Top 10 Things That Defined Austin Dining in 2012

Tacos at Elaine's Pork & Pie
Tacos at Elaine's Pork & Pie (Photo by John Anderson)

1) Tacos still and ever will be the reigning champ for favorite late-night snack, hangover breakfast cure, quick lunch, and cheap dinner.

2) Hamburgers The runner-up. Places like Hopdoddy, Wholly Cow, and P. Terry's have taken the lowly hamburger to new heights using premium ingredients and lots of accent toppings.

3) Unexpected hybrids Burgers and bulgogi, tacos and doughnuts, naan and chicken-fried steak: Austin is full of offbeat restaurants that unapologetically straddle two or more culinary traditions.

4) Michael Hsu His architectural stamp is on so many recent restaurant projects, he ought to have a 24-hour hotline.

5) Adaptive reuse design The alternative to Michael Hsu – a few artistic do-it-yourselfers are using found and everyday objects to transform aging inner-city buildings into charming oases. Think East Side Show Room, Justine's, Hillside Farmacy, and Papi Tino's.

6) Trailer start-ups Got a culinary specialty? Open a food trailer; everyone else is.

7) Pigs From sausages to smoked meats, charcuterie to slow-cooked stews, we just can't seem to eat enough swine; restaurants like Noble Pig, Bacon, the Salty Sow, Barley Swine, and others are there for us.

8) The artisanal chef Whether it is locavore, nose-to-tail, or farm-to-table, chefs are taking pride in menus that build meals from the ground up through thoughtful sourcing and careful crafting.

9) Bold flavors We like big flavors, and we get them not just in barbecue and chicken-fried steak, but in esoteric dishes such as short-rib sliders, rosemary smoked duck in citrus, or chicken confit with green curry and fresh peppercorns.

10) Austin restaurants do their part to keep it weird Like big doughnuts topped with pulled pork, potato salad, and sweet barbecue sauce? We got that. How about a dessert of peanut butter, jelly, and liver? Got that, too. If you can dream it up, Austin chefs can make it.

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