Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Best Fine Dining in Austin 2020

Welcome to year eleven of this blog's fine dining guide to Austin! Over the last eleven years, I've expanded my waistline and shrunk my wallet with the goal of helping you find the best upscale dining this town has to offer. As always, this post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide, which features all of Austin's best eats in a crazy number of useful categories. Be sure to bookmark the entire guide for your food adventures all year long!

In order to be included in this upscale dining guide, restaurants must offer at least one entrée that cost more than $25. With a few exceptions, I typically highlight locally-owned spots and avoid chains. Because I am typically searching for a restaurant in a particular part of town, this list is divided according to restaurant location. Happy eating!

DOWNTOWN (broadly defined here as spanning from I-35 to MoPac,
and from Ladybird Lake to MLK):

Arlo Grey111 East Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78701 - Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is behind this lakeside restaurant inside the LINE hotel. I have a soft spot for this location, as we stayed in this hotel after our wedding (back when it was the Radisson!)

ATX Cocina110 San Antonio Street, Austin TX 78701. This hotspot from successful restauranteur Larry Foles (father of Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles, who is a co-owner of this restaurant) bills itself as Modern Mexican. Its kitchen, which is entirely gluten-free, turns out delicious and interesting fare.

Austin Land & Cattle1205 North Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. According to their website, ALC is the only independent, family-owned steakhouse in Austin. They've been around for over 20 years, which is quite an accomplishment in Austin's ever-changing restaurant landscape.

Café Josie1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - One of the few establishments left near downtown where you can have a conversation without shouting over a din. I've found the food to be delicious and consistent. If you're dining with extra-hungry people, they offer a $49 all-you-can-eat option (billed as "The Experience") at dinner time in addition to their a la carte menu (there is a brunch "Experience," as well).
Wood Grilled Shrimp Toast at Clark's

Clark's Oyster Bar
1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - The prices here are on the steep side for what you get, but everything I've tried has been excellent, and I am glad for a spot to add to the short list of locally-owned seafood restaurants.

Cippolina1213 West Lynn, Austin, TX 78703 - Charming Italian bistro with a more casual feel.

Tostadas at Comedor

, 501 Colorado Street, Austin TX 78701 - Modern Mexican from Chef Phillip Speer in stunning surroundings. Most of the seating is outdoors, though (or open to the outdoors), so take this into consideration come the dog days of summer.

Driskill Grill604 Brazos, Austin TX 78701 (in the Driskill hotel) - Fine dining in a beautiful historic hotel. They have their own dry aging room.

Emmer & Rye51 Rainey Street, Ste 110, Austin TX 78701 - My first experience at Emmer & Rye could have been better, but our second visit won me over. I find the combination of menu and mystery cart dishes a bit off-puttting, but it's most definitely worth a visit.

Fixe500 W. 5th Street, Austin TX 78701 - My favorite spot for upscale Southern food, serving amazingly fluffy biscuits and some of the best fried chicken I've ever tasted.

Geraldine's605 Davis Street, Austin TX 78701 (in the Kimpton hotel) - Housed in Austin's first Kimpton hotel property, Geraldine's offers live music every night.

Goodall's Kitchen1900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705 (in Hotel Ella) - The space is a big part of the charm of this restaurant; it has an elegant old Austin feel, but is light-filled and airy.

The Grove800 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 (one of three locations) - A solid offering by experienced Austin restauranteur Reed Clemons. Fantastic salads and some of the best calamari in town.

Hestia, 607 W. 3rd Street, Austin TX 78701. Named after the Goddess of the Hearth, Hestia is a modern grill house from the folks who brought you Emmer & Rye.

Italic, 123 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - upscale Italian fare by the ELM Group (which also owns  24 Diner, Irene's, and Fareground).

Jeffrey's1204 West Lynn, Austin TX 78703 - On the spendy side as far as Austin fine dining goes, but you can enjoy their excellent food for much less during happy hour - 4:30-6:30 Tues-Sun and all night on Monday.

Josephine House1601 Waterston, Austin TX 78703 - A very sweet restaurant in an old house. I'm partial to their Monday night steak frites night.

