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 6/11): Carpenters Hall, Nervous Charlie’s, Uncle Nicky’s, Domo Alley-Gato
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.
40 North is yet another food truck-turned-brick and mortar story. Since originally opening in 2014, they’ve made some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in town, but now, in their new space, the pizzas come out a little faster and you can eat without the fear of a stray cat or pigeon attack. The restaurant is hidden a bit on the edge of downtown, so it’s not as crowded as you’d expect. And if somehow you’re not in the mood for pizza, or you just want more on your table, order the fried chicken sandwich or the labneh with flatbread.
Sour Duck Market works for any occasion: after-work drinks with that coworker you’re not sure if you have a crush on or are just bored, early breakfast with your crying child, or the “It’s 3pm and I’m hungry again” mid-afternoon snack. Choose between the bar, covered patio, and the space near the bakery counter and order a little bit of everything. Both their burger and spicy pork sandwich are big enough to be a meal, but we’re more into ordering a bunch of the smaller plates and slowly overeating.
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.
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.