Austinites need-not leave the culinary comfort of their neighborhood, what with the food scene here being the stuff of dreams. But by that same logic, everyone in the 512 has a culinary neighborhood to share, and up North, we’ve got game when it comes to diverse, kick-ass new restaurants.
This year, I’m introducing this ever-evolving list of said new restaurants (and I mean, like, within-a-year-of-opening new) North of downtown Austin. Let’s have a look at my picks and pics for New Up North, and finally at the end, a tribute to a neighborhood fave.
Brama – Eastern European
3301 Steck Ave, Austin, TX 78757
We arrived just after they opened (5 pm) on a Tuesday. The cozy and elegant setting was empty since we were there a bit before the dinner rush, and yet it didn’t feel awkward because it was cozy, and we were set in a private-feeling corner.
We opted to try the pierogis as our appetizer. Or should I say “I” opted to try them? Either way, they knocked me out. We ordered the onion and potato pierogis and made sure to try the beet horseradish. BE SURE TO ORDER THAT! Mix it with the sour cream for dipping, but just a little of the beet horseradish at a time, as it is no joke as far as that horseradish heat goes. The pierogies, with the sauces, make a brilliant combo of sweet, sour, acid and heat. I could subsist on these pierogies, but my doctor might disagree. Oh, and next time I’ll ask for extra of the fresh dill garnish.
My husband ordered Kielbasa with Saurkraut (the waiter’s favorite dish on the menu), and I ordered the Stroganoff with spaetzle. Both dishes delivered. Presentation at Brama is obviously part of the experience, and they nailed it. I cannot wait to go back for the rest of the menu, especially the dishes my neighbors on nextdoor.com raved about (Halusky, Goblaki, the cakes and desserts, and the cherry liqueur).
Note: For those of you familiar with Green Borscht (aka Schavel Borsht), I asked if they would ever consider adding it to the menu, and our waiter knew the dish and said he’d report my request to the kitchen. My husband first had it in Kiev and requested that I make it. I did, and I do, but I’ve never tried it made by someone who knows what it is supposed to taste like. So…if you’re a Green Borscht fan, be sure to mention it. I, for one, hope it makes it to the menu, or even as a special.
I will be back at Brama soon, either way.
Fat Dragon – Dumplings, Ramen, Asian
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #109, Austin TX 78759 When my husband spotted that sign above, we were heading to the good old Asia Cafe (if you haven’t been, you should start in on the prolific menu NOW), and we changed course. Fat Dragon had opened a month or so before, and see that word “dumplings” on the sign? That’s all it took. For me, the fact that a place five minutes from my house has in-house daily SOUP DUMPLINGS (among others) just about knocked me down.
Apparently, they’ve figured out a missing element to our neighborhood…really good dumplings, soup dumplings even. Not only that, they specialize in Ramen and a combo of Chinese based, but adventurous Asian Fusion (Thai-Style Udon, for instance). They tell me the menu is a work-in-progress to reflect their own style, along with the neighborhood they’re serving. They actively seek requests for what people want to see on the menu. How can you resist?
Are you missing a specific dish? Might as well chat them up about it. They have a collaborative spirit that even reaches to a unique graphic design style. An eighth-grade friend of their child designed that super cute dragon on their sign. Swoon!
See my original post about Fat Dragon from 2018. The post caught fire, with more traffic than all but one other post on my blog from 2018. People were visiting Fat Dragon the very next day and reporting glowing reviews of everything they ordered.
Fat Dragon invited me back to try their new dishes, and in-between the first, and most recent visit, I’ve tried a LOT more of the menu, and can’t complain about anything.
Pictured Above: Thai Style Udon, Shichuan Cauliflower, Peking Style Ribs
Brewtorium Brewery & Kitchen – Eclectic Contemporary Pub Food
6015 Dillard Cir A, Austin, TX 78752
Enjoy a beer, something to eat, and flexible space for chilling solo or with a crowd.
Brewtorium evolved over their first year (2018) from a large and promising cafeteria-esque feel into a labyrinth of cozy areas for playing board games and holding team-building hangs, as well as open spaces for large groups. I can’t confirm it (wink wink), but I’m pretty sure a ukelele club meets there, and with all the nicely hush-but-bustling sound vibe of the place, they blend in just like the other bunch of ATX weirdos hanging about. Plus Beer, Food, Repeat.
Two of you? Sit on a cozy couch and play a game. Twenty of you? Take over a space bigger than your ATX yard! How they make that space so flexible is truly awesome. On to the beer and the food!
Brewtorium has a huge beer menu, and a succinct food menu of appetizers (we like the pretzel), burgers, flatbreads, and salads. We usually share a pretzel, play our board games, and then split a salad and a burger or flatbread. My very favorite thing on the menu is “Joe Vs. The Avocado Bowl” — and at the suggestion of one of the barkeeps, add grilled chicken breast. If I have it on my own it is dinner and lunch the next day. Gorgeous fresh flavors with all the comfort you might be afraid to miss by ordering a salad.
