James Beard Awards for Local Chefs, the Return of Bufalina, Father's Day Dining, and You Won’t Believe the Food Trucks We’ve Recommended

All the news that’s fit to get your taste buds quivering

Here's some of what's happening in Austin's dining & drinking scene, as wrangled from numerous PR releases, words on the digital street, and even the occasional IRL eavesdroppings.

Mmmmmm, no wonder the James Beard Foundation named El Naranjo's Iliana de la Vega the Best Chef in Texas for 2022

Yes, it’s your Food News Buffet for the third week of June in Austin, Texas – which isn’t quite what it used to be, sure, but the grackles don’t care.

Congratulations to our city’s newest culinary laureates, as the James Beard Foundation revealed their annual awards for 2022, naming Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria as Best Emerging Chef, Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo as Best Chef in Texas, and Jesse GriffithsThe Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Pigs as Best Single Category Book. Now the rest of the world gets to learn, at least secondhand, what we’ve known all along …

Also welcome is the news – as scooped by Matthew Odam at the American-Statesman – that popular pizza powerhouse Bufalina will be reopening on the Eastside later this year, taking over the 2215 E. Cesar Chavez venue that was once Frank’s Laundry. “In its original incarnation,” the daily’s journo writes, “the pizzeria changed the way Austinites looked at pizza.” And, sure enough, after our first visit to Bufalina back in the day, any time we looked at another pie in this town, we’d invariably tilt our head far to the left and close one eye and kind of twitch our right leg while scrutinizing the sauce-topped field of dough. Which was a bit embarrassing, tbh. But no one ever noticed the maneuver when we were at Bufalina – because those pizzas are so damned good that their flavors and textures tend to eclipse all else in the sensory realm. Just the right amount of crusty crunch and bready chew, an exquisite vehicle for the locally harvested ingredients lavished on top. And, look: Grae Nonas (of Olamaie fame) has been hired as executive chef? So the new place might be … even better? Now we poke the City of Austin’s permitting process with a sharp stick and we wait …

Meanwhile, heads-up: Otoko’s chef Yoshi Okai (winner of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2017, you’ll recall) will be showcasing his sushi prowess in Aspen at the Food & Wine Classic this weekend. So, while the itamae’s away, on Friday and Saturday (June 17-18), sibling company Watertrade (1603 S. Congress) will offer the first-ever six-course omakase menu ($75 pp) in their Japanese cocktail bar. But the Watertrade izakaya menu and full beverage menu will also be available. And this is Father’s Day weekend coming up, right? Pretty easy to win, in this culinary town …

Z'Tejas x Father's Day = WIN

Right – Father’s Day! We’ve got an array of recos listed for you already, citizen. Also: At Z’Tejas Southwest Grill (1110 W. Sixth and the new Avery Ranch location), on Sunday, June 19, the first drink is free for fathers. Whether your Pops likes a cold beer, a zesty margarita, or a spot of bourbon, the Z-Tejas team will pour the initial whistle-wetter out with no charge. We mean, hell, we’re already jonesing for that Diablo Pasta of theirs, that spinach-and-red-pepper linguine with cream sauce and herbed habañero butter, and now we can get a free shot of whiskey? *makes note*

And because many dads, in our experience, enjoy a thick, perfectly cooked steak and, ergo, Perry’s Steakhouse … let’s also note that Perry’s (114 W. Seventh and in the Domain NORTHSIDE) has debuted a Mini Martini Trio, allowing guests to explore a tasting flight of three handcrafted cocktails in 2.5 oz. pours, and that June’s trio features a Cucumber Blueberry Martini, a Thyme Lemon Drop, and a Lavender Bee Mine

But if we’re going to mention adult beverages at all, our watermelon fetish requires a shout-out to the new Frozen Watermelon Bellinis at 40 North (900 W. 10th). The delicious thing’s just 12 bucks, made with house rosé and fresh watermelon, perfect for sipping while exploring the kitchen’s summer menu that includes their Spicy Pickle collab with la Barbecue

And, speaking of places in which a person might occasionally drink, we note that the nigh-on legendary Crown & Anchor (2911 San Jacinto), home to much collegiate camaraderie and youthful indiscretion over the years, will be celebrating its 35th anniversary on Saturday, June 25th …

Tasty toruses of Pride from The Salty Donut

Also, beyond Father’s Day (which can be celebrated, yes, even while we continue to dismantle the patriarchy), there are always so many superlative and unique dining opportunities in this town – as this fresh round-up of brick-and-mortar venues certainly shows, and this curation of two dozen food trucks amplifies …

WUXTRY! The Salty Donut (2000 S. Congress) will be offering a special Pride Donut from June 20-28, a “Rainbow Funfetti” cake donut, made with vanilla bean glaze, topped with rainbow milk crumb, Swiss buttercream, and edible disco glitter. A portion of sales of this fabulous confection will be donated to Equality Texas

Now eat as well as you can, tip like it’s going out of style, and remember that, while to err is definitely human, it’s always better to err on the side of love.


The Best of Austin: Restaurants ballot is here! Nominations can be made now through Monday, July 18, at midnight. Vote now at vote.austinchronicle.com.

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