The Austin Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Austin guide image

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The Austin Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Austin

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

The Hit List is where you’ll find our favorite new food and drink experiences in Austin—including food trucks, pop-ups, takeout-only spots, or exciting new restaurants. Every week we track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. One thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have actually visited—and loved.

Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself—inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs, and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at austin@theinfatuation.com.

New to the Hit List (1/20): Mum Foods, Baldinucci Pizza Romana, Bulevar Mexican Kitchen.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Raphael Brion

Mum Foods imageoverride image

Mum Foods

Perfect For:Lunch

$$$$

5811 Manor Rd, Austin
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

After years serving smoked meats at Austin-area farmers markets, Mum Foods finally opened a permanent location in Windsor Park, giving easy access to their excellent pastrami without having to navigate through rows of carrots, kombuchas, and hand-crafted chocolates. While the primary focus here is on pastrami, the added space means they’ve also branched out into other avenues of barbecue—including brisket, ribs, and turkey—creating a sort of hybrid between a Central Texas smokehouse and a New York Jewish deli (complete with matzo ball soup). But if it’s your first visit, you’ll want to try what made them into the farmers market legends that they are. Grab an original pastrami sandwich on house-baked rye (there’s also a corned beef and a reuben) and prepare to share the massive second half with a dining partner. Then use whatever remaining space you have at the end for a slice of brown butter chess pie or New York-style cheesecake. 


Located in a busy shopping center in West Lake Hills, Baldinucci’s counter also doubles as a giant glass viewing area full of whole pizzas and pre-cut slices that allow you to window shop before pointing at the piece (or eight) that you want. They split their focus between a couple different pizza styles here, but it’s the puffy Roman square style we’re here for, preferably topped with hand whipped ricotta and a pile of mushrooms. With an incredible crunch and pillowy interior, it feels like some laws of pizza science are being defied. While the space has all the expected atmosphere of a strip mall pizza joint, you can also get the slices to-go—they reheat really well, which is perfect for when you want to sit on the couch and binge watch the latest show to drop on Netflix later that night. 


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From the folks responsible for the always busy downtown spots ATX Cocina and Red Ash, Bulevar is a blend of both concepts. It’s essentially a chophouse that’s been heavily influenced by bold Latin flavors, where you can get a mix of classic steaks and Mexican-inspired dishes cooked on a live wood fire. That means that for every large format, dry aged prime porterhouse (priced by the ounce), you’ll also see things like grilled beef tenderloin or roast duck breast doused in sweet and savory moles, or blistered shishitos with charred serrano aioli. But there’s more than just steaks. You’ll find lump crab tostadas—piled high with sweet and tender meat—presented on crispy, house-made masa, right next to a caesar-style salad topped with tarragon vinegar and chicatanas. Everything feels like a hybrid of classic steakhouse dishes presented in new and exciting ways. And if the food didn’t sell you, maybe the breathtaking view overlooking the hills of northwest Austin at sunset will do it for you.


Bufalina, Austin's cool kid pizza-and-natural-wine spot in East Austin, is back and better than ever—with the same homey lo-fi bootstrapped vibes. In 2021 it closed to make way for a condo development, and now it has reopened, not far from the original on Cesar Chavez. The pizzas are classically Neapolitan (with the slightly yeasty dough), the wine list is as phenomenal as always, and there’s an expanded pasta menu (from the chef behind the recently closed Italian pop-up Le Cowboy). The biggest challenge is figuring out how many different kinds of pasta and pizza you’re going to order, and how many leftovers you’re going to take home.


Ling Kitchen is a 10-seat tasting menu from the chef behind the Chinese spots Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum and Qi, and the entire meal takes place on a series of large metal tables for a very intimate “chef’s table” experience. Hosted in their shiny, gleaming prep kitchen on the 183 frontage road—basically any chef’s dream—you should expect more refined versions of the kind of food you’d get at Lin and Qi. A recent meal included around 10 courses, spanning from plump lobster dumplings to silky egg custard with shaved truffle and foie gras butter, from smoked duck to curry oxtail.


From the people behind JewBoy Burgers and JewBoy Subs comes the next, tinier step in sandwich evolution: sliders. Served out of a trailer parked in front of Violet Crown Social Club on East Sixth, here the sliders are done just the way we like them, with a thin, smashed, and griddled patty on a toasted potato roll. They’re small enough that you can eat a few of them, which is ideal since they come in a couple different varieties—including our favorite with grilled jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and Hatch chile ranch. And just like at their big sibling burger restaurant, you can add a latke to any of the sliders (or get them on their own), which takes the whole thing to new crispy, potato-y heights. 


