ATXGuide

The Hit List: New Austin Restaurants To Try Right Now

The new spots we checked out—and loved.
The Hit List: New Austin Restaurants To Try Right Now image

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new restaurant makes us feel like a grackle in an HEB parking lot. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List.

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Austin. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy omakase counter, an under-the-radar taco truck, or a gas station with food that we can’t stop talking about. Or maybe it’s even a restaurant with caviar priced by the bump. You do you.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now. And if you’re looking for a hot new bar, or a fun and exciting dinner spot, we’ve got those, too.

New to the Hit List (2/20): Dang Hot 89, Sijie Special Noodle

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Fried Chicken

North Austin

$$$$Perfect For:LunchCasual Weeknight Dinner
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Fans of Nashville-style hot chicken probably already knew of Dang Hot 89’s arrival long before we had a chance to visit—the smell of sizzling cayenne pepper cuts straight through the air like a bat signal. Taco Bell mild-saucers beware, this is one of the few Austin spots where the “dang hot” spicy level should be taken seriously. This is a food trailer in the middle of a big dirt lot in Northwest Austin, but you’re not here for ambiance. You’re just here for ridiculously hot chicken, and you can get it in tender, bone-in, or sandwich form. Whatever you choose, just know that this will likely be some of the juiciest chicken you’ll get your hands on—with crispy skin and a Hot Cheeto-red tint to the whole thing. And once you do get your hands on it, remember to be careful around your eyes. 

Sijie is a mini-chain with a few locations in Northern California, and we hope it’s just a matter of time until Sijie’s soup dumplings pepper Central Texas in much the same way. It’s located in a strip mall in Northwest Austin with a large dining room blasting soft rock ballads while tiny robots on wheels deliver plates of food to tables that already have too many dishes on them. It’s hard to narrow down your order from a menu with nearly 200 items on it, but start with some pan-fried soup buns and grilled lamb kebabs, then finish off with thick and chewy housemade noodles with sweet garlic pork. Show up with a group and make an even bigger dent in the menu. In a city full of great Chinese food, Sijie brings a few dishes to the table that you won’t find anywhere else in Austin. 

Austin has no shortage of omakases—some that we like, and others that we don’t—and this sleek Rosedale omakase spot is a welcome addition to the crew. The meal consists of 20ish courses, in which you’ll experience bright crudos, cooked plates, and dry-aged fish over rice. The nigiri is good—with high-quality fish and rice that we wish was a tad warmer—but the stars of the show are the small, non-sushi plates. That’s where unique textures and flavors get a chance to play with each other, like in a vibrant shrimp aguachile or stewed winter vegetables in a rich, savory broth. At $175, this is one of the pricier omakases in town, but you can also rest assured knowing there are no tacky upsells on the end to ensure you get full.

The dough at Feral Pizza ferments for nearly two days, and we can only imagine it spends that time pondering the true meaning of life, love, and what it means to be a crust. The end result is crispy, chewy, and perfectly suited to pair with whatever toppings you choose, including our favorite—the ultra-simple Tomato Pie with just sauce, garlic oil, and pecorino. It’s a New York-style pizza, with an ultra-thin layer of sauce that provides some sweet, tangy flavor without overpowering the crust. This whole operation is done in a tiny trailer behind a convenience store in North Loop—as a result, pies can take a while. Call ahead or make yourself cozy with a few drinks from the shop next door. If dough can hang out that long, you can wait 30 minutes without going feral. 

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

$$$$Perfect For:Date Night

Zoé Tong, the new, upscale Chinese restaurant from a couple of New York chefs, focuses on “modern Austin Chinese food.” Which basically means that you can expect to see twists on classic Chinese dishes like tea-smoked and dry-aged duck, tingly mala-heavy lamb noodles, and a fun riff on scallion pancakes that remakes them as flaky swirls in a cast iron pan. The #1 reason to make your way here is the grilled skewers and excellent homemade dumplings, including the plump wontons in chili oil. Zoé Tong is right near Zilker Park on Barton Springs Road, which makes parking a little difficult—there is a valet—but either way, you can easily walk in and grab seats at the bar.


