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. Sixth up:
What was your best restaurant meal of 2016?
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
Otoko, hands down. Everything — atmosphere, decor, service, experience, and most definitely the food —was on point, from Watertrade [the next-door cocktail bar] to the dining room.
Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko
Old Thousand — specifically the chongqing chicken, mapo eggplant, and couple of the cocktails. Trust me, best night ever.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I had an astonishing meal at Lenoir, capped by a dessert of yogurt panna cotta with a sweet, fruity cantaloupe sorbet and pistachio granola!
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
As much as us critics would like to pretend otherwise, what makes a restaurant great isn't really about wonderful food or great atmosphere or quality of the service. College Roadhouse has the first of those things in spades, and charmingly lacks in the others, but that doesn't really matter. Invite a gaggle of your friends to try everything on the menu, play Pokemon Go in the parking lot, and end the evening with karaoke, and it becomes the best restaurant in the world. Few meals this year have as effectively shaken me out of the doldrums of Austin's underwhelming hospitality year.
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor at Thrillist and Time Out Austin
I have never been one of those who cares about happiness. Happiness is a strange notion. The Hollow in Georgetown.
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor at Eater Austin
Otoko. It’s opening unfortunately coincided with Paul Qui’s arrest and controversy, and there was much talk of boycott. But when you experience chef Yoshi Okai and his team going above and beyond to create a memorable meal for you, it’s impossible to punish those that have clearly poured their hearts into this 12-seat eatery. The quality of the ingredients and seamlessness of service are simply unparalleled. In a similar fashion, Apis’ chef’s tasting menu was otherworldly and came a very close second.
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
A dream of a feast at Noma this summer. And second place would have to go to a $4 Neapolitan pie I savored at Gino Sorbillo in Naples (so good I got a second one to go). Two entirely different experiences but both deliciously momentous in their own ways.
Frani Chung, contributor at Eater Austin
I had an out-of-body experience when I ate Emmer & Rye.
Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
We had excellent Austin experiences at Emmer & Rye, Apis, and L'Oca d'Oro and memorable out-of-town meals at Supper and Rebelle in San Antonio.
Elizabeth Leader Smith, associate editor of Eater Austin
My first dinner at L'Oca d'Oro. I didn't think Austin needed another Italian restaurant, but we need this one.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
The meal that I had at Otoko was just magical. It was a thrill to see Yoshi Okai showcase his sushi skills right in front of me while eating everything he produced (hands encouraged). I can still feel the perfect texture of that uni. Then there were the amazing bagels from Alex Manley’s bagel pop-up at Bufalina in May, where my friend and I ate in complete silence because we were so happy. (I’m still upset I missed her following pop-up at Jeffrey’s in November.) And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my complete satisfaction of working my way through Apis’ lengthy tasting menu.