2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks
Best "Head" on a Plate

The "Oh" name is a tribute to owner Abbi Lunde's grandmother, but we like to think of it as OMG. Oh Kimchi adds a kick to everything from eggs to pancakes. Pour some of the juices in a Bloody Mary, and you'll be saying, "Ohhhh yeah."

Oh Kimchi

Best Artisanal Rendition of an Old Favorite

Austin is a burger town. As much as we're known for breakfast tacos and barbecue, we still drool for a well-executed hamburger at a reasonable price. Let the drooling commence. This convenient Riverside sports bar offers a daily lunch special resembling the classic Whataburger as reimagined by a gourmet chef. Nestled in the ground floor of the AMLI South Shore development east of I-35, and part of the Texican and 1626 Cafe family, Draft Pick's burger's bakery-style bun and high-quality, fresh ingredients is "what a burger should be." Order without cheese for the full effect.

Devaki Knowles

Best Caffeinated Cut-Ups

Here are four very good reasons to get your coffee from Bennu in the morning:
1) Amie Moffett
2) Knuckles
3) Philip Reeder
4) You can actually find a seat.
Actually, we can't guarantee no. 4, but we endorse wholeheartedly the morning bliss of simply being in the presence of no.s 1-3. The morning crew at Bennu are by turns tender and tough, matching the energy you bring to the counter. If you're a regular (and we are) they may dedicate a song to you, encourage you to try a new concoction, and ask about how that novel/script/dissertation is going. In short, they know what it is you need: Coffee. But, really, you need more than coffee. And they know that, too.

Bennu Coffee
2001 E. MLK, 512/478-4700
515 S. Congress, 512/448-3919

Best Caffeine & Booze Fix

Coffee or beer? One's an upper, one's a downer. At Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, we can have both. Nestled between old Austin and new, the Brew & Brew offers 39 rotating taps, with a focus on local brews. The industrial decor is warm and inviting vs. frosty and austere. And the wrap-around patio is perfect for people watching. But if you can't stay, bottles, cans, and growlers can be taken to go. Now you're ready for take off, Wilbur.

Wright Bros. Brew & Brew
500 San Marcos St. #105

John Anderson

Best Chop

A live competition – much like that foodie reality show Chopped – that features Austin chefs battling mano-a-spatula for supremacy in a contest judged by their most talented peers? What's not to love, especially when the audience is treated to a relentless array of wine and beer and samples from the menus of the finest restaurants in town, while the culinary gladiators slice and dice and grill and bake their way to the sort of victory claimed, this year, by Uchiko's Ben Schwartz.

4200 N. Lamar

Best Cup of Ambition

When you work 9 to 5, it's easy to get caught up in the daily grind. That's why we sometimes trade our morning iced coffee for something that really gets our blood pumpin'. The Juice Well's vegan Dolly Parton smoothie is a hydrating blast of coconut water, pineapple, agave, and, of course, watermelon. It's just enough to drive you crazy if you let it.

The Juice Well
1309 Rosewood

John Anderson

Best Event to Reveal Your Inner Cake Artist

You know Austin's cake decorating subculture is alive and thriving when the showcase event outgrows venues every couple of years with local and regional cake artists eager to strut their stuff to the attention of enthusiastic crowds. This 11-year-old event is a labor of love hosted by the Capital Confectioners Cake Club and Make It Sweet, the local retailer for all your sugar-art needs. In addition to a meticulously judged competition, the weekend always offers informative classes and demonstrations and attracts vendors dealing in every manner of decorating supply imaginable. Attracting top-notch judges and instructors and drawing from a rich supply of local talent, That Takes the Cake is becoming one of the most prestigious sugar-art shows in the country.

