Food & Drink
2017 Readers Poll
2017 Critics Picks

photo by John Anderson

Best Place to Carb Load

If you're looking to get a little softer around the edges, East Austin’s Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches has solved the mathematical equation for a happier diet plan. Featuring pillowy klobasniky stuffed with meaty detonations from Micklethwait and kolaches sourced with the delicious innards of local fruit, this exceptionally curated, counter service craft beer bar is a spectacular place to be saved from keto weirdos. Better still is their mammoth self-service beer fridge with fair, retail pricing and a waived corkage fee during happy hour. It cannot be overstated how necessary the combination of "bar inside a bakery" is until you actually have one.

Batch Craft Beer + Kolaches
3220 Manor Rd.
512/401-3025
www.batchatx.com

Best New Salsa Sampler

Despite having just opened their doors this year, these upstarts placed twice in The Austin Chronicle's annual Hot Sauce Festival competition. The spicy El Scorpio took first in the Special Variety category and the mild Fresca garnered third in Red. The Eldorado Salsa Sampler lets you sample all five house specialties. Pro tip: Order the michelada made with the Salsa X – many of their regulars' fave salsa.

Eldorado Cafe
3300 W. Anderson
512/420-2222
www.eldoradocafeatx.com

Photo by John Anderson

Courtesy of Treaty Oak Distillery

Most Scenic Setting for Meat Sweats and Whiskey

This Dripping Springs-based locale is a prime place to breathe in Hill Country fresh air while strong notes of apple cider vinegar-basted briskets waft from the smoker. Kick back under the lovely old oak trees and sip Red-Handed Bourbon cocktails before indulging in brisket rillette from the on-site Ghost Hill restaurant. It’s worth the drive, but even more fun with a rideshare driver.

Treaty Oak Distilling
16604 Fitzhugh Rd.
Dripping Springs
www.treatyoakdistilling.com

Best Way to Start Your Cheat Day

After a long week of no carbs, or all carbs, or only bacon, or whatever sadistic regimen you put yourself through to “stay healthy,” S-H is the place to go and start actually enjoying your life. Not only do they have fluffy, perfectly sweetened donuts in every variety, but top-notch kolaches, croissants (we recommend the sausage, egg, and cheese), and tacos. Friendly and adorable are not big enough words to describe the Vuy family and their warm greeting when you drag your neglected body through the door.

S-H Donuts
5313 Manor Rd.
512/926-6094

Photo by Shelley Hiam

Photo by Jana Birchum

Best Bach on Tap

Lately, more classical music is being heard in Austin the way it was meant to be: with beer! Beerthoven, Revel, and LOLA (Local Opera, Local Artists) have all launched Bach-to-bock concert series in taprooms and beer halls, and thanks to the support of 4th Tap Brewing Co-op's John and Erin Stecker and Lazarus Brewing Company's Christian and Marilyn Cryder, we've learned that nothing adds to our appreciation of Liz Cass belting a Puccini aria or Carla McElhaney teasing out a Satie piano solo than a Bat Country Stout from 4th Tap or a 40 Days & 40 Nights IPA from Lazarus. Who knew classical music tasted this good? Prost!

4th Tap Brewing Cooperative
10615 Metric
512/904-9817
www.4thtap.coop

Lazarus Brewing Co.
1902 E. Sixth
512/394-7620
www.lazarusbrewing.com

Best Tex-Mex With an Attitude

Woe betide the naive customer who falls on the wrong side of Lily, El Caribe's proprietor and constant presence. Her often brusque demeanor belies a heart of gold, and the care that goes into the delicious food and award-winning salsa is superb. We once witnessed her turn away a party of 25 because they wanted separate checks. It's her way or the highway, folks, but once you get one of El Caribe's high-octane margaritas coursing through your system, everything else just slides away. To quote one of her caveats: "We don't care to hear your complaints."

El Caribe
5610-A N. Lamar
512/452-6207
www.elcaribemexrest.com

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Best Indian Food Truck Serving Southern Hospitality

Opened just in January, this food truck serves authentic Indian favorites, including goat curry and saag paneer, with kind service and occasional free dessert treats. Though the trailer is somewhat secluded on East Sixth, its owners are truly welcoming to both newbies and experts of Indian cuisine.

