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Eater Austin’s Biggest Stories of 2016

What topped the news cycle this year

President Barack Obama’s lunchtime stop at Torchy’s Tacos
President Barack Obama’s lunchtime stop at Torchy’s Tacos
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

With the end of 2016 just around the corner, it’s time to take a look back at Austin’s biggest restaurant and dining stories of the year. It seems like the city really cared about Rock Rose and President Barack Obama’s Torchy’s Tacos stop, and controversies like the now-fake homophobic cake at Whole Foods. Openings of interest included the four bar block in Rock Rose, the picturesque South Lamar stunner Eberly, and 2017’s izakaya from Ramen Tatsu-Ya and a cupcake vending machine.

With that, here are the 15 most read stories of the year (excluding maps) on Eater Austin this year.

1. The Definitive Guide to The Domain's Rock Rose

The Domain's, well, domain grew larger this year with the addition of entertainment district Rock Rose (as well as the separate Domain Northside, and yes, it can get admittedly confusing). Of the slated 20 restaurants, expansions, and bars, some have already opened, like East Side King Thai Kun’s brick and mortar, out of state expansions like Jinya Ramen, West 6th Street mainstay The Dogwood, and newcomer cafe Apanas. And then there’s more to come, like Sway’s second location and Dallas mini-chain Velvet Taco.

2. Whole Foods Responds to Alleged Homophobic Slur on Cake [Updated]

In May, the man who claimed that Whole Foods inscribed an anti-gay slur on a cake admitted to fabricating the entire incident.

3. White Girl Asian Food Truck Draws Internet Ire

Is the name “White Girl Asian Food Truck” racist or an applicable name for a food truck run by a woman who is white? Blogger Angry Asian Man landed in the former camp, and many others weighed in.

4. Chef Paul Qui Arrested on Assault Charges

In mid-March, chef Paul Qui was arrested on charges of alleged assault against his girlfriend. He spent the night in jail and entered himself into a treatment facility soon after.

5. President Obama Stops Motorcade for Torchy’s Tacos

It was the last time Barack Obama would visit Austin as a president, and for that final presidential meal in March, he chose Torchy’s Tacos. He smartly ordered the three politically-themed tacos on the menu, mingled with customers and staff, and bought tacos for Austin mayor Steve Adler. (Obama also happened to be in town for his SXSW keynote.)

6. Gilmore Girls’ Luke’s Diner Takes Over Austin Coffee Shops

Gilmore Girls-mania hit the country with the announcement that the show’s main restaurant Luke’s Diner would take over cafes in numerous cities in October. Key perks? Free coffee and the embrace of the television nostalgia.

7. LaV Is Now Closed

The first major shutter of the year came right at New Year’s Day when the upscale French-inspired restaurant announced it was suddenly closing.

Snooze on South Lamar
Snooze on South Lamar
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

8. La Barbecue Won’t Accept Cash Anymore

Over the spring, La Barbecue announced that the bright yellow food trailer would no longer accept cash as payments for its smoked meats. Only major credit and debit cards would be accepted.

9. ‘Teen Mom’ Farrah Abraham Is Officially a Restaurateur

Reality television star Farrah Abraham opened up her first frozen yogurt shop, Froco, out in Lakeway in June. She still has plans to expand to South Congress.

10. American-Focused Eberly Is Austin’s Newest Stunner

October newcomer Eberly graced South Lamar with an absolutely dazzling restaurant where diners could indulge with seafood pots and basque cakes. It didn’t hurt that the entire bar comes straight from New York’s historic Cedar Tavern.

11. Rooftop Bar, Dance Club, and More to Open in Domain’s Rock Rose

Four of Rock Rose's many bars can be found within a block of the district, all helmed by Union Venture Group. This meant the rooftop rum cocktail bar 77 degrees, beer bar Jack and Ginger's, cocktail lounge Saint Genevieve, and nightclub The Rose Room, all of which are now open.

12. 24/7 Cupcake ATM Storms Into Austin With Sprinkles

The Los Angeles chain is bringing an all-hours cupcake vending machine to Austin’s Domain Northside, along with an adjoining bakery for those who prefer human interaction. It’s set to open sometime in early 2017.

13. Ramen Tatsu-Ya Spins Off New Austin Izakaya

With two Austin ramen shops and a Houston one in the works already, the team behind Ramen Tatsu-Ya decided to branch out with an Austin-inspired izakaya in Holly. Kemuri will dish out smoked meats, sharable dishes, and yes, some ramen. Look out for it next year.

14. 9 Things to Expect When Brunch Nirvana Snooze Opens

Before Colorado-based Snooze debuted in Austin with two locations, Eater offered a guide on what to expect from the brunch-loving chain, including its local food vendors and the wide array of mimosas and Bloody Marys.

15. Barbecue Trailer John Mueller Meat Company Seized by State

Pitmaster John Mueller had his barbecue trailer seized over the summer because of unpaid sales taxes. He hasn't reopened the trailer since.