As is the tradition as we near the end of 2019, 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 2019?
Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I was astonished by Comedor, which I wrote about in our June 2019 issue — it’s sleek and arty and worthy of Mexico City. One wonderful bite: a blue-corn quesadilla filled with earthy huitlacoche — aka corn fungus — on a beautiful anise-scented green hoja santa leaf.
My other favorite newcomer was Vixen’s Wedding, which delves into the Indian/Portuguese cuisine of Goa, as interpreted by chef/co-owner Todd Duplechan. Don’t-miss nibble at Vixen’s: shrimp samosas with green tomato–cashew chutney.
Nixta Taqueria: In a tiny building on the east side, chef Edgar Rico is transforming tacos with imaginative treatments that blend Mexican and international flavors (like beet “tartare” in salsa macha aioli, and soy-cured tuna with chipotle mayo). All the masa for the excellent, colorful tortillas is made in-house, from red, blue, and yellow corn.
Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
Hestia, DipDipDip Tatsu-ya, Nixta Taqueria, and Vaquero Taquero.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic at Austin Monthly
Nixta Taqueria and Comedor. They both plumb new depths of Mexican cuisine but in completely different ways.
Raphael Brion, former Eater editor and Texas Editor of The Infatuation
If the best restaurants that opened in Austin in 2019 were a team, it’d be like the A Team. Well, if the A Team nixtamalized their own corn, held a 45-minute sushi omakase, made Jedi-level brisket and egg breakfast tacos, opened a shabu-shabu spot with intricate woodwork, and served appetizing smoked fish platters that rivaled those in New York City. Those are the sort of things that B.A. Baracus was up to, right? Just a few of the many highlights that opened in 2019: Comedor, Uroko, Vaquero Taquero’s brick-and-mortar; DipDipDip, Swedish Hill, Nixta Taqueria, Cuantos Tacos, Franklin Barbecue’s breakfast taco trailer, and Hestia.
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
DipDipDip, Devil May Care, Rosedale, Oseyo, and Kalimotxo
Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
Uroko — a fun, intimate, educational sushi experience. Nixta Taqueria — never knew vegetables could taste like that. DipDipDip Tatsu-ya — so many different options to explore! And probably Hestia, though I can’t say for sure since I haven’t been yet (take note, Food & Wine).
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
There is something very special about Nixta Taqueria: the passion and care of co-owners Edgar Rico and Sara Mardanbigi is so evident, from the vibrant walls and the shelves full of knick knacks to ridiculously great tacos and tostadas made with high-end ingredients, but still served in an oh-so-casual environment.
Hot pot and shabu-shabu isn’t new, but DipDipDip Tatsu-ya presents the DIY dining experience in such a fun and catered way.
And speaking of fun: Uroko’s 45-minute omakase is easy and excellent.
Downtown Mexican restaurant Comedor presents fine dining done right in Austin: the food is creative, the decor is different, and Philip Speer is back doing desserts, which, yes.
My last one: I’m obsessed with bookstore-slash-cafe Lark & Owl Booksellers: wonderful book selection plus food and drinks from the Better Half team, up in Georgetown.