After nearly a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the eighth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Finally, we present the establishments — from izakayas and dive bars to diners and barbecue trucks — that have taken the Austin food world by storm. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best. Editor's Choice winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via FedEx, along with a full feature on Eater in the coming year.
Restaurant of the Year
2713 East 2nd Street, Holly
Chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto know what they’re doing when it comes to Japanese food. The evidence? Soothing warming bowls from Ramen Tatsu-ya. For their follow-up trick, they decided to marry what they know best: Texas and Japanese techniques and ingredients. The result was funky, fun, and thoughtful Texan izakaya Kemuri Tatsu-ya, home to mash-up dishes aren’t gimmicky at all, like the rich Frito pie made with octopus fritters. As a homage to the address’ former tenant Live Oak Barbecue (whose smoked-stained walls remain part of the decor), the duo ventured into smoked meats. Because of Kemuri’s roots, that means everything from brisket (which even gets dressed up in a bowl of ramen) to ginormous fish collars. The restaurant rightly captured the attention and stomachs of Austin and beyond, racking up national accolades, including nabbing a spot in roving Eater critic Bill Addison’s best new restaurants of the year.
Chef of the Year
Callie Speer, Holy Roller
509 Rio Grande Street, Downtown
The queen of pastry, chef Callie Speer, wanted to venture out on her own. Naturally, that meant opening a punk rock diner, Holy Roller, with a brunch-perfect menu. Speer's approach is simple: surround herself with her equally as talented and highly trusted friends and colleagues, and brilliantly let everyone do what they want to do, including herself. And it shows. The menu is full of comforting foods Speer regularly snacks on (migas kolaches, fries that automatically come with soft serve ice cream, and biscuit sandwiches stuffed with Stiles Switch brisket). Sunday brunch is an extravagant occasion, where the dishes and drinks are inspired by the seven sins (calling to the restaurant’s religious undertones). Holy Roller is completely "lacking in the 'give a shit'" attitude, as Speer earlier told Eater, and sometimes that’s what diners need.
Design of the Year
615 South Lamar Boulevard, Zilker
Every inch of the stunning South Lamar contemporary American restaurant is deliberate, especially when co-owners Michael Dickson and Mickie Spencer are behind the design. Eberly’s various rooms are steeped with timelessness, like warm mahogany paneling, intricately tiled flooring, leather sofas, and brass lamps. The lush study resembles a greenhouse-meets-library with the angled glass ceiling, shelves of books and magazines sourced from co-owner John Scott’s late mother’s personal library, and hanging plants. The restaurant’s proper bar, Cedar Tavern, features a bit of restored New York City drinking history. The physical bar top was sourced from the historic establishment of the same name, with original stained glass and dark wood all restored to its original glory.
Bar of the Year
1133 East 11th Street, Central East Austin
It feels like Nickel City has been in Austin for years, but in fact, it’s only been open for under five months. That worn-in sensation at the neighborhood bar is intentional, from co-owners Craig Primozich of Javelina, Via 313 brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt, and booze expert Travis Tober. There’s the dive bar aesthetic, drafts of Coors, kitschy gnome mugs, and stellar frozen drinks. What makes it even better are the mixed drinks. While the usual cocktail staples are available, the bar team makes the effort to showcase lesser-known drinks, because why not? The Detroit-style sliders and coney dogs from on-site food truck Delray Cafe make for the absolute best drunk meals too.
Food Truck of the Year
121 Pickle Road, Dawson
Austin does two things well, food trucks and barbecue, and pitmaster Evan LeRoy mastered ’em both with LeRoy & Lewis. Yes, it’s meant to serve as a testing stage of sorts before opening the proper restaurant out in the Hill Country, but that doesn’t mean that the food truck isn’t already whipping up inventive takes on smoked meats. The former Freedmen’s pitmaster has already successfully experimented with sturdy burgers, pork kimchi pozole, mac and cheese-stuffed quail, and even brisket cookie sandwiches.
Food Truck of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: LeRoy & Lewis