Food & Drink
2021 Readers Poll
2021 Critics Picks


Tastiest New Offspring From a Sugar Mama

Are donuts the new cupcakes? Sugar Mama's Bakeshop owner Olivia Guerra O’Neal, at least, is setting her cap at these holey wonders with a walk-up window on Manor. Her cute (natch) hand-crafted brioche and cake donuts come in inventive flavors like Dr. Pepper, strawberry horchata, and peanut butter cookie dough cereal milk, but be warned: Lola’s Donuts is only open Friday through Sunday, and you better believe these heavenly babies sell out fast. Make preordering your friend.

Lola's Donuts
2406-B Manor Rd.

Best Way to "Give a Chute"

In a year full of hardship, nothing soothes the soul quite like smashed double-meat double-cheese burgers. Throw in ridiculous internet antics and a burger chute fashioned from a rain gutter and electrical tape, and you’re all but guaranteed an insane following in Austin. Matthew Bolick, co-owner of Better Half, created this recipe for success after transitioning wild backyard burger parties with his wife and friends into a full-fledged pandemic business. If you want to get your panda paws on one of these greasy delights, you’ll have to tap into those late Nineties/early Aughts concert ticket acquisition skills – the pre-ordered “bad Larrys” sell out online in minutes, or less.

Courtesy of Bad Larry's


Best Filipino Vietnamese Fusion

You can taste all the love that goes into the menu at married couple Kevin Truong and Rosie Mina-Truong’s new Eastside food truck. Take, for example, the sinigang wings: a mash-up of tamarind from the signature soup stew of the Philippines, fresh scallions, and super crispy fried chicken with a garlic ranch dip. Or maybe it’s the sisig fried rice, ube Vietnamese iced coffee, or wild mushroom tofu adobo for you. Just like the owners' love story, the food’s special combinations are just meant to be.

Fil N’ Viet
1720 E. 12th

Best Food Truck Milkshake

A wondrous refuge for anyone with the dangerous combo of a sweet tooth and a penchant for indulgence, Cold Cookie Company whips up a variety of delectable ice cream staples. You’ll find your reliable scoops and waffle cones, as well as cookie sandwiches and floats. But the pièce de résistance lies in their shake, which you can get blended normally or deconstructed in what’s known as an “UnShake.” Best yet: Every single item comes with a fresh-baked cookie. Stop by and give your heart what it wants.

Cold Cookie Company
2512 Rio Grande

photo by John Anderson

photo by Zeke Barbaro

Best Can't-Believe-It's-Vegan Comfort Food

Praise to San Antonio for the blessing of import Project Pollo, a 100% vegan enterprise that recently set up shop here. Vegans will appreciate the legit mac & cheese and freedom to choose from the entire menu, instead of just finding the items marked with green leaves and asking follow-up questions. The star is the "chicken," with its spicy, crunchy batter, which in nugget form is addictive when paired with any one of their mysteriously rich vegan sauces. The fried pickles stand out as well due to that killer batter and sauce. The only follow-up question here is, "How can this be vegan?!"

Project Pollo
1401 Rosewood Ave.

Best Pandemic Pizza

Austinites ate a lot of pizza during the pandemic, but few started their own fake pizzeria. Jeff Klein, of the band My Jerusalem, offered free doughy vaccination doses to eligible pals (“Friend Group 1A and Friend Group 1B”), served in hilariously designed boxes featuring a spiky coronavirus blob with pepperonis on it and several amusing slogans, including “Cheesus Crust! Pizza by a Jew?” The unpublicized, un-capitalistic, extensive home-cooking effort demonstrated admirable follow-through on a joke, but also brought much “kneaded” levity and a seriously delicious distraction to maddening times.

courtesy of Jeff Klein

photo by John Anderson

Best New Brewery

It is odd acknowledging Hold Out as a new brewery, given the gigantic profile they debuted with just last May and an overwhelming work rate that has them improving an already spectacular beer lineup as if veteran beer makers. But it's the absolute truth. This time last year, Austin didn’t know anything of Last Light porter or Suavemente pale ale or personal lottery numbers, Ol' Gil Euro Pilsner. We are delighted to see how deeply Hold Out will mature, particularly when unhindered by the constraints of launching during a lockdown pandemic.

Hold Out Brewing
1208 W. Fourth

Best Chinese Hamburger

Tucked away in a small lot off West 24th Street, Chef Hong, brother of Julie of Julie's Noodles, is serving authentic hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings out of his unassuming orange trailer. For $4, you can't beat his Chinese hamburger (roujiamo) as a grab-and-go comfort food. Get it with a side of liangpi or cold skin noodles for a perfect outdoor lunch. Text Chef with your order and he'll whip it up in 15 minutes.