Masala Medley
1211 E. Sixth
www.masalamedley.com

Best Tart Art

Not since the Ecto Cooler hysteria of 1989 has a drink lacked this much chill for your digestive organs like sour beer has, yet playfully tussles with your flavor receptors like a basket of otters. It’s a marketing battle won daily by Austin’s best sour artists, Blue Owl Brewing, whose mainstay beers, Little Boss sour wheat, Spirit Animal sour pale, Van Dayum! sour red, and Professor Black sour cherry stout are a very fair way of coping with Austin's high temperatures. Mind your Prilosec!

Blue Owl Brewing
2400 E. Cesar Chavez
512/593-1262
www.blueowlbrewing.com

Image via blueowlbrewing.com

Tastiest Pickles From a Drummer

You'd think one-third of Golden Arm Trio, so busy whacking brilliant patterns of beat into his drum kit when he's not already editing videos for fun and profit – you'd think he wouldn't have time to indulge in fermenting things, too, right? You'd be wrong. Jeremy Bruch's array of pickled cukes and carrots and okra and so on are a hot commodity he can scarcely keep up with the demand for, but damned if he doesn't always have something tasty going on in a mason jar.

iowanchef.com

Coziest Little Ramen Spot

On a mischievous night on Sixth Street, you may pass Daruma, an intimate, unadorned ramen haven sandwiched between Sabine and Red River. Go inside. Offering respite from the exhausting pace of the outside world as well as a blissful assault on the nostrils, this restaurant puts the nearby pizzerias and overpriced Tex-Mex to shame. A short wait (a given on the weekends) is always worth it for their tangy, lightly spicy Miso Ramen, or a cone of their in-house soft-serve (our favorite: sea urchin ice cream). Bonus brownie points: Daruma also offers vegan broths and eggless noodles for those inclined.

Daruma Ramen
612-B E. Sixth
512/369-3897
www.darumaramen.com

photo by John Anderson

Photo by John Anderson

Best ASL Conversation Practice While Eating Crepes

Transcending communication barriers is Crepe Crazy’s bread and butter (aside from their actual bread and butter). The all-deaf staff embodies the inclusive nature of the Deaf community and encourages communication outside of spoken word – no matter your ASL fluency level – evident in the “Point and Ye Shall Receive” sign when you order your food. Their crepes, filled with sweet or savory flavors, speak right to our taste buds.

Crepe Crazy
3103 S. Lamar
512/387-2442
www.crepecrazy.com

Best Heat Slayer

Austin is a brutal aggregation of terrible traffic and scant H-E-B parking spots, topped with a sour cherry of having the country’s worst climate outside of Tucson. It makes any walk from Lot ZZ to the produce section an absolute beating. Lucky for us, Austin’s brewers know our safe space, none more so than St. Elmo Brewing and their fever antidote, Carl Kolsch, which takes the robust flavors of an ale and combines them with the delicate chugability of a lager. Carl makes our black gates of asphalt hell feel like Los Glaciares.

St. Elmo Brewing Co.
440 E. St. Elmo
737/300-1965
www.stelmobrewing.com

Photo by John Anderson

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Cocktail for Maximum Summer Chill in All Seasons

Sure, in less cruel climes, the temperature is dropping, but in Austin, it's still hot AF in the fall. To keep us cool and carefree, we look no further than the sweet, pink, slushy frosé concocted by Hotel San José bar manager Breezy Mayo. Enjoy it poolside or in the ultra-hip lounge: This frozen cocktail's deliciousness knows no bounds.

Hotel San José
1316 S. Congress
512/852-2350
www.sanjosehotel.com

Best Pizza by a Rapper

Just last year, Subkulture Patriots rapper Dostra Nostra, also known as D.O.S., was releasing rap singles. Going forward, Byron Mitchell wants to be known as "Chef D.O.S.," a nod to his nascent pizza enterprise, Da Slice. Each delicious and hearty pie is made from scratch and arrives in one size (a hefty 16") absolutely packed with toppings. And if the rapper/pizza-entrepreneur combo wasn't innovative enough, his "chicken n waffle" pizza has to be seen – and tasted – to be believed.

Da Slice
3505 N. I-35
512/939-4093
www.fb.com/dasliceatx

photo by Shelley Hiam

Best Movie Theatre Popcorn

There are a lot of reasons for movie fans to love the Austin Film Society’s new facility, but we didn’t expect a totally new take on the most standard of old standards to be one of them. Head chef Peter Klein has created “a small batch specialty made with heirloom kernels … dressed in clarified butter, nutritional yeast, and our AFS spice blend.” Truly, not like any other movie popcorn we’ve ever had. Wash it down with a Lone Star draft for only three bucks.

