ATXGuide

The Austin Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Austin

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

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

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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 (9/15): La Plancha, Choo Sando, and Oye Chico

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

La Plancha imageoverride image

La Plancha

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Perfect For:Lunch

At La Plancha on East MLK, they seem to follow a loose interpretation of what constitutes a torta. Because while you can get one stuffed with more classic fillings like brisket barbacoa or pulled pork carnitas (which is basically a Cuban sandwich), you can also get varieties with Buffalo fried chicken or wagyu beef patties that forego “rules” for the greater good. Whatever you want to call them, the sandwiches are tasty—packed full of meat on a warm crusty bolillo roll, and served with pickled jalapenos and escabeche—and will inevitably be the topic of your next few conversations. Show up for brunch, and you can even get one stuffed with chilaquiles.


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 are only two things on the menu at Oye Chico, a tiny trailer parked at Better Half’s patio in Clarksville: A cafecito and a Cuban sandwich. It’s made with all of the classic ingredients here—pork butt, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard—with an execution that’s best in class. The meat is juicy, the pickles thick and tangy, and the cheese is plentiful. It’s a dense sandwich that could probably double as a Zumba toning stick, but it’s also a delicious sandwich that you’ll be thinking about on the drive home. Its inclusion on our list of The Best Cuban Sandwiches In Austin is one of the easiest decisions we’ve made all year.


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.


photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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Pinthouse Brewing

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Hours:SUN
11AM-10PM

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: Matt Harrington

Pecan Square Café review image

Pecan Square Café

RESERVE A TABLE

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open table
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You 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).

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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).


La Taquicardia is a food trailer making tacos, quesadillas, burritos, gorditas, and just about anything else you can think of inside of a tortilla. And while flour tortillas are an option for the tacos, you definitely want to get  the excellent house-made blue corn tortillas. Sure, the blue corn gives the tacos a distinct look, but more importantly they add an intense, almost sweet bit of corn flavor that just enhances every bite, whether that’s wrapped around a heaping mound of eggs, chorizo, and cheese, or shredded and fried into a crispy migas taco. And it’s not just breakfast they do here—order a gordita packed full of rich, juicy cochinita pibil and find out just how good a handmade gordita can get.


The first thing you’ll notice when you walk up to Side Eye Pie’s  trailer at Meanwhile Brewing in South Austin is the giant, wood-fired oven bolted onto the end. It’s what gives the Neapolitan pizzas their signature soft, thin center, their perfectly-chewy crust, and their dream-inducing aroma. Toppings range from the more classic Margherita (with local olive oil) to the “meat sweats” (complete with four different varieties of sausage). But our favorite thing here might just be the salami chips. They’re crispy little discs of sopressata salami served with ranch, but if you want the full experience, order a side of hot honey to dip them in—it’s a sweet, salty, and spicy snack that we can’t get enough of.


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 parking lot experience. Maybe it’s just our landlocked, daydreaming minds observing, but their bright orange trailer in a small food truck park on East MLK pops out like a floating buoy in the ocean.


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.”

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The trailer Con Todo is a taqueria serving “comida frontera” inspired by what you’d find in the Rio Grande Valley, the border region that encompasses cities like Brownsville and McCallen in South Texas and Matamoros in Mexico. It’s this hyper-regional focus—including foods like barbacoa, carne asada, alambre, and bistec estilo Matamoros—combined with a clear mission and obvious skill and technique, that allows Con Todo to make ridiculously delicious and intensely flavorful tacos. The closest point of comparison taco-wise might be Paprika, another one of our favorite taco spots. Con Todo’s chori papa tostada, with chorizo, potatoes, griddled cheese, and guacamole, is an early front runner for the tastiest thing we’ve eaten all year. The tacos are all on homemade corn tortillas, the good kind that make your hands smell super corny for hours, and homemade flour tortillas sometimes make an appearance on specials like piratas, too. 


photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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Kerlaches

$$$$
Perfect For:Breakfast

Kerlaches specializes in kolaches stuffed with brisket, pork, and sausage, so you can enjoy them on a Wednesday morning when you’re driving out to the airport to pick up your cousin that you haven’t seen since you were both twelve. They have a few options on any given day, but for the ultimate in Central Texas flavors, go for the brisket—it’s smoky, moist, and only gets better when you dip it into some peppery barbecue sauce. Located in the same trailer park as Veracruz, it sounds like a great opportunity for you to double fist two of our favorite handheld breakfast bites at once.


photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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8.0

Toshokan

$$$$

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.


It’s rare to find a taco trailer that delivers one hit after another, but Un Mundo De Sabor, located in the Thicket trailer park in South Austin, does just that. The tacos are excellent, with big and fresh flavors, including the campechano, carnitas, and barbacoa. The vegan tacos are spectacular, especially the coliflor al pastor (with crushed avocado and pineapple). Everything is complemented by the standout salsas, including the charred, smoky habanero and vibrant salsa verde. Once you’ve had all the tacos, go ahead and order the chilaquiles verdes and the enchiladas rojas, because they’re just as good.


The folks that originally founded Sushi|Bar in Austin sold the name and started a new concept called Sushi By Scratch out in the middle of nowhere (OK, it’s at the Lost Pines Resort close to Bastrop), in a hotel that feels a little like a haunted old Hill Country estate. It’s an odd backdrop for an omakase, but if anything it speaks to the more elusive, speakeasy nature of the 16-18 course dinner here. While you can expect a few pieces of classic sushi, you’ll also find a lot of bites like torched whelk nigiri topped with beet mustard, lemon juice, and quinoa. It’s not traditional at all, but it’s not really trying to be. If you want the original pioneers in “new-wave nigiri” (their words), this is where you’ll want to head.

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