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 four:
What was the most exciting — or most infuriating — local restaurant trend of 2023?
Raphael Brion, Texas senior editor, the Infatuation
But it’s rough out there, it seems like everything is destined to either be a $300 per person omakase sushi counter or a $15+ smash burger concept, with not a lot in between. Could we see a $300 per person smash burger omakase concept in 2024?
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
When did cocktails start costing more than a meal? $25 for a cocktail?!
Darcie Duttweiler, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
I am so over “speakeasies.” If it’s remotely difficult or inconvenient for me to get into a place, I’m out — unless it’s the coolest bar ever where I’m, like, showered in diamonds while I pet cats and make out with Ryan Gosling.
Pat Sharpe, restaurant critic, Texas Monthly
I’m slightly exhausted by all the expensive omakases out there, to tell you the truth. Enough is enough. And, as I’ve said before, with every passing year, more and more restaurants are turning into clubs — loud music, loud talking, and lots of booze. I completely understand that many places wouldn’t be in business without liquor sales, but it’s ruining the experience for a lot of us.
Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, the Infatuation
It’s been exciting to see restaurants open up in small or unexpected places. And it’s probably due, in no small part, to rent prices going through the f*cking roof. I had Malaysian food in the back of a gas station, Mexican Japanese ramen in a grocery store food court, and khao man gai inside an actual grocery store.
As for trends that are starting to hit their peak? We’ve started to hit critical mass with smash burgers, and it’s only a matter of time until the city implodes into some griddled mess of paper-thin beef, pickles, and onions. Don’t get me wrong — I love them, too — but there’s a whole spectrum of patty density to explore out there!
Chris Hughes, features editor, Texas Highways
Austin has officially become a good pizza town. Between Allday, Side Eye Pie, Favorite Pizza, Pedroso’s, Baldinucci, Palm Pizza, and the return of Bufalina on the East Side — there are almost too many great options to choose from. And we have Bambino from L’Oca d’Oro’s Fiore Tedesco opening next year. I can’t wait for that one!
Madeline Hollern, editor-in-chief, Austin Monthly
Most infuriating: Insane menu prices and an emphasis on flash and Instagram-worthy decor instead of actual quality.
Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
Not everything has to be called an omakase!
Nadia Chaudhury, editor, Eater Austin
Echoing most of the ugh trends as shared by people above: please don’t open another smash burger restaurant, please don’t open another very generic-menu-ed restaurant, please don’t open another place with very convoluted hours and methods of entry. Give me perspectives, give me fun, give me something new and exciting.
I’ve personally been enjoying people choosing to open restaurants and bars in South Austin because hey, we need more dining and drinking spots down here.