We can all agree that 2020 was a weird year for the restaurant industry. When I told people that I work as a food blogger, they’d respond with “how’s that going for ya?” response.
But honestly, food blogging was really fun and interesting this year. Restaurants worked extra hard to create safe environments for diners to enjoy distanced dinners, and I was impressed over and over again by the steps that some of the best Austin restaurants took to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.
I chose to carefully dine at restaurants this year, both on patios and inside. It felt good to support the struggling restaurant industry, leave nice tips, and share my adventures with all of you to encourage you to keep supporting the local restaurants (via delivery, carry-out, or dine-in.) They make Austin the thriving, fun, living place that it is.
I’m excited to bring you my top 10 picks for the best new restaurants in Austin for 2020. (There were a lot fewer to choose from this year..)
Ok, on to the good stuff! I picked 10 different restaurants (except number 9 is broken into 9a and 9b because I included two places that don’t technically qualify as restaurants…you’ll see.) I love the variety of food you’ll see on this list (Japanese, Australian, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Chinese.)
The photos show just how much effort restaurants are putting into their design these days! These places are BEAUTIFUL. Enjoy reading through, and I hope you find a few places to add to your Austin food list!
Top 10 Restaurants That Opened In Austin In 2020
10. Taquero Mucho
Taquero Mucho is basically known as the “pink restaurant” in Austin, and honestly…it’s brilliant. The branding is PERFECT for all of the bachelorette parties we get here. They could have easily leaned on the color scheme and paid no attention to the food (because pink tacos are so cool, they don’t need to be the most amazing tacos) but the food is actually phenomenal: freshly made salsas, carnitas and pollo asado tacos (yep, served on pink tortillas) and, of course, plenty of pink cocktails. Taquero Mucho is from the same team as Gabriella’s Downtown, so if you love that restaurant, you’ll love this one too.
508 W Ave, Austin TX 78701
9a. LoLo Wine Bar
If you’re going to open something as pretentious as a natural wine bar, you have to be able to do it with an irreverent and good-natured attitude, which is exactly how LoLo approaches natural wine. You can be a natty wine snob or someone who has literally never tasted it in your life, and you’ll find something to drink and love here. I got to visit it before the pandemic and was able to enjoy the crowded patio full of adults and dogs and babies enjoying their Sunday afternoons in the sunshine.
LoLo Wine Bar
1504 E 6th St, Austin TX 78702
9b. Meanwhile Brewing Co.
Meanwhile Brewing Co. feels like a hill country brewery…except it’s in southwest Austin, about 10 minutes from downtown. The architecture is stunning, with a two-building design (brewhouse and taproom are separate) and a large outdoor area that wasn’t necessarily designed in anticipation of a pandemic, but fits it perfectly. The tap wall is gradually expanding as they learn how to brew and serve amidst a pandemic, but all of the beers I’ve tried thus far have been solid representations of their styles, including the pils, one of beers that’s hardest to hide brewing flaws.
Meanwhile Brewing Co.
3901 Promontory Point Dr, Austin TX 78744
8. Sazan Ramen
Sazan Ramen is a welcome addition to the booming ramen scene in Austin. After Ramen Tatsu-ya opened here and got all of us excited about ramen, the Austin food scene became ripe and ready for more ramen restaurants. Sazan serves paitan ramen, which is like the chicken cousin to pork tonkotsu ramen (the type that’s served at tatsu-ya.) However, one of the owners told me that they had to edit the broth to include some pork in it to help it travel better after they discovered that they’d be doing to-go orders for a while. It’s a gorgeous restaurant and will be a fun place to dine in and enjoy Japanese whisky cocktails once it’s safe to do so.
6929 Airport Blvd #146, Austin TX 78752
7. Two Hands
Two Hands is a fun new Australian cafe on South Congress at the new Music Lane development. It’s originally from NYC (Austin is the 4th location) and it’s just a fun, feel-good place. I picture this being a restaurant where I’d grab brunch with a girlfriend after taking a Saturday morning yoga class. Also, there’s a walk-up convenient window where you can grab a flat white before shopping on SoCo.
1011 S Congress Ave Suite 170, Austin TX 78704
6. Jewboy Burgers Brick-and-martar
Not technically a new restaurant (the food truck is on my list of best burgers in Austin from earlier this year), but this brand new brick-and-mortar version of Austin’s favorite Jewish/Mexican fusion restaurant deserves a shout out. The local love runs deep, and JewBoy’s supporters are keeping the kitchen staff busy slinging burgers, barbacoa burritos, green chile latkes, and more. (The menu is bigger at the brick-and-mortar, so check it out even if you already went to the food truck.)
5111 Airport Blvd, Austin TX 78751
This has been theee restaurant that everyone in Austin has been talking about in fall 2020. It’s the second location of a Chicago-based Mediterranean restaurant that opened at the new Music Lane development on South Congress. The patio design and decor is truly as magical as it looks on instagram: an absurd number of dangling lights, greenery tucked into every corner, and textiles of white and cream, this place is the most stunning backdrop for a special night out. For the number of weeks I had to wait for a reservation, I expected the food to be OUT OF THIS WORLD HOLY WOW BEST FOOD EVER… and it was just “good.” Some dishes were even great, but none of them were things I’ve never tried b before. My opinion (and many of yours from all of your instagram messages) is that the hype and the price are more for the ambiance and the cocktails than for the food. Still, Abagails is a lovely experience and a restaurant I’ll visit again.
1011 S Congress Ave, Austin TX 78704
4. Oakmont Food Co.
Oakmont Food Co. is the perfect little addition to the central Austin restaurant scene. It’s a charming restaurant with healthy (or not) and delicious breakfast dishes, salads and burgers and sandwiches, fresh-pressed juices, and a coffee bar that’s open all day. This is just a lovely little place to meet someone for a lunch date enjoy a happy hour on the patio.
Oakmont Food Co.
1106 W 38th St, Austin TX 78705
3. Neighborhood Sushi
I didn’t want to like this place…but I couldn’t help myself. Every time the MMH restaurant group opens yet another restaurant, it feels like when Apple released another gadget that’s actually amazing. “Ok, fine, it’s actually awesome and you can take all of my money.” Neighborhood Sushi opened in a space on South Congress that has held several failing restaurants, so I’m excited to see one that looks like it has potential. Expect all of your typical upscale sushi bar favorites, plus some unique dishes like steamed egg custard (holy wow!) and clever ingredients in the hand rolls. (Tip: go during happy hour for 25% off all food.)
1716 S Congress Ave, Austin TX 78704
2. Sip Pho
Sip Pho is a darling restaurant near campus that relies on simple, honest, exposed ingredients and design. What does that mean? No fillers or powders, just real bones for a rich, healthy, delicious bowl of pho. While the food stands alone, the design is definitely worth checking out: tall vaulted ceilings, simple white tables, and a striking exterior that you’ll notice from a distance.
512 W 29th St, Austin TX 78705
1. Qi Austin
Qi Austin is the sister restaurant to popular Lin Asian Bar (see it on my list of best date night spots in Austin). It offers traditional Asian food in a modern setting (a gorgeous one, I might add – look at that bar!) and strives to create a healthier Chinese food experience by working with a nearby farm for fresh produce for the kitchen. I was happy to see some of Lin’s popular menu items on the menu (the Shanghai soup dumplings will always be a crowd favorites) as well as other new and unexpected entrees. It’s a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene!
835 W 6th St #114, Austin TX 78703