Capital Confectioners

Best Heed This Delicious Call

PIIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAA! Thus goes the siren call of Sherlon Jackson, known simply and sweetly to San Marcos H-E-B shoppers as "The Pizza Lady." Most sample queens demurely wait for snackers to tentatively reach for little cups of sloppy joe (ew?) or a small wheat thin to be dipped in the latest, unfortunately named jalapeño jam. But Ms. Jackson (she is for reaaaal) is not most sample queens. Initially hired to demo pizza part-time, her, ah, boisterous battle cry ensures everyone in the dang store knows there's pizza samples to be had. And that's sans amplification, translating to more pizzas sold (since 2009, the store holds the H-E-B record for pizza sales), and a full-time gig for Jackson.

HEB #243
641 E. Hopkins
San Marcos

Samantha Armbruster

Best Interior Mexican Brunch Bargain

We've been fans of chef Marisela Godinez' cooking since Chronicle contributor Claudia Alarcón turned us on to the original El Mesón on Burleson Road way back in 2002. These days, we hit the S. Lamar location whenever possible, but our favorite meal there has to be the bountiful Sunday brunch buffet. Tables are laden with a culinary tour of perfectly executed dishes from Mexico's Interior: chilaquiles, carne guisado, and other breakfast items, handmade tortillas and tamales, appetizers, creative salads such as quinoa with sweet potato, sophisticated entrées such as duck crêpes in fiery pipian verde, decadent desserts, and refreshing aguas frescas – all-you-can-eat for a remarkably reasonable $18.

El Meson
El Mesón, 2038 S. Lamar, 512/442-4441

Best Italian Noodles

Pasta lovers, rejoice! Situated behind Butterfly Bar at the Vortex Theatre, Patrizi's trailer space opened last year, and Manor Road has been all aflutter with noodly goodness. But don't mistake them for newbs on the hipster block. Their roots run deep: Owners Matt and Nic Patrizi take their recipes from the restaurant their grandparents opened in Forties Beaumont, Texas. With homemade pasta, mouthwatering sauces made from scratch, and meatballs the size of your head (all made from family recipes, of course), Patrizi's gives Austin the pasta it deserves.

2307 Manor Rd.

John Anderson

Best New Cold Brew (And We Ain't Talkin' About Booze)

While there are plenty of cold brews in Austin to suit our fancy, Coffer may very well be the world's first carbonated coffee beverage (they're certainly boasting as such on their website). Refreshing and crisp, the bevvie lends new meaning to the idiom "grab me a cold one." Still a small-batch operation, but savvy sabor-istas can find Coffer at Houndstooth Coffee, East 1st Grocery, or Sunrise Mini Mart. The snazzy bottle design is just the icing on the (coffee)cake.

Coffer Cold Brew Coffee

Best Pancakes on the Move

Since Kenny Carpenter found the spot for his breakfast joint and opened in 1978, he's been slinging the best fresh food around. Before farm-to-table became the rage, the Omelettry always offered fresh fruit and vegetables alongside their famous breakfast fare. Gingerbread pancakes bigger than a dinner plate, thick and gloppy queso, crispy bacon, and bottomless coffee cups are just a few of our memories. Trusty legend has it that Doug Sahm feigned annoyance every morning when he arrived to find his oatmeal not hot and ready. The move from the homey spot we've come to love to a newer, larger location on Airport Blvd. may take some getting used to, but home is where the heart is. And with more space – and shorter waits on weekends – we think this is a moveable feast.

The Omelettry
4631 Airport

Photo by Todd Wolfson

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Pollo Asado

That smoky smell wafting down South First Street leads to a swift pollo asado drive-up. In mere minutes, a bag of the grilled, hot, steaming goodness passes through the window, complete with all the fixin's: rice, beans, tortillas, salsa y limón. Three locations churn out authentic Monterrey cuisine, presenting their specialty: the whole or half pollo asado, and a slew of other goodies for a reasonable price. But South First has the drive-through.

