As is the tradition as we near the end of 2018, 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 two:
What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2018?
Jimmy Ho, blogger and Eater contributor, The Smoking Ho
Loro—love smoky meats and Asian flavors; still thinking about the burger from Carpenters Hall; and Bird Bird Biscuit—who doesn’t love fried chicken on a biscuit?
Veronica Mewes, freelance food writer
The Brewer’s Table, Suerte, Garrison, Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, and 40 North. (Though, admittedly, I’ve been traveling a lot this fall and winter so there are still a few newer spots I am really looking forward to visiting...looking at you, Carpenters Hall and Domo Alley-Gato!)
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Domo Alley-Gato (coolest new bar in Austin), 40 North, Loro, Last Straw, Bird Bird Biscuit, Lin Asian Bar, Malibu Poke, Suerte, Hank’s, and Guild.
Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
Better Half, Loro, Sour Duck — the upscale counter service takeover and makeover Austin probably needed.
Rachel Holtin, blogger, AustinFoodstagram
Suerte, hands down. I would have never pictured Sam Hellman-Mass doing Mexican food, but I suppose his wife’s heritage has impacted him in a new way. This is some of the most authentic interior Mexican food around. Brewer’s Table and Tillie’s also stand out as welcomed newcomers.
Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
Like everyone else in Austin, I am smitten with Suerte. It has such a terrific mix of traditional flavors, elevated by the use of heritage corn in all their tortillas and chips. I very recently had a fantastic meal at Intero—one great example being that fabulous sourdough focaccia with their own ricotta and honey! Better Half is a gem for an unconventional breakfast like a bouncy wheat and rye berries, smoked mushrooms, Swiss chard, and puffed crispy wild rice in broth. There are other favorites—I think Loro is a great confluence of East and West—I love those Asian flavors with smoked meat.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly
Per my standby answer, Sour Duck. Better Half was a close second. For a special occasion, I really dig The Brewer’s Table.
Dan Gentile, freelance food writer
Suerte, 40 North, Bird Bird Biscuit, Sour Duck, She’s Not Here, Fareground.
Brandon Watson, food editor, CultureMap Austin
It was an underwhelming year for the Austin restaurant scene and many of the splashiest projects felt flat. The pleasures all came from simplicity — tacos at Discada, an unfussy burger at Sour Duck, and bread at The Brewer’s Table. No muss, no fuss, just flavor.
Erin Russell, Associate Editor, Eater Austin
Better Half, of course. I also really like what The Brewer’s Table is doing in terms of sustainability and brewing, I’m a sucker for the pappardelle at Il Brutto, and Fareground is such a convenient addition to downtown.
Nadia Chaudhury, Editor, Eater Austin
Better Half! Carpenters Hall and Hot L! Fareground! The Brewer’s Table! Arlo Grey!