The restaurant group behind the likes of Clark’s, Pecan Square Cafe, Swedish Hill, Sammie’s, and Perla’s has some very big plans for the corner of Blanco Street and West 6th in Clarksville—a mixed use hub including multiple restaurants and a hotel. But for now, we can all enjoy one of their latest projects tucked away on Blanco: Rosie’s Wine Bar, an intimate and tiny space, of which there really aren’t that many like this in Austin. Walk-in only, there are only about a dozen seats indoors and a handful of tables outside, and it’s open late until midnight or 1am. The wine list leans natural with a big skin contact section, and the service is friendly and knowledgeable. The menu veers Portuguese and Spanish, with snackable and simple small plates like saffron rice croquetas, stuffed piquillo peppers, and an ode to Zuni Cafe’s classic anchovy dish with black olives, ricotta salata, and celery.


Parked next to Revival Coffee on East 7th, Pinches Tacos joins the ever-growing scene of East Austin tacos trucks with a menu that spans pretty much the entire tortilla-based spectrum, from breakfast tacos to birria tacos, and everything in between (plus tortas). And while there are a couple of more “classic” meat fillings—including grilled chicken and carne asada—it’s when they offer things like braised beef “trompo” al pastor or put beef bacon in their breakfast tacos that they fly to savory new heights. The trompo meat gets sliced into thick strips and griddled on every side to maximize the meat’s crispy-to-juicy ratio. We like it on the taco plate with five smaller tacos on double-wrapped fluffy corn tortillas, alongside a fiery roasted salsa. While you can also get the tacos in a slightly larger, regular-sized form—it’s just more fun to say you ate five of something. Pinches Tacos definitely appears to be on “Team Beef,” but if it keeps bringing us these bacon and al pastor counterparts, we’ll gladly switch sides.


From the team behind the East Side hit Suerte, the ​​Mexican coastal-inspired seafood restaurant Este is a pretty well-oiled pescatarian machine, especially with raw appetizers like oysters that come with a spicy chiltepin mignonette or the bright and spunky snapper ceviche. We'd expect nothing less from one of the most highly anticipated openings in recent memory. And just like at Suerte, masa plays a big role. So you’ll find masa battered fried swordfish tacos and tuna carnitas that you’ll very much want to get acquainted with. The charcoal-fired grill also adds a depth of flavor to a wide range of dishes, including the charred and smokey pescado zarandeado that’s marinated in an annatto red chile marinade. Este is unsurprisingly booked nearly solid every night, so plan ahead—or walk in on the early side. Grabbing a reservation (released 20 days out) will be the best decision you’ve made all month.


Bringing an entirely new combination of flavors to Austin (and maybe the world?) is KG BBQ—a barbecue trailer specializing in Central Texas-style smoked meats with Egyptian and Mediterranean influences. That means dishes like sticky pomegranate glazed pork ribs, rich brisket shawarmas, and smoked lamb chops with zaatar that you’ll want to grab by the bone, to pick off every last shred of tender, savory meat . A side order of rice comes topped with candied nuts—adding some sweet and crunchy texture to the intensely-spiced, fluffy grains below—and the Egyptian baladi salad is every bit as refreshing as it is flavorful. The brisket is seasoned a little more classic, but with expert-level preparation—and a side of tangy pomegranate barbecue sauce—we wouldn’t be surprised to one day find it in the ranks of the Austin barbecue juggernauts. The trailer is parked at Oddwood Brewing, so you can get some excellent beers to pair with it all. In a city full of Texas-meets-something crossovers, KG BBQ brings something new to the meat-filled table.


During peak pandemic, Choo Sando was an online-only pop-up specializing in Japanese sandos and elaborate at-home omakases for pickup. They’ve since opened a small brick and mortar restaurant on Burnet Road serving sandwiches and grab-and-go lunch sushi boxes. It’s a sheer delight. The sandwiches are all very precise, exacting, and most importantly, very delicious. Made with a pillowy soft milk bread, options  include savory classics like  tamago and pork katsu, and more fun, creative versions made with ingredients like yuzu smoked salmon. The sushi boxes can clock in on the pricier side (north of $30), but the quality of the fish is exceptional, rivaling what you’d find at any of the city’s best sushi restaurants. If the question is if you should get Choo Sando for lunch today, the answer is yes.


There’s a reason why people line up right before Bamboo House opens for lunch and dinner: their specialty peking duck. The moist and flavorful duck is phenomenal, with a crispy, lacquered skin. Served in a duck-shaped plate, it comes with super thin flour pancakes, which are not nearly as filling as steamed buns (so you get to eat more duck). There’s also a full menu of very good Szechuan dishes like twice-cooked pork, boiled fish filets in chili sauce, and mapo tofu. But be warned, because the portions are huge.


Pinthouse Pizza, with three locations around the Austin area, has long been known for their beers—the Electric Jellyfish in particular—and their round, New York-style pizzas. In early 2021 they opened Pinthouse Brewing, a massive brewhouse on Ben White Boulevard. Recently they launched a new pizza menu there, with Sicilian style pies, featuring a square shape and a fluffy sourdough crust. Once you take a bite into a thick corner slice with spicy red sauce and hot honey, you’ll forget circles ever existed. Well, until you lock eyes with a slice of crispy pepperoni.


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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peYou should check out Pecan Square for the space alone—airy, light-filled, and high on design, it feels like it’s been there forever. Inspired by the California coastal community of Sea Ranch and San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, the food here is casual and seasonally driven (there’s even a whole roasted chicken on the menu). Where the restaurant really shines are the outstanding handmade pastas like the tender goat milk ricotta-filled agnolotti with dandelion greens or the tagliatelle with a bright and spring-y pesto. The wood-fired pizzas—a sort of rustic, lightly charred cross between focaccia and New York-style pie—are unique to Austin, very delicious, and something you should most definitely order. Which is all to say: Pecan Square is quietly becoming one of the best Italian restaurants in town.


We really like when places focus on doing one thing exceptionally well, and at La Santa Barbacha, barbacoa takes center stage, with a slow-stewed and shredded consistency that packs a ton of flavor into the beef. The corn tortillas are excellent, with some incorporating spinach into the masa to give them a bright green pop. It makes it feel like you’re eating something healthier, which comes in handy when you’re debating whether or not to order just one more (the answer is probably yes).


There are a bunch of places to get great dumplings in Austin—including Qi, Lin, Wu Chow, Steamies, House Of Three Gorges, and improbably Hopfields with their escargot ones—and the newest entrant into this list is Taste of Home Handmade Dumplings in the Chinatown Center on North Lamar. All the dumplings are light and fresh, and you can see the workers making them by hand in the glass-walled kitchen. There’s a whole bunch of varieties including pork, shrimp, and chives, as well as lamb and cilantro. The standout on a recent visit was the abalone and scallop dumplings that were so juicy they were basically soup dumplings. The dumplings can be steamed, boiled, or fried, but they’re also sold uncooked, so you can bring them home and freeze them and enjoy them some other time (they were so good we did just that).


Austin isn’t exactly a coastal city, but the fish tacos at the trailer Ensenada immediately  transported us to the beach in a few small bites. It’s named after a city in Baja California, where the specialty is fish tacos, and these are about as close as you’re going to get to the real deal without hopping on a plane, train, or automobile. The fish is flaky and the batter is crispy—add in a squeeze of lime and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more refreshing taco on a hot summer afternoon. Pick up some beers on the way and order a Michelada for the full Ensenada by-the-bay food truck lot experience. Maybe it’s just our landlocked, daydreaming minds observing, but their bright orange trailer at the Arbor Food Park in East Austin pops out like a floating buoy, beckoning us in.


Maie Day at the South Congress Hotel is from the people behind Olamaie and Little Ola’s Biscuits, and it’s a nostalgic and unstuffy take on a steakhouse. The big menu’s got classic steakhouse dishes like a shrimp cocktail, grilled thick cut bacon, and a variety of very good wood-grilled steaks. But where the restaurant really shines is in the reinvented and reimagined retro dishes like the bloomin onion, chopped salad, and the absurdly delicious funeral potatoes. Additionally, and unexpectedly, the whole grilled fish with grilled kale gremolata is one of our favorite things here. There’s a fun and creative cocktail menu, an absolutely enormous and rich slice of cake that can feed eight that you should order. That or the aptly named “cookie tower extravaganza.”


Toshokan is a small, eight-seat omakase spot behind a bookshelf in the back of a hostel in East Austin. First, take a second to unpack that sentence. Second, set your timer for the first of the month, because that’s when tickets to these dinners go live, and to say they go fast is an understatement. Dinner is about 14 courses, varying from nigiri topped with bruleed brown sugar tangerine, to a toasted marshmallow ice cream served with chocolate melted tableside—a s’mores version of raclette. Austin has had a boom in these intimate omakase dinners, but what sets Toshokan apart is that they never forget that the fish—not the garnish—is the star of the show. Well, that and the fact that the tiny dining room feels like you’re eating in Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, if it had been decorated with a live edge sushi bar and cute Japanese toys on the walls.

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