The Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll

2011 Readers Poll  |   2011 Critics Picks  |   2011 Index of Winners

La Condesa

The Chronicle Restaurant Poll is an annual rite of spring for Austin restaurants and their loyal fans. These days, social media sites make it much easier for restaurants to communicate with customers as a group and encourage them to vote. We see an increase in online voting each year, although those trusty, handwritten paper ballots still yield plenty of fascinating information. Our Special Issues Editor, Kate X Messer, and her able assistants Sara Reihani, Katie Tomasino, and Robert Cohen have tabulated the poll results, ferreted out the ballot-stuffers, crunched the numbers, and informed us of the winners. Chronicle restaurant reviewers Mick Vann, MM Pack, Claudia Alarcón, Wes Marshall, Rachel Feit, and Kate Thornberry joined me in sharing the high points of the past year's dining experiences in our Critics Picks categories. Instead of a trend watch this year, we've opted to showcase cookbooks from eight local establishments. Three are restaurants that regularly appear in the Top 35 list (Uchi, Fonda San Miguel, Eastside Cafe); the other four have won multiple awards in various categories (Maria's Taco Xpress, Hudson's on the Bend, Sweetish Hill, Threadgill's); and the eighth is our nationally famous local spa, Lake Austin Spa Resort. Each book offers delicious insights into the history of our city's culinary culture as well as recipes to use and savor.

In contrast to the histories presented in the cookbooks, the poll results this year actively scream "new blood." It's obvious that the past year has been an exciting one on the local culinary scene. After a second-place finish last year, La Condesa ascends to the top spot as Readers Favorite, putting an end to Uchi's long winning streak – although both Uchi and its new sibling, Uchiko, placed in the top five. La Condesa was also voted Best Decor, tied Fonda San Miguel for Best Mexican, and showed well in several other categories. The overall complexion of the top 10 changed again this year, with four restaurants (Perla's, Uchiko, Home Slice Pizza, and Paggi House) moving up for the first time, while five more (Bartlett's, Congress, Barley Swine, P. Terry's Burger Stand, and the East Side Show Room) made their first appearance in the Top 35. It's rare to see restaurants that have only been open a matter of months crack the Favorites list, but it speaks well of the popularity and customer loyalty at Uchiko, Congress, and Barley Swine that they've showed so well in their inaugural year.

Scanning the categories, we note some upsets this year, with at least 17 new winners in categories including Steak, Seafood, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Food Event – kudos to them all. As always, we have categories in which perennial winners and runners-up trade positions in the top two spots from year to year, but this year we also notice lots of new faces in the runner-up and honorable mention slots, which indicates a growing local diversity of good dining options. Based on this year's poll, we can see that the locavore, farm-to-table movement still resonates with our readers and critics, the food truck scene remains strong, practitioners of our local cocktail revolution are developing solid reputations, and the ethnic diversity of our restaurants gets better every year. 2011 is a great year to eat out in Austin – please use this special issue to make the most of it! – Virginia B. Wood

Browse by Year:

  2012: Readers | Critics | Index

  2011: Readers | Critics | Index

  2010: Readers | Critics | Index

  2009: Readers | Critics | Index

  2008: Readers | Critics | Index

  2007: Readers | Critics | Index

  2006: Readers | Critics | Index

  2005: Readers | Critics | Index

  2004: Readers | Critics | Index

  2003: Readers | Critics | Index

  2002: Readers | Critics | Index

  2001: Readers | Critics | Index

  2000: Readers | Critics | Index

  1998: Readers | Critics | Index

  1997: Readers | Critics | Index

  1996: Readers | Critics | Index

  1995: Readers | Critics | Index

Who's won the most awards

Picked by readers year after year