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Restaurant Experts on The Biggest Dining Surprises of 2014

Shocking shutters, Contigo's vegetable 180, and taco crazes.

Woodpile at Gardner
Woodpile at Gardner
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Melanie Haupt, restaurant critic for The Chronicle and author of Historic Austin Restaurants
I know that the restaurant industry is a cruel mistress and that we should never be surprised when a spot goes toes-up, but there were so many high-profile closures this year that, in aggregate, feel like a surprise.

Megan Giller, editor of Zagat Austin
Turns out that I love modern Southern food! Places like Olamaie proved that it can be more than just fried chicken or grits.

Jane Ko, editor at A Taste of Koko and food photographer
East Side Pies, where have you been my entire life?? Thin, crispy, saucy goodness. Try the Fast Pie with spinach curry, sausage and feta cheese.

Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist
Qui

Meredith Bethune, CultureMap and Serious Eats contributor
Licha's Cantina. So many different businesses have come and gone in that space, so I hope it's here to stay.

Veronica Meewes, CultureMap and Austin Monthly contributor
I was surprised the whole country kind of went taco-crazy this year. I'm not complaining, of course — it's just that the idea isn't a very novel one, especially for us here in Austin!

Patricia Sharpe, executive editor/food writer, Texas Monthly
That Gardner is 180 degrees different from its sibling Contigo.

Melody Fury, Serious Eats and Eater Austin contributor and blogger at Gourmet Fury
The number of fancy pants places that have opened and how packed those spots get. How do so many Austinites afford to dine out so lavishly?

Nadia Chaudhury, associate editor at Eater Austin
It’s not necessarily a dining-specific surprise, but it amazed me how long it took restaurants to actual open, not through any fault of themselves.

Meghan McCarron, editor at Eater Austin
On the media side of things, nothing beats Contigo's reveal of Gardner at Austin Food & Wine. While it shouldn't be a surprise, the insane popularity of relatively low-profile openings like Counter Cafe East, Sawyer & Co, and the new Noble Sandwiches suggests Austin needs more great, affordable neighborhood haunts.

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