Early 2022 may have seen a temporary return to grocery stores and takeout come dinner time, but if there’s one thing we learned from Austin in the face of a pandemic, it’s resilience. Over the last two years, restaurants have launched, reopened, and adapted to a tug of war with social guidelines. Yet no matter which way they’re pulled, businesses keep marching, and manage to thrive in the safest possible ways.
Now, notable spots in the Texan capital are packing new menus, exciting talent, and plenty of surprises, so even repeat visitors will have something to look forward to. For those in Austin ready to take a bite out of their city, here are the best new dining picks for spring.
Though Ciclo, the brainchild of James Beard Awards semi-finalist Richard Sandoval, is a 4-year-old local institution at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, it continues to reinvent itself. Latin techniques abound in the modern Texas kitchen, offering dishes such as charred octopus, which pairs beautifully with the ceviche amarillo—arguably the best in Texas. When it comes to the mains, scene stealers are the fiery, flambéed Texas wagyu tomahawk, a shareable cut served with two sides, and a pan-seared sea bass with tomatillo jam. Don’t skip dessert;l recently added confections include a crunchy caramel corn pudding cake and vanilla and cacao nib bon bons stuffed with ice cream from local icon Amy’s. Enjoy it all while taking in the four wall-to-wall hand painted murals (each represents a season) that wreath the elegant space, or opt for dining on the spacious terrace—this restaurant has more outdoor seats than indoor.
Sazan Ramen (Highland)
When it comes to ramen in Austin, Sazan, a Tokyo-meets-Texas diner, housed in the site of a former karate studio, is king—even though it only opened in 2020. Thick, creamy paitan, or “white soup,” ramen is what the Airport Boulevard joint is best known for. The delightfully cloudy entree can be served spicy or vegan, depending on your preferences. Save room for items beyond the noodles, such as the takoyaki (steamy octopus ball starters), which could have been plucked from an Osaka street stall. As for dessert, Sazan has five flavors of mochi ice cream, as well as an extensive selection of sake, whisky, and Japanese-inspired cocktails, such as the Tokyo mule, a delectable blend of vodka, musk melon liqueur, and ginger beer.
The popular Italian restaurant at the Fairmont Austin, which first opened doors in 2018, is best known for pizza and pasta—if it’s your first time, don’t miss the Italian sausage pizza or the mushroom risotto. But savvy locals come for the unpretentious atmosphere, courtesy of the bare brick walls and grand communal bar, and the seasonal specials. Recently, the cioppino, an Italian seafood stew made with fresh mussels, scallops, and shrimp in a tomato-wine base (served with Revue’s signature house-made bread) had diners excited, so expect more exciting limited-edition dishes by chef Blake Ransom.
Chef Jakub Czyszczon’s open kitchen, which debuted in 2018, is guaranteed to deliver an excellent wine-and-dine date night in town. The menu here prioritizes grilled and smoked dishes, relying on post oak from nearby Bastrop. Expect entrees such as a delicate pan-seared skate wing and black truffle roasted duck breast rossini—though it’s hard to steer away from the faithful porterhouse steak, accompanied by tater tots. This romantic hideaway, nestled in the Fairmont Austin, is filled with charming perks, such as a hand-drawn dessert menu and tableside notebooks for diners to leave comments in, resulting in an exceptionally personalized evening.
Mumtaz Market (South Austin)
Fans of G’Raj Mahal, a beloved food truck-turned-restaurant that closed in July 2021, can find comfort in Mumtaz Market, its sibling restaurant. Like its predecessor, the minimalist chic space, splashed with vibrant pops of Indian art, specializes in Indian flavors with innovative twists. The pork rechaad, which earned rave reviews in 2021, takes slow-stewed pork with warm spices and fresh ginger and adds sweet candied pineapple. The restaurant just launched a Sunday brunch service filled with creative South Asian-inspired plates, such as buckwheat pancakes, brioche french toast with spiced custard and fresh fruit, and breakfast pakora, or fritters, with curried vegetable hash browns, mango chutney, raita, and two eggs.
Canje (East Austin)
The team behind local farm-to-table favorite Emmer & Rye—including Guyana-born award-winning chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph—opened one of Austin’s most exciting new restaurants on the east side in October. His concept is nouveau Caribbean, drawing inspiration from the culinary scenes of Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the surrounding areas. (Fittingly, the restaurant’s name is a hat-tip to the national bird of Guyana.) Start with the hiramasa ceviche, spiked with sour orange, dragon fruit, taro, ginger, and pepper. Then dig into the half jerk chicken and roti, and let your post-meal sweet treat consist of liquor and ice—the rum punch sorbet should leave you pleasantly buzzed.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.