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Pitchfork Pretty Is Austin’s Biggest Dining Surprise

Hill Country cuisine done right, plus gourmet barbecue and a Detroit-inspired food truck

Pitchfork Pretty
Pitchfork Pretty
Laura Hajar

As is the tradition as we near the end of 2017, 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 to best food neighborhoods and 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. Question number five:

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2017?

Anastacia Uriegas, freelance food and cocktail writer

Delray Cafe at Nickel City, the little food truck pumping out bar food that looks like it’s from a shitty zoo snack bar — it’s made with self-admitted mediocre ingredients but has completely won my heart. The grilled onions and a bun made soft with pure greasy steam amplify the appeal of the tiny cheeseburger. I love the chili cheese fries, the wings, the watery ranch dressing — it’s all so perfect. And, you can feed an entire table of people for under $20.

Brandon Watson, food editor at CultureMap Austin

That anyone would still enter the Austin restaurant market. Although shutters have slowed down, operating in an Insta-consumed climate that favors the new over the good seems completely terrifying.

Erin Kuschner, editor of Time Out Austin

I had the fortune of attending one of chef Sterling Ridings' pop-up dinners for Guild and was floating on air for the next few hours. His restaurant is the one I'm looking forward to the most in 2018.

Veronica Meewes, Zagat Austin editor and freelance food/travel writer

Last year, I said my biggest surprise was the lack of decent bagels in Austin, so this year, I’d have to say I’m pleasantly surprised so many bagels have popped up in the past year...especially Rosen’s Bagel Co.!

Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko

Native Hostel. When you think hostel, you immediately think, "Ew, I'm not going to eat there." Native Hostel isn't your ordinary hostel. In addition to being the coolest hangout spot in Austin, Native makes a mean burger (and the vegetarian burger with housemade seitan), and those waffle fry nachos are addicting.

Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly

Pitchfork Pretty. I was ready to write it off as just another formulaic farm-to-table, seasonal joint with generic "local-inspired" fare. But it manages a unique charm with a standout menu. Consider me convinced.

Matthew Odam, restaurant critic at Statesman

Pitchfork Pretty. I was worried that "Hill Country Cuisine" was marketing jargon run amok. I was wrong to worry.

Sommer Brugal, freelance writer and contributor at Eater Austin

That Caribbean, Latin American, and South American (excluding Mexican) cuisines don’t get as much attention as others. I’m always surprised when friends haven’t heard of Doughminican, a Dominican food truck, or Kreyól Korner, a Haitian food truck.

Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin

LeRoy & Lewis and its eclectic, gourmet take on barbecue; not seeing more people nail the zeitgeist of "chef-driven but approachable" as the Speers did with both of their new projects [Bonhomie and Holy Roller].

Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin

I actually like going to Academia — and I’m pretty sure it’s not just the pheremones. The incredibly hospitable staff won me over, and it’s a fun place to drink.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin

I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking Pitchfork Pretty as well. I expected that the food would be good, but I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did. Each simple dish conceals wonderfully complex flavors and textures.