During the handful of years (2013-2021) that The Austin Chronicle Food team curated the First Plates awards, we took pride in our collective deep and broad knowledge of just about every corner of this growing city's dining scene. We were excited to send you, our dining-out readers, into our neighborhoods in search of new discoveries, hoping you would embrace our favorites and make them yours, too.
This year – the first year we've broken the Food & Drink category out of our annual Best of Austin awards for its own special issue – we asked y'all to tell us what your favorite restaurants are. What little nooks and crannies would y'all direct the rest of us to? I was surprised when I saw the long list of familiar names among both the finalists and the winners. Don't get me wrong: I'm not mad about it. These are all great restaurants, and all of them are worthy of your attention and your dining dollars.
There's a reason we all have our favorites, and there are heaps of excellent reasons why these restaurants are perennial favorites (and that the new ones will be future perennial favorites). We've also got to keep challenging ourselves to broaden our horizons. I know that as private diners with particular, often divergent tastes, our family tends to fall back on a short list of favorites. Sometimes that's just to avoid fights over where we're going to eat. Sometimes it's because the adults are too tired or lazy to cook and it's easier to dial up our standby local pizza joint, order a pie, and call it Wednesday night dinner.
But there's something really thrilling about seeking out a new (or new to you) place, whether it's that new food truck you've been curious about that your friend posted on Instagram, or that place that is still hard to get reservations for even though it's been around a few years. Use this list of Best of Austin: Restaurants as a guidepost and a jumping off point, especially if there are places on this list that you haven't visited yet. But don't let it limit you, because you'll miss out on lots of hidden gems and lovely surprises if you do.
This was my first Best of Austin: Restaurants issue in my role as Food editor. This special issue truly is a team effort, with essential contributions from every corner of the Chronicle's operations: editorial, web, digital strategy, marketing, production, and probably others I'm not even aware of. This year's contributing writer team – Eric Puga, Evan Rodriguez, Yasmin Turk, Jessi Cape, A. Richmond, Haris Qureshi, and my right-hand human, Food Lieutenant Wayne Alan Brenner – bring a wealth of knowledge and strong opinions to the table. I'm grateful for the leadership and guidance of Editor-in-Chief Kimberley Jones and Publisher Nick Barbaro, Managing Editor James Renovitch's sly humor, and for Art Director Zeke Barbaro's zen amidst chaos. I can say with confidence and pride that I work with, truly, the best people in the world, and this package is evidence of that claim.
Thank you for reading and thank you for voting. I look forward to seeing where you've been this time next year.– Food Editor Melanie Haupt
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