Murray’s in East Austin is the type of place you should go when you don’t want to make a big deal about dinner, but you actually kind of do. It’s from the people behind Nickel City and Juniper, so there’s a strong focus on both food and drink. Burgers and goulash share a playing field with prime rib and beef tartare—you decide how fancy you want to be—and expertly crafted cocktails are available in full-size or tiny versions (there’s even a mini cocktail flight option). It’s dark and dimly lit, with wooden walls and a carpeted back room that feels like a place where mob bosses discuss “family” things, and you’ll probably find yourself chatting about what to order next time before you even make your way out the front door.


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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Underdog, the stylish Korean-esque restaurant, wine bar, and bottle shop is a must-hit spot (and one of the best new restaurants of 2023). All the food here is lights-out great, and the place recently changed up and broadened the menu, with a whole multi-course tasting menu for $75. On a recent visit the tasting included—deep breath—an airy egg souffle, crispy pajeon, kimchi, charcoal grilled galbi and pork collar with all the ssam accompaniments like a housemade ssamjang, a bubbling kimchi jjigae, and a dessert donut. Come hungry because it’s a ton of food, but also get here because it's possibly the best Korean food in town.


If there was one thing you probably heard about the now-closed trailer, Fil N' Viet, it probably had something to do with the wings. Shatteringly crispy and tender, the wings were some of our favorites in town. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the team’s new wing-only concept came in and hit the ground running with just as much love and focus as Wes Anderson has for pastels. Flavors traverse a course through Southeast Asia, pulling inspiration from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and India, each equally pulling their weight. And if you show up on Fridays, you can get all six flavors in a “wing flight.” Find East Meets Wing in Playground ATX—a restaurant incubator on Airport Boulevard, near I-35—where it’ll be until mid-2024.


The food at the lo-fi casual East Side spot Nixta Taqueria treads a brilliant line between the super-traditional (with housemade masa) and the unconventional (duck confit tacos). And recently the restaurant launched a full-blown reservation-only “taco omakase.” It’s the culinary chops you’ve come to expect out of Nixta, but now fully realized as a grown-up restaurant (which still happens on the slanty gravel-y covered backyard patio). Only served Thursdays-Saturdays, the five courses span tacos and tostadas unique to the tasting menu, as well as dessert (the people at Nixta are making their own chocolate now?!). And at $65, it’s an incredible bargain. Do make sure to get the optional additional courses like a beef tartare with salsa morita, and the $50 wine or $35 NA pairing. 


Not to rest on their laurels, the people behind the excellent Neapolitan pizzeria Bufalina and Bufalina Due have opened a brand new spot, Palm Pizza on Cesar Chavez in East Austin. Cooked in a gas-fired steel deck oven, the 18-inch pizzas are classic New York-style pies, with a thin, crispy crust, and they’re spectacular. The pizzas taste of New York City (but maybe with less grit and pigeon). A takeout operation for now, the pizzas are only available by pre-order. But the plan is to eventually open a couple of patio spaces—there is no dining room for dine-in. So for now you’ll have to either eat slices out of the trunk of your car, or race home to scarf it all down.


Parked on the sprawling patio at Austin Beerworks Sprinkle Valley, Yellow Bell Tacos is a truck from the team behind Interstellar BBQ, a place we really like. And while smoked meat tacos have always been a menu special at the original joint, here they’re the star of the show. The brisket is as tender and rich as any we’ve had, but we can’t get enough of the rich, gamey lamb shoulder—shredded thin and paired with enough salsa, onions, and fresh cilantro to add some balance to an otherwise decadent meal. You can also get excellent crispy dogs here—a San Antonio classic—basically the lovechild of a flauta and a smoked hot dog, stuffed with cheese and topped with pico. 


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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Yeah, “vegan” can sometimes be triggering terminology (with thoughts of Franken-pseudo meats) but the tasting menu restaurant Fabrik turns “plant-based” on its head. Here, the limits become a sandbox to explore depths of flavors from techniques like kojis and ferments and scratch-made elements like pasta and bread. It skews fine dining, only offering five or seven courses at relatively reasonable prices ($70 and $85 respectively), with an optional $60 wine pairing that's very much worth it. The whole scrappy operation functions out of a tiny, janky space with eight or so tables at the base of a new apartment building, and it all feels like you’re in on a big secret, like seeing a band before they got big. It’s the most promising new restaurant we’ve come across in a while.


