2023 Top 10s – The Biggest News in Austin Food in 2023: Looking back at a year of snafus, slices, expansions, and transplants – Food


Diego Duan of Camino Alamo BBQ, one of our favorite food stalls of 2023 (photos by Jana Birchum)

Lights Out at Nixta Activates the Austin Food Community

When Austin Energy cut the power at East Austin taqueria Nixta (in the height of August!), owners Edgar Rico and Sara Mardanbigi had no choice but to close down while they awaited permits. But if anyone believed that this setback would keep Nixta from feeding their legions of fans, they quickly learned that Rico and Mardanbigi don’t play like that. Nixta instead launched exciting pop-ups and collabs with Cuantos Tacos, Franklin Barbecue, Paperboy, and La Barbecue and raised more than $100,000 from customers and neighbors who cherish their contribution to Austin food culture. With a little help from their friends, Nixta reopened for limited service in mid-September.  – Taylor Tobin

A Tough Year for Austin’s Craft Brewery community

Independent breweries play a huge role in Austin’s celebrated beverage landscape, with brand-new spots opening throughout the city on a regular basis. But there’s been some speculation that the craft beer scene in our town is oversaturated, and an unfortunate spate of recent closures might support that point. Local favorites Adelbert’s, Circle Brewing, Thirsty Planet, Oskar Blues, and Hedgehog Brewing all poured their last pints in 2023. It remains to be seen whether these shutdowns will have bigger implications for indie beer operations in Austin, but fans of these breweries will nevertheless mourn their beloved suds. They may be gone, but they won’t be forgotten.  – T.T.

The new Uptown Sports Club, at the site of the old Uptown Sports Club, at East Sixth and Waller

What Is Old Is New Again

Several new restaurants have made new homes in legacy spaces. This fall, Zoé Tong moved into the 63-year-old building on Barton Springs that has hosted many popular restaurants over the decades, including the late, lamented Good Eats Cafe. On Lamar Boulevard, the former GM Steakhouse/Toddle House building hosts the newest location of Garbo’s. And over on East Sixth and Waller, the former Uptown Sports Club is now … Uptown Sports Club, courtesy of Aaron Franklin and crew. In a city that’s constantly tearing down the past and building an often ugly future, seeing these locations reused by some of the best and brightest in our culinary world is a win.  – Rod Machen

Trouble Brewing in Austin’s Bean Scene?

Austin is no stranger to coffee shops, but the funky, eclectic, locally owned java joint seems to be an endangered species in these parts. Torchbearers of that tradition, Genuine Joe on Anderson Lane has been facing displacement with no lease for more than two years. They’ve secured a new locale at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection on Justin Lane. Elsewhere, after 17 years, Thunderbird’s last location on Manor Road closes on December 17, and Japanese coffeehouse Sa-Tén closed its Airport location at the end of May. Thank goodness Bennu, with its bespoke mochas and charmingly shabby seats, seems to be holding the line for now.  – Evan Rodriguez

Killer Pizza

Beginning in November 2022 with the reopening of Bufalina on Cesar Chavez, Austin began to usher in a new era of world-class pizza. Kicking off 2023, Allday opened two locations serving New York-style slices and whole pies (plus soft serve ice cream), the first at Flo’s Wine Bar & Bottle Shop in March, the other at Daydreamer on East Sixth in October. Allday is slated to open a brick-and-mortar in summer 2024 at the old Hyde Park post office. Bookending the year in November, Palm Pizza debuted on Cesar Chavez, slinging New York-style whole pies to-go only, so far, and that’s just a tiny slice of the booming Austin pizza scene.  – E.R.

Ramen Del Barrio (Photo by John Anderson)

Food Stall Supremacy

Beyond stunning pizza, the best and most interesting spots that opened this year were two stalls in separate Asian grocers’ food courts, Ramen Del Barrio (Hana World Market) and P Thai’s Khao Man Gai (Hong Kong Supermarket), and a food trailer off Guadalupe, Camino Alamo BBQ. Ramen Del Barrio marries traditional Japanese-style ramen and Mexican food. P Thai’s serves primarily a Thai-style Chinese chicken and rice dish, khao man gai, which is way more than the sum of its parts in flavor, complexity, and nuance. Camino Alamo BBQ offers a fairly small, incredibly affordable menu of expertly grilled skewers of chicken wings, lamb, prime beef, pineapple, pilaf, and sweet potato.  – E.R.

South Austin Strikes Back

The north side of the Colorado River always manages to land a fancy new concept from a chef fresh from raking in another award, but 2023 saw South Austin score a couple of upscale joints for once. Odd Duck’s stranglehold on South Lamar saw a challenger in Elementary, a classy-yet-playful New American pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar, while Nômadé tastefully omits gluten from its take on Yucatán cuisine on South First. Further down the street, Underdog’s Korean menu-meets-wine bar rounds out this year’s tale of an evolving South Austin food scene.  – Deven Wilson

Natural wines at Violet Crown

Natural Wine Shines

Low-intervention or “natural” wine isn’t just a niche fascination among wine nerds anymore. These funky bottles have gone mainstream, and Austin beverage directors didn’t hesitate to give them prominent places on their lists in 2023. Brand-new venues like the Violet Crown and Underdog focused their beverage programs on natural wine, while established natty wine spots like LoLo and Golden Hour got lots of attention. Austin was a host location for the 2023 Wild World Natural Wine Festival, and the momentum shows no signs of slowing down. 2023 was the Year of Natural Wine in Austin, and we loved to see it.  – T.T.

The Big Apple Makes a Big Impression on Austin Hospitality

2023 proved a big year for transplanted New Yorkers to hang their own shingles on Austin restaurant spaces. Chefs/restaurateurs Simone Tong and Matt Hyland just launched Zoé Tong on Barton Springs, RedFarm set up shop in Downtown Austin, and the team behind New York’s lauded cocktail bar the Dead Rabbit are putting the finishing touches on their first Austin location. Plus, established Austin hospitality pros Travis Tober and Nic Yanes are opening Murray’s, an NYC-inspired tavern in the old Gourmands space, by the end of the year. NYC-meets-ATX seems like a winning combination.  – T.T.

Austin Lands in L.A.

After years of coastal culinary names coming to Austin, could the tides be turning? Starting out with a simple mantra to only serve the best to their customers, Uchi has already expanded with several concepts across Texas. Now, with the Dec. 7 opening of Uchi Los Angeles, James Beard Award winner Tyson Cole is showing California that the Lone Star State knows its way around sashimi. Maybe this time next year, P. Terry’s will move next door to the original Shake Shack in New York?  – D.W.

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