In recent years, Austin has managed to boast a never-ending list of hot new restaurants. So we took it upon ourselves to try them all and provide you with a snapshot of the best of the newcomers. Here are the places to book now.
One of the most recent gems to open, Arro is the third concept for chef Andrew Curren and his ELM Restaurant Group which also owns local favorites 24 Diner and Easy Tiger Bakery and Beer Garden. Having already mastered the casual restaurant concept, Curren and his wife, Mary Catherine apply their high-level culinary skills garnered from the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park to offer their own modern take on a French bistro. The menu features French classics with everything from a classic Nicoise salad and a humble croque monsieur sandwich to perfectly roasted chicken with leeks and mushroom jus to steak frites. Save room for dessert, Mary Catherine’s specialty, like a dark chocolate pot de crème or lemon goat cheese tart.
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Austin’s food scene may be booming, but one thing that’s long been hard to find is a great pizza. Until now. Bufalina’s menu is simple: fresh appetizers, salads, cheese and charcuterie plates, and a small seasonal list of about five classic Italian pizzas. The The dough is made using imported Italian flour that’s left to rise overnight before being topped with hand-pulled mozzarella from a local dairy and stashed in a custom-made Naples-imported oven. Italian-American owner and pizzaiolo Steven Dilley studied pizza baking in Naples and is a perfectionist when it comes to delivering authentic pizza. And it shows, considering this hot little neighborhood spot is packed from Wednesday through Saturday evenings (their opening hours).
Epicerie Cafe and Grocery
The reasons are endless to have lunch at this bright and cheerful French-inspired cafe in the Rosedale neighborhood: a friendly environment, extensively stocked cheese case, array of specialty curated grocery items, and hot beignets served all day. The clean white interior, warm wooden beams, butcher block table tops, and excellent selection of wine creates a cozy, sophisticated communal space. And the French-Louisiana-inspired menu is the design of Sarah McIntosh, a Louisiana native who earned her stripes working for Thomas Keller at Ad Hoc and Bouchon. Think roasted chicken with lentils, mussels in white wine broth with crisp and salty French fries, and red beans and rice served with Andouille sausage. But it’s the made-to-order beignets that are the perfect afternoon treat—especially with a strong cup of fresh-brewed Blue Bottle coffee.
Once a legend for fine dining, central Austin favorite Jeffrey’s recently underwent a year-long makeover complete with a full renovation and and a new ownership team that hails from Austin’s Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, Perla’s, and Clark’s. And while some were uncertain that the new facelift could build upon its previous incarnation, Jeffrey’s is better than ever.
The golden beet salad with chopped pears, endive, blue cheese, and walnuts is a must as is foie gras torchon with pickled blackberries. While steamed Washington halibut is a beautifully prepared fish, the true royalty at Jeffrey’s are the variety of steaks in different cuts, styles, and prices. (Anywhere from $50-$100 depending on what you’re looking for.)
Once the special events room at Jeffrey’s, the historic Josephine House is now a prime spot for lunch and afternoon cocktails with breezy patio seating and a charming white-washed dining room. The large marble counter displays antipasti like red grapefruit and orange salad with olives and Meyer lemon vinaigrette and roasted beets and cauliflower with avocado, yogurt, and mint. Hot brandade fritters make for an indulgent lunchtime appetizer. Don’t miss Josh Loving’s cocktails. Think tangy grapefruit Paloma with Tapatio Silver tequila, lime, and a splash of Topo Chico. And don’t leave without house-baked cookies from Pastry Chef Alexandra Mann or a perfect pear upside-down cake with molasses-prune Armagnac ice cream.
Open since early this summer, Mettle is the first full-scale restaurant concept from Bridget Dunlap who has made a name for herself as the Bar Maven of downtown’s Rainey Street District. With four wildly successful bars to her name, Dunlap leapt into the restaurant business. And so far, business is good. Serving a small menu for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunches, Mettle offers a range of elevated bistro food with a variety of influences including everything from salmon crudo with Thai chili, vanilla, and house-made pretzel to crab soup with plump gnocchi and ham. Beef tongue tacos served with a dollop of creme fraiche, pickled vegetables and salsa verde are a crowd favorite as the grilled flat iron steak in a veal reduction with potato-chip gratin.
With Paul Qui’s elevation to celeb-chef status as winner of Bravo’s Top Chef and as a recipient of a James Beard Award, Qui is the most anticipated restaurant opening in Austin…perhaps ever. The sleek digs on Austin’s East 6th Street are sexy-yet-casual with a perfect patio for sipping cocktails. The food is a mélange of many inspirations from Philippine, Korean, Thai, Japanese, and other Asian cuisines using ingredients sourced from local farms. Salmon butter arrives as a silken serving of oil-poached king salmon with a spin on caviar, the Texas-sized dry-aged rib eye is served a la plancha with yozu-koshu, and the "Rabbit 7 Ways" is a menu favorite with rich rabbit consummé, rabbit and pork ballotine, and braised rabbit loin to name a few—and is best shared with a few friends.
Photo credits: Arro: Courtesy of Arro Austin; Bufalina Pizza: Courtesy of Bufalina Pizza; Epicerie Cafe and Grocery: Courtesy of Epicerie Cafe and Grocery; Jeffrey’s: Courtesy of Jeffrey’s of Austin; Josephine House: Courtesy of Josephine of Austin; Mettle: Courtesy of Mettle; Qui: Courtesy of Bonjwing Photography