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.
Here's our update for September 1: We love Paperboy, the breakfast-food trailer, as well as Irene's, the open-from-7am-till-2am hang. Forthright is a great new cafe downtown, and General Tso'Boy is a Domain spot doing creative things in the fast-casual category.
At this point, do you really need another food trailer in your life? If we’re talking about Paperboy, the answer is yes. Serving breakfast food (and only breakfast food) out of a trailer on East 11th, this spot has quickly earned a place in our rotation for affordable weekday morning meals and weekend brunches alike. Paperboy might only serve one category of food, but they do it extremely well - both the savory and sweet things we’ve tried here are great. If you’re only getting one thing (which we would advise against), make it the hash bowl.
Irene’s doesn’t fit into one category. It’s a place for brunch, for dinner, for something kind of healthy, for drinks, for mid-afternoon snacks - and everything in between. When most restaurants try to be everything to everyone, they end up feeling like a schizophrenic off their meds. But at Irene’s, it works. Between its awesome interior and outdoor design, its boozy biscuit brunch, and its impressive toast selection - there are a lot of reasons to get to Irene’s, and so far we haven’t encountered a way to do it wrong.
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.
One of the many new spots in the Domain Northside development, General Tso Boy is a mash-up of American and Chinese food in a fast-casual concept that’s actually kind of great. So what does a mash-up of American and Chinese food mean? Think General Tso’s chicken, black pepper beef, and mapo tofu - but think about them squished in between French bread straight from Easy Tiger. The next time you’re shopping around the Domain - or the next time you’re planning to hit some bars there - consider hitting this place for a quick, affordable meal beforehand.
Vinaigrette actually makes you feel excited about eating a salad. A New Mexico import, this place is the best thing to happen to your lunch routine if you live or work anywhere nearby. Whether the word “raw” is a word you use to describe your diet, or you just like to do not-terrible things for your body once in a while, you’ll be able to find something you like amongst the giant salads, tasty snacks, and freshly-made fruit drinks. Unless it’s over 95 degrees, you have no excuse not to eat on the glorious back patio under a big oak tree.
We have no idea why it took until 2016 for soup dumplings to reach Austin. Or why they made their debut on the bottom floor of a slick downtown bank building. But here we are, eating mostly-authentic Chinese food in a floor-to-ceiling windowed room. In the mood to sample a lot of things? Come here on Sundays for dim sum service.
Chicon is the new spot from the people behind Contigo, one of Austin’s favorite spots for eating and drinking outside. But unlike Contigo, Chicon is a mostly indoor restaurant - and because of that fact (along with the noticeably older crowd), it feels a little more grown-up. The space is modern and attractive, the cocktails are tasty, and the small plates are solid as well. We like Chicon best for happy hour drinks and bites.
At the new location of Barley Swine on Burnet Road, you can expect the same kind of impressive (albeit pricey), seasonal small plates that were served at the original location. But there is one key difference: for the first time, there’s an a la carte menu. So if you’re feeling noncommittal and would rather sample a few things without signing up for the full prix fixe, now you can. We’d recommend your dip your toe in the Barley Swine water with the red snapper & koji butter, and with a bar seat overlooking the action in the kitchen.
Emmer & Rye is big on concept, and manages to pull it off well: not only do they serve daily-changing, super-seasonal/local small plates, but they also offer a second menu that comes in the form of a dim sum cart. This cart will stop by your table several times throughout the evening with more dishes to supplement your meal (so it's near impossible to walk out of this place unsatisfied). The space is big and airy, there’s a large outdoor area, and the service is great. Have a birthday coming up, or a meal with your adventurous parents? Do it here.