The Eater Awards celebrate the best restaurants, food trucks, bars, and overall awesome dining experiences in cities across America. And Eater Austin is here to announce the winners of the 2023 Eater Awards for the 12th year.
Austin dining proves that there are many ways to cook for people in exciting, innovative, and nourishing formats, and this was especially true in 2023. One of this year’s winning restaurants — dedicated to Mexican Japanese ramen within an Asian supermarket’s food court in the Scofield Farms neighborhood — started as private dinners at the chef’s home garage. Down in the Blackland neighborhood, an established restaurant expands into the wonders of Mexican seafood from a legacy space. Just less than a mile away in MLK is a truck parked at a brewery, where it smokes up exceptional Egyptian Texas barbecue. Dipping down south, there’s a bar mixing up delicate and lavish cocktails that are still approachable. And finally, across town, a bar and shop brings together two of life’s most pleasurable experiences: drinking wine and eating pizza. These five places are just the top of the whole beauty and breadth and just plain delicious of the Austin dining scene.
And with that, the Eater Austin team now presents the winners of Austin’s 2023 Eater Awards.
Best New Restaurant: Ramen del Barrio
There is something utterly exciting and special about Ramen del Barrio in a city awash with ramen. The noodle soup is the canvas for combining Mexican and Japanese cuisines, a dazzling distillation of chef Christopher Krinsky’s upbringing in Mexico and culinary work at Japanese restaurants where the small kitchen staff blends together flavors, ingredients, and techniques in such a harmonious way. Take the mole tsukemen, where cold noodles are dipped into a thick broth of mole negro with tortilla strips and karaage. Or the mainstay carnitas tonkotsu, where a mess of soft pork is paired with a shoyu tare and pork bone broth (make sure to get the salsas, too), for a tangy bowl. And don’t forget about the yaki-tacos, where skewered meats like lengua and chicken thighs are dressed atop corn tortillas.
The physical space is unassuming — it’s a counter-service stand within Hana World Market’s food court. And yet Krinsky makes it his own with bright colors, wood paneling, and sassy rules for guests (don’t ask about your order or you’ll be waiting an extra five minutes) while also bidding them “buen provecho” (Spanish for “enjoy”). It’s an unpretentious and convivial atmosphere for some serious ramen. —Nadia Chaudhury
Hana World Market, 1700 Parmer Lane, Suite 100, Scofield Farms
Best New Restaurant Sequel: Este
Austin is well familiar with the culinary expertise of chef Fermín Núñez, who clearly knows his way around masa as seen through his first restaurant Suerte with co-owner Sam Hellman-Mass and director of operations Celia Pellegrini. But it’s through their second venture, Este, that they’ve been able to really hone into a narrower category. There is a reason that Núñez was named Eater Austin’s chef of 2018. The restaurant is all about the vibrancy of Mexican seafood in all its lively and decadent forms. The rich and citrusy tuna tiradito places bluefin tuna amid an allium salsa negra sauce; the trout a la pulla douses the pan-seared tuna with a creamy almost curry-ish sesame pulla cream; and the oh-so-messy camarones “el ricas” requires diners to use their fingers to dig the juicy grilled shrimp from their shells.
The team took over the address from longtime restaurant Eastside Cafe with such care and kindness that it’s felt throughout the brightened space in a full circle moment. There’s the revamped Este Garden run by Anamaria Gutierrez, which grows produce for the restaurants while welcoming volunteers to help cultivate the grounds. And let’s not forget to mention top-notch hospitality, gorgeous wines and cocktails, and a really thoughtful amari list. With all being said, Este shows off the power of seafood through Mexican processes with such highly sumptuous results. —Nadia Chaudhury
2113 Manor Road, Blackland
Best New Food Truck: KG BBQ
It has always been pitmaster Kareem El-Ghayesh’s mission to showcase the pure magic of Texas barbecue but with his own Egyptian spin. That’s why he launched KG BBQ as a pop-up and why he eventually opened this food truck. And, frankly, Egyptian Texan barbecue just makes sense. Both cuisines are inherently smoky from live-fire cooking; there are bold flavors; and meat is king. The truck’s best dish example of this melding is the rice bowl brisket, where the turmeric rice is mixed with chunks of tender smoked brisket, creamy nutty tahini, fresh vegetables, candied nuts for wonderful sugary contrasting textures, and the juicy bursts of pomegranate seeds.
The meats themselves aren’t to be overlooked either. The classic brisket is tender; the smoked medium-rare lamb chops come with a bright mint chimichurri sauce; there are genuine kebabs and koftas paired with cooling yogurt sauces.
KG’s host site Oddwood Ales makes it the perfect spot for groups and families to linger over their barbecue trays. Barbecue and beer is a time-honored Texas tradition, and El-Ghayesh kicks that up to a higher level by adding an international spin. —Nadia Chaudhury
Oddwood Ales, 3108 Manor Road, MLK; takeout orders can be placed online.
Best New Bar: Holiday
Of the gifts Austin received from the restaurant world in 2023, the frozen Mexican martini at co-owners Erin Ashford and John DiCicco’s cocktail bar Holiday is perhaps one of the greatest. Briny, cold, and full of tequila, it would be enough of a reason to become a regular at Holiday, but it’s only one in a menu of truly excellent martinis, not to mention other cocktails, nonalcoholic offerings, and a daily punch cup from Ashford. To take it a step further, there are two lounge-y patios to soak in immaculate vibes when the weather is nice. Yes, this is for the best bar category, but chef Peter Klein whips up a seasonal menu of snacks like butternut squash fritters and heartier dishes like pasta in case you just never want to leave (hint: you won’t). —Erin Russell
5020 East Seventh Street, Govalle
Best Combination That Needed to Happen: Flo’s Wine Bar & Bottle Shop and Allday Pizza
Why didn’t this exist yet? A wine bar with a menu leaning natural plus a walk-up window for some of the city’s best pizza is a genius partnership, and bravo to Flo’s co-owners Flo Clemons and Adair Belisle and Allday Pizza co-owners Townsend Smith and Daniel Sorg for manifesting this dream into real life. Allday brings that fantastic thin-crust pizza, plentiful salads, and tasty soft-serve, while Flo’s offers a large wine menu. This partnership is best enjoyed on the spot’s ample patio on a nice day — plus, its location near Tarrytown makes for excellent people-watching. It’s hard to beat a glass of sparkling cremant with a slice of Allday’s ricotta-dolloped margherita, but you can make your own choices. —Erin Russell
3111 West 35th Street, Tarrytown