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The Best Restaurant Meals Austin Food Writers Ate in 2020

From warming chicken pot pies to live-fire steak to creamy lasagna

A lasagna from Le Cowboy
A lasagna from Le Cowboy
Le Cowboy/Facebook

As is the tradition as we near the end of 2020, Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past culinary year in Austin. Given the insanity of this year, Eater has adapted the standard survey into one the reflects the new realities of takeout, restaurant shutters, and a shaky industry. All answers will be revealed before the year ends — cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Question number three:

What was your best takeout and/or dine-in restaurant meal or drink of 2020?

Katie Friel, editor, CultureMap Austin
This was in December 2019, but my best dine-in meal was Hestia. Twelve months later, and I’m still dreaming of Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s Parker House rolls.

My most memorable was my last dine-in meal at Kinda Tropical in early March. Everyone knew the world was about to change, and my friends and I spent a rainy Sunday indoors drinking rosé and eating fried shrimp and yucca fries. We stayed so long, we ordered lunch and dinner. I’ve returned to that memory a lot over the past 10 months.

Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
Chef Hong’s liang pi [cold skin noodles]. Liang pi is traditionally very labor intensive and, I have not been able to find with traditional flavors. Chef Hong’s liang pi hits every single music note, and brings me back to the ones I had in China.

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Suerte — started the meal with housemade chips & salsa and guacamole. The tacos and quesadilla were spectacular, and ended the meal with the choco-taco.

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I had a lovely meal on the pretty, vine-covered terrace at Summer House on Music Lane, which is the restaurant in the Hotel Magdalena. The menu’s eclectic, but has a lot of Mediterranean influences. I was absolutely blown away by the giant caramelized scallops on heirloom grits and the chicken with cashew habanero aioli. The dessert was so fantastic (individual blueberry galettes with crunchy sugar sprinkles) that we ordered it for Thanksgiving.

Raphael Brion, Texas editor, The Infatuation, and former editor of Eater
2020 was the year of standing and eating out of the trunk of my car — I keep a roll of paper towels there in case I run out of napkins — and some of the best meals happened in parking lots, with me trying to avoid getting salsa or grease all over myself. The most memorable trunk-side experiences from the past year include tacos at Carnitas El Guero, pizza at Pieous, a machete at Casita Nicole Antojitos Mexicanos, and a double at Buddy’s Burgers.

Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
Hestia. One of the best steaks in town. And probably the best open-fire grill set-up in Austin. A damn fine experience. Best drink? Anything from Roosevelt Room. When I want bourbon, Moonshine Bar & Grill. The selection and barrel picks are completely unique.

Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
The creamy lasagne and rich amatriciana at Le Cowboy transported me directly back to my favorite restaurants in Italy. I also have very fond memories of tortilla espanola and digging through the Kali sundae at Kalimotxo. But my favorite meal of 2020 was one of the few times I indulged in patio dining. Sitting outside with a friend while having a couple of drinks and a burger at Better Half was a fleeting moment of perceived normalcy, and a reminder of the important role restaurants play in these pleasant memories.

Sarah Engstrand, contributing writer, Eater Austin
I loved my meal from Wu Chow. It was takeaway, so I can’t speak to service, but I think about the dry-fried green beans a lot.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
For takeout:
-The Cinco de Mayo takeout taco meal from Nixta Taqueria, Discada, and Cuantos Tacos
-Soothing spicy rice cake hot pot with cheese from Seoulju
-Little, warming chicken pot pies from Tiny Pies
-Wonderful fried crawfish from Big Easy Bar & Grill
-The incredibly springy, loaded Sicilian pie from Bufalina
-The NOLA shrimp and grits from L.E. Meals
-The crazy-good curry udon with fried egg from Korea House
-A perfect anniversary meal of medium-rare steak and fries from Salt & Time
-A road-trip-worthy sweet slice of lemon meringue pie from Blue Bonnet Cafe
-The joy of expertly made cocktails from my favorite bars doing takeout, especially after drinking my own at-home concoctions.

For dine-in service during the before times:
-The delightful s’mores dessert from Hestia, both in presentation and taste
-The exquisite omakase from Tsuke Honten, especially the hokkaido uni

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