You don’t need us (or anyone else) to tell you that Austin is changing. Constant construction is the new norm, 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 8/20): DipDipDip Tatsu-ya, TLV, Uroko, Vaquero Taquero, Comedor
DipDipDip is a Japanese shabu-shabu place from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team where everyone gets their own individual pot of broth to cook in - so no need to fight for pot real estate. The options for broth, dips, meats, vegetables, and dumplings on the menu can be overwhelming, so we recommend the House Omakase - both so you don’t have to make decisions and because it’s the perfect sampler. You’ll get steak, pork, and meatballs to dip with sides like tofu skin stuffed with raclette and mushrooms that they call ‘pot pockets.’ Just be sure to order the Keep Austin Dipping queso so you can make your own Japan/Austin/Philly cheesesteak on a steamed bun.
This new Israeli street food spot, from the team behind Emmer & Rye and Henbit, has taken over the Easy Tiger space in Fareground Market. It’s a great place for a way-above-average workday lunch or a fun, casual dinner. Bring along your friend who always gets into heated debates at parties by promoting double dipping - they’ll be into the hummus and chicken thigh plate that comes with hot and puffy pita on the side. And since you don’t want to risk getting in the way of their bulldozing style of scooping, order the falafel pita sandwich for yourself to get all of TLV’s best ingredients in a perfect pocket.
When people ask us where to get sushi in Austin, we usually answer with a few qualifications like, “Be ready to wait three hours” or “It’s fine, for Austin.” Thankfully now there’s Uroko, a casual, affordable sushi spot from the Kome team that we only qualify with “best handroll in the city.” Head to the Springdale General office park starting at 11am to order counter-service handrolls, then eat them at the indoor picnic tables in the lobby of the main co-working space. Also, on Friday and Saturday nights, they offer limited reservations for their 45-minute, 12-piece omakase for $65.
Comedor was built in an architectural style we like to call “The Mullet.” From the outside, it’s all business: steel doors and a slate-gray color scheme. Step inside though, and you’ll find a chic interior with a long bar and courtyard area packed with well-dressed people drinking interesting cocktails. It’s likely that every table around you ordered the DIY bone marrow tacos to start, which is exactly what you should be doing as well. The bones are topped with a pecan gremolata and come on a bed of salty greens that you use to build your mini taco in a fresh tortilla. The entrees are on the pricey side, so share one or two if you’re here with a group - our favorites are the pork belly memela or strip loin in mole - otherwise, stick with the starters.
The Vaquero Taquero food truck in Hyde Park started off serving a small selection of spicy tacos behind a gas station in 2017. As the secret started to get out, the wait times got long. Now, the team of brothers behind the truck have a brick and mortar spot just a few blocks away. And while the space isn’t much bigger - there are only a few places to sit - it spreads out the Taquero Vaquero fans so the wait isn’t as long. The chicken taco is the best option if you want something a little milder, but we strongly recommend the tacos al pastor topped with pineapple and their spicy salsa.
The Carpenter Hotel took over an abandoned union hall from the 1940s off Barton Springs and turned it into a boutique hotel that feels kind of like a modern, chic YMCA. Once you walk through the lobby, you’ll find Carpenter’s Hall, an all-day restaurant that makes us reconsider our skeptical stance on hotel food. It’s open from 7am-midnight and has breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, late night, and Happy Hour (which includes food and some $5 cocktails) covered. We like to head here for dinner, sit on the patio, and order things like stracciatella toast with snap peas, chicory Caesar salad, chicken schnitzel for two, or steak frites.
Maybe it’s the water, maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s just that we’re a taco town, but Austin has always had a hard time with bagels. Thankfully, Nervous Charlie’s in North Austin is changing that. There are just a few tables and a bunch of pictures of dogs on the walls here and while weekends can be pretty busy, it means more time to strategize what you’re going to get while in line. The Longhorn with fried eggs, Taylor ham, potatoes, and cheddar is a great choice for breakfast and the Empire with a fried chicken cutlet, bacon, and mozzarella is an even greater choice for lunch. Get them on a jalapeno cheddar or everything, and if you want something sweeter, they have a french toast bagel that’s great with strawberry cream cheese.
The teams behind Via 313, Juniper, and Nickel City opened this all-day cafe in Hyde Park and it’s an ideal spot to spend a morning with some coffee and a pastry. Later in the day, come hang out on the patio while snacking on things like meatballs, prosciutto and ricotta on toast, and an Italian tuna sandwich. Since the portions are on the smaller side, it’s best at lunch or for a snack and cocktail at their daily Happy Hour (2-5pm).
While the East Side is full of bar and food truck combos, Domo Alley-Gato is shaping up to be the best - and definitely most cat-focused - one yet. There are hundreds of red and white lamps hanging from the ceiling, and more miniature cat figurines on the walls than in every grandmother’s house you’ve ever seen combined. The drinks are the main focus, like the Back Alley Punch that serves a group of four or the Oolong Island Iced Tea, an adult version of your go-to drink in college. But when you’re ready to get some food, try the ban ban dog, the O.G. wings, or the katsu curry. The food isn’t as quite as good as their Ramen Tatsuya brother/neighbor, but there definitely won’t be a line and the drinks are stronger here.
Joann’s Fine Foods is a new all-day spot from the people behind Perla’s and June’s All Day, and it’s great for brunch or drinks and a snack that end up turning into a full dinner. It’s in the lobby of the Austin Motel, and from the straw awning and plants outside to the bright colored booths inside, it has a “vacation-meets-retro diner” feel, which is also what we’d tell an interior designer to make our house look like if we could afford an interior designer. The menu is long and skews Mexican with tacos and huevos rancheros, but you can also get things like a spinach salad, french toast, or a turkey club.
The chef from Wu Chow set out on her own to open a dim sum spot, so we were immediately on board in the name of Shanghai soup dumplings. You should probably order a plate of them before you even sit down, but once you do finally look up from your plate, you’ll notice that, from the colorful walls to the large mural, the place is incredibly charming. The other dishes on the menu, like the scallion pancakes with curry dip and the chicken taro egg rolls, are also worth ordering. And even if you don’t regularly have dumplings for brunch, you definitely should here.