Best Bites in Austin February 2024 recap

March 21, 2024

Best Bites of Feburary 2024

Best Bites in Austin February 2024

Damn I eat good. If you caught the Studio 512 segment you saw me rave about not one but two smashed burgers, Roman style pizza in Austin, a vegan tartare and the entire menu at Birdie’s.

Part of me thinks I should go on a diet right now but I’ve got even more coming from March. Now onto the best bites in Austin February 2024 edition.

Pork Smash Burger at LeRoy and Lewis

#5 Best Bite in Austin: The Pork Smash Burger at Leroy and Lewis

The Vitals:
the spot: LeRoy and Lewis 5621 Emerald Forest Dr, Austin, TX 78745
the eats: Pork Smash Burger
the bucks: $10
the full nelson: The most unique smashed burger in Austin

Pork Burgers are a seldom scene occurrence and for good reason: they are difficult to pull off. Years ago I raved about a great pork burger in Austin at the now closed Noble Pig Sandwich Company. The success of that burger was a well orchestrated balancing act of flavors that kept the pork burger from turning into a Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage fest.

In 2024 I found another successful Pork Burger, this time at the new LeRoy and Lewis: a magnificent new brick and mortar barbecue restaurant in South Austin. The pork patty is made from a cross of Berkshire and Red Wattle pigs from Peaceful Pork farms. The garnish is classic Texas: yellow mustard and raw white onion.

The thick slice of tomato is salted in advance, a chef’s kiss from Chef Evan LeRoy whose resume includes fine dining in NYC along with many years of making barbecue. Today he is making fine dining barbecue that will make you rethink burgers as a beef only club.

#4 Best Bite in Austin: Roman Style Pizza at Baldinucci Pizza Romana

The Vitals:
the spot: Baldinucci Pizza 3300 Bee Cave Rd #110, West Lake Hills, TX 78746
the eