Did I make it to every single restaurant to open this year in Austin? Nope. Did I eat every dish on the menu at every new place I did visit? Not quite. But it’s still important to write a list like this. It contextualizes the Austin dining scene by spotlighting the year’s biggest openings, and it offers a checklist for dishes to try while giving a snapshot of individual restaurants and the year in dining. The dishes are alphabetized by restaurant name.

Some dishes are complex and require a solid sense of timing, imagination and technique, and some (OK, one) are basically butter.

Hot Honey pizza at 40 North

Sometimes you just have to wait. When I first visited Clint Elmore’s pizza trailer on South First Street in 2015, I knew he’d eventually have his own restaurant. He probably did, too. This was the year. Elmore, who worked at Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn, studied in Naples and that training shows in pizzas with blistered and bubbled crust that runs thin through its weighty center. The Hot Honey blends sweetness of tomato sauce with milky mounds of ricotta, salty rippled waves of coppa and the pie’s signature piquant honey for a balanced bounty of flavors and textures. (900 W. 10th St. 512-660-5779, 40northpizza.com)

Gulf redfish torta at Better Half

All-day restaurants aren’t new on the Austin dining landscape — some of our most beloved Old Austin institutions fit that bill — but the genre received a boost of energy in 2018 from places like Better Half. Work-from-home creatives, office denizens on a lunchtime escape, happy hour imbibers and late-night ramblers found a home at this airy space with a large outdoor area. One of the stars of the shifting menu is this fish sandwich as thick as a brick and as supple as a marshmallow. The ivory meat hides beneath bronzed crackling skin, and pickled veggies and a swipe of charred lime aioli pack puckering pop in the meal-on-a-bun. (406 Walsh St. 512-645-0786, betterhalfbar.com)

Fall Squash BBQ at The Brewer’s Table

Executive chef Zach Hunter worked at the Michelin-star-laden Atera in New York City before moving to Austin. While the pairing of a fine dining chef with a brewpub might at first blush seem like a stretch, the gambit has paid off, and the gap between brewing and cooking shrinks under the weight of the team’s collaborative efforts. Wood plays a large role in both the brewing and cooking processes at the Brewer’s Table. The wood fuels a fire that leaves a caramelized char around the meaty burnt orange heart of a halved kuri squash filled with a lash of sauerkraut hidden beneath a layer of edible flowers. The stunning vegetarian dish, possibly a nod to the ember beets at Hunter’s former NYC training ground, was complemented with a bitter-sweet balance of green beans, shishito peppers and watermelon salad. (4715 E. Fifth S. 512-520-8199, thebrewerstable.com)

Chicken schnitzel at Carpenters Hall

The hip, minimalist Carpenter Hotel took over the old Local 1266’s Carpenters Union Hall in the Zilker neighborhood in the fall. The vision for Carpenters Hall, the boutique hotel’s main restaurant: new eyes on old Austin. The chicken schnitzel, which pays tribute to Central Texas’ German heritage, embodies the approach. Chef Grae Nonas hammers the half bird flat and fries the breaded beast to a sizzling, crackling finish. The kitchen achieves the “old” part of the equation with the fried meat and checks the “new” box by springing the dish to life with dollops of zippy black garlic chimichurri and pungent aioli. “It’s kind of silly in a way, but it makes you so happy inside,” Nonas has said of the thoughtful and oversized comfort dish. (400 Josephine St. 512-675-5020, carpenterhotel.com)

Wild boar tacos at Dai Due Taqueria inside Fareground

It’s exciting when a restaurant helps us think in new ways about something that is part of our daily life. And if you live in Austin, tacos are basically essential to daily living. Nixtamalizing local heritage corn with post oak for house-made masa, serving Texas wild boar to help curb overpopulation, and sourcing local wheat and milling it locally for flour tortillas made with house-rendered lard — these are just some of the ways Dai Due Taqueria brings a maximalist artisanal approach to the local taco scene. You’ll find wild boar pibil heightened with pickled sweet potato, alongside a little radish and cilantro to take the edge off chili pequin, as well as tender pastor sliced thin from the trompo and enlivened with supremes of grapefruit and diced onion. (111 Congress Ave. 512-284-7083, daiduetaqueria.com)

Sausage breakfast burrito at Henbit inside Fareground

Never been a huge breakfast sausage guy. Never been much of an eggs man. Don’t find myself eating burritos that often. So, imagine my surprise when this dish became one of my all-time favorite breakfast items. How is it so good? Maybe it’s the fragrant crumbly sausage, the crispy potatoes or the creamy swirl of scrambled eggs. Just as likely, it’s the ooze of cheese and the buttery tortilla made with white Sonoran wheat. More than the sum of its parts, this is the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever eaten. (111 Congress Ave. 512-527-3054, henbitaustin.com)

Pappardelle with thinly sliced lamb leg at Intero

The serpentine and chambered space of this East Austin restaurant that opened at the beginning of 2018 gives the feeling that you’re dining inside an urban art gallery. And you can find beauty in the straightforward and comforting seasonal Italian dishes from chef Ian Thurwachter. Al dente pappardelle with ribbed edges wraps its way around thin velvety folds of rosy shaved lamb leg studded with roasted rutabaga caramelized at the edges, with bites of bitter arugula balanced with the salt and cream of crumbled feta. A dainty but robust salted caramel truffle from co-owner and chocolatier Krystal Craig plants un bacio on the end of a meal. 2612 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-599-4052, interorestaurant.com

