Austin restaurants played a large part in evolving the aesthetic and creating culture in the city in the past 10 years. It was a time of uncertainty and excitement, as some operators exploded from small food trucks into hugely popular restaurants and others scrambled to save and restore historical buildings.


The most significant contributors helped expand the farm-to-table ethos, make fine dining more casual and continue the legacy established by foundational restaurants and trailers from the previous decade, such as Wink, Uchi, Parkside, Home Slice Pizza, Veracruz All Natural and Foreign & Domestic.


This alphabetical list represents the most important and influential restaurants to open in Austin over the past decade (I gave myself a touch of leeway for a couple of 2009 openings) and ranges from pizza and barbecue trucks to James Beard Award nominees, with one operator landing in both categories. For a list of my Top 50 restaurants in Austin from 2019, visit austin360.com/eats.


Barley Swine (2010)


Seven-time James Beard Award finalist chef Bryce Gilmore makes "Texas cuisine," sourcing locally for his thoughtful, creative plates that are Texas to the core but still nod to places ranging from Mexico to China. The success of his tiny tasting menu restaurant on South Lamar Boulevard led to the opening of the more casual — but with a similar ethos — Odd Duck, before Barley Swine moved into bigger digs up north, giving that part of town its best restaurant. The restaurant also proved that one of the state’s best chefs could get his start in a trailer (with the original Odd Duck Farm to Table). 6555 Burnet Road. 512-394-8150, barleyswine.com


Dai Due (2014)


Butcher shop, bakery, all-day farm-to-table restaurant born from a farmers market stand and pop-up dinners, chef Jesse Griffiths’ Manor Road restaurant was unlike anything in town when it opened. The operation undoubtedly not only influenced other restaurants in its wake (Salt & Time) but also helped give voice to the new explosion of locally owned creative businesses. The pork chop remains one of the best in town, and the kitchen is always finding creative ways to show off our local bounty, such as an unexpected Mediterranean-inspired mezze plate. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-0688, daidue.com


Emmer & Rye (2015)


Few chefs affected the culinary conversation over the past decade in as profound a way as René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen. You can see the impact of his local foraging and pragmatic and passionate fermentation program at restaurants around the world. Emmer & Rye chef Kevin Fink worked at Noma and transported the lessons he learned in Denmark to his standout restaurant on Rainey Street (the location in the boozy nightlife district an ambitious move of its own). From the local heritage grains milled in-house to a larder packed with inventive fermentation products, there’s little doubt that working at one of the world’s best restaurants influenced Fink in opening one of Texas’ best restaurants. 51 Rainey St., Suite 110. 512-366-5530, emmerandrye.com


Franklin Barbecue (trailer, December 2009; restaurant, 2011)


It didn’t take long for the lines to start forming after Aaron and Stacy Franklin opened their small barbecue trailer in the lot of a coffee roaster on the I-35 feeder road. Franklin’s brisket led to instant converts who called him the future of Central Texas barbecue, and by the time the famously perfectionist pitmaster won a James Beard Award in 2015, he had already reached near legendary status. It’s no understatement that Franklin’s methods, beef sourcing and attention to detail with both service and food led to a tectonic shift in the world of barbecue, inspiring would-be imitators from Los Angeles to Eastern Europe. 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com


Justine’s (September 2009)


You almost felt like you were about to fall off the Austin map when you first headed out to Justine’s Brasserie when it opened a decade ago. To call founders Justine Gilcrease and Pierre Pelegrin ambitious for opening in a part of town devoid of dining and nightlife options would be an understatement. Visionary is probably a more apt term. The restaurant, which serves strong cocktails, rosy steak frites and electric vibes, doesn’t feel like anywhere else in Austin. It’s a mix of private dinner party, garden soiree and late-night throwdown that is both sweaty and sophisticated, an escape from everyday Austin life. Nobody has been able to replicate this unique space, and it’s probably best they don’t even try. 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900, justines1937.com


LeRoy and Lewis (2017)


Beef cheeks, barbacoa, wagyu brisket, mac-and-cheese-stuffed quail … kale slaw? These aren’t the kind of dishes you often expect at barbecue operations, much less food trucks, but Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis helped change diners’ barbecue expectations when they opened at Cosmic Coffee & Beer in South Austin. And while a brick-and-mortar is in the owners’ future, LeRoy flipped a chef’s evolution on its head when the Austin native proved that an ambitious chef could move from a restaurant (the late Freedmen’s) to a food truck and raise his profile. 121 Pickle Road. 512-945-9882, leroyandlewis.com