From the teams behind Uchi and Uchiko comes the red-hot izakaya-inspired restaurant Uchiba. It’s not a new concept—the original location of Uchiba is in Dallas—so it hit the ground running in a bespoke mid-century-inspired space downtown. The menu has the crowd-pleasing Uchi and Uchiko hits (hot rock, hama chili, and all the sushi you can imagine), but then there’s a bunch of new dishes including grilled yakitori, and a whole mess of exquisitely prepared dumplings, bao, and buns. While the Uchi restaurants in Austin famously only have wine- and sake-based cocktails, Uchiba has a creative liquor-based cocktail program, alongside the fun “perfect pairs,” in which a tiny app gets paired with a tiny cocktail.


What happens when one of Austin’s best taco trucks decides to get into the burger game? You end up with a smashburger topped with a longaniza patty and a costra cheese corn tortilla. Because just when we thought we had reached the thin peak of the smashburger movement, this place makes us feel like we’re still in the parking lot. Technically, we are. Cuantas Hamburguesas is parked at the Arbor Food Park in East Austin, right next to its famous sibling, Cuantos Tacos. Much like at its taco counterpart, the menu here is small, delicious, and affordable. You can also grab a more classic double-patty Americana—or try a burger topped with ham and sliced hot dogs. Add a side of fries cooked in beef tallow, then marvel at the fact that every combo is less than $10.


Sometimes you want a thick, juicy burger with a little ribbon of pink through the middle. Other times you just want a patty that’s smashed so thin it might get mistaken for an ancient piece of papyrus. Patty Palace is for when you want the latter. It’s a lot like the popular Bad Larry Burger pop-up, but without the need to set an alarm and wait in a long line to get it. That means super-smashed patties with crispy lattice edges, grilled onions, a few slices of pickles, and some mustard or special sauce. And, instead of waiting for an Instagram alert, you can get it almost any night of the week and pair it with whatever beer you want from St. Elmo Brewing, where Patty Palace is parked. 


The first thing you’ll notice at Desnudo Coffee in East Austin is the line—it’s massive, especially on the weekends. So what is it about this tiny coffee trailer that draws larger crowds than half of the barbecue joints in Austin? We’re sure a chemical dependency on caffeine makes up a small part of it. But the bigger part is the excellent coffees—with a rich, smooth flavor and a subtle, pleasant hint of acidity—that keeps people coming back time and again. If you’re a purist, try a bright, refreshing cold brew, or a drip coffee that’s better than half the pour overs in town. But if you want something more unique, the iced miso brown sugar latte is one of the single best ways we’ve found to start a morning. 

From the team behind Suerte (and right next door to their other concept Este), it’s a bar, it’s a restaurant, it’s snacks, it’s drinks, it’s dinner. But most of all, it’s a brilliant neighborhood hang, with communal tables and counter height seating in a tiny-ish and energetic space. The menu is mainly Spanish tapas, including sharply executed croquetas, a Spanish tortilla, and Basque cheesecake. The curveball is the Mexican-ish “smashburgesa”—topped with griddled ham, american cheese, chipotle mayo, and escabeche relish. The drink menu bobs and weaves—like wine from a porron and not overly complicated classic cocktails.


Inside the food court at the grocery store Hana World Market in North Austin, Ramen Del Barrio is slinging out some of the most inventive Mexican-Japanese fusion dishes we’ve come across. Hardcore mole fans will enjoy plunging thick tsukemen noodles into a bowl of rich, chocolatey broth, and the yaki-tacos pair skewers of savory grilled beef tongue or pork belly with warm corn tortillas—just pull out the stick, fold, and enjoy. But the star of the show here is the carnitas tonkotsu bowl. The broth has all the creaminess of an excellent bowl of tonkotsu, plus tender chunks of slow-cooked pork belly and buche. Squeeze a lime over it all and it’s like eating the taco-ramen hybrid we never knew we needed.


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