The Hit List: New Austin Restaurants To Try Right Now guide image


The Hit List: New Austin Restaurants To Try Right Now

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

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 (9/7): Cuantas Hamburguesas, Yuki Handroll Bar, Patty Palace


Cuantas Hamburguesas

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.

As far as we know, Yuki is the first omakase experience dedicated to handrolls in Austin. Located in a strip mall off Bee Caves Road near 360, all the seating is at a large wrap-around counter. So you can see whose pupils dilate after their first bite of handroll, which combine crispy nori with well-seasoned rice and generous cuts of fresh fish. You can order from combo menus of three to seven rolls—each made and eaten to order—or go a la carte. Whichever route you choose, you’ll want to finish the meal off with a couple pieces of nigiri, preferably the bluefin toro or Japanese uni. 

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. 

Up until now, Austin didn’t really have a spot dedicated to khao man gai—the savory chicken-and-rice Thai specialty—and for that alone, P Thai’s (from the same chef behind Thai Kun) is worth checking out. Add in the location at the back of the relatively quiet Hong Kong Supermarket near 183 and Ohlen, and it feels a little like dining in the speakeasy equivalent of a restaurant. The menu is small, currently featuring just a fried and poached version of the dish, plus pork belly. But between the rich, flavorful meat, the various add-ons, and the two spicy dipping sauces—there’s one made from fermented bean and ginger, and another sweet chili option—any other items on the menu would just end up feeling neglected.

Everybody knows that the best part of breakfast cereal is the last few sips of cereal-infused milk at the bottom of the bowl. Fleet Coffee takes that magical moment, and serves it in the form of a Fruity Pebble cortado, made with a cereal-infused milk. It’s not all novelty drinks at Fleet Coffee—you’ll also find some of the best espresso-based drinks in town, from pure and simple shots, to a refreshing espresso-and-tonic with local grapefruit. You’ve been able to get these drinks at the original location on Webberville Road, but now there’s a new semi-permanent trailer on a large patio, right next to La Santa Barbacha on Manor Road, making this an excellent Saturday morning stop. Maybe go a little early, since you won’t be the only one there.

You’ll probably catch the savory smell of grilled meats wafting from the charcoal grills before you even see them at Camino Alamo BBQ, a small sidewalk operation on The Drag. The specialty here is Uyghur-style Xinjiang kabobs. There are three options for grilled skewers—lamb, beef, and chicken wings—that all get marinated in a mixture of cumin, salt, pepper, and Sichuan peppercorn, then dusted with chili powder as they sizzle and smoke over hot coals to a charred, but tender finish. Is it a restaurant? Not really. A pop-up? Kind of. Either way, you should get here soon before school is back in session when you’ll have to battle a line of hungry UT students for dinner. 

Originally operating as an online-only pop-up bakery that would regularly sell out, Comadre Panaderia finally has a proper brick-and-mortar space in East Austin, with a greater selection than a candy store. The broad menu of stunning, modern spins on sweet and savory pan-Latinx baked goods—which might include conchas, puerquitos, breakfast empanadas, diablitos, croissants, donas, kolaches, pan de elote, and more—almost always sells out. But thankfully you can drop everything and place an online pre-order when it opens mid-week, or head there on the earlier side for the extras available on the weekends. Find Comadre Panaderia right next door to Nixta Taqueria on Cedar Avenue, and maybe grab some breakfast tacos from Nixta while you’re there.

At first glance, El Raval’s menu might look like the type of tapas menu you’d expect to find at any Spanish restaurant—you’ll find classics like pan con tomate and patatas bravas, next to small, shared plates of Iberican ham and gambas al Ajillo. And if that was all El Raval on South Lamar had given us, we’d be perfectly happy. But instead of stopping there, this spot introduces little global influences—like Peruvian leche de tigre, a Punjabi makhani sauce, or a Middle Eastern harissa sofrito—sparingly across the menu in a way that feels less like fusion, and more of a nod to Barcelona’s cultural diversity. And this global inspiration makes it to the wildly inventive cocktail menu, too, where you can just as easily order a gin and tonic with Sichuan peppercorns, or a vermouth-and-sherry cocktail topped with briny olive foam. 

Underdog, the stylish new South First restaurant, wine bar, and bottle shop from a Momofuku vet, absolutely beams thanks to riveting Korean-inspired cuisine. The food is subtle and sharply executed: the charcoal grilled galbi is beefy and tender and comes with scissors, the fried chicken crackles and gets coated in a stupor-inducing nori salt, and the black garlic aioli that comes with the snap peas will cajole you into eating your vegetables. Dinner here at this warm and minimalist spot is fun, but you can also grab a seat at the bar, get some wine from the eclectic list, and take your time eating snacks, like the decadent, supremely tasty caviar stroopwafel bites, oysters served alongside kimchi vinaigrette and tiny, fatty pork sausages, just like the ones they serve in France. 

From the team behind Sazan Ramen comes Daiboku, a ramen spot right by campus. Unlike Sazan, with its hyper-focus on chicken-and-pork paitan broth, the options for ramen at Daiboku are totally unexpected and all over the place (in the best possible way). Want a delicate, fit-for-summer bowl of chicken shoyu ramen with smoked chicken thighs? Done. How about a super spicy bowl of miso, topped with sliced habaneros and chashu? Or just give up on subtlety and get the miso jirokei bowl—a style known for being very in-your-face—garnished with flaming hot cheetos, american cheese, and extra pork fat. There’s a plan to launch a “ramen omakase” experience soon, though we have yet to determine if that means we’ll be eating one big bowl of ramen accompanied by a bunch of tiny plates, or a dozen, tiny bite-sized bowls of ramen. Stay tuned.

Uptown Sports Club only opened in April, but it feels like it’s been here forever. The long-abandoned 19th-century building on East 6th Street is now a scene straight out of a classic New Orleans spot, with exposed brick walls, mosaic tile floors, vintage lighting, and a gorgeous marble and chrome-accented wraparound bar. The all-day bar and restaurant hits all the quintessential New Orleans food notes: a dark, roasty gumbo, Zapp’s potato chips, bottles of Crystal Hot Sauce on every table, and tremendous po‘boys, the standout of which is the gloriously messy roast-beef version with sliced meat drenched in a debris gravy made with Franklin Barbecue’s legendary chopped brisket. Add in expertly-made cocktails, a raw bar with oysters, and a dining room that’s sunny-by-day and boisterous-by-night, and this place is a classic in the making.

Going out for Korean barbecue usually means choosing between quality meats and a bottomless AYCE experience, but at Gangnam, there’s no need to compromise (as long as you’re willing to fork out a flat-rate $50 at dinner). Classics like bulgogi, marinated pork belly, and kalbi are some of the best versions we’ve had in town, but if you’re in the mood for something a little heftier, simply order a ribeye or two and watch as full-sized steaks arrive for as long as you keep asking (and finishing your plate). We’re just excited that one of the few Korean barbecue options in South Austin also happens to be among the best in the city—giving South Austinities some well-deserved points in the unofficial Austin Regional Rivalries™. 

The jerk chicken at Mr. Pimento at The Buzz Mill on East Riverside defies poultry physics—it’s impossibly moist on the inside, despite a crispy, charred crust that adds a bit of texture and a smoky element. And just when you thought you’d already found chicken nirvana, the sauce hits. It’s sweet, it’s tangy, and it packs just enough heat to remind you that it’s very much there. There are a lot of styles of jerk chicken in Austin, but this is the one we keep coming back to. Make sure to get it with a side of sweet plantains to maximize the sweet-salty-spicy-crunchy-soft experience. 

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 Canje, Hestia, and Emmer & Rye comes Ezov, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant on East Cesar Chavez that’s basically a spiritual successor to the now-closed TLV (it’s from the same chef). Ezov is a little fancier, with a seasonal menu of dishes inspired by the Galilee region of northern Israel, and a space full of buzzy inner-city energy inspired by Tel Aviv. There’s even graffiti on the walls with the lyrics to Toxic by Britney Spears, in Hebrew. Start with the sigarim—AKA Moroccan cigars—packed full of savory, spiced sweetbreads and chicken hearts in a crispy fried shell, then get the DIY chicken shawarma and put your carving skills to the test.

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. The only catch is that Bar Toti is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, and it’s walk-in only, so maybe be prepared for a wait. It’s worth it.

If the name Veracruz sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s become synonymous with migas and some of the best breakfast tacos in Austin. Now, the same team has a buzzy new all-day spot in Mueller. You can still get breakfast tacos here, but you should also dive into the expanded menu of dishes inspired by Veracruz, Mexico, like shrimp ceviche,  tender banana leaf pork tamales, and sauteed head-on shrimp doused in a rich and spicy chipotle salsa. There’s also a full bar here, so you can grab a “Muellerita” to really round out the views of Mueller lake at sunset.

Equal parts cocktail bar and cafe, Holiday on East 7th is a great patio spot. The bright and airy dining room is beautiful, too, but the outside feels like the backyard of some affluent designer-turned-restaurateur. The menu is made up mostly of small European-inspired plates that clearly spent some time in Texas, with dishes like Lone Star steamed mussel and boquerones with cultured butter. And while you could probably cobble together a meal out of a few small plates, this is mostly a place to grab a light bite and enjoy multiple rounds of cocktails, including a frozen Mexican martini served in a cactus glass.

Most of the time that we’re “dining at a gas station,” we’re really just grabbing a hot dog and a bag of Doritos. But right in the heart of West Campus, at the Shell gas station at 24th and Rio, you’ll find Wee’s Cozy Kitchen, a Malaysian restaurant operating out of a small open kitchen in the back (that also sells dishes like burgers, wings, and orange chicken). Grab an order of nasi lemak for a mound of creamy coconut milk rice with a fiery anchovy sambal to share, then work your way through the menu of rich curry laksas, wok-seared char kway teow, and a sweet, spicy beef rendang that falls apart with a touch of the fork.

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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photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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