Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55

Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55

Photo of Margot Mazur

Austin’s Best Restaurants

15 Places
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    t’s that flash that makes Chez Nous more than an escape from the carnival midway of East Sixth Street. It fosters an atmosphere of self-improvement, a temporal yearning to broaden your food and wine and cultural horizons.
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    Chen’s Noodle House is about as unassuming as a Top 55 restaurant gets. The formula works so well that Chen’s built a much fancier version of itself called Chen Z on West Anderson Lane.
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    If all it did was make good beer, that might be enough for Black Star Co-op to win. But no, it has to run up the score with food to match.
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    The liquor amplifies the Show Room’s steampunk dollhouse energy, with beer drafts in little jelly jars poured from a tap welded together from a milk can and spare parts from a Jules Verne submarine.
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    All flourishes aside, know that Hopfields is a minefield of beer that will knock a grown man to his knees, or at least backward off his chair like it did the night a no-refusal-weekend warrior adopted our table.
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    The menu also folds in duck and wild game, Creole influenced seafood and the old-school formality of a tableside Caesar salad for two.
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    Hudson’s doesn’t get a free pass into the Top 25 like it would have a decade ago, but it belongs in any accounting of Austin’s Top 55 Restaurants. Only now, it’s the one with something to prove.
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    The pizza menu is as tightly curated as the tap wall, a study in depth without distraction: nine pies plus a few specials. There’s a workable sausage-and-mushroom ($13), but I like the bravery of House’s Subterranean pie ($10).
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    Hopdoddy is a hybrid beast: Part fast-food, part bar, part sit-down restaurant, part burger joint. Hybrid? Maybe Frankenburger is a better word.
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    Takoba breeds familiarity with a twist of modernity and adventure. Austin understands that. In 2010, I named Takoba the Statesman’s Newcomer of the Year for casual restaurants.
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    El Mesón makes the Fed Man 55 on the strength of its interior Mexican cooking and its happy hour bonanza. It’d be higher on the list if it didn’t still feel half-finished, like a kid wearing his father's shoes.
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    Ten stools, four two-tops, one family table inside, a few picnic tables outside. But look at what’s cooking. Red peppers roast away on a gas-fed grill, sharing space with a piece of hanger steak and a butterflied quail.
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