La Condesa400 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - It took me a couple visits to hit my sweet spot here, but now I'm a fan. Flavorful, interesting Mexican fare in a gorgeous and interesting space. The small plates are the star of the show.

Lambert's401 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - Not your father's barbecue. Think pork ribs with a fennel-coriander rub, brisket with a brown sugar and coffee rub, and brussels sprouts with bacon and brown butter.

La Traviata314 N. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78701 - Their carbonara will make you cry tears of joy. Blog post dedicated to this thing of beauty here.

La Volpe, 201 Brazos, Bldg B, Austin, TX 78701 - Modern Italian in a quieter-than-average space - something my aging ears appreciate, these days. Half priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays sweeten the deal.

Le Politique110 San Antonio, Austin TX 78704 - A bright and airy French spot that feels a bit pricey for what you get, but nevertheless seems very popular.

Lin Asian Bar1203 West 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - Upscale Chinese food, including dim sum. I love their soup dumplings and their lamb chops. Be aware, though - it's a small space and the noise level is very nearly deafening.

Nightcap1401 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - A cozy spot perfect for (you guessed it) a nightcap; they also serve dinner so you don't have to move after your meal.

Parkside301 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - Reliable New American fare from celebrated Austin chef, Shawn Cirkiel.

Monkfish Sandwich at Olamaie
Olamaie1610 San Antonio St., Austin TX 78701 - another upscale Southern restaurant with phenomenal biscuits (off the menu) and simply gorgeous surroundings. My personal experience after four visits is that the customer does not always come first here, but the food has always been excellent.

Péché208 W. 4th St., Austin TX 78701 - Absinthe bar that also happens to have excellent food and service.

Ranch 616616 Nueces St., Austin TX 78701 - Quirky...like Austin. I'm partial to the jalapeno-maize trout, but I don't really think you can go wrong here. Strong cocktails and a nice patio round out the deal.

Red Ash Italia303 Colorado #200, Austin TX 78701 - An Italian spot that doesn't shy away from bold flavor. Their "hot & crispy Italian bread" appetizer is one of the most garlicky things I've ever eaten (in a good way!).

Swift's Attic315 N. Congress, Austin TX 78701 - Inventive small plates (for example, edamame served with pop rock salt) in a wonderfully steampunkish space.

TenTen, 501 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - A brand new Japanese restaurant featuring sushi, sashimi, and robata.

TRACE200 Lavaca St., Austin TX 78701 - In the super-cool W Hotel Austin, which makes it a great choice for a meal before hitting a show at ACL Live,

Wink1014 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78701 - Another great spot offering New American fare with a focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and an emphasis on personal attention. If you're celebrating a special occasion, let them know; they'll print up special celebratory menus just for you.

Wu Chow500 W. 5th Street #168, Austin TX 78701 - The restaurant that proved to Austin that Chinese food doesn't have to be eaten in a dive - also, the home of some of the best soup dumplings in town.


68 Degrees2401 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin TX 78703 - Co-owned by the owner of one of my favorite Italian restaurants in town, La Traviata. I personally prefer the menu at La Traviata, but 68 Degrees is still very good and a lot more convenient (no fighting for parking downtown).

Chinatown2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - The OG favorite for upscale Chinese fare.

Fabi & Rosi509 Hearn, Austin TX 78703 - Cozy spot in an old house with a European menu.

The Grove6317 Bee Caves Rd, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - A solid offering by experienced Austin restauranteur Reed Clemons. Fantastic salads and some of the best calamari in town.

Soft Shell Crab at Sway
Jack Allen's Kitchen3600 N Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746 (one of four locations) - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco (seasonal) or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Siena6203 North Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin TX 78731 - This Italian spot in a gorgeous stone building is one of the few spots in town where you can count on it being quiet enough to have a conversation.

Sway3437 Bee Caves Road, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.


Brewer's Table4715 E. 5th Street, Austin TX 78702 - It's a brewery, but they don't let the beer garner all the attention; the food is excellent, too.