Bodega sando at Joann’s Fine Foods

McGuire Moorman Hospitality and the Bunkhouse Group know how to set a scene. They know how to make you feel cool. They also know how to make you feel good. And sometimes it ain’t so tricky. Take this breakfast sandwich. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. A honeycombed English muffin topped with strips of bacon, a thin slice of smoked turkey, a perfectly fried egg, feathered avocado, melting cap of American cheese, tangle of sprouts and zag of hot sauce. It’s like the breakfast sandwich your thoughtful friend with the nicely stocked kitchen would make the morning after a great house party that you never left. It’s classic, simple and comes down to execution; and here they get it right. (1224 S. Congress Ave. 512-358-6054, joannsaustin.com)

Smoked prime bavette at Loro

Diners’ imaginations ignited when the news dropped announcing the partnership between James Beard award-winning chefs Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin. What would that look like? More importantly, what would that taste like? The smoked prime bavette best represents the powers of the collaboration. The Franklin-inspired side of the kitchen cold smokes then confits the beef in smoked tallow before picking it up on the grill for service. (If that process intrigues, remember Franklin has a steak cookbook coming out in 2019.) Then comes the Cole/Uchi touches with the acidic splash of pickled onions and grassy sting of shishito salsa verde. It’s a beautiful marriage. (2115 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4858, loroaustin.com)

Crab butter temaki at She’s Not Here

OK. So it’s really just butter. More or less. This light-filled, Instagrammable addition to downtown does sushi and other Japanese dishes with more pedigree than this. It’s really just fake crab (kami kama), a wisp of arugula and some nicely seasoned rice wrapped in translucent soy paper. But it comes with a side of aromatic crab butter — clarified butter cooked down with king crab legs — that you should pour all over the wrap before eating. It is decadent and delicious. I am still trying to figure out how to abscond with a ramekin of it to take upstairs to the Violet Crown Cinema and pour all over my popcorn. (440 W. Second St. 512-888-1970, snhaustin.com)

Watermelon salad at Sour Duck Market

The pastry case is probably the best in the city. The fried chicken terrine sandwich may be one of the top 10 in town. But the beauty and simplicity of this salad snared me with my first bite. Sitting at a picnic table outside, the crunch and splash of fresh watermelon. The cooling wave of cilantro. The added salt from crumbled feta. The toasty snap of pumpkin seeds. The team that delivered creative comfort at Odd Duck has done it again. (1814 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-394-5776, sourduckmarket.com)

Beet tostada at Suerte

You thought I was gonna say the suadero tacos, didn’t you? I thought I was gonna say the suadero tacos. The black magic oil, a mixture of garlic and sesame, the confit brisket, those soft tortillas. I get it. But I find myself thinking more often about the beet tostadas. The crackle of the tostada made from in-house masa, the tender earth of jeweled beets polished with smashed avocado and drizzled with zesty peanut-walnut yum sauce … I mean, seriously. There’s a reason people around the country are paying attention to Suerte. (1800 E. Sixth S. 512-953-0092, suerteatx.com)

Ragin Cajun Boudin at the Switch

I like the chutzpah and vision that led the owners of Stiles Switch to team with Lenoir chef-owner Todd Duplechan to wed barbecue and Cajun food on the edge of Dripping Springs. I like the boudin even more. The snap casing reveals a tight tumble of rice mixed with cubed bacon and crawfish shimmering with Tabasco. If you miss the kick of the original version, tamed to meet populist tastes, just double dip in the beer mustard for some added piquancy. (166 Hargraves Drive. 512-212-7211, theswitchdripping.com)

Thai roasted chicken at Tillie’s

You’ll be hearing more about this restaurant (from me) in the coming months, but know that this is the most surprising space to open in Central Texas this year. The rich, textured, leather-and-wood foyer opens into a dining room built from a gorgeous, centuries-old building shipped from Vietnam. What? Yeah. Executive chef Brandon Martin blends expected Texas comfort with unexpected influence from afar. The roasted chicken humming with Thai spice, electrified by curry vinaigrette and sweetly salved with pumpkin puree exemplifies the kitchen’s creativity and encapsulates this retreat’s ambitions. (3509 Creek Road. 512-894-2633, tilliesdrippingsprings.com)

Pickled sides at Whitfield's

Yes, the brisket and ribs at Longhorn football great Kasey Studdard and pitmaster Scott Fogle’s barbecue trailer is very good. It alone is worth the visit. Top 10 barbecue spot in town. But the sides will really leave a lasting impression. Barbecue can become a one-note affair, but Whitfield’s cranks up the symphony, cutting the smoky meat with sweet, acidic complexity from pineapple pickled with scotch bonnet and scorpion pepper and pickled strawberries flecked with basil. Along with the creative pickling operation, Whitfield’s sets itself apart with other sides like slaw tossed in freshly ground curry spices and confit and smashed potatoes. (9001 Brodie Lane. Facebook.com/whitfieldsatx)