As is the tradition as we near the end of 2021, 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 that 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 seven:
Was there one restaurant in particular that you felt really stepped up for your local community? How did they do so?
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
Seoulju. Seoulju has hosted pop-ups for aspiring local new chefs. They have helped them grow and have always been supportive. They also have hosted fundraisers to help the community such as the Stop Asian Hate and Austin Pets Alive. During the snowstorm, Seoulju cooked up hundreds of meals for the local community who didn’t have access to food.
Paula Forbes, cookbook writer and critic, and former editor of Eater Austin
Impossible to name just one in a year like 2021! How many restaurants stepped up for all of us during the freeze? How many breweries donated their filtered water to neighbors who went for days without water in February? How many have raised funds for organizations they believe in, how many fed people through donations, neighborhood fridges, and volunteering? To name several, but not nearly all: Nixta, Olamaie, Joe’s Bakery, L’Oca d’Oro, everyone involved in the Taco Mafia, everyone involved in Good Work Austin (which is more restaurants than you think), everyone going out of their way to support local food and beverage producers, everyone paying their employees a living wage and giving them decent benefits. Honestly, I get a little emotional thinking about just how many restaurants stepped up this year.
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Veracruz All Natural — I reached out to Veracruz during the Austin Winter Storm and we provided thousands of tacos to the community through our Austin Winter Storm Relief efforts.
Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, The Infatuation, and photographer for Eater Austin
I think a lot of us thought that 2021 was going to be some sort of break after the shit show that was 2020 — and in many ways, it was. Then the storm hit and sheepish grins and snowball fights quickly turned into worried glances and bathtubs full of slowly melting snow. And through it all, so many restaurants managed to step up — despite facing these same weather obstacles and struggling through a pandemic. I watched as Nixta prepared food by headlamp in a dimly lit kitchen, and as the now-closed Levercraft brewed up gallons of coffee on a giant outdoor propane burner. We saw breweries across the city utilize their facilities to send out cans of clean water to those in need. As rough as that week was for a lot of us, seeing local businesses step up to help was the warm hug that I think a lot of us really needed.
Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
While it is not a restaurant per se, the Central Texas Food Bank is always there to help Austinites when they need it, year in and year out.
Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
Adam Orman of L’Oca d’Oro is completely changing the game with Good Work Austin and his work during the freeze. There are so many other restaurants that helped during that time — Peached Tortilla, Chi’Lantro, Easy Tiger, and Southside Flying Pizza are the ones that immediately come to mind.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
Everyone who rallied to feed and keep people warm during the horrible winter storm, from Discada/Nixta/Cuantos Tacos to the restaurants that worked with World Central Kitchen to Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek (who made use to buy up produce from local farms) to the breweries that pivoted to providing drinkable water when the city’s water pipes were ruined.
Adam Orman of L’Oca d’Oro, who has been a loud advocate for the Austin restaurant community throughout the pandemic and beyond (livable wages, through nonprofit Good Work Austin.
Then there’s cocktail pop-up Daijoubu’s Caer Ferguson and (moved-out-of-Austin-sad-face) Sharon Yeung, who have been vocal about the anti-Asian-racism that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities have faced during the pandemic. They’ve given spaces to fellow AAPI businesses during their pop-ups and markets. I’m so happy their last pop-up of the year was ridiculously busy because they deserve it.
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