The beer list (shocker at a place called “Brewtorium”) reflects deep study regarding both roots of micro-brewing, and with that, an understanding of local and global trends. I’d say they have something for every palette, and you can either stick with one of the regularly available staples, or go adventuring with the fantastically descriptive menu above the taps, or the incredibly knowledgeable and passionate staff members. They LOVE beer, and it shows (in the best way).
Pictured above: My husband and I signed up for an hour-long Terrarium-Making event, which included a discount on beers, and all materials and instruction. They do lots of fun stuff like this…They feature activities and events with themed nights like Tuesday’s Board Game Night….bring and play a board game and get $5 off each pitcher.
Chicha’s Fire and Grill – Indian
12636 Research Blvd #A110, Austin, TX 78759
We’ve only eaten at this brand new Indian restaurant once. They moved into and renovated the old space where Mongo Fire Grill used to be. It is still a large, undivided, brightly lit room. We asked our waiter for lots of advice about what to order, as the style of food was not as familiar to us as most local Indian places. I’ll have more to say than just “it was excellent” next time, as I didn’t take thorough notes on our first visit and thought I’d have been back in time for that by the time of publication of this post. Watch for updates.
Oz. Tap House – Self-Serve Tap & Pub Food
10601 Ranch Road 2222 Ste H, Austin, Texas 78730
So, this is a fun gimmick. Pour your own wine and beer (measured by the ounce) at the tap. Food is ordered either at the counter or a kiosk, and a 15% gratuity is included on your tab unless you mention it when you check in.
I want to love this idea, and while I actually really like the idea, we found that when all was said and done, the cost was higher than we expected for beers and burgers. That said, let me talk about the food, beer, and atmosphere. Because those, in spite of the price, were worth the visit.
The beers on tap are all local, which is super Austiny awesome (you can also get wine on tap). Purchase your OZ card (which you get by swiping your own credit card at the front counter), which comes loaded with enough ounces for several pints. Two of u started with one pint each, and then my husband went back for a flight. When I went back for my second pint, it stopped pouring at about halfway. A message on the screen informed me that my card needed to be re-loaded, which meant I would have to stand in line at the front counter again for them to witness if I was sober enough to have more. I get that, but my food was on the way to the table and at that point, I had to decide….cold food by the time I got a full beer, or hot food and a half beer. I chose hot food and half beer. Not ideal. Why not an employee by the taps to assist in checking for sobriety and re-loading cards?
Skipping to our second crack at filling beers, we had a repeat. My husband got his beer, I ended up with just a half AGAIN. My biggest question was why weren’t we advised/allowed to EACH have a card so we could each have the allotted 2-3 beers before getting back in line AGAIN, or why doesn’t an employee assist at the tap? We did NOT get back in line. We finished our beers and left after checking out at a kiosk. They lost money we’d have spent, we left frustrated.
The food: The burgers are sold separately from the fries, so the fries or other sides are add-ons. My husband ordered a burger and it was cooked like he likes, and he really enjoyed it. I ordered off of the kids’ menu (adults are allowed to do so) and got the kids burger with a chicken patty. Most kids don’t like tomato, lettuce or onion so it came with none of that. It was a great chicken sandwich with cheese and pickles, but I’d be tempted to order the other toppings since I’m a grown-ass woman. I like a smaller burger, but I also like adult toppings. My guess is that would be an up-charge at OZ. The fries were good but not amazing. But points for being hot and curly….and for being fries.
So…we served our own beers, did not have table service, paid a 15% gratuity before experiencing the service, and had to stand in line and find our own place to sit (I will spare you the story of the men who we had to share a table with, which normally I don’t mind), pour our own drinks (which for me was futile)…and the by the ounce price made the whole thing a relatively expensive way to get a burger and a pint or two. Plus the fries weren’t included with the burger. I like fries with my burger. Just GIVE ME THE FRIES!
I hope they work out the kinks because the beer was good, the food was good, the staff was nice, and the place had a great social vibe. But the issues with the concept left me frustrated, and for a price that left me feeling nickel-and-dimed.
If OZ is reading this: good job at lots of stuff including great, well-trained staff who are friendly and helpful, cool space and branding, good food that I might have described as great if the price wasn’t $10+ for a burger with no fries (for example), and advise individual OZ cards for every adult. Designate a roving staff member to re-up OZ cards, and bump the price down on the burgers OR include a side for that price. If you got within those lines, I’d be RAVING about you. But in Austin, you’ve got competition and I am on the fence till I try a few more times.
