Where to eat in Austin right now: 5 hot restaurants for something new

September 9, 2016

Fall is here, which means chefs are busy refreshing their menus and adding new dishes to reflect the change of season. We've rounded up five hot Austin restaurants with fresh fall options for lunch and dinner. Here's where you should eat right now:

Café Josie

As previously reported, Café Josie is now serving “The Experience,” a format that allows diners to choose as many individual-sized menu items as they wish for just $40. Executive chef Todd Havers has a set of new dishes for the fall menu, which we were lucky to preview. Don’t underestimate the humble venison chili cheese fries topped with sliced red onion and jalapeño vinegar — they are some of the best we’ve ever had.

Another must-try is the moist and juicy smoked chicken, served with grilled zucchini ribbons, minced pepperoncini, and Grana Padano. We loved the fiery blackened shrimp over sweet potato cubes, with kale slaw and a minutely diced, tangy apple relish, and swooned over the grilled bass with creamy polenta, gremolata, and smoked artichoke heart-tomato sauce, a nod to a classic soup from original Josie chef Charles Mayes. Pair your selections with a small but well-curated wine and beer list and enjoy one of Austin's cutest patios.

Juliet Ristorante

This lovely Italian oasis on Barton Springs Road recently launched a new lunch menu from executive chef Jacob Weaver featuring a few Italian-American favorites and light options. Expect classics like shrimp scampi over house-made fettucine, veal Marsala with herbed spaghetti, and spicy sausage and grilled peppers with polenta. “These new menu items were inspired by our recent Little Italy series. We wanted to add some Italian-American dishes that are familiar and satisfying,” says Weaver.

We recently sampled the crispy fried artichoke heart appetizer, a superb chicken picatta with wilted spinach and Italian parsley, and a sautéed trout filet served over mascarpone risotto with crunchy pancetta bits and green peas that may be one of the top dishes of the year. With its beautiful patio, plentiful parking, and proximity to downtown, Juliet is a no-brainer for a classy lunch at a fair price.

Sala & Betty

Seasonality is of the essence at this family-run spot where the globally influenced menu changes every four to five weeks. September’s offerings include a refreshing watermelon salad with basil oil and lemon-scented yogurt; salmon crudo with diced mango, avocado, red onion, ginger, mint, and chopped Mexican apple; and a seared sea scallop dish reminiscent of an Indian Summer, with bicolor corn succotash and tomato vinaigrette.

Come October, the scallops will be served atop curried roasted cauliflower accompanied by cilantro-mint yogurt. Chef/owner Teresa Wilson will highlight more fall flavors with an addicting appetizer of fried Parmesan sticks with smoked tomato aioli, creamy mac and cheese with roasted butternut squash and sautéed trumpet mushrooms, and sweet potato crème brulee for dessert.


Executive chef Martin Wilda has added three new menu items to Sway's menu for lunch and dinner. The Hx Slad Ki gives lettuce wraps a fresh twist, with juicy roasted chicken and living bibb lettuce accompanied by a mix of crispy shallots and hearts of lemongrass, a green Thai chile sauce, and a roasted tomato sauce as seasonings. The Brussels sprouts with fermented bean and garlic are listed as a side dish, but were great as an appetizer. And the fiery Pad Ki features toothsome Kanom Jim fermented rice noodles stir fried with Northern-style Hunglay curry, roasted chicken, snow pea slivers, and fresno chiles.

“This is a traditional celebratory dish,” says sous chef Stacey Jones, “a red curry with aromatics like lemongrass, garlic, and galangal, pounded by hand with mortar and pestle. I like the heat, but we have toned it down at customers’ request.” Pair these dishes with a refreshing watermelon soda with basil seeds, an exotic turmeric drinking vinegar served over crushed ice, or one of eight new offerings on the wine list. We especially enjoyed the Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige to cut down the heat on the Pad Ki.

Swift's Attic

Executive chef Matthew Taylor is adding new items to the lunch menu at this downtown favorite. Those who favor a sandwich will enjoy The Goodfella, a crusty hoagie roll filled with prosciutto cotto, pepperoni, fontina, red onion, fennel, and sweet pepper sauce. For a vegetarian option, try the cauliflower steak sandwich, featuring a good portion of the roasted crucifer accompanied by peanut curry, zucchini, and roasted onion, all inside an onion bun.

Lighter fare includes a roasted beet salad with almond butter, goat cheese, Fuji apple, Asian pear, red oak lettuce, and ginger vinaigrette. If you’re looking for a more filling option, go for the tori katsu: panko breaded chicken thigh with wild rice quinoa, napa cabbage salad, and Swift’s Japanese barbecue sauce.