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 9/20): Kemuri Tatsu-ya, Lazarus Brewing, J.T. Youngblood’s, Mattie’s, Bonhomie, Native Restaurant + Bar, Pitchfork Pretty, Tiny Boxwood’s, and Holy Roller.
When Japan and Texas collide, you end up with brisket ramen, which is a very good thing. The team behind Ramen Tatsu-ya knows this, which why the menu at Kemuri Tatsu-ya has that and a ton of other Izakaya/barbecue hybrid of dishes we didn’t know we needed until now. With loud music, strong drinks, and an izakaya/cool lake house den feel, this place is best for a Saturday night group dinner. Even your friend visiting from New York or LA who thinks they’ve tried everything will be impressed by the beef tongue and chili cheese takoyaki. Add Japan and Texas to the list of collaborations we can get behind, right next to Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg.
Throwing it back to the 1940s before Austin got weird and then subsequently lost its weirdness, this it the revamped version of the original Youngblood’s - a classic fried chicken chain in Texas. Since no one Instagrammed their meals in the 40s, it’s hard to tell if this place has accurately recreated the classic, but it is serving great Southern food in a casual environment. In addition to fried chicken, you’ll find the usual subjects like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and a few kinds of slaw. The location in the ever-expanding Mueller neighborhood is fairly easy to get into daytime or night, which makes it a good spot for an easy lunch or dinner. If you can’t cope with wearing pants while you eat fried chicken, they have a takeout operation as well.
This East Side taproom has a solid selection of local craft beer, plenty of bar seating, and a shady patio for you and your dog to sip a beer on and be admired by everyone walking by. It’s the kind of place meant for a long lunch or a late afternoon meet-up where everyone can show up wearing workout clothes or whatever they slept in last night. In addition to the homemade brew, Lazarus also serves tacos, and does a good job of it - they put a layer of cheese melted right onto the tortilla. If you’re in the mood for something else, they have also have coffee and a few solid sandwiches.
Most of the history lessons in Austin only take you back to the days before Willie Nelson had his braids and there was no building taller than the capital. But Green Pastures goes one step farther - it’s a Victorian mansion from the 1800’s hidden away in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, and in the 1940’s it was home to a comfort food restaurant. After a major renovation last year, Mattie’s at Green Pastures opened as a fancy-ish place for an excellent meal - there are peacocks that greet you, jazz music playing in the background, and an excellent wraparound patio. We like the pork chop or steak frites for dinner, but brunch is when the Southern charm here is at its best. Whether you go for the eggs and grits or brioche French toast, the surroundings make it pretty much impossible to have a bad time here.
Burnet Road continues its cool streak with Bonhomie, a new all-day French diner. The scene inside is fancier than you might expect (it’s next to a strip mall), and it’s the type of place you’d come for champagne and croque monsieurs instead of watery mimosas and breakfast tacos. But don’t let the frills scare you off - this place knows how to deliver a real brunch that includes a banana split. Dinner is also solid, but the first half of the day is when you really want to be here.
Apparently trying to stake its claim as the ultimate SXSW lodging spot, the Native Hostel has all the festival essentials: prime location on the East Side, affordable rooms, and a real scene. But the bar has also become a popular place for locals. The industrial/Southwestern feel is a good step up from your go-to dive, there’s a DJ on weekends, and while it’s a better spot for hanging out than eating, the food is pretty good. The burgers are solid, the waffle fries are quality, and there are even plenty of vegetarian options for your new vegetarian friend you’ll undoubtedly make here.
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.
From the same people behind Josephine House and Jeffrey’s and Perla’s and Clark’s Oyster Bar comes the next notch in their extremely-attractive restaurant belt, June’s All Day. As the name suggests, this South Congress spot is open daily from breakfast onward, offering somewhat fancy food and an extensive wine list in a laid-back, very pretty (think pink walls, black-and-white tiled floors, neon signage) environment. While the food isn’t the most approachable upon first glance - it’s definitely not cheap, and there aren’t many things on the menu that immediately jump out at you - once you settle in here it turns out to be a pretty great spot for a glass of wine and a snack. Hit it during happy hour to kick off your evening.
What was once a town with very few viable Italian options is now a city that’s home to an ever-growing number of them. But in our minds, Loca D’Oro is one of the true standouts. Located in one of those personality-less outdoor complexes over in Mueller, you might not expect this place to churn out food this impressive. But from the brisket meatballs to the super rich polenta to the pastas to the wine list, everything we’ve tried here has been great, and - surprise - it turns out that it’s pretty enjoyable to eat such upscale-feeling food in such a laid-back feeling environment. Hit this place for a date night at the big bar, or come with a group and sit in the dining room.
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.
If you live or work downtown, Forthright is a great new cafe that should be added to your breakfast and lunch rotation. The light ad bright space is attractive enough for a client meeting, but casual enough for you to stop by solo for a (very good) avocado toast and coffee. While they serve cocktails until 7pm, the vibe here currently is much better suited for daytime eating experiences.