The end of 2021 is upon us, which means it’s time to reflect on aaaalll the amazing food we ate over the past 12 months. 😉 2021 was a really fun one in the Austin restaurant scene! While 2020 was a doozy and resulted in lots of permanently shuttered restaurants, I feel like 2021 was a year of kinda/sorta getting back up on our feet. I explored SO many fun places and I’m excited to share my top picks for the 10 best new Austin restaurants of 2021.
10 Best New Austin Restaurants of 2021
Quick note: the only place on my list that I have yet to try (and I think it could be a good contender for this list!) is Lutie’s Garden Restaurant. If you’ve tried it, would you chime in with a comment to let me know your thoughts? I’m hoping to check it out soon!
1. Birdie’s | Neighborhood wine bar + seasonal cuisine // If I could be a character in a movie who frequented a neighborhood wine bar, I would choose Birdie’s as my local spot. It is absolutely adorable. Everything from the history of the building, the friendliness of the husband/wife team owners, the locally sourced small plates, the comfy cozy ambiance of the chef’s counter, and the expertly picked wine list. I am obsessed. If you’re trying to check out some of the best of the best restaurants in Austin right now, Birdie’s should be at the top of your list. |WEBSITE|
2. Sammie’s | Italian // This nostalgic Italian restaurant near downtown has quickly become one of my favorite dining spots in Austin. I’ve been a few times and experienced sitting in different locations, and I’ve got to say that my favorite was grabbing a bar stool and eating there! I was able to get excellent wine recommendations from the attentive bartender and I could access the entire menu, plus I didn’t have to mess with making a reservation. Sitting at a table was fun too, but the dining room was noisy and it was hard to hear our server. Get the veal parm and the lasagna. And plan on eating leftovers – my slice of lasagna fed me for 3 meals.
I’ll also address the elephant in the room: Sammie’s is in the iconic building that once housed the beloved Hut’s Hamburgers. Sammie’s is own by a giant hospitality company in Austin. But I see it through these lenses: they kept the integrity of the space (even using the same wooden booths from Hut’s!), embraced the history of previous ownership, and did a knock-out job of creating a fun destination dining experience in the heart of Austin. I love Sammie’s. |WEBSITE|
3. Canje | Upscale Caribbean // Christmas came early when the Emmer & Rye restaurant group announced that they were opening their Caribbean restaurant in October of 2021. It’s named after the national bird of Guyana, and the menu is inspired by food from across the Caribbean.
Similar to their other award-winning restaurants (Emmer & Rye, Hestia), Canje hits the trifecta of my restaurant musts: a beautiful, interesting ambiance, a friendly and well-trained staff, and food that is unique and perfectly prepared. Canje is a little bit noisy (my one complaint) but has a fun, young feel to it. |WEBSITE|
4. Swift Pizza Co. | Family-centered pizza place // I didn’t think we needed another pizza joint in Austin until I went to Swift Pizza Co…and I realized we did! This is a family-friendly restaurant with a NY-style pizzas, beer and wine, and a kids menu. But it’s elevated enough for a date night with some excellent cocktails, delicious appetizers (that oven roasted cauliflower!) and some great entrees in case you don’t want pizza. Oh, and they have reeeeaally fun desserts.
5. Distant Relatives | BBQ food truck // I haven’t visited a BBQ truck this unique since LeRoy and Lewis opened years ago, and I love it when restaurant owners think outside the box. Distant Relatives is a food truck parked at Meanwhile Brewery. Their menu is inspired by the heritage, flavors, and techniques of the African population in the US. The food is HOT (I ate it in the summer months and was sweating!!) and memorable. I love the sides here, like the spicy smoked peanuts or the burnt ends and black eyed peas. |WEBSITE|
6. Little Ola’s | Neighborhood biscuit shop // If you’ve ever dined at the upscale southern restaurant Olamaie, you know that the biscuits were the best thing on their secret menu. While l was sad that Olamaie had to close their doors for 18 months, I’m thankful that the pandemic brought us Little Ola’s biscuit shop! They became a brick-and-mortar in 2021. These biscuits are absolutely perfect on their own with salted honey butter, but I also love that Little Ola’s offers a variety of breakfast sandwiches, hand pies, cinnamon rolls, and various other sides and sweets. It’s a great little breakfast spot in north Austin. (By the way: Olamaie is open again. PRAISES) |WEBSITE|
7. Love Supreme | Pizza + Cocktails // Oh my heart…I’m in love with Love Supreme! It’s a huge indoor/outdoor pizza restaurant that has a bright and lively aesthetic. They have two types of pizza: thin round pies and deep dish rectangles. They’re both a slam dunk, but the deep dish is my favorite. Go for cocktails, apps, and a few pizzas to share with the table. |WEBSITE|
