It’s here: we’re proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Eater Awards for Austin. The seventh annual awards encompass the finest restaurants, chefs, bars, and more in the city. This group has defined the year in dining and drinking.
The awards focus on those restaurants that have opened within the past year and people who have gotten involved with new ventures. This is why many acclaimed chefs, restaurants, and bars aren’t highlighted.
To shake things up, the format is different this year. Eater editors picked their top choice for each category among the selected nominees. Then, Eater readers were able to vote for their favorites of those contenders, awarding them with the readers’ choice title. There were five major categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Design of the Year, Bar of the Year, and Food Truck of the Year.
Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
Emmer & Rye can be best described as attentive. Owner/head chef Kevin Fink, chef de cuisine Page Pressley, pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph, and the rest of the team obsess and regard every single available ingredient at their disposal, attempting to figure out how exactly it should be used. It’s where the menu is at the whim of partnering farms, which means it changes all the time due to unavailability of a certain mushroom or a sudden abundance of pig. It’s where desserts incorporate unexpected elements like malabar spinach berries. It’s where the namesake grains and its kin are highlighted as much as possible, from pasta to puddings. And it all happens on Rainey Street, the Austin destination known more for cocktails than food. Read more about Emmer & Rye here.
Restaurant of the Year, Readers’ Choice Winner:
Bryce Gilmore’s first restaurant grew into its much larger new space on Burnet Road, offering its refined take on what constitutes Texas cuisine with a wider menu.
Chef of the Year: Fiore Tedesco, L'Oca d'Oro
In a town where Italian restaurants are plentiful, Fiore Tedesco made L'Oca d'Oro rise above the fray with thoughtful pastas, cheeses, and charcuterie, all made in-house. He took everything he learned from his varied experiences, including working at Franklin Barbecue, La Condesa, and Roberta’s Pizza and Gramercy Tavern in New York, and put it all into his very own restaurant. It’s his personal stage, where he recreates dishes from his childhood, adding a local, elevated touch without any fussiness (see: the mushroom lasagna made with fermented and powdered mushrooms, and then smoked fungi). Read more about the Tedesco and L’Oca d’Oro here.
Chef of the Year, Readers’ Choice Winner:
Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine
The James Beard Award nominated-chef expanded and revamped his readers’ choice-winning (see above) tasting menu-only restaurant and upped the quality even further.
Design of the Year: Backbeat
There is something absolutely pretty about Backbeat, South Austin’s proper cocktail bar. Maybe it’s the shades of blue, gray, and brass throughout the stylish space. Perhaps it’s the greenery-laced rooftop deck that makes you forget you’re above the traffic jam that is South Lamar. It might even be the perfectly-positioned booth underneath the skylight and delicate chandelier, providing excellent natural light. In any case, the bar, all fashioned by Chioco Design, sets the perfect scene for those exceptional drinks, concocted by co-owners Michael and Jessica Sanders, who already knew a thing or two about cocktails with Drink.Well. Read more about Backbeat here.
Design of the Year, Readers’ Choice Winner:
The funky downtown restaurant tastefully cobbles together eclectic design elements, from plane parts, expansive green patio, to that ever-Instagrammable neon sign.
Bar of the Year: Small Victory
Downtown is surprisingly becoming one of Austin’s cocktail epicenters, and hidden away in a parking garage off Congress Avenue is Small Victory, bringing drinking back to its roots. Bar veteran Josh Loving devised a carefully selected cocktail menu with only the classics with a bit of backstory for each drink. There’s even a choose-your-own martini adventure. Adding to that just-right atmosphere is the fact that there are no windows, the space is small, and yes, those are rats on the wallpaper in the back. Read more about Small Victory here.
Bar of the Year, Readers’ Choice Winner:
Eater Austin readers agree. See all of the above.
Food Truck of the Year: Dee Dee
Thailand-born chef Lakana Trubiana and husband Justin set to bring her home cooking to Austin, and what better way to do that than a food truck? It is Austin, after all. Out on East Cesar Chavez, Trubiana dishes up Isaan-style Thai using recipes from her family. This means the narrow but powerful menu offers up oh so spicy dishes, like the fiery larb moo, comforting om gai, and the city's best rendition of the simple mango and sticky rice dessert. Read more about Dee Dee here.
Food Truck of the Year, Readers’ Choice Winner:
The blue trailer on East 11th Street focused on the morning meal, much to the delight of breakfast and brunch lovers everywhere on Austin.