You don’t need us (or anyone else) to tell you that Austin is constantly changing. New buildings are going up, traffic is getting worse, fewer and fewer people around town use the word “y’all,” and restaurants are opening up at a faster pace than most people can keep up with.
That’s where we come in. We’re here to help you decide which of those new restaurants are worth your time. The Infatuation Hit List is a regularly updated guide to Austin restaurants we actually think you should know about, and that we think you’ll actually like.
One key thing you can always rely on: we’ll only put restaurants on this list that we have actually vetted. You know that new restaurant your friends have all mentioned because they saw it on Instagram? There’s a good chance that place might suck, and we’re not going to recommend that you check it out unless we’re reasonably sure that it doesn’t.
Now go forth and embrace the change. Here are the best new restaurants in Austin.
New to The Hit List (as of 6/6): Better Half, Loro, Il Brutto, The Brewer’s Table, T22 Chicken Joint, Suerte, Guild.
Suerte is an upscale new Mexican restaurant on East Sixth that specializes in housemade masa. Their menu is full of shareable dishes that utilize it, like a beet tostada with smashed avocado and a whole grilled fish served with onion escabeche and a stack of blue corn tortillas. Besides the food, they make great mezcal and tequila cocktails, and have a small patio that’s the perfect place to sit and think about how many fresh tortillas you’re about to eat.
Whether you’re working on your new script for a Netflix show about an eccentric retirement community, or finishing that business plan for a startup that’s like Uber but for skateboards, you need a good all-day spot like Better Half. This West Fifth cafe from the team behind Brew & Brew serves food from 8am-10pm daily, with biscuit sandwiches and grain bowls in the morning and dishes like Texas redfish and fried chicken the rest of the day. If all of a sudden it’s 4pm and the only names you’ve thought of for your main character are Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, or Sophia, get a cocktail during their daily Happy Hour.
Loro sounds like someone’s idea of Austin restaurant fan fiction, or the result of a conversation between Franklin Barbecue and Uchi after one too many drinks. Either way, this new Asian smokehouse on South Lamar is already as popular as you’d expect, and there’ll be a 30-45 minute wait to order at the counter regardless of when you go. Make sure to get the brisket, which is a Thai take on the Franklin classic, and the chicken bo ssam, along with some grilled snap peas, corn fritters, and papaya salad on the side. The portions are on the smaller side, so you may want to double up on a few things if you come with a group. Eat it all on the large patio.
There are some a la carte small plates at this beer-centric East Austin restaurant, but the shareable feasts are what you should be coming for, especially if you’re with a group. Choose between options like the roast chicken, whole grilled snapper, or BBQ squash, each of which comes with three sides. There’s also a long list of beers, some of which are made in-house.
Eating pasta may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it’s day 42 of 100-degree temperatures, but Il Brutto wants to change that. This restaurant on East Sixth serves simple Italian food in a space that works great for everything from a double date to a birthday dinner (and there’s even a patio for when you feel like braving the heat). Start any meal here with some prosciutto and burrata, then share a pizza and some pastas, like the pici and the pappardelle - even if it’s still 100 degrees out at 8pm.
When we want a good cry, we watch the opening sequence from Up, or YouTube videos of dogs being reunited with their long-lost owners. When we want to cry while eating, we go to T22 Chicken Joint and order the hottest spice level they have. This spot from the Salty Sow team started as a downtown food truck and recently expanded to a brick and mortar space on Burnet, where they’re serving a larger menu of Nashville-inspired hot chicken dishes and plenty of beer and cocktails as well. Choose which pieces of chicken you want (and whether you want them alone or on a sandwich), then let them know how much heat you can handle. When we don’t want tears to stream down our faces, we go with the white meat at the second or third hottest level.
If you live north of campus, it sometimes feels like all the new restaurants are avoiding you, and it can be hard to find somewhere nice to go on a date that isn’t Uchiko or Foreign & Domestic. Not anymore. The team behind Swift’s Attic and Wu Chow have opened their newest spot, Guild, just north of 38th and Lamar. This place serves mostly seafood, like halibut with confit broccoli and striped bass with kimchi, along with a few meat dishes, if you’re in the mood for something like a double-cut pork chop instead. There’s also a raw bar with a nice (but expensive) selection of oysters.
This new Peruvian restaurant from the group behind El Chile and Alcomar is located in the old El Sapo space on Manor. The menu covers a lot of ground, but you definitely want cebiche - a Japanese-influenced take on traditional ceviche - as well as the grilled chicken with chimichurri and roast vegetables. Sit on the patio with a few friends, order some plates to share, and drink pisco sours while you discuss redecorating your houses to look more like the inside of the restaurant.
