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Best of Austin 2023R Cover

Best of Austin: Restaurants is a fantastic way to spot trends. Sure, the hottest new joints always make a big splash, and there are certain restaurants that are always going to top folks' lists when it comes to service and margaritas. But the really interesting stuff is in the downballot categories, your sushis and tacos and sandwiches and whatnot. It's a great snapshot in time in terms of what our readers value when choosing where to dine out.

The 29th annual World Vegan Day was just a couple of days ago, on November 1. Meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary founding of the Vegan Society in the UK, World Vegan Day is a day to celebrate the benefits of a plant-based diet, including the benefit to the environment.

This summer was one of the hottest in recorded history. We are moving swiftly from climate emergency to climate disaster, and we're looking for ways to pump the brakes. Study after study reveals that industrial meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, accounting for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Americans are the biggest consumers of meat on the planet, taking in more than half a pound of meat per person, per day.

Now, I'm not trying to proselytize the Good News of plant-based dining. I like a bacon, egg, and cheese taco and plate of smoked meats almost as much as the next guy. I'm saying all this to underscore how remarkable it is to see how plant-based dining has become mainstream here in Austin. Just look at Community Vegan, Nori, and Rebel Cheese on the lists of finalists in their respective general cuisine and dish categories. And then there's our Best Established Restaurant this year: a local South First stalwart that doesn't serve a lick of meat.

Are we, as a community, embracing a more climate-friendly dining-out ethos? Are we on the cusp of a plant-based dining boom? Could this extend to more climate-friendly takeout packaging and a decline in car-based food delivery services? I'm certainly watching this space to see what unfolds.

Naturally, there are lots of folks to thank after pulling off the second annual Best of Austin: Restaurants. This special issue truly is a team effort, with essential contributions from every corner of the Chronicle's operations: editorial, web, marketing, social media, production, the folks who supply the snacks in the kitchen to help fuel all these brains. This year's contributing writer team – Kat McNevins, Eric Puga, Evan Rodriguez, Taylor Holland, Jessi Cape, A. Richmond, Haris Qureshi, Deven Wilson, and Taylor Tobin – bring a wealth of knowledge and strong opinions to the table. As ever, I'm grateful for the leadership and guidance of Editor-in-Chief Kimberley Jones and Managing Editor James Renovitch. Zeke Barbaro and Lauren Johnson do a truly awe-inspiring amount of project management in terms of how gorgeous this issue looks. Can't forget the eagle eyes of Nick Barbaro!

Thank you for reading and thank you for voting. Here's to a cooler year and even more good eats.

– Food Editor Melanie Haupt

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