Buenos Aires CaféEast - 1201 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 (one of two locations; the other is in Lakeway) - Lovely spot serving up - you guessed it! - Argentinian fare. It's all about the chimichurri here, which you should basically slather over everything you order.

Dai Due2406 Manor Road, Austin TX 78722 - I struggled with whether to include Dai Due here; after three visits, it has yet to impress, and on one of these visits we suffered through a painfully chewy $90+ steak. This place gets a ton of love from other food writers, though, so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Hillside Farmacy1209 E. 11th Street, Austin TX 78702 - This sweet little place is housed in a building that once was home to a pharmacy, and they've kept many of the accoutrements of the previous occupant intact. Their menu covers everything from raw oysters to shepherd's pie, and they've got you covered for every meal - opening at 9a daily and closing at 10 or 11 at night.

Il Brutto1601 E. 6th Street, Austin TX - I'm obviously slipping, because I have yet to make it to this Italian spot on the east side.

Intero2612 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX - A lovely Italian restaurant that also makes outstanding chocolate.

Jacoby's3235 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - This family-operated restaurant sources all of its beef from the family's ranch, and there's a really cool little mercantile on the premises so you can get a little shopping fix after your meal.
Seafood Pasta at Juniper

Juniper2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - A Northern Italian spot with lovely pastas.

Launderette2115 Holly St., Austin TX 78702 - I'm a huge fan of Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (both formerly of Sway and La Condesa), and their latest venture is one of my favorite spots in town. It's one of the few places where I actually get excited about ordering chicken; their brick chicken is outstanding.

Licha's Cantina1306 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - I have yet to visit Licha's, but one of the best home cooks I know (who also happens to hail from Mexico) raves about this place.

L'Oca d'Oro1900 Simond Ave., Austin TX 78723 - The kitchen seems to take a while to turn around orders here, but we welcomed 2018 here, and the festive New Year's Eve celebration earned L'Oca d'Oro a recommendation from me.

Monger's Market + Kitchen2401 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - Before opening Monger's, owner Roberto San Miguel was a longtime fixture at the farmer's markets, offering fresh Gulf coast seafood. The market is now a brick & mortar with a restaurant for those who prefer to have a chef cook their treasures from the sea.

Old Thousand1000 E. 11th Street, Austin TX 78702 - a hip Chinese spot with sufficiently traditional flavors to keep most Chinese food purists happy. Don't miss the chongqing chicken or the brisket fried rice (blog post about my first visit here).

Pitchfork Pretty2708 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - This relative newcomer to the restaurant scene stands out for their gorgeous plating and inventive dishes.

Rosewood1209 Rosewood Ave., Austin, TX 78702 - A big part of this restaurant's charm is the lovely old home it is housed in.

Salt & Time1912 E. 7th St., Austin TX 78702 - It's a butcher shop! It's a restaurant! It's both, in one tasty package.

The happiest of happy hours at Salty Sow
Salty Sow1917 Manor Rd., Austin TX 78722 - On the casual end of upscale dining, which is one of the things I like about it. I'm a sucker for their triple fried duck fat fries, the brussel sprout caesar salad, the truffled deviled eggs, the crispy chicken thighs, and the butterscotch boudino. Also, I love the fact that an entire section of their menu is dedicated to "Things in a Jar."

Suerte1800 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - This new restaurant garnered a top spot in Eater's 18 Best New Restaurants in America for 2018. My favorite dishes here are the brisket tacos and the mushroom frito.

Vixen's Wedding, 1813 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - Austin's only Goan food restaurant, from managing chef/partner Todd Duplechan (of Lenoir fame).

Yuyo1900 Manor Road, Austin TX 78722 - Yuyo is one of the El Chile group of restaurants. This is my favorite of the bunch, offering Peruvian food, which is hard to come by in Austin.


Central Standard1603 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 (in the South Congress hotel) - Central Standard offers a varied menu, including one of the 50 greatest burgers in Texas according to Texas Monthly magazine.