McGuire Moorman Hospitality (2010-2019)


How many restaurants do you think Austin’s most prolific independent restaurant group has opened in town over the last decade? Four? Seven? Try 11. They started the modernization of South First Street when they converted the former Bouldin Creek Cafe space into the highly stylized French-Vietnamese hybrid Elizabeth Street Cafe in 2011. They created exclusivity and escapism with seafood restaurant Clark’s in the Clarksville area in 2012, and rebooted two Austin classics in Jeffrey’s (2013) and Swedish Hill (2019). No group has done more to elevate the aesthetic and change the tone in Austin over the last decade. mcguiremoorman.com


Olamaie (2014)


Southern food found new life in the last decade with chefs across the region delivering their modern interpretations of a traditionally comforting cuisine rich with a sometimes complicated heritage. Nobody in Texas did so with the finesse, flavor and sophistication of Michael Fojtasek at Olamaie, which ranked as the city’s best restaurant three years in the decade. From his sensational off-menu biscuits to rye-brined pork chops, Louisiana-inspired shrimp and Hoppin’ John from the Carolinas, Fojtasek expressed the beauty of the South in a way most Austinites had likely never encountered. 1610 San Antonio St. 512-474-2796, olamaieaustin.com


Ramen Tatsu-Ya (2012)


Who knew Austinites were on the verge of a full-tilt ramen craze when chef Tatsu Aikawa and his partners opened their original counter-service restaurant in North Austin? Maybe they knew. Or maybe they just created the craze out of thin air. It’s a chicken-or-the-ajitama-egg situation. They applied craft and care to create sumptuous bowls of pork broth and noodles that led to long lines even on the hottest days of summer and then replicated that success at two more locations. They also had the foresight, both culinarily and with regards to creating a sense of mood, to develop Asian smokehouse Kemuri Tatsu-Ya and shabu-shabu restaurant DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya. Next up? A Tiki bar on South Lamar Boulevard. The energy, uniqueness and creativity of the team seem to have no limits. 8557 Research Blvd.; 1234 S. Lamar Blvd.; 1600 E. Sixth St. ramen-tatsuya.com


Suerte (2017)


The modern Mexican movement applies a scratch-based cooking approach to the Mexican vernacular, celebrating the flavors and time-honored traditions of our neighbor to the South that for too long has gone underappreciated. The in-house nixtamalization of local and heritage corns creates masa used for crackling tostadas and supple tortillas, and the Suerte menu extends well beyond handhelds, to items such as grilled fish and goat rib barbacoa. The list of agave spirits is as smart as any restaurant in town, and the vibe and design, relying on Mexican textiles and crafts, replicate Mexico in a respectful way. 1800 E. Sixth St. 512-953-0092, suerteatx.com


Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (2013)


Fifth-generation Texan Miguel Vidal opened his first trailer location to little fanfare at a bar just a few yards from Ranch 616, where he worked as a general manager for almost a decade. In a short time, he ascended to a position among the top pitmasters in the state. Vidal grew up bonding with family over his grandfather’s and father's backyard barbecues. The smoked brisket, carnitas and chicken were served with the accouterments traditionally found in Mexican restaurants: salsa, lime, avocado. And, of course, homemade flour tortillas. The South Texas comfort food Vidal re-creates at his trailer is the kind of cooking that makes you thankful to be from Texas. 11500 Menchaca Road. 512-221-4248, valentinastexmexbbq.com


Via 313 (trailer, 2011; restaurant, 2015)


For all of their alleged acceptance, Austinites don’t often welcome outside business owners, especially restaurateurs, with the most open arms. The city’s found a way to be both worldly and provincial. Brandon and Zane Hunt have proven to be exceptions to the rule; they’re also another great example of operators who started in food trucks and expanded to traditional restaurants. They did so with a quality product Austin hadn’t yet experienced (thick, fluffy, cheesy, Detroit-style pizza) and with an authenticity, confidence and attitude that felt both new to Austin and a piece of it. They fit into the culture and in turn helped shape it (they’re also investors in Nickel City, Uncle Nicky’s and Holy Roller) by being true to themselves. 1802 E. Sixth St.; 3016 Guadalupe St., #100.; 6705 E. US 290, No. 503. 512-580-0999, 512-358-6193, 512-584-8084; via313.com