bar
Meredith Bethune, CultureMap and Serious Eats contributor
Dai Due and LaV. I also have high hopes for Jacoby's and Gardner. I've also had some great bites at those restaurants but haven't had a full meal yet.
Veronica Meewes, CultureMap, and Austin Monthly contributor
My personal favorite newcomers are Olamaie, Odd Duck, Jacoby's, Dai Due, St Philip Pizza Parlor & Bakeshop, and Noble Sandwich Co's expanded menu at their Burnet Road location. (I am sad to say I have yet to visit Gardner or The Peached Tortilla, but I'm really looking forward to trying those!)
Tom Thornton, CultureMap food and drink editor
LaV, Olamaie, Dai Due, Blackbird & Henry. All of these crafted a new space for themselves, which was the common thread. I'd also 'cheat vote' for Verzcruz #3 and Noble #2 - those were both closer to my house.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor/food writer, Texas Monthly
Olamaie hit it out of the park with their avant garde takes on Southern cuisine. And their biscuits are ethereal. And even though I just gave Bryce Gilmore props for Barley Swine, he's done it again with his more-casual restaurant Odd Duck. The menu's an international melting pot and very experimental: Goat confit? Fish head? Oh yeah.
Melody Fury, Serious Eats and Eater Austin contributor and blogger at Gourmet Fury
LaV, Olamaie, Thai Kun, Blackbird and Henry. LaV takes the crown for its consistent near-perfect execution and a beautifully well-rounded beverage program. Olamaie's playful, modern Southern cooking was a refreshing surprise. Thai Kun serves up the best Thai food in town, hands down. I love that they're not fussy and aren't afraid to crank up the Scoville scale. Blackbird and Henry is highly underrated. Their menu is thoughtful, comforting, and unpretentious.
Nadia Chaudhury, associate editor of Eater Austin
I was pleasantly surprised by Jacoby's Restaurant & Mercantile. I didn't expect much from the restaurant, but it really blew me away. The food sourced from their family ranch, the beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the Colorado River, and that retail space with all sorts of goodies you don't necessarily need, but want - it all worked well together.
Meghan McCarron, editor of Eater Austin
I love the friendly, warm luxury of LaV, and both Dai Due and Olamaie are off to strong starts. At all three of these restaurants, the chefs, sommeliers, and other staff seem remarkably committed to not just their restaurant's success, but to the larger dining culture here. Odd Duck kills it not just at dinner, but lunch and brunch as well, and absolutely deserves its nod as Eater's best new restaurant in the country.