Eberly615 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - The emphasis at Eberly is on the atmosphere. It's a beautiful and lively space and the service is attentive. The food feels a little like a pricey afterthought; it's good, but probably won't surprise you.

El Naranjo2717 S. Lamar, Ste 1085, Austin, TX 78704 - Excellent interior Mexican food, recently relocated from the Rainey Street district.

Juliet Ristorante1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704 - Italian fare in a lovely space reminiscent of my parents' home in the 70s (but modernized to be beautiful in this decade). My food experiences here have been a little inconsistent, but it's worth a visit.

June's All Day1722 South Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Originally named after the force of nature that is June Rodil, one of the few female Master Sommeliers in the country. June has moved to another city, but the food and wine here remain excellent.

Mini Rice Pancakes at Mandala
Lenoir1807 S. 1st St., Austin TX 78704 - Like eating at the home of owners Todd and Jessica Duplechan. No longer prix fixe only, though they do offer a prix fixe option. The food is wonderful and the service is exemplary. Don't miss it (and be sure to make a reservation).

Mandala1100 South Lamar Blvd, Suite 1125, Austin TX 78704 - Upscale Vietnamese food; don't miss the addictive mini rice pancakes.

Mattie's811 W. Live Oak Street, Austin TX 78704 - This incarnation of the beloved Green Pastures restaurant is simply gorgeous. The milk punch that fueled many Green Pastures brunches is still on their menu.

Odd Duck1201 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - A food trailer that grew up to be a brick & mortar, by the same chef-owner as Barley Swine (below). Full blog post here.

Otoko1603 South Congress, Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Paul Qui is behind this 12-seat, all-omakase experience, though I've yet to hear anyone say they actually saw him behind the counter. Honestly, I was a little disappointed by my only visit here - the food was wonderful and it was one of the most beautiful meals I can ever remember enjoying, but I was hungry shortly after I left, which is kind of a downer at this price point.

Perla's1400 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - One of very few locally-owned seafood restaurants in town. One of Perla's best assets is the expansive patio right on South Congress, perfect for people-watching.

Soto1100 S. Lamar, Suite 2115, Austin TX 78704 - Soto's Cedar Park location has long been one of my very favorite Austin restaurants. The price point at their new South Lamar location feels a little more aggressive (likely necessitated by the rent here), but you'll find much to be impressed with on the menu.

South Congress Cafe1600 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - New American in a casual-yet-upscale setting. They don't take reservations, and there can be a long wait at peak hours.

Sway1417 S. 1st, Austin TX 78704 (one of three locations) - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.

Walu Walu (grilled escolar) at Uchi
Uchi801 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - Sushi/Japanese fusion. It's a scene, and usually requires a wait, but it's worth it. Don't miss the hamachi nabe.

Vespaio1610 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Italian. Its sister restaurant next door, Enoteca Vespaio, also offers delicious food in a more casual atmosphere.


Andiamo Ristorante2521 Rutland Drive, Austin TX 78758 - This out-of-the-way Italian restaurant has a devoted following for a reason. Addictive bread, wonderful pasta, photo art that will make you want to get on the next plane to Italy. Their monthly wine dinners are not to be missed (reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to get on their mailing list!)

Asti408C E. 43rd St., Austin TX 78751 - Solid Italian fare from experienced restauranteurs Lisa & Emmett Fox.

Barley Swine6555 Burnet Road, Ste 400, Austin TX 78757 - Interesting, innovative fare from a chef with a nose-to-tail philosophy.

The Carillon1900 University Ave., Austin TX 78705 - Located in the AT&T Conference Center & Hotel on campus, The Carillon could easily be a buffet restaurant in a large, well-funded university. And, in fact, during the day, it is. But at night, it transforms into a fine dining establishment with very good food.

Chinatown3407 Greystone Drive, Austin TX 78731 (one of three locations - The OG favorite for upscale Chinese fare.

DipDipDip, 7301 Burnet Road, Austin TX 78757 - Brought to you by the Ramen/Kemuri Tatsu-ya folks. Like everything else by these guys, DipDipDip is outstanding. One of my favorite new restaurants of 2019.

