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A bunch of pastries on a light brown paper on a teal wooden table.
The baked goods array from Eater Award winner Comadre Panadería.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

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Here Are 2021’s Eater Awards Winners for Austin

The best restaurant, bakery pop-up, and barbecue truck of the year

After taking a pause in 2020 due to everything, it is now time to celebrate the best new restaurants and people who have made the biggest impacts on Austin’s dining scene again. We’re extremely excited to announce the winners of the returning 2021 Eater Awards.

These awardees represent the best of the best in Austin, the chefs and businesses that have continued to support the community and serve excellent food despite encountering all the trials and tribulations of the past 22 months. This year’s winners shaped the distinct and exciting Austin culinary culture. Everyone below will each receive the traditional Eater tomato can trophy.

Please join us in celebrating this year’s group of winners. Without further ado, here they are.


Best New Restaurant of the Past Two Years

Nixta Taqueria

A short woman in a colorful patterned shirt next to a taller man with a beard and a light green shirt with a person on a cow pictured on it in front of a colorful wall.
Nixta Taqueria co-owners Sarah Mardanbigi and Edgar Rico.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin

Throughout these trying times, Nixta Taqueria co-owners chef Edgar Rico and Sarah Mardanbigi have been resilient. They opened their tiny counter-service restaurant in October 2019, and in the time since then, and, jeez, has a lot changed for the East Austin establishment, but still its core remains. An ideal Austin restaurant with superb thoughtful tacos, a kick-ass natural wine list, and a fun atmosphere. But the restaurant is clearly not just about food for the couple, it’s about contributing to their community and elevating their colleagues.

The restaurant hosted the city’s serve their community, from hosting the city’s first free fridge courtesy of ATX Free Fridge Project to straight-up cooking food for people without power and water during the horrific winter storm earlier this year. Rico and Mardanbigi also work with and learn their fellow taco slingers (Discada, Cuantos Tacos, Veracruz All Natural).

And the food, the food is so wonderful. The vegetable dishes are exquisite takes like the lovely beet tartare tostada, the meat ones are luscious, such as the hearty duck carnitas tacos. The fresh corn tortillas are perfection. We’d be remiss in not highlighting the sholeh zard, a delightful Persian rice pudding. Combine that with the excellent wine choices (ask a staffer for a recommendation, they’re always right). The physical restaurant even flourished during those dark months, growing from a tiny dining room into not one but two additional patio areas, allowing for more festive spaces.

Truth be told, Nixta would’ve won the restaurant of the year title in 2020 if we had held the awards that year, and, day after day, Rico and Mardanbigi continued to reaffirm that pronouncement daily. —Nadia Chaudhury

A tostada on a blue place.
A tostada from Nixta.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
A restaurant outdoor area with purple and green picnic tables, yellow umbrellas, in front of a colorful blue building.
The wide back patio at Nixta.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
The inside dining room of a restaurant with a low bench along the left wall, and a counter on the right side with blue backless stools.
Inside Nixta Taqueria.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
A colorful wall with a window of objects and plant vines.
A window at Nixta.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin

2512 East 12th Street, Chestnut; Official Site


Best New Barbecue Food Truck

Distant Relatives

A black tray full of sliced barbecued meats and white cardboard containers of sides.
Barbecue and sides and toast from Distant Relatives.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater

Naturally, one of Eater National’s best new restaurants in America this year is also one of the best ones in Austin. The Southeast Austin food truck is part ridiculously great barbecue spot and part exploration into the interconnected roots of African American barbecue embarked by owner and pitmaster Damien Brockway and his skilled team.

The barbecue menu is a true reflection of African-American diaspora and Brockway himself — the former fine-dining chef uncovered his own family history, where it turns out his ancestors were brought to North America as slaves by way of West Africa. This all results in a delicious array of meats — oh-so-juicy chicken, tender brisket, soft pulled porkand sides highlighting African ingredients and techniques. It’s the latter that truly best exemplifies the truck’s whole mission: there are lima beans paired with a smoked pork butter, grits with okra, and burnt ends mixed with black-eyed peas.

The newer location at Austin brewery Meanwhile Brewing is great for proximity to great beers and coffee for all of your smoked meats needs. —NC

Two slices of brisket with a chicken leg and a pile of pulled pork next to a yellow container of sauce and a red container of sauce on a black-and-white-checkered paper.
Brisket, chicken, and pulled pork at Distant Relatives.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater
A round container of cubed meat and green leafs next to peanuts in a white cardboard container and another with lima beans and another with black eyed peas.
Sides at Distant Relatives.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater
The facade of a food truck with a horizontal neon sign that reads “BBQ” next to a chalkboard side with menu items.
The menu at Distant Relatives.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater
Photo of Damien Brockway in a trailer
Damien Brockway
Nicolai McCrary/Eater

Meanwhile Brewing, 3901 Promontory Point Drive, McKinney; Official Site


Best New Neighborhood Wine Bar

Birdie’s

A restaurant table with a bowl of pasta, a bottle of wine with a red label, and a glass of red wine next to a clear vase with a flower.
A meal at Birdie’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

Visiting the counter-service East Austin wine restaurant is like dropping into the backyard party of your cool neighbors (husband and wife team Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and Arjav Ezekiel) who know how to cook and have a fun wine collection. The patio is casual and welcoming, and the food is simple but impressive.

Malechek-Ezekiel’s New American menu is full of hits, from standbys like the beef tartare or the panisse served with black pepper and a shower of pecorino to frequently rotating house-made pasta to the soft serve with citrus-tinged olive oil, which is well on its way to becoming an iconic Austin dessert. Then, there’s the selection of wine, vermouth, and more, kept ever-exciting by Ezekiel. There may be a wait to get into Birdie’s, but it’s worth it. —Erin Russell

A restaurant dining room with a wood counter in front of a kitchen and a person is moving blurred through the space.
The inside dining room of Birdie’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A restaurant patio with a gravel floor with stone pathways and low white long tables and picnic benches.
The patio of Birdie’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A white brick building with a window with blue trim.
The exterior of Birdie’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A tall man in a blue button-down long-sleeve shirt and a cap next to a shorter woman in a white top and apron.
Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and Arjav Ezekiel.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

2944 East 12th Street, Unit A, Chestnut; Official Site


Best New Bakery Pop-Up

Comadre Panadería

Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

Austin is a lucky town since owner and bakery Mariela Camacho moved her pandemic-born bakery pop-up from San Antonio into Austin. The pop-up starting off as a delivery service when people couldn’t be together in real life, offering people a way to connect with thoughtful baked goods during lonely times.

The baked goods variety allows her to explore her Xicana roots through local ingredients and really delicious flavors. There are light conchas in amazing flavors (like raspberry-coconut or chocolate), prickly pear cookies, cardamom orejas, and, seriously, anything stuffed with guava is a must.

It makes sense that the pop-ups are currently held at fellow Eater Award winner Nixta Taqueria. Camacho often gives back, encouraging people to donate foods to free fridges or donating to groups supporting indigenous and native people during Thanksgiving.—NC

Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

Nixta Taqueria, 2512 East 12th Street, Chestnut; Official Site


Best Pandemic Pivot Turned Permanent Shop

Little Ola’s Biscuits

A place with a biscuit sandwich of thick egg and a slice of tomato next to a clear bottle of orange liquid with a label reading Little Ola’s Arnold Palmer.
An egg and tomato biscuit sandwich at Little Ola’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

Heralded as one of the greatest pandemic pivots, fancy Southern restaurant Olamaie’s off-menu biscuits finally get the spotlight they deserve with fast-casual shop Little Ola’s. The restaurant stays true to chef Michael Fotajek’s Olamaie’s roots with exquisite Southern food through dishes that are more affordable for the everyday.

Order the soft, buttery biscuits — made under the skillful watch of culinary director Jules Stoddart — with housemade jam or in sandwiches with pimento cheese or Tasso ham. However, biscuits are not the only tricks up Little Ola’s sleeve. The shop also serves picnic-perfect sides like chicken salad with Duke’s mayo and Crystal hot sauce, kale salad with benne seed and sorghum, and sweets like hand pies or biscuit cinnamon rolls.. —ER

Two framed illustrations, one with a cast-iron pan that reads Well Seasoned and the other of a blue plate and fork and knife that reads Step Up To The Plate.
Art inside Little Ola’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A wax food wrapper with a frosted hand pie peeking out of it.
A hand pie at Little Ola’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A restaurant ordering counter with a black-and-white menu behind it.
The ordering counter and menu at Little Ola’s.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin
A taller man with a yellow hat and beige t-shirt and green pants next to a shorter woman in a green t-shirt and blue jeans.
Michael Fojtasek and Jules Stoddart.
Sanetra Longno/Eater Austin

14735 Bratton Lane, Suite 310, Wells Branch; Official Site


Best Fun, Aggressive, and Socially Conscious Burger Pop-Up

Bad Larry Burger Club

A person holding up two burgers, each with two patties and cheese.
The burgers of Bad Larry Burger Club.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin

As much as Matthew Bolick, aka “Bad Larry,” would hate this sentence, Bad Larry Burger Club is less about the burgers and more about “the brand.” The burgers themselves are simple and effective: double patty smash burgers from a flat top with American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and enough grease to sop up whatever ails you on a Martin’s potato bun.

However, Bad Larry’s brash all-caps social media posts mocking Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, the political PAC Save Austin Now, and most of all, themselves, have resonated with young Austinites, to the point that snagging a burger at Bad Larry’s has become a badge of honor that requires patience akin to braving the Franklin Barbecue line. (One might even call Bolick an influencer.) Fortunately, a different kind of line camaraderie emerges, as Bolick often hires punk bands to play for those waiting in line.

Basically, Bad Larry is here to remind us that food doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, and sometimes a beer and a burger is a perfect meal. —ER

A cook sliding burger patties topped with slices of cheese onto open burger buns.
The Bad Larry team prepping burgers.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
A cook flipping burger patties.
A Bad Larry cook grilling burger patties.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
A red sidewalk sign reading “Bad Larry” “Burger Club” “Get in Line, sweaty”
The sign for Bad Larry’s.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
People walking in a line.
The line for Bad Larry’s Burger Club during a pop-up at sibling bar Little Brother.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin
A man in a white sweatshirt and white pants giving a peace sign.
Matthew Bolick.
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin

Roaming; Official Site

Nixta Taqueria

2512 East 12th Street, , TX 78702 (512) 551-3855 Visit Website

Distant Relatives

3901 Promontory Point Drive, , TX 78744 (512) 717-2504 Visit Website

Birdie's

2944 East 12th Street, , TX 78702 Visit Website
Coming Attractions

Shaquille O’Neal’s Fried Chicken Chain Restaurant Will Open in Austin

San Antonio

San Antonio Restaurant Weeks Continue Amid Ongoing Surge in COVID Cases

Alamo Drafthouse Owners Sold Downtown Bar Midnight Cowboy

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