As is the tradition as we near the end of 2022, Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past culinary year in Austin. All answers will be revealed before the year ends — cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Question number two:
What was your best restaurant meal of 2022?
Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I had a fantastic meal at Diner Bar, which is Savannah chef Mashama Bailey’s new place, in the Thompson Hotel in Austin (she won the James Beard Award for best chef in the country this year): chicken-fried quail, grits with seared duck foie gras, and ugali (an African maize-flour custard) with Mexican salsa macha. You can often get in without a reservation if you go early and sit at the bar.
Chris Hughes, editor-in-chief, Austin Monthly
The omakase menu at Toshokan. Saine Wong is not only a seriously talented chef but just a really endearing guy to spend time with. He makes every seating an event.
Melanie Haupt, food editor, the Austin Chronicle
My spouse and I celebrated our anniversary at Lutie’s, and it was such a treat, from the exceptional service to the innovative veggies, to the plant-drenched ceilings and walls. Every time I think about the kouign amann ice cream we had there, I feel sad that I’m not eating it at the moment.
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
My best restaurant meal this year would be at Ros Niyom Thai. I love family-style meals and I usually go with a group so we can order a variety of items. My plate is complete with spicy papaya salad, sticky rice, their moo ping, grilled pork shoulder, and sharing their steamed or fried whole trout.
Darcie Duttweiler, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
In terms of execution, ingredients, flavors, and service, it’s hands-down Toshokan. What Chef Saine Wong is doing in that tiny space is nothing short of spectacular. It’s really fun to go on his culinary journey. In a town with what seems like a million omakases nowadays, he and his team are truly elevating the experience and paying attention to all the tiny details that can make or break a meal.
Outside of Austin, I had an incredible experience on Isla Mujeres in the home of a local called Lolo Lorena. This incredible woman welcomes eight diners into her courtyard every night, where she feeds them basically whatever she wants until they burst. It’s a lively event with BYOB options, everyone is friends by the end, and she tells wild stories of her past love life (she allegedly used to be married to a famous French actor but won’t kiss and tell). While the food was great, it was the experience that will stick with me for a long time, and the fact she doesn’t have a website or do social media (you have to request a slot through Facebook Messenger) was a wonderful reminder that it’s not always about influencers, Michelin stars, or Instagram — it’s about the warm and welcoming people who love to feed others. Those are the chefs and the meals that are worth seeking out.
Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
My absolute favorite was the tasting menu at a little spot called Lyran in Malmö (yes, we have an Eater guide to Malmö), full of super-fresh produce and foresty flavors I hadn’t experienced before. After that, the menu Nixta Taqueria put together with Lengua Madre for their three-year anniversary (swordfish al pastor!), the Pasta Paisanos between Nixta and L’Oca d’Oro (blue corn masa tagliatelle! Carolina gold risotto with poblanos!), and Grae Nonas’s dinner at Midnight in the Garden supper club (duck bigoli!) all stood out for me. Basically, I’m a huge sucker for pasta.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
My first gut answer is Toshokan. It’s just fun and delicious and unpretentious, and yes, the Taylor Swift nights are a BLAST.
I was lucky enough to dine with Erin (see above) at Nixta’s anniversary dinner, where the team basically previewed their forthcoming tasting menu thang, and it was fantastic. Cannot wait.
I also had a really beautiful indulgent solo dinner at Birdie’s where I just read my book, ate a lot, and drank a lot on the patio during perfect summer weather.
And then a really necessary hangover brunch at Joe’s Bakery (barbacoa forever).