Austin was awash with restaurant openings this year. There was uniquely high-end Counter 3.Five.VII, long-awaited modern Chinese from Wu Chow, and Shake Shack’s hotly anticipated Texas debut. Now that 2015 is ending, here’s a look back at the city’s biggest, most memorable openings of the year, presented in alphabetical order.Read More
Austin's Biggest Restaurant Openings of 2015
Apis Restaurant & Apiary
Apis is worth the trek out to Spicewood, with a seasonal menu from bee-obsessed chef Taylor Hall and an apiary on the grounds for honey.
Blue Cat Cafe
Austin’s very first cat cafe became a reality in under a year. Owner Rebecca Gray launched her Kickstarter in February, raised funds by April, secured a (controversial) location, and opened by October. Since then, there have been plenty of cat adoptions, vegan barbecue, and coffee.
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Post-Chavez, Shawn Cirkiel focused on the brightly-colored Bullfight, where the menu ranges from Spanish tapas, takes on traditional dishes, and heartier entrees. Everything is paired with the sherry-focused wine list and desserts from Erica Waksmunski.
Counter 3.Five.VII broke the typical dining mold by offering no tables, no servers, and no tipping. The chef’s counter restaurant went even further by offering only three, five, and seven course tasting menus. When founding chef Lawrence Kocurek left, Damien Brockway picked up where he left off.
Emmer & Rye
The New American cuisine at Emmer & Rye is truly Texas-focused, where dishes from Kevin Fink and Page Pressley all stem from local produce and meats. At the center lies grains, the inspiration behind the name, with in-house made breads and pastas. Plus, there is an equally creative and in-depth fermentation program creating vinegars, sodas, and vegetables.
It was time for Austin to get a proper izakaya and sushi bar, and Fukumoto does not disappoint. Musashino vet Kazu Fukumoto creates delicious and beautiful grilled chicken parts, and delectable cuts of fish for simple sushi.
Chef Frank Mnuk’s all-star team for the Hotel Van Zandt restaurant includes dessert superstar Callie Speer adding her mash-up sweets touch to creations like the sugary biscuits and gravy. There’s also cocktail wizard Jennifer Keyser’s inventive drinks like the ode to the Texas icon Willie’s Cup, made with, of course, hemp seed milk. Finally, Mnuk makes dining easy with shareable Austin-inspired plates and epic feasts.
Of the many, many Italian restaurants that opened this year in Austin, it was Juniper where Uchi alum Nicholas Yanes tangled northern Italy and Texas into a menu where pastas are paired with pig ears, oxtail ragu, or even caviar. Plus, those puffy potatoes.
While Launderette is still awaiting the second phase of the project, Eater’s Restaurant of the Year still brings a much welcomed neighborhood cafe from Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki, where the flavorful layered food span global influences to comforting dishes.
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
Texas chef Tim Love made his Austin mark with the expansion of his popular Lonesome Dove. Love’s big personality comes out with the menu full of rabbit-rattlesnake sausages, elk, roasted pig, and many more meats.
Shake Shack-mania took over Austin in the spring when the cultishly loved burger chain opened its first Texas spot. And then, never one to rest, far north Austin got Texas’ second Shake Shack in the Domain with a bocce ball court.
Via 313 Pizzeria
The beloved Detroit pizza slingers opened up its first brick and mortar to Oak Hill, where the signature square pies are joined by bar pies. The empire is expanding with a second restaurant near campus, too.
Voodoo Doughnut Austin V
Portland’s famous doughnut shop set up in the heart of Dirty Sixth, which is appropriate for the decadent sweets topped with frosting, candy, and cereal in sometimes naughty shapes.
After all the talk and pop-ups, Wu Chow, featuring modern Chinese fare and dim sum from chefs Ji Peng Chen and Ling Qi Wu, finally opened. Yes, there are also soup dumplings, salt and pepper squid, and even Peking duck.