2018 is about to wrap up, but I’m going to take a moment and look back at my picks for the top 10 restaurants that opened in Austin in 2018. These are the places where I find myself visiting again and again, spending my food budget, and inviting my friends to dine with me.
In 2018, there were a couple great restaurants, some mediocre ones, and lots of “meh” places that closed within weeks of opening. (I go to lots of media tastings, and when I come home at night Nate asks me what I thought of the restaurant. I remember several times when I told him “that restaurant just opened, and it will be closed within 6 weeks.”) It’s a tough world for restaurant owners, but the really good ones thrive. (Lookin’ at you, Suerte!)
Here are my picks for the top 10 restaurants of 2018:
The Top 10 Austin Restaurants of 2018
Sam Hellman-Mass’s corn-based restaurant has been on everyone’s radar, from The New York Times to Bon Appetit. The masa is made in-house every single day from local corn, which means that you get to enjoy the tastiest corn tortillas in Austin. Seriously…I’ve never eaten corn tortillas like these.
The bar serves bright cocktails made with tequila, mezcal, and sotol, among others. Hit up the “Lucky Hour” (happy hour) for some amazing deals on a few of their best items.
Psst: they just introduced a brunch, too! I tried it the other week with a friend, and I was impressed.
WEBSITE | 1800 E 6th St
2. Bird Bird Biscuit
The menu isn’t long or flashy, but the dudes at Bird Bird Biscuit chose to do one thing, and do it really well: these biscuit sandwiches will ROCK. YOUR. WORLD. It took lots of trial and error to create the perfect biscuit that is soft and fluffy, yet still firm enough to hold up to a hearty breakfast sandwich of organic eggs, crispy bacon, and melty cheddar cheese.
The “Queen Beak” is one of my favorites: spiced and breaded chicken thigh, cayenne black pepper honey, and bacon-infused chipotle mayo. Ummm….yum.
WEBSITE | 2701 Manor Rd
3. Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum
Austin is sorely lacking in the dim sum department, and Lin Asian Bar has been killing it in the Clarksville neighborhood! This place has quickly become a hot spot with the most delicious steam dumplings, potstickers, fried rice, and other traditional Chinese cuisine made with healthier-than-usual ingredients that are locally sourced.
WEBSITE | 1203 W 6th St
4. NadaMoo! Scoop Shop
Nadamoo has been making scrumptious dairy-free ice cream for years, but they just opened their first scoop shop this year! It’s an adorable fixture on South Lamar with giant colorful sprinkles on the outside that will catch your eye. Whether you follow a dairy free diet or not, there’s no denying that this ice cream is fantastic.
WEBSITE | 1701 S Lamar Blvd
5. Little Big Burger
This is a Portland chain that opened their first Austin location earlier this year. I like that these burgers aren’t too big (perfect size for one person to eat without going into a food coma) and are customizable with your choice of cheese. They also source local Austin craft beer, including Zilker Brewing, which is literally right across the street.
Oh, and they’re cheap, too; all the burgers are $5 or less. Be sure to add on those truffle fries with the ambiguous (yet addicting) fry sauce.
1630 E 6th St
6. Il Brutto
I’ve been back to this Italian restaurant 4 times now, and I’ve loved it every time! Whether you’re stopping by for a Negroni at the beautiful bar, a traditional Neapolitan-style pizza from the wood-grilled oven, a huge dinner of grilled octopus and hand-pulled pasta, or a lazy Sunday morning brunch, this is the place to go for an exceptional Italian meal.
The gorgeous outdoor patio, which is shaded by a massive Live Oak tree, provides the perfect place to people watch on E 6th St while you sip Prosecco.
WEBSITE | 1601 E 6th St
Here’s another Italian restaurant that made my top 10 list! Intero impressed me with their meticulous nose-to-tale approach to food, meaning that the entire animal (or plant) is used to create as little waste as possible. I have fun trying to find the different parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, stems) used throughout the menu.
Another unique part of this restaurant is the chocolate counter at the entrance. On your way out the door, be sure to grab one of those gorgeous hand-crafted truffles by Krystal Craig to take home.
WEBSITE | 2612 E Cesar Chavez
Oh my soul, I can’t get enough of this Central Austin seafood restaurant! Some restaurants rely on their good food alone, but Guild has created the trifecta: mind-blowing food with exceptional service in a completely gorgeous environment. Seriously, I can’t stop taking pictures when I walk in. EVERYTHING MUST GO ON INSTAGRAM.
Go for dinner to enjoy the raw bar of oysters and ceviche, or dine on roasted scallops, red shrimp risotto, and a 60-day dry-aged New York strip.
This also happens to be one of my favorite brunches right now.
WEBSITE | 3800 N Lamar Blvd, St 170
Two James Beard Award-winners (Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ) came together to create Loro asian smokehouse, the South Lamar fusion restaurant that was one of the most-talked-about restaurants of 2018.
Some say the service is a little confusing (and I agree…it’s an odd mix between formal dining and fast-casual), but the food and drinks are exceptional. I always start with the Candied Kettle Corn with brisket burnt ends, togarashi, and sea salt, and a sake slushee. From there, it’s a mixture of Asian-inspired salads and meat dishes with a playful combination of Texas smoked meats and (mostly) Thai flavors.
The space was designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (he also designed South Congress Hotel, La Condesa, all those fun P. Terry’s you see around town…) and part of the thrill of dining at Loro is just appreciating the beautifully designed building and patio.
WEBSITE | 2115 S Lamar Blvd
This little South Austin sourdough bakery snuck into the scene in late 2018, but I have a feeling it’s going to keep growing very quickly, and maybe even get some international attention. Why? It’s the best sourdough bread you can find anywhere in Austin, and owner Ryan Goebel is obsessed with making sure that he creates the very best product that he possibly can. If you need to get a loaf of bread in Austin, I’m pretty certain that the best on you can find is at ThoroughBread.
Those stuffed banana-nutella or chocolate chip pecan cookies are supahdeluxe and make a great photo for instagram, so they’ve made this place insta-famous, but be sure to also grab a loaf of bread while you’re there, too.
WEBSITE | 1709 Bluebonnet Ln
That’s it for my top 10 list, but there are a few Austin restaurants that opened new locations that are worth mentioning!
I didn’t put these in my “top 10” (since they already existed in Austin before 2018), but I’m really excited about the following:
- Houndstooth East MLK location is a high-ceiling, crisp, white, modern place to work and enjoy a coffee (or a cocktail!). I love this new east Austin location!
- Peached Tortilla ABIA is a lovely addition to the Austin airport! I’ve always loved what Eric Silverstein is doing at Peached Tortilla, and it’s so nice to have his restaurant as an option to grab a quick, flavorful meal before boarding a flight.
- Easy Tiger at The Linc is a very welcome addition to a North Austin area that is lacking in independent Austin restaurants. They have all the same sandwiches, pretzels, pastries, beer, and cocktails as the downtown location, plus a drive-through coffee bar and a few unique cocktails that are only available at this new location.
- Fareground Food Hall downtown is full of fun Austin eats. I love bringing out-of-town friends here because they can sample a little bit of everything. (RIP Antonelli’s; I’m sad they couldn’t stay at the food hall! There are still plenty of other great options, though.)
- Banger’s expansion on Rainey Street means you get more beer, more food, more fun! They added an additional two-story building with another huge tap wall. This has always been one of my favorite Rainey Street bars and restaurants, and I’m glad that they’re doing well and able to grow.
- Lady Quackenbush’s Cakery took over the old Bribery Bakery spot in Mueller. The menu is essentially the same, but the space is fresher and prettier than the Hyde Park location.
Thanks for eating and reading and learning with me through 2018! I’m signing off until the new year, but y’all…I have SO MUCH CONTENT that I’m excited to share in January! Talk to you on New Years Day!