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East Austin Is the Best Dining Neighborhood of 2018

Local food experts dish on the best place for restaurants this year

Counter seating at La Matta
Counter seating at La Matta
Courtney Pierce/EATX
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

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. Question number four:

What was the best dining neighborhood of 2018?

Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly
Is it prevaricating to just say “neighborhoods?” This year’s best was more about the spirit of the thing than a specific location. Dining this year was simply more neighborhoody. It was a welcome change.

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
East Austin got so many new spots this year! Last Straw, Bird Bird Biscuit, Suerte, Greater Goods Coffee, La Matta, The Brewer’s Table, Ramen Tatsu-ya, and Domo Alley-Gato.

Dan Gentile, freelance food writer
This is a tough question because it seems like Austin is reaching the point where there isn’t one neighborhood that’s outshining the rest. In the past two years I feel like the restaurant landscape has evened out. Burnet Road, Cesar Chavez, and Mueller are all reaching critical mass. The biggest game-changer for a neighborhood is Fareground downtown, which really transforms the eating options, especially for visitors. The downtown streets feel much more vibrant, thanks partially to all those infernal scooters, but a few more old-guard restaurants need replacing to call it the best dining neighborhood. It feels passe to say it, but I think East 6th is still the best dining area. The influx of housing is turning the street from a drinking district to a dining one. The additions of Ramen Tatsu-ya, Il Brutto, Via 313, Suerte, and La Matta in such close proximity is kind of ridiculous and I’d expect another handful of great restaurants to open in the area in 2019.

Brandon Watson, food editor, CultureMap Austin
West Austin and Clarksville. With Better Half and Lin Asian Bar, the area’s once-sleepy food scene was revitalized and given some much needed diversity.

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
It’s still East Austin, and the footprint just keeps getting bigger.

Rachel Holtin, blogger, AustinFoodstagram
East Austin. Having lived on the east side for a few years now, I can speak to how the neighborhood is changing. For a while no one could make it with a fine dining concept east of I-35, and now we are seeing several open to crowds and lines. It’s made a turn!

Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
South Lamar/South 1st remains pretty great. All of the burger chains, tacos from Papalote, El Primo, and Habanero, multiple ramen shops, solid dessert and bakery options, and several of the best destination dining spots (Lenoir, Uchi, Odd Duck, etc.).

Veronica Mewes, freelance food writer
I might be biased because I live there, but the east side is still popping when it comes to bar and restaurant openings. Now if we could just get some more casual daytime spots too…

Jimmy Ho, blogger and Eater contributor, The Smoking Ho
Still has to be downtown, right? Or just east of it?

Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
With Suerte, Via 313, Il Brutto, Cisco’s expanded hours, and Ramen Tatsu-Ya, East Sixth reigns supreme — but I’m excited by the recent developments in Clarksville.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor, Eater Austin
Downtown Austin is still going strong, now with Fareground, the Line Austin Hotel, the such, and East Austin is offering both newer and reliable options like Ramen Tatsu-ya, Domo Alley-Gato, Suerte, Via 313, Last Straw, and even Sweet Chive.