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. Fourth up:
What was the saddest closure of 2016?
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
I thought Gardner was really bringing something different to the table, so I was sad to see it go when Austin wasn’t quite ready for it. I was also sad to see Olivia go, especially for another Lucy’s Fried Chicken. I definitely considered it an Austin institution. I was also disappointed when I found out 40 North had closed..,but luckily just temporarily while owner/chef Clint Elmore works on opening a restaurant [PS 35 in Round Rock].
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor at Thrillist and Time Out Austin
We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile. Kin & Comfort
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
That has to be Qui.
Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
Arro. I thought the team there made some great adjustments and had found the right formula — it was a really pleasant place, especially for wine lovers.
Frani Chung, contributor at Eater Austin
Although I am in love with Chicon and all things Andrew Wiseheart, it’s still a shame to see Gardner go. The respect that this restaurant had for the vegetable was something truly special.
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor at Eater Austin
Olivia. This restaurant’s soulful approach to farm-to-table fare cannot be replaced, as much as times have changed. Truth is, we don’t need another Lucy’s Fried Chicken.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
Honestly, it all bums me out. That someone's dreams and a hell of a lot of hard work, gone. But the ones that sting the most are the cultural institutions and longtime family businesses, like El Azteca.
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
No offense to Chicon – it took guts to switch to a new concept when the previous one failed to draw in the crowds – but I wish Austin could support more restaurants like Gardner. A lot of people described the place as cold, but at least it looked different. Now that Austin has (mostly) grown tired of reclaimed wood and concrete, we've decided that neon and houseplants are the way to go. Gardner was an antidote to trendiness, feeling like nowhere else in Austin. It didn't need a DJ booth to be interesting.
Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko
Benji's Cantina — RIP the best brunch buffet in Austin
Elizabeth Leader Smith, associate editor of Eater Austin
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
El Azteca, because it’s always sad when a family-run establishment shutters. It is also strange being on South Congress with the emptiness of both Snack Bar and Doc’s Motorworks right now.