AFS Cinema
6406 N. I-35 #3100
512/686-3823
www.austinfilm.org/cinema

Best Biscuit Bliss

The new standard-bearer for the historic Green Pastures space, Mattie’s dishes out a buttermilk biscuit that satisfies every quadrant: crunchy and flaky on the outside, fluffy and warm on the inside, and dancing the line between salty and sweet. Take a bite and squint. It's easy to imagine the original owner of the property, Martha “Mattie” Miner Faulk, sitting on the big wraparound porch and asking the same as us: More, please, and don’t forget the side of pink honey butter.

Mattie's
811 W. Live Oak
512/444-1888
www.mattiesaustin.com

Photo by John Anderson

photo by John Anderson

Best Hand-Pulled Chinese Noodles

Co-chef/co-owner Ting Lin preserves the ancient art of noodles while putting on a show for restaurant patrons: stretching, pulling, twisting, flinging the dough before it’s shaped into various styles, all given Italian names on the menu. Try the Tom Yam Chicken Noodle Soup (coconut milk chicken broth, red bell peppers, Enoki mushrooms, bean sprouts & cilantro) with vermicelli.

Xian Sushi and Noodle
1801 E. 51st, 512/469-7878
13201 RR 620 N., 512/219-7070
www.xianfresh.com

Best Comebock Brewery

Twenty-five years after Pierre Celis opened Celis Brewery – and 16 years after its subsequent closure – Austin’s first craft beermaker is back, better and witbier-er than ever. Now under the direction of Pierre’s daughter, Christine Celis, the brewery is not only reviving their legendary Belgian-style Celis White and Celis Pale Bock, but also introducing new recipes like Citrus Grandis IPA, their highly drinkable and hazy East Coast-style IPA. Drop by their taproom, pick up a six-pack, or find their brews in a bar around town and pay your respects to our OG craft brewery.

Celis Beer / Brewery
10001 Metric
512/524-2377
www.celisbeers.com

Photo by Sandy Carson

Photo by John Anderson

Best Meatless Bar Style Pizza

While this hometown favorite is most often revered for delectable Detroit-style pies, Via 313's bar style pizza – thinner, chewier, with crispy cheesy edges – is the Best in Show vehicle for a vegetarian topping combo certain to please even meat lovers. The Stooges’ baby spinach, marinated artichokes, shallots, and Parmesan crisps is, quite simply, pizza perfection.

Via 313
1111 E. Sixth, 512/939-1927
61 Rainey, 512/609-9405
6705 Hwy. 290 #503, 512/584-8084
3016 Guadalupe #100, 512/358-6193
via313.com

Best Bourbon Cocktail Named After a Patron

A regular at the bar at the beloved SoCo Italian restaurant Vespaio, renowned guitarist David Pulkingham, off the road from touring, would often order a Boulevardier. But as his tastes changed, the guitarist put on the mixologist's hat and requested modifications, subbing in Cappelletti, Knob Creek, Carpano Antica Formula, and why not a splash of lemon juice for good measure? The drink became so popular that Vespaio labeled the cocktail "The Pulkingham" and featured it on their bar menu – a fitting tribute to a devoted patron whose taste buds are as refined as his ears.

Vespaio
1610 S. Congress
512/441-6100
www.austinvespaio.com

Photo by John Anderson

Photo by John Anderson

Best Restaurant Revamp

Juliet Ristorante takes hypnotic to an entirely new level. We’re not talking about pendulums swinging back and forth or the sudden snap-back-to-reality after hearing the word "kumquat" – but rather hypnotic walls covered in vintage artwork complemented by dazzling light fixtures. This summer the restaurant underwent major changes to transform into a family-friendly spot with a boss happy hour. The new vibe infuses every crevice of the eatery, including the bathroom, so you can enjoy the view while in the loo.

Juliet Italian Kitchen
1500 Barton Springs Rd.
512/479-1800
www.juliet-austin.com

Most Ubiquitous, Umamiest Instagram Shot

Nowadays, with ATX restaurants making national best-of lists on the regular, we’re not behind the curve, we are the curve. And that’s great. But every once in a while we put aside all pretense of cool and go collectively apeshit about some California import (lookin’ at you, In-N-Out), and that was the case when sushi chain Kula set up shop in a strip mall off Airport Boulevard to dish out nigiri and ramen and mochi off a conveyor belt. And it was fun: minimalist fare gamefied for maximum face-stuffing, and Instagram’s arteries clogged with sushi selfies.

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar
6929 Airport #125
737/209-8799
www.kulausa.com

photo by Alison Grabe

 
Critics: Arts & Entertainment
Critics: Kids & Family