It's only been a few months since our local food community lost one of its greatest champions, Virginia Wood, namesake of this elite group. So in her honor, we went bold with this year's list, adding eight more trailblazers to the existing 11. The intention here is to make abundantly clear in the annals of history, that this growing list is full of the crème de la crème of Austin restaurants. Some have been stalwart favorites for decades, some have seen stratospheric success in a remarkably short time, redefining preferences and even earning mononymic recognition. These restaurants have proven themselves influential beyond the scope of everyday dining, and they're unwavering in their dedication to quality, flavor, creativity, and service. With a food scene as robust and dynamic as Austin's, sheer numbers indicate we must make room for newcomers while honoring institutional standbys, regardless of their official time in the biz. It's as much an ode to the food as it is to the Herculean efforts behind the scenes: As Virginia wrote in 2013 about the now shuttered beloved barbecue joint Ruby's, "Good food, warm hospitality, and a well-tended fire are the things that become [these] legend[s] most." – Jessi Cape
In 2001, Chronicle readers voted this Hyde Park mainstay the Best New Restaurant in our annual Restaurant Poll. Customers haven’t stopped raving since. It’s rare for a restaurant to have longevity over a more than 15-year span; it’s rarer still when a restaurant still feels relevant. Inducted in 2016.
408-C E. 43rd
Pull up a chair and savor the moment with strangers. At Blue Dahlia, tables are arranged so that diners brush elbows while they enjoy a midmorning tartine or fill up on French classics like ratatouille. The idea is to create community around a baguette. After all, that’s what breaking bread is all about. Inducted in 2018.
1115 E. 11th
This may be one of Austin’s oldest and most reputable vegan and vegetarian restaurants, but even omnivores can’t get enough of the Renedict and sweet potato and pecan tamales at this longtime favorite. Between the ever-changing exhibits by local artists and the blueberry cornbread, brunch will be worth the wait! Inducted in 2018.
1900 S. First
Comfort, warmth, and a dash of romance makes this little bistro live up to its name. Started by three Parisian friends in 1982, it’s a classic take on traditional French fare, and an excellent spot for relishing in conversation over escargots de Bourgogne and bubbles while hidden away from the Downtown melee. Inducted in 2017.
In 2013, after a couple of years of health problems, owner Ronald Cheng had an opportunity to reopen in the building where Chinatown started in 1983. He kept some of the former menu items, added some delicious new ones, and gave the whole place a new look – simultaneously reinvigorating his brand and cementing his Austin culinary legacy. Austin is full of restaurateurs. Cheng is a giant. Inducted in 2016.
2712 Bee Caves Rd.
Vegetarians and spice lovers rejoice when they walk into the sumptuous, aromatic interior of the Clay Pit. Although sticklers for authenticity may disagree, this restaurant has elevated Indian cuisine for Austin. If you’re around for lunch, make sure to check out their buffet, where you can indulge for a very economical price. Inducted in 2018.
From the moment you spot the rows of roasting ducks hanging in the foyer, you know Din Ho is here to party. This northern mall Chinese favorite would earn their place in the hall of fame for their whole roasted pig alone, but, honestly, you can’t go wrong with the pea shoots either. Inducted in 2018.
8557 Research #116
There once was a little house on Manor Road that served the best artichoke manicotti in all the land, but carrot pasta and sun-dried tomato cream sauce were only the beginning of the story. It’s a tale with plenty of romance (those sparkling limosas) and some very deep drama (the chocolate almond torte), perfect for all our happily-ever-afters. Inducted in 2017.
2113 Manor Rd.
This European gastronomic exploration exudes taste inside and out. The love story that started it all continues through the care and craftsmanship incorporated into everything from the homemade bread to the house-cured Metzger board. Perhaps the very best part, however, is that the price point of this luxe-sounding menu makes it accessible to most. Inducted in 2018.
Serving regional Mexican cuisine since 1975, Fonda San Miguel is as much of an Austin icon as it is a great happy hour spot. The walls of the expansive hacienda-style space showcase a fine gallery of Mexican art, and the dishes served are equally remarkable. Do not visit without ordering a ceviche and house margarita. Inducted in 2016.
2330 W. North Loop
We’ve been loving those brisket burnt ends since Aaron Franklin’s trailer was located not far from the Chron offices near I-35, way back in 2009. The smoke signals at the now Eastside restaurant are nationally recognized – an Obama fist bump, a James Beard award, and even bad boy Bourdain’s unabashed obsession. Even the notorious hours-long lines can’t deter the steady cult following. But when it comes down to it, Franklin Barbecue has earned its crown because the food comes first, and it’s always delicious. Inducted in 2018.
900 E. 11th
Despite the many new pizza places that have popped up around town since it first made a splash, Home Slice still packs the house with both out-of-towners and locals. The reason? Hot, fresh, New York-style pies that haven’t lost their luster in more than a decade. Inducted in 2017.
1415 S. Congress
Jeffrey’s is a rare classic establishment where heart-stopping prices actually equate to fine dining. The centerpiece of the menu revolves around perfectly seasoned and seared steaks, but even those who aren’t carnivores can make a meal of the sides and salads that are just as legendary as the delectable meat. Inducted in 2018.
1204 W. Lynn
Since 1961, the Avila family has been providing Austinites with some of the best greasy spoon Tex-Mex in the 512, with homey takes on classics like huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, and, of course, their infamous hangover-busting menudo. Make sure to stop by the bakery out front for a concha after breakfast. Inducted in 2018.
2305 E. Seventh
Did you know that this Austin institution supplies many of your favorite restaurants with fresh Gulf seafood? Even better, their own menu will satisfy just about any seafood craving you’ve got: peel-n-eat shrimp, grilled Texas black drum, and buttery lobster. Plus, they’ve got that family reunion-style mac & cheese you not-so-secretly love. Inducted in 2017.
Calling Eddie Wilson’s down-home restaurant an institution is an understatement. Generations of Austinites have downed a beer (or two) at Threadgill’s while feasting on chicken-fried steaks that are as legendary as the musicians who performed there. The massive selection of sides still makes us hoot and holler. Inducted in 2016.
6416 N. Lamar
South Lamar’s Uchi has been setting the gold standard for Austin cuisine for years, and shows no signs of slowing down. James Beard Award winner chef Tyson Cole continues to serve intricate and exquisite renderings of Japanese cuisine that will be the most worthwhile, treat-yourself splurge you make all month … maybe even all year. Inducted in 2017.
801 S. Lamar
A SoCo staple from before it was called SoCo, the elegant eatery takes its name from the buzzing dining room. It’s classic Italian, with walls of wine, in-house butchery, a long list of house-made delights, and thoughtfully sourced ingredients. We love the calamari fritti arrabbiata, Scampi con Salsa all’Aglio, and the Sicilian cheesecake, so very much. Inducted in 2016.
1610 S. Congress
In an Austin that often mistakes fine surfaces for fine dining, chefs Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul’s strip mall eatery is the real deal. Maybe there’s no miles of carrara marble and the fixtures may not require weekly wipe downs with Brasso, but wink has it where it counts – beautiful food made with the best ingredients, immaculate service, and a wine program that’s worth raising a glass to. Inducted in 2017.
1014 N. Lamar
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