UZEat – Traditional Uzbek Cuisine
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd Ste 119, Austin, TX 78759
In the corner of the same plaza as Fat Dragon, Camino Real, N’Awlins Cafe, Asia Cafe, and two great international markets, you’ll find Austin’s first and only Uzbek restaurant tucked into the corner of the plaza. UZEat showcases home-cooking style Uzbek cuisine served in an environment designed to expose Uzbek culture and history.
The food, if I could describe it simply, is like a cross between comfort dishes like chicken and rice, and Meditteranean-like stews and salads. They have events frequently with live music, dancers, costumes, and a photo booth where you can try on traditional clothing.
They feature specials every day, and I highly recommend trying them out when they’re available. Every single special we’ve tried did not disappoint.
Sangam Chettinad Indian Cuisine
6001 W Parmer Ln, Austin, TX 78727
This is another very new Indian restaurant near the intersection of Parmer and Mc Neil, in the space where there used to be a gown shop. I don’t know where we’ll all shop for runway gowns now, but we can find comfort in the dishes at Sangam.
The dining space is another well-lit large and undivided space. Being that it is a large, new space awaiting (hopefully) a full house, it does feel a little vast. If they lowered the lights or created seating vignettes, I think it would help.
The staff seemed to be watching the customers, waiting to swoop in to take orders or bus empty plates. So the service was attentive and well-intentioned, but we felt a little self-conscious. This should work itself out as everyone gets used to the flow.
The food would have been perfection if it was a bit less salty. Every dish, including the naan, tasted a bit too salty for my taste. The menu was nicely arranged and easy to order from without much advice from staff because descriptions were clear and helpful. I look forward to a second visit to see if maybe the salty factor was a fluke.
The remaining restaurants on my list come as suggestions from friends and neighbors who shared them with me just prior to my deadline writing this post, or I’ve been to the restaurant (as noted) and cannot locate my photos. Over the coming weeks, I will add photos and descriptions of them as I am able to visit each one.
Bawarchi Biryanis Indian Cuisine – Indian
7318 McNeil Dr #102, Austin, TX 78729
This is the place next to Walgreens off of 183 & McNeil that used to be called “Hot Breads”. They’ve updated the interior and the menu and they did a fantastic job with both. We’ve explored the menu quite a bit, and my husband insists their Korma is the best in all of Austin. We usually order for pick-up from Bawarchi Biryanis, so I don’t have photos of the interior of the restaurant, and I cannot locate my take-out pics. Check back for updates.
Fresh Heim – Japanese
13776 N US Hwy 183 Ste 142, Austin, TX 78750
10700 Anderson Mill Rd Ste 105, Austin, TX 78750
Himalaya Kosheli – Nepalese & Indian
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd #148, Austin, TX 78759
Apparently great food, and you can bring your own bottle of wine if you like.
Farewell To A Storied Neighborhood Hang — BB Rovers Is Closing
12636 Research Blvd B101, Austin, TX 78759
BB Rovers, a beloved neighborhood bar & grill with a vast beer list, rotating taps, friendly staff (think “Cheers” — where everybody knows your name), good pub food, and the weathered scars of a place that has seen generations of kids grow up to become belly-up-to-the-bar customers, is closing its doors.
Above: Every inch of BB Rovers sparks the imagination, to say the least. A wrestling champ belt around a giant stein? A plastic dinosaur riding a plastic horse? A hobo clown with a tubing barbie? The African masks, the parrots, the flying pigs, old pics of the staff, and of course the seasonal decor…to put it bluntly, BB Rovers has seen some $hit.
I first heard this as a rumor in mid-December, but when driving by they still appeared to be open. So a few days after hearing the rumor, we went in (just before Christmas 2018).
The barkeep confirmed that the owners are trying to sell, and in the meantime, they were continuing to sell what beer and food they had left. Fast forward to the New Year, they’re still hanging on. They’re being run by a skeleton crew and the old menu is no longer.
They do still serve food, just, a couple things each day such as chili or a turkey sandwich with chips. Any given day the menu changes. The beer selection appears untouched. We go in every couple weeks to see what is happening, and the latest we learned was that the landlord is allowing them to keep running, but nobody is sure how long that will last.
If you have memories from BBs, be sure to get in there soon to say goodbye, as the doors could be shuttered for good any day now. Here are some photos of the many visits we’ve made to this old haunt for those looking to reminisce once the doors are closed permanently.
The neighborhood will miss you BB Rovers! We look forward to seeing what comes next in this huge, familiar, and storied space. It will be a fragile balance to keep the long-time customers coming and attract new customers seeking a more trendy, updated concept. I’m personally crossing my fingers that it stays mom & pop and doesn’t go to a chain. We like a divey and chill neighborhood place with good food and great beers!
This post will be updated throughout 2019. Please leave your “New Up North” tips if you know of something that belongs on this list!