8. Jjim | Korean-braised BBQ //Jjim is located in that spot at Lamar Union that has housed several failed restaurants over the past few years…so I’ve gotta say that I was nervous when I heard about its location. But the Korean braised short ribs with glass noodles and melty mozzarella cheese are SO crave-able, I feel like this place has a good chance. I also love the kimchi fried rice and their delicious seafood pancake. It’s a great spot to pop in for a quick weekday lunch. |WEBSITE|
9. Ma’Coco | California-style Mexican food //Like a lot of restaurants on this list, Ma’Coco takes over the space of a shuttered restaurant of 2020 (La Matta.) They spruced up the place to give it a Baja California vibe, and they serve San Diego-style Mexican food. Think: fish tacos, giant burritos, and some of the tastiest ceviche. I really was so please with everything I tasted; it’s all made in-house (including those delicious tortillas) and the restaurant is family-owned. Ma’Coco is a fun lunch spot or a good place to grab a bite to eat before heading out to a concert. |WEBSITE|
10. Favorite Pizza | NY-style pizza // Favorite Pizza is a curated experience to make you feel like you’re jumping back in time to a 1980’s pizza joint. The pizza is a classic NY-style…and while it’s definitely good, I think that the real joy in this place is experiencing the aesthetic. Think: formica countertops, blue-and-white laminate floors, and those tacky stained glass-style chandeliers we saw in Pizza Hut restaurants in the 80s. They have cold beer and aperol spritzes, pizza and subs, and a small patio where you can enjoy the Austin air. Oh, and there’s a disco ball in the bathroom. |WEBSITE|
Ok, I lied…I called this the “top 10 new Austin Restaurants of 2021” but I’m actually going to mention a few other places. I’ll try to keep it brief! There are just so many fun spots that opened up this year!
11. Seareina’s | Mexican seafood + sushi //The fabulous team behind Gabriella’s Downtown has been busy lately, opening restaurants in quick succession. The newest addition is a Mexican seafood restaurant, which fills a void in our city. Seareina’s has party atmosphere with live music, dancing, giant cocktails, and Mexican seafood and sushi. |WEBSITE|
12. De Nada Cantina | Tacos and margs // The next time you’re looking for some great tacos and margaritas, check out De Nada in east Austin. It’s a no-fuss taco place with a simple menu of just a few tacos (the salsas are mixed into the meat), great chips and guac, and some killer cocktails. Lots of the elements of the interior design are imported from Mexico so its has an authentic Mexican taqueria feel to it! |WEBSITE|
13. Koko’s Bavarian | German biergarten + brewery // While it’s very new to the ATX dining scene (it just opened last week!) and I’ve only been able to check it out once, Koko’s Bavarian is on my list of best new Austin restaurants of 2021 for a few reasons. First: we’ve needed more German Biergartens in Austin! (The iconic Scholz was about it until now.) Secondly, Koko’s Bavarian is a brewery with a female brewmaster, which is (sadly) so very rare. I think it’s worth celebrating and mentioning whenever I can. And finally, I just absolutely love the vibe at Koko’s! It’s a big outdoor gravel-covered patio with long tables, twinkle lights, very drinkable lagers, and delicious food. So excited for y’all to try this one. |WEBSITE|
14. Zed’s Real Fruit Ice Cream | New Zealand-style ice cream // This Portland-based ice cream company opened a small east Austin ice ream shop in summer 2021. Friends, it is TO DIE FOR. Love it. The New Zealand-style ice cream is made to order with your choice of fruit mix-ins. The result is a brightly colored, sweet and fruity ice cream that has the consistency of soft serve. |WEBSITE|
15. Jewboy Sub Shop | Hot and cold subs // The team behind Jewboy Burgers opened a sub shop in early 2021, and it’s everything a sandwich shop should be. These subs are “inspired by both Border and Reform Jewish Culture” and they’re quick and crave-able. Haha…so what does that mean, exactly? Well, the menu is kind of all over the place, but it’s all delicious. They have hot sandwiches (loooove their Carne Asada Philly and the Chutzpah Chicken Schnitzel) and lunchbox sandos with cold smoked meat. And you’ll probably want to get an order of those parmesan French fries, too. |WEBSITE|
16. Fat City Stacks | Sliders, tots, and fries // Yard Bar in north Austin has always been a popular place to bring your pup and grab a beer, but now that Fat City Stacks is located there, it’s even better! This is a fun walk-up booth located outside Yard Bar. It’s from the Peached Tortilla team (yum) and they have tiny beef and chicken sliders, lots of different dipping sauces, and some fries and tots. It’s really simple and so yummy. And I also have to mention: I’m absolutely obsessed with their branding! I think it’s the cutest thing. |WEBSITE|
17. Teal House | Cinnamon rolls and coffee shop // Love love LOVE me some Teal House cinnamon rolls, and I was elated when they opened their South Congress cafe in early 2021! Teal House grew in popularity as a food truck in southeast Austin, but their SOCO cafe has a lovely coffee shop component to it as well. |WEBSITE|
What a fun year of dining in Austin! I love all of these new Austin restaurants, and I hope this list inspires you to check out a few new places. If you’re looking for more ideas, here are my lists of best new Austin restaurants from previous years: