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 seven:
What was the most surprising news story in Austin in 2023?
Madeline Hollern, editor-in-chief, Austin Monthly
Chris Hughes, features editor, Texas Highways
Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods
I think that will be Ramen Tatsu-ya’s BBQ Ramen restaurant closing. Honestly haven’t gotten the chance to go. So many people talked about it and there was so much hype about it, but I think it didn’t open for very long at all.
Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
“Korean Barbecue and Hot Pot Chain Will Open Two All-You-Can-Eat Restaurants in Austin” — very excited for all these new Asian concepts opening in Austin.
Eric Webb, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
I was very sad to hear about the death of Frances Junk of Fran’s Hamburgers fame. The Fran’s location on South Congress Avenue (now Torchy’s Tacos) was one of my favorites as a kid.
Darcie Duttweiler, freelance writer and Eater contributing writer
Controversial chef and Top Chef winner Gabe Erales ever-so-quietly opening his new restaurant Bacalar.
Erin Russell, associate editor, Eater Austin
That I’m leaving Eater Austin. I bet you thought you’d never be rid of me!
Other than that, I was shocked when I heard the ultra-hip Native was turning into...a golf course? Sure, whatever.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor, Eater Austin
Erin’s news is the most devastating-slash-happy thing to happen this year. But don’t worry, she’ll continue to write for Eater Austin thankfully.
Otherwise, it’s not necessarily surprising but disappointing to see what had or could’ve been really exciting and ambitious projects turn into out-of-town entertainment playgrounds. See: the long-awaited St. Elmo Public Market space being turned into an arcade/bowling alley/bar from an Ohio-based company and East Austin space the Native closing to be turned into a putt-putt golf course by an Australian company.
It’s also eye-opening how Nixta Taqueria’s on-going permitting dilemmas has been making the grander public aware of how convoluted and frustrating the City of Austin’s restaurant permitting process is. There is a reason why many anticipated restaurants don’t open when they think they’re going to.