Fonda San Miguel2330 W. North Loop, Austin TX 78756 - Interior Mexican in a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Foreign & Domestic306 E. 53rd St., Austin TX 78751 - A tiny place with a completely open (and similarly tiny) kitchen surrounded by bar seating so you can watch the action while you swoon over your food. The food here can be a little adventurous (in a good way) - I once tried venison heart tartare here.
Chirashi Bowl at Hanabi

Haru (formerly Hanabi), 9503 Research Blvd, Ste 500, Austin TX 78759 - A lovely neighborhood sushi restaurant with consistently very fresh fish and some of the most earnest service I've ever encountered. I eat here more often than any other restaurant. Full blog post about it here. (they also have another location that serves ramen and kushiyaki).

Jack Allen's Kitchen3010 W. Anderson Lane, Ste D, Austin TX 78757 (one of four locations) - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Komê, 5301 Airport Blvd, Austin TX 78751 - One of the few sushi places in town where my non-raw-fish-eating husband gets excited about ordering sushi. Both the raw and the cooked offerings here are excellent - and surprisingly affordable (for sushi).

Musashino2905 San Gabriel, Austin TX 78705 - Consistently fresh sushi with some interesting offerings in the maki (sushi roll) department.

North by Northwest10010 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin TX 78759 (one of two locations) - Consistently decent, and they brew their own beer. 'nuff said.

Olive & June - This Italian restaurant from Chef Shawn Cirkiel is a favorite of mine. A blog post about my first meal at Olive & June can be found here.
Jasmine Cream at Uchiko

Texas French Bread2900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705 - This little bakery and café offers a wonderful dinner service. It's one of my favorites for a casual but delicious meal. Much of the food is locally sourced, and everything I have tried has been beautifully prepared.

Uchiko4200 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78756 - The sister restaurant to Uchi. I've heard their food described as more "masculine" while Uchi's is more "feminine" - I guess my taste buds are hermaphrodites, because I love both spots.

Urban, An American Grill11301 Domain Drive, Austin TX 78758 (inside the Westin hotel) - We enjoyed a fabulous meal here a while back - it isn't locally owned, but it's worth a visit. 

Vino Vino4119 Guadalupe Street, Austin TX 78751 - Wine bar that also serves excellent food.


Cured egg yolks at Apis
Apis23526 Highway 71 West, Spicewood, Texas 78669 - One of my favorite restaurants in Austin. Worth the drive.

Café Malta3421 W. William Cannon Dr., Austin TX 78745 - Tucked away in a strip mall that also contains a tobacco shop and a Taco Bell, Café Malta is a hidden gem.

Carve, 7415 Southwest Parkway, Austin TX 78735 - Carve is a new concept from the Perry's line, which I suppose makes it part of a chain. Nevertheless, I'm including it because they offer excellent food in a pretty restaurant-barren part of town - right near my office, so I'm especially grateful.

Jack Allen's KitchenTwo locations listed above; in addition, there is a south location at 7720 Highway 71 West, Austin TX 78735; and a Round Rock location - 2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681 - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Plate by Dzintra12823 Shops Parkway, Austin TX 78738 - This restaurant has been around a long time, but I just ventured out there for the first time in 2018. I was blown away by the perfect execution of every dish we tried.

Soto11066 Pecan Park Blvd, Cedar Park, TX 78613 - Well worth the drive to Cedar Park. If you want to be really wowed by a meal, go find Chef Andy and tell him to surprise you. He will. Full blog post here.

What's your favorite spot for upscale fare? Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, January 5, 2020

One (or Two) Seconds Every Day for 2019

Y'all, I haven't been blogging. I won't go into the reasons here, but suffice it to say that this year has been busily spent doing a multitude of other things - lots of work travel (especially toward the end of the year) and lots of family time. I did, however, keep up with my One Second Every Day project. I was terrible about limiting myself to one blip for each day and most days recorded two, so the end result is LONG - nearly nine minutes. But if you spent a lot of time with me this year and want to see yourself, here it is. Happy near year, friends! I hope 2020 is a joyful year for all of you.


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