Since the end of 2015 is near, Eater asked a group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past year. The annual survey spans eight questions from dining surprises, best dining neighborhoods, to restaurant grievances. All answers will be revealed as the week rolls on—cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Readers, add your answers in the comments below. Fifth up:
What was the biggest dining surprise of 2015?
Kathy Blackwell, editor in chief of Austin Way
I knew it would be a big year for new restaurants, but I still found the pace and scope of all the openings almost overwhelming. I eat out quite a bit, but I have yet to go to some of the hot places I keep hearing about. It has been a balancing act of trying new establishments while still supporting my tried-and-true favorites.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
Huh. I probably address that best in the next question.
Katie Friel, editor of Tribeza
Unit D Pizzeria. I didn't expect to be so impressed by a pizza joint but I find myself going back again and again. Guess I'm a sucker for a beautiful space and a good pie.
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor of Eater Austin
Seeing restaurants upping their biscuits game was pretty exciting. Beyond that, nothing really took my breath away.
Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist
The Italian invasion.
Melanie Haupt, freelancer writer and contributor of Eater Austin
In Austin, the sudden demise of St. Philip was surprising. I would say that the one real shocker this year is the enormous shakeup in leadership in the kitchen at laV; I'll be watching that space in 2016. I was also surprised by how vibrant and diverse the food scene is in Louisville, Kentucky; there's a very cool mashup between food and art over there that I found both fascinating and delicious.
Jane Ko, editor of A Taste of Koko
Paperboy—just as I thought food trailers scene was dead, Paperboy opens the cutest trailer in East Austin serving up the best breakfast in town. The steak & eggs sandwich is worth waking up for.
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
I was so disappointed when St. Philip and Bakeshop closed its doors—and I don't think I was alone in that! But, needless to say, the Uchi restaurant group certainly knows what they're doing and I'm sure they had good reasons to shut it down. All I can do is hope they open up another bakery concept one day!
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
Airport Boulevard is not just for tacos and tamales anymore!
Sofia Sokolove, assistant editor of Tribeza and contributor of Eater Austin
There was a lot of shutters this year. Some caught me off guard, and even ones that didn't still bummed me out—St. Philip, Congress, and Mulberry, just to name a few.
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor of Thrillist
Emmer & Rye was a very welcome surprise this year. I didn’t really know what to expect, and...wow. The atmosphere is great, interior is warm but modern, the cocktails are both classic and creative (cocktails are very important), the dim sum service was fun and unusual and the dishes we ordered were unlike any I’ve had in Austin. Highly recommended.
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
At the start of the year, the food truck picture looked lackluster due to shrinking real estate, the migration to brick-and-mortar, and a general lack of imagination. As the year progressed, food trucks became more essential—not just standbys like Thai-Kun, Patrizi's, Kyōten, and La Barbecue—but a whole new generation exploring everything from Brazilian street food to elevated vegan. In the waning days of 2015, traditional restaurants feel walled in by their safe concepts or their mistaken trust in their chef's originality. Like an old friend, our food trailers are here to step in. Not all are successful, but they all have enough daring to risk failure. And you always need risk to keep a dining scene alive.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
I still find the Italian restaurant wave that crashed into Austin so curious.