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Austin’s Biggest Dining Surprises of 2018

From hotel successes to casual neighborhood gems

Beef shank at Garrison
Beef shank at Garrison
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 five:

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2018?

Brandon Watson, food editor, CultureMap Austin
Garrison. Yes, the interior is dreadful (please, for the love of God, buy a real plant), but the team knocks fine dining out of the park.

Veronica Mewes, freelance food writer
I’m constantly flabbergasted each time investors dump heaps of money into mediocre and/or half-baked restaurant concepts that end up closing within a year (because, duh). I know some much easier and more fun ways to lose a couple million real quick, DM me!

Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
The thoughtfully updated Home Slice 2.0 — Austin could use two more of these in the northwest and southwest areas.

Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly
Probably how much the scene “brought it home,” so to speak. The scene has needed to ground itself in, well, Austin for a while. It was a pleasant surprise to see restaurants taking Austinites’ everyday dining needs into account.

Dan Gentile, freelance food writer
Banger’s Smokehouse. It’s shocking that it took so long for whole hog barbecue to come to Austin and it’s great to see someone doing it right.

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
That breweries are getting serious about dining. But it makes complete sense because beer pairs so well with food.

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Suerte. I wasn’t impressed when I dined at Suerte when it first opened and thought, ‘Oh, just another upscale Mexican restaurant.’ However, I went back recently for brunch and all the dishes were DELICIOUS. Loved the shrimp tostada, migas (oh gosh, those eggs with the hollandaise sauce is heaven), fresh doughnuts, and flautas.

Rachel Holtin, blogger, AustinFoodstagram
Chef Mathew Peters entering the Austin dining scene. Really excited for his future projects. He’s true talent, and has been hosting many pop-up dinners in recent months for Austinites to experience his magical kitchen talent that won him Bocuse d’Or in 2017.

Jimmy Ho, blogger and Eater contributor, The Smoking Ho
Barbecue joints are still popping up. You would think Austin has reached a saturation point by now

Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
I agree that Garrison has surprisingly delicious food (the tater tots are life-changing), as did Tillie’s in Dripping Springs. Also, that there’s a killer burger hiding in Neapolitan pizza joint 40 North.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
How many restaurants actually do open without any real vision or thought or care.