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 seven:
What was your best restaurant meal of 2018?
Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I can’t stop thinking about the goat barbacoa at Suerte. This is what I wrote about it in my column: “[The centerpiece is] a rack of teeny goat ribs under a scandalous cap of seared fat... Arranged alongside the epazote-and-mint-rubbed meat are tiny roasted tomatoes and a covey of condiments — creamy homemade queso fresco, a finely chopped cross between guacamole and avocado, and piquant salsa hildalguense with arbol chiles, roasted tomato, and lime.”
Rachel Holtin, blogger, AustinFoodstagram
I went to French Laundry in Napa, which set the bar high. In Austin, it was the collaborative dinner that Chef Kevin Fink and Mathew Peters did at Emmer & Rye in March. I’m a sucker for an elevated dining experience, and it is so fun to see these chefs bring new ingredients and flavors into Austin.
Tom Thornton, freelance food writer and contributor at Eater Austin
A simple meal with my family at Z & Y in San Francisco was the most memorable.
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
It’d have to be a toss-up between brunch at Suerte or 40 North. The crispy potatoes and labneh dip (comes with the freshly baked bread) at 40 North is SO good and the migas and shrimp tostada at Suerte was also excellent. The poke at Malibu Poke is also stellar. Oops, that’s three meals.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly
Particular dishes always stand out to me rather than a single meal: The Brewer’s Table’s swordfish lardo and amazing ice cream cone; the croissants at Le Politique. Yuyo’s cebiche clasico. The dirty rice at Sour Duck.
Dan Gentile, freelance food writer
Safta in Denver, where the hummus is what dreams are made of and I met a cabbage salad that I’d like to marry. In Austin, there’s few experiences more fun than going wild on the Kemuri Tatsu-ya menu.
Veronica Mewes, freelance food writer
I can never pick just one. Standouts include pre-Hispanic ingredients conjured into culinary magic at ARCA in Tulum and Kevin Fink’s collaboration with Alon Shaya at Emmer & Rye for an Austin Food & Wine Alliance dinner. But I also still daydream about a simple roasted pork and sheep’s milk cheese sandwich (pernil con queijo) I had in Porto, a sloppy-good roast beef po’boy from Domilise’s in New Orleans and streetside khao soi in Chiang Mai.
Brandon Watson, food editor, CultureMap Austin
Carnitas Lonja in San Antonio, hands down. Owner Alex Paredes has pulled off the greatest food-related miracle since Jesus pulled off a banquet with two fishes.
Jimmy Ho, blogger and Eater contributor, The Smoking Ho
The Saturday where LeRoy & Lewis had brisket (best brisket in town, in my humble opinion), Szechuan beef rib, and porchetta.
Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
The best meal I’ve had this year was the Something’s Rotten in Denmark dinner during SXSW, cooked by Noma co-founder Mads Refslund (I could eat scallops with fermented plums forever). Other memorable meals are my birthday dinner at Emmer & Rye (the roti and labneh, in particular), brunch with a fig Dutch baby at Odd Duck, chicken and waffles at Hoover’s, and pastrami queso and cauliflower tots with great company at Better Half.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
From Austin: Arlo Grey’s crispy chicken and rice, which was essentially a comforting chicken congee; Better Half’s greens and grains bowl is just comforting and healthy all at the same time and I want a spoon for that broth; a momo feast at Himalaya Kosheli; Carpenter’s Hotel’s Hot L Coffee’s simple and satisfying pimento cheese sandwich; the tasty tiny tacos at Discada.
Elsewhere: the juicy dumplings at Win Son in New York; everything at Kopitiam in New York; the tomato bread from Theodore Rex in Houston; fuchka from a street cart in Jackson Heights, Queens, which is basically the Bangladeshi version of pani puri.