Flavors of the Year features my favorite dishes and restaurants of 2017!
I’ve never done a post looking back at all my favorite dishes and restaurants in the year but here we go! There’s good, and then there’s oh my gosh, this bite is the best thing I’ve put into my mouth in a long time and I never want this dish to end. This post is dedicated to those dishes that my taste buds put in its scrapbook and the restaurants that impressed me in 2017. New restaurants open every month in Austin and it’s hard to keep up with where to go. If you’re looking for an Austin restaurant to try, here are some I think are worth the visit.
I went to three new-to-me restaurants that stood out from the many I tried this year. At these restaurants, there were many dishes that had me amazed and the service experience also had a lot to do with my favorable thoughts.
We visited Apis Restaurant to celebrate a birthday and every dish had us wide-eyed. From the careful presentation to the creativity, the experience was outstanding. The cherry on top was the focus on local ingredients and the result was obvious in the flavors. There wasn’t a dish I didn’t like. They made “simple” bread and butter taste like it was the best bread and butter I’ve ever had and still think about today. It’s a brilliant restaurant, though the distance is a deterrent to going back. Nevertheless, dinner at Apis was the most special meal for me in 2017.
Quick notes: New American cuisine, shared plates; located in far west Austin near Bee Cave; plentiful parking
We invested in this meal at Otoko and were delighted by the experience. The setting was awkward and intimate. The food was familiar yet creative. The service was flawless and friendly. It was a dinner that sought to challenge what I knew about sushi and you can’t find a setting like this in Austin.
Quick notes: Japanese sushi restaurant; omakase (set number of dishes decided by the chef) only; reservations highly recommended; located at South Congress Hotel on South Congress; valet parking available at hotel or park on street; extra time to find parking is a good idea
(Addition: we dined at Otoko again years later and this post shares more about that.)
The critics agree – Kemuri Tatsu-ya is the stand-out new restaurant of the year in Austin. I would agree – we ended up going a few times. The fusion of Texas and Japanese cuisine is natural and fun. I love the variety of their menu, and there’s always something different to try. My favorites are the smoked dishes, especially the brisket and the fish collar. It’s also more affordable than you think. The menu ranges from $3.50 to $15 per dish, with most of the dishes being under $10. Quality, tasty, and memorable food for less? It’s easy to see why it’s a critics’ favorite and audience favorite.
Quick notes: Japanese barbecue fusion cuisine; located in East Austin; small parking lot or street parking; I recommend extra time to find parking
(Addition: I’ve visited even more in the next few years and here’s the post about it.)
Best Dishes of 2017
With the aid of all the food photos I took this year (yes, there are A LOT), these are the best things I ate in 2017. These are the dishes that bring up vivid memories. Most of these restaurants are in Austin, so maybe you can go try having the experience yourself!
New Year’s Brisket (Homemade)
My friend Barry made an incredible brisket on the Green Egg on New Year’s Day.
Carnal Pop-Up at Parlor and Yard
In February, New York restaurant Carnal visited Austin and did a pop-up at Parlor and Yard. Well, their pork rib was fantastic! If and when I ever make it back to New York, this restaurant is on my list.
Coconut Mousse at Salt Traders Coastal Cooking
After finishing great seafood courses (raw oysters! fish collar!) at Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, the coconut mousse is the only way to end the meal. Ok, the key lime pie is pretty good too, but the coconut mousse is the must-try!
Quick notes: restaurant located in Round Rock; seafood-driven menu; good place to spend a weekend lunch; sister restaurant of Jack Allen’s
Lox Bagel Sandwich from Rosen’s Bagel Co
This lox bagel from Rosen’s Bagel Co challenged everything I knew about bagels. I’ve always been ‘meh’ about bagels but now every bagel I want to eat is this one. The magic comes from the bagels, of course, and you won’t be disappointed!
Quick notes: located at Wright Bros Brew and Brew
Ice Cream Sandwich at Cold Cookie Company
Quick notes: food trailer located in West Campus; street parking
Peach Pecan Pancake at Counter Café
I know, it’s *just* a pancake. But when you put in the freshest peaches with the crunch of pecans at Counter Cafe, a place known for their pancakes, it’s not just a pancake. It’s the breakfast dish of the year.
Quick notes: two locations, east 6th or Lamar and 6th; both have parking lots
Gelato Pop at Venezia Gelato
Quick notes: spacious shop located off South Lamar and Oltorf; parking lot available
Steamers at The Bonneville and Camp Wannamango from Harpoon Brewery
This one is a twofer! This combo was devoured at a special seafood dinner put on by The Bonneville with special beer pairings from Harpoon Brewery. One, this was my first time having steamers and holy wow, these things are so tasty! Second, easily one of my favorite beers I had this year was Camp Wannamango. This dreamboat pale ale has strong mango flavors with a bit of hops.
Heirloom Tomato Salad at Pizzeria Sorellina
There is no way you would understand how amazing this Heirloom Tomato Salad at Pizzeria Sorellina is unless you’ve tried it. Take everything you know about tomatoes and throw it out the window.
Quick notes: sister restaurant of Apis and located next door
Barbecue Tacos at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
It’s sad it has taken me this long to try Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, but this is obviously the best taco in Austin. Where else can you combine the “must-eats” in Austin – tacos and barbecue? Juicy meat with on-point salsa. I want this now!
Quick notes: located in South Austin; food trailer but has plentiful space and seating
My Favorites of All Time
These dishes were not new to me this year, but every time I go back, it’s confirmed that I still love it as much as I do. These are some of the things I’ve eaten plenty of in the last few years and still loved this year.
Pastrami at Pieous
Pieous is so darn far away but whenever we’re in the area, it’s a must-do. I wasn’t sure I like pastrami but Pieous set me straight, and now I’m not sure I’ll find any pastrami better.
Sushi at Tomodachi
I think the proximity has a lot to do with how much I like this place, but the quality, price, and service are all pluses. With the frequency of our visits (and perhaps the sake we share), we’re treated like old friends when we visit and we love leaving our menu to the chefs to surprise us with new and old favorites. I wrote about Tomodachi in this post, and it’s still my favorite place for sushi in Austin.
And here’s a quick list of some of my favorite restaurants that need little explanation: Via 313, Home Slice Pizza, Ramen Tatsu-ya, Tacodeli, Flower Child, Uchiko, and Barley Swine.
Ok, now I’m feeling hungry. Tell me – what is the BEST thing you ate last year? I would love to try it for myself!
P.S. Check out my full list of my favorite restaurants in Austin HERE!