El Pollo Rico
730 W. Stassney, 512/445-7474
9435 N. I-35, 512/339-7300
9717 N. Lamar, B-7, 512/997-7300
1717 S. Pleasant Valley, 512/326-1886
1945 E. Oltorf, 512/444-7426
8702 Research, 512/551-9845

Best Reason to Go Raw

Get rhythm with this superbrand of dehydrated leafy goodness. Its raw power comes from being free of GMOs, gluten, and cholesterol – stripped down to its natural state. Rhythm Superfoods' kale chips can satiate the appetites of even the most hardcore carnivores, while at the same time staying true to the vegetarian, vegan, and raw foodie codes of ethics. The brand, founded in 2009 by Austin entrepreneurs of Stubb's, Daily Juice, and Sweet Leaf fame, strives to give the power back to the people by making healthy foods accessible to everyone.

Rhythm Superfoods
3601 S. Congress, #104

John Anderson

Best Restaurant Triple Threat

This triumvirate runs the show at the Provençal-inspired French bistro and wine bar that brought fine dining to East Austin earlier this year. Advanced sommelier Vilma Mazaite oversees the excellent front-of-the-house service and makes well-educated pairings from LaV's 1,200-bottle wine cellar with the stellar French bistro classics emerging from chef Allison Jenkins' kitchen and the exemplary breads and confections of pastry chef Janina O'Leary. No disrespect to the Lady Longhorns, but these gals are simply the hottest women's team in town.

Best Traditional Texas Artisanal

If you think small-batch locavorism is new to Austin, you don't know enough about Lammes Candies. Originally called the Red Front Candy Factory and briefly lost in a poker game, the (still) family-owned business crafts high-quality sweets, with a focus on special orders, seasonal favorites, and local ingredients. Its Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines originally contained pecans exclusively from the banks of the Colorado, but they still only use Texas pecans for the bestseller. Lammes has been a Texas classic for generations due largely to its friendly storefronts (our fave is on Airport) and goods made carefully and well, with little fuss or preciousness – except for the lambie-pie sign. That's frickin' adorable.

Lammes Candies
5330 Airport, 512/453-2899
110 N. I-35, Round Rock, 512/388-1885
2927 W. Anderson Ste. A, 512/645-2960

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Way to Drink Living Organisms

It’s aliiiiive! Naturally effervescent, this ancient concoction of fermented sweet tea is packed with the power to boost energy and digestive health, thanks to about 19 billion live probiotics in each 16-ounce bottle. Also available on tap and in kegs, the “born n’ brewed” South Austin ‘booch comes in a rainbow of flavors such as blueberry, tangerine & sea salt, and hop’d. Their two summer seasonals – basil honey ginger and mango lime – will make believers of even the toughest critics.

Buddha's Brew Kombucha

Best Way to Take Back the Tea Party

Remember when the words "tea party" conjured something pleasant – or at least less terrifying than a bunch of Rand-os with open carry permits? Homegrown Zhi Tea is here to steer us back to civility. Its (organic, Fair Trade) teas are made in Austin, and the sophisticated blends are sold and served all over town, from Wheatsville to the W; they also do a brisk online business. Best of all is Zhi Tea Gallery, its peaceful cafe and outdoor space for working, hanging out, replenishing your soul – and perhaps having a tea party you can believe in.

Zhi Tea
1023 Springdale Rd. Ste. 7-A

John Anderson

Best Yogurt Magicians

For over three decades, these mountaineers have served as Austin's own yogis of yogurt. A second-generation family business, White Mountain Foods provides astonishingly pure and well-crafted local yogurt, tofu, seitan, and tamales. Before the Eastside got hip, this visionary biz redeveloped an abandoned meat packing plant on East Fifth into a haven for vegetarian food production. The rest is delicious history.

White Mountain
3301 E. Fifth

Most Nommable Vegetarian To-Go

The old Jalapeño Joe's has been taken over by bright flowers and glittered signs as has the menu with kale and butternut squash enchiladas with pumpkin seeds, Yoda tacos with fried avocado and sriracha sauce, and roasted beets with orange and arugula. For carnivores, try the Kobe beef burger and great migas, or crispy duck tacos. And who doesn't love RC Cola on tap? Speaking of taps: The party gets started with free tap beer on Friday evenings.

Tyson's Tacos
4905 Airport

Critics: Entertainment
Critics: Kids

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle