SINCE SEPTEMBER WHEN I BECAME FOOD EDITOR, I've had more than a few moments feeling as if I were clomping around in oversized clown shoes. There was the formidable, but always fashionable, footwear I felt compelled to try to fill, and there's also been the looming weight of First Plates. To "define Austin dining now" is a massive undertaking. But after several months of heart palpitations, I am thrilled with the way this roster of local food scene excellence turned out. The 2018 list is big, it's unconventional, and dare we say, it's important. ... MORE
As an alternative weekly newspaper, we do things our own (often irreverent) way because challenging the status quo and celebrating diversity in every sense reveals the best our city has to offer. This year's First Plates is woven together not so much by a theme, but an expression of our gritty roots and our passion for sharing all kinds of meals out in the community: We ain't fancy, but we know great food (and music and art and film). We also know that glamorous date nights are amazing, but going to restaurants most often means dining out on a budget. It's all about flavor and hospitality and nourishing your family. We take pride in guiding readers to new aromas and textures and ambience, while still knowing that hard-earned cash will be well spent (we are, after all, a free newspaper). There's a reason ratatouille went chic, y'all.
First Plates has a special focus on exploring brand-new restaurant options, revisiting bar-setting standbys, and eating outside of the box. For months, we've made countless restaurant visits to create a list that hits every area of town with a wide array of cuisines and price points. And several contributing writers offer featurettes with insight into both the underrated and the trendy of Austin dining – including music venue and bowling alley food, Indian tacos, and the explosion of poke shops. Narrowing the big list to only 100 restaurants was stress-inducing to the max, but in the interest of writing about the really great food people are serving, some just had to be bumped (I'm still a big Hopdoddy fan, too).
This is also why we decided to create an additional list this year. Austin's scene of traveling (and parked) food purveyors has crossed over from cutting-edge cool to game-changing influential. Just look at Franklin Barbecue: From a simple I-35 food trailer to the subject of feature stories in almost every major publication, news outlet, and travel channel show in the country, the precedent was set in less than 10 years. With some luck and resources, it's possible to take what you're (extremely) good at, and transform that into a viable business in this town. We celebrate these dream chasers with a list of 30 trailers, stands, trucks, one railcar, and a window.
This issue takes a Chron army to produce, and I am grateful to work with a group of brilliant and talented weirdos who work tirelessly every week. Special shout-outs to Webmaster Brian Barry, our new (and already kickass) Production Manager Zeke Barbaro (We miss you, Chris Linnen!), graphic designer Jeff Gammill, and Web Editor James Renovitch. Dear Digital Strategist Mike Bartnett, thank you for reining in my crazy and for your unwavering dedication to sending me the internet's very best videos and GIFs. Thank you to our editorial crew and sales, IT, and admin teams for keeping this machine running, and to my fellow officemates of the Lodge, Danielle White and Robert Faires, for your patience in the wake of my incessant chatter. I'm very proud of our contributing writer team – Eric Puga, Adrienne Whitehorse, Alisha McDarris, Melanie Haupt, Veronica Meewes, Jessi Devenyns, Dan Gentile, Danny Palumbo, Beth Sullivan, Acacia Coronado, Emily Beyda, and the incomparable Wayne Alan Brenner. Our proofing team – Kat McNevins, Greg Stitt, and Beth Sullivan – is the best in the business and regularly saves us from gaffes and goofs; our marketing gurus, Sarah Wolf, Karena Rogers, and Tamar Price, make us look cool. Special (awkward) thanks to my pal (and predecessor) Brandon Watson for answering all of my panic texts and G-chats with grace and wisdom. Thanks to Nick Barbaro, our fearless leader, for never leaving us, for spontaneous tacos, and for bringing Hank the Therapy Dog to work every day. Thank you very much, Creative Director Jason Stout, for translating Jessi-speak into functional tactics with your artistic vision. And to my Editor in Chief Kimberley Jones: Your remarkable guidance and support means the world. Thanks for putting me in, Coach. And last but certainly not least, I'm grateful for the late Virginia Wood's friendship and mentorship, and though I miss her, I'm sure she'd be very proud of this issue, too. – Jessi Cape