As is the tradition as we near the end of 2023, 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 three:
What 2023 restaurant closure was the biggest bummer for you?
Raphael Brion, Texas senior editor, the Infatuation
Losing Bento Picnic as a healthy-ish lunch spot/charming patio workplace hurt the most to me, personally. Seoulju was also surprising. I have a feeling both will make it back in some form or another soon though.
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Nau’s Enfield Drug. I loved this iconic neighborhood diner. Also the closing of Bento Picnic— this was a go-to spot for me when I wanted a healthy meal that tasted really good.
Pat Sharpe, restaurant critic, Texas Monthly
Nau’s Enfield Drug. It was kinda dinky and odd, but it had those old-school griddle-cooked hamburgers and milkshakes and it was a tie to the Austin I remember from my childhood. Nau’s opened in 1951 when the entire population of the city was 132,000 — I think that 132,000 people moved to Austin last week.
Chris Hughes, features editor, Texas Highways
BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya disappeared way too fast. I’m not sure if they opened at an inopportune time, or if that Contigo space is just in a weird spot, but that menu was so damn good. I dream about its brisket torisho ramen with smoked tomato and Texas hot links. It’s seriously tragic that it’s already gone!
Eric Webb, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
I often find myself wishing I could go post up at the Airport Boulevard location of Sa-Ten. The hummus plate at TLV at Fareground was my go-to during South by Southwest. And I hadn’t been in a minute, but I logged lots of hours at Thunderbird Coffee on Manor Road in my 20s, and I mourn the loss.
Madeline Hollern, editor-in-chief, Austin Monthly
Nau’s Enfield Drug. Whenever an Old Austin staple shutters, it’s a bummer.
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods
Seoulju!! So many memories here personally for me. I love the Korean fried chicken here, the vibe, the people and helped me and my friends host to raise funds for charities. Going to miss it so much.
Darcie Duttweiler, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
The closing of Paper Route Bakery hurt — they made the best birthday cake I’ve ever had — but Nau’s officially closing for good broke my heart. I moved to Clarksville right out of college (back when an apartment in that ‘hood was actually doable on a then-hair-salon-coordinator’s salary), and I used to eat burgers and slurp shakes there all the time, then pick up some groceries at Fresh Plus, and take a stroll home while gawking at the beautiful homes I’d never be able to afford.
Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
I was sad that Southold Farm & Cellar closed before I got a chance to go out there — I heard it was beautiful. Devastated that Paper Route Bakery closed just as I discovered how great their cakes were. And a little sad for Nau’s, although admittedly, I have not been there in probably three decades.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor, Eater Austin
I am so very upset that Seoulju is closing. It’s such a gem of a restaurant that offered both great food and community space for pop-ups. Paper Route’s sudden shutter hit hard because they made such wonderful cakes (I’ll forever cherish my birthday cake a friend ordered for me). I’m also sad that Southold closed out in the Hill Country, and yes, I’ve stockpiled my absolute favorite wine of their’s (the white-blend Don’t Forget to Soar). And then, the seemingly ongoing brewery shutters throughout the past several years is concerning for the state of Texas beer in general (i.e. Hedgehog, Circle, Oskar Blues, Friends & Allies).