Chef Hong Food Trailer
907 W. 24th St.

photo by David Brendan Hall

courtesy of OMG Squee

Best Jiggly Japanese Cheesecakes

Home to a variety of eclectic Asian-inspired beverages, treats, and street food, OMG Squee relishes cuteness. Its menu boasts character-designed macarons, taiyaki, a Japanese fish-shaped cake stuffed with fillings savory or sweet, and lately, kawaii mochi donuts. The pop-up-shop-turned-brick-and-mortar’s most iconic mainstays, however, are the Japanese cheesecakes, available in both traditional and ube flavors. Unlike any other you’d find in Austin, these subtly sweet cakes are the closest we’ll get to eating clouds. Take a chance on the elevated, airy texture of Squee’s jiggly Japanese delights; the Cheesecake Factory doesn’t even begin to compare.

OMG Squee
4607 Bolm Rd.

Best Brisket Nachos

Qdoba over-salts, and Chipotle isn't selling: As far as quick Tex-Mex goes, get your beef from Cabo Bob's, the local chain that promises chill surfer vibes from its Subway-style ordering system. Huge portions for 10 bucks? We're there. Throw in some homemade tortillas and sugar cane sodas while you're at it. And with four locations throughout the city, you're never far from a hearty meal. Now we see how the punch cards come in handy.

Cabo Bob's
2828 Rio Grande, 512/432-1112
7849 Shoal Creek Blvd., 512/432-1113
500 E. Ben White Suite D- 100, 512/432-1111
13429 N. US 183, Suite 100, 512/432-1114

courtesy of Roya

Best Fine Dining Pandemic Persian Pop-Up

Amir Hajimalecki is undeniably one of the best chefs around, and dishes at every single one of the restaurants he owns with his business partner/brother Ali deserve awards. But here we’re spotlighting Roya, their upcoming Iranian restaurant slated for 2022. The highly anticipated Nowruz celebration pop-up in early March boasted family-style meals with comforting but elevated Persian fare delicious enough to convince anyone of this underrepresented-in-Austin cuisine. We’re talking wonderful kuku sabzi with barberry and pomegranate caviar and garlic labneh; perfectly cooked and saffron-fragrant sabzi polo; ash reshteh (Persian noodle soup) with fall-apart braised lamb neck and masterful caramelized onions; and from pastry chef Dennis Van, a delightful nāranj panna cotta. Jealous you missed the pop-up? While you’re waiting for Roya (and their upcoming seafood spot, Keepers) to open, indulge at their other spots all over town: Oasthouse, District Kitchen, and the pandemic-born New England pizzeria and grinder shop, Shortie’s.

Best Bánh Mì to Comfort on a Bad Day

There is nothing more consoling than the perfect sandwich, and at Le Bleu their O.G. bánh mì has the ability to turn around a downer day. From the crunch of the toasted French bread to the fatty, luxurious paté that perfectly complements the pickled veggies, cold cuts, and pork belly, there is no other comfort like it. Le Bleu offers more deluxe spins on the Vietnamese sandwich (the one with garlic butter prawns is so decadent), but you can't go wrong with a classic paired with a Cà Phê Sūa Đá – what non-native speakers know (and love) as Vietnamese iced coffee.

Le Bleu
9070 Research #303

photo by John Anderson

Best Homemade Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's coined a junk food staple, but this West Campus coffee shop elevates the hand pie with fresh ingredients and a personal touch. Bring your laptop and your pup (the joint's "Puppies & Coffee" mantra insists) to the flagship's Space 24 Twenty patio, order a banana Nutella, spinach feta, or our favorite, blueberry lemon hand pie with your coffee (a lavender blueberry latte if you're feeling fancy), and marvel at what you can achieve on a warm afternoon.

Lucky Lab Coffee Co.
2421 San Antonio St.

Best Peppery Popover for Pickup

The gruyere & black pepper popover at Foreign & Domestic will put an abrupt end to whatever conversation you might be having over dinner. It will become the sole object of your attention, as if the world were reduced to a pastry that’s lighter than a croissant, more golden than a brioche, and perfuming a savory steam that will make your eyes roll to the back of your head. You may think you've merely dreamed of this carbohydrate creation, but for another $8, you can confirm that, yes, this popover is real, and even better, you can get it to-go.

Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd

photo by David Brendan Hall

Critics: Arts & Entertainment
Critics: Kids & Family

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