Le Politique is a spacious French restaurant and bakery on West Second Street that serves all of the bistro classics, like steak tartare and moules frites, along with great patisserie for dessert. You can also order a wide range of seafood here, and if you come with a few friends or just really feel like splurging, we definitely recommend the shellfish tower. This place works great for weekend brunch or a nice date over some wine, cheese, and oysters at the bar.
This is the new tiki-bar-meets-burger-stand-meets-airstream-trailer from the team behind Perla’s and Lambert’s, located next to Deep Eddy Cabaret. Pool Burger serves wagyu burgers and soft serve, along with strong cocktails in tiki cups that’ll make you happy you bought a Hawaiian shirt last summer. Next time you go for a swim at Deep Eddy, make sure to stop here afterward.
LeRoy & Lewis is a new barbecue truck at Cosmic Coffee that’s run by the former Freedmen’s pit master. The menu here includes a few things you wouldn’t typically find at a barbecue place, like beef cheeks, al pastor, and mac-and-cheese-stuffed quail, along with daily specials. Don’t miss the sides, like the kale coleslaw and BBQ fried rice. Or the brisket cookie for dessert. (You’ll either love it or hate it - there’s no in between. But we choose love.)
The East Side got a much-needed Italian sandwich shop with La Matta, located at Fifth and Comal. You can expect excellent sandwiches topped with things like prosciutto, mortadella, and soppressata, but they also serve charcuterie boards, salads, and homemade burrata and mozzarella. It’s a great option for some quick weekday takeout, or for enjoying some wine, meat, and cheese on the patio. If you’re in need of a quick cup of coffee, they do that, too.
Henbit is the new casual spin-off of Emmer & Rye at the Fareground food hall downtown, which also includes outposts from Dai Due, Contigo, Komé, Easy Tiger, and Antonelli’s. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, along with coffee, fresh pressed juices, and more cosmic-sounding drinks, like golden milk chai. If you stop by before work, try the sausage breakfast burrito or one of their fresh baked kolaches. And if you come for lunch or dinner, the short rib with sweet potatoes and the tomato and feta salad are two of our favorite things.
The last thing we usually expect from a brunch spot is quality barbecue, but it turns out that’s the specialty at Phoebe’s Diner on Oltorf. Along with classics like burgers and shrimp and grits, this ’50s-style diner serves house-smoked brisket, sausage, and bacon. If you need a bite of something sweet, make sure to get an order of deep-fried French toast for the table. Just know that they close at 3pm, so plan accordingly.
Great bagels are a rarity in Austin. And as much as we would like for this place to remain undiscovered by the crowds, you deserve to know about Pitchfork Pretty. It’s a new all-day American spot in East Austin, and you won’t find many better bagels in town than their lox and cream cheese (or the Pretty, with pimento cheese and alfalfa sprouts). Dinner here is also good, and has more of a Southern theme. Come with a date, and get the giant beef ribs and barbecued chicken. If it goes well, you can let them in on your breakfast secret.
We try not to borrow stuff from our bigger neighbor Houston. Austin is fine without a professional sports team! Widely available public transportation? Clearly don’t need that. But when it comes to Tiny Boxwoods, we immediately forget that principle, in large part because they seem to pump fresh bakery smells out of their building like Subway does with their weird fake bread scent. Tiny Boxwoods serves kind-of-healthy stuff like summer salads, chia seed pudding, avocado toast, and fresh juices, but also their rightfully famous chocolate chip cookies and soon-to-be-famous banana bread. Come for lunch, sit on the patio with your baked goods, and give a silent thank you to Houston.
Whether you need a hair of the dog after Friday night, it’s day 11 of your friend’s birthday month, or you have the urge to drink vodka with breakfast, Holy Roller is the place for you. It’s an all-day spot downtown that manages to successfully combine biscuits with a punk rock theme. Round up a group, and get the trash fries (an Austin twist on poutine), the biscuit with Stiles Switch barbecue, and the fried chicken with hot-honey butter. If you can’t make it to brunch, it’s open until 1am on weekends. Come after a night out for hangover food before there’s even a hangover.
While Loca D’Oro falls on the modern end of the Italian spectrum, Red Ash is definitely a more classic experience. Right in the middle of downtown, the space might look industrial, but the food is traditional - and some of the best Italian stuff we’ve found in this town. Get the roasted vine tomatoes and burrata (with a side of hot & crispy country bread) and the osso buco Milanese and it’ll suddenly become clear what Austin’s been missing out on.