As is tradition since the end of 2016 is near, Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past culinary year in Austin. The annual survey spans eight questions, from dining surprises, saddest closures, to disappointing meals. 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. First up:
What were Austin's top restaurant newcomers of 2016?
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor at Eater Austin
Otoko, Thai Kun at the Rock Rose, L’Oca d’Oro, Forthright. While I was critical of Kyoten’s atmosphere in my review, the food was exceptional. Chef Otto Phan was receptive to feedback and has since put work into creating a warmer, more inviting experience. I look forward to revisiting in the new year. The most promising end-of-year openings to keep an eye on: Old Thousand, Grizzelda’s, Eberly, Red Ash.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
Dee Dee. I adore it. Also, L'Oca d'Oro and Otoko.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I can’t reveal all my favorites because Texas Monthly has a story in the works for February, but it’s no surprise that Otoko is on the list. The sushi is as intensely flavorful as it is gorgeous, and those chefs know how to have fun.
Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko
Old Thousand, Thai Kun, Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon [on South First], June's, Backbeat, Eberly, True Foods Kitchen, L'Oca d'Oro, and Culinary Dropout.
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
L'Oca d'Oro, Dee Dee, Paperboy, Chicon, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill (I know my review wasn't 100% positive, but the main dining room still has much to offer). I'm not sure if Barley Swine 2.0 qualifies it as a "newcomer," but the bigger space adds some feathers to its cap without sacrificing what has always made it a top Austin restaurant.
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
L’Oca d’Oro — for its inspired take on Italian-American — plus, Barley Swine and Bufalina Due’s second bigger and better locations. I also look forward to returning to Eberly and Grizzelda’s, which wowed us all with its next-level interior design this season.
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor at Thrillist and Time Out Austin
Fresa’s South First, Grizzelda’s, Old Thousand, Red Ash.
Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
L'Oca d'Oro, Boiler Nine, June's All Day, and Poke Poke. I'd add Backbeat and Small Victory in the bar category.
Frani Chung, contributor of Eater Austin
Otoko is a shining star for me — a delicious, inventive, elegant experience that manages to feel like your best friend’s dinner party (if your best friend was an insanely talented Japanese rockstar). The food is sublime, the aesthetic is design, and you leave full and well taken care of. Cow Tipping Creamery is another favorite — its surprises are sweet and always satisfying and fun. June’s also tops the list — between the wine list and the fact that it’s hard to find any rendition of matzah ball soup in Austin.
Elizabeth Leader Smith, associate editor of Eater Austin
Wu Chow, L'Oca d'Ora, Otoko, Chicon.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
L’Oca d’Oro for Italian among Italian and that amazing dessert, Dee Dee for wonderful Thai food, June’s for easy bites and a fun wine list, Backbeat because South Austin needed a proper cocktail bar and it doesn’t hurt that the people involved are geniuses, Fleet Coffee for thoughtful coffee concoctions, Otoko for the best sushi of the year, Forthright for simple but really well-done brunch, and Chicon for perfect happy hours.