You don’t need us (or anyone else) to tell you that Austin is constantly 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 12/17): Joann’s Fine Foods, Lin Asian Bar and Dim Sum, 40 North, Sour Duck.
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.
Whether you’re working on your new script for a Netflix show about an eccentric retirement community, or finishing that business plan for a startup that’s like Uber but for skateboards, you need a good all-day spot like Better Half. This West Fifth cafe from the team behind Brew & Brew serves food from 8am-10pm daily, with biscuit sandwiches and grain bowls in the morning and dishes like Texas redfish and fried chicken the rest of the day. If all of a sudden it’s 4pm and the only names you’ve thought of for your main character are Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, or Sophia, get a cocktail during their daily Happy Hour.
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.
When we want a good cry, we watch the opening sequence from Up, or YouTube videos of dogs being reunited with their long-lost owners. When we want to cry while eating, we go to T22 Chicken Joint and order the hottest spice level they have. This spot from the Salty Sow team started as a downtown food truck and recently expanded to a brick and mortar space on Burnet, where they’re serving a larger menu of Nashville-inspired hot chicken dishes and plenty of beer and cocktails as well. Choose which pieces of chicken you want (and whether you want them alone or on a sandwich), then let them know how much heat you can handle. When we don’t want tears to stream down our faces, we go with the white meat at the second or third hottest level.
The East Side got a much-needed Italian sandwich shop with La Matta, located at Fifth and Comal. You can expect excellent sandwiches topped with things like prosciutto, mortadella, and soppressata, but they also serve charcuterie boards, salads, and homemade burrata and mozzarella. It’s a great option for some quick weekday takeout, or for enjoying some wine, meat, and cheese on the patio. If you’re in need of a quick cup of coffee, they do that, too.
Henbit is the new casual spin-off of Emmer & Rye at the Fareground food hall downtown, which also includes outposts from Dai Due, Contigo, Komé, Easy Tiger, and Antonelli’s. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, along with coffee, fresh pressed juices, and more cosmic-sounding drinks, like golden milk chai. If you stop by before work, try the sausage breakfast burrito or one of their fresh baked kolaches. And if you come for lunch or dinner, the short rib with sweet potatoes and the tomato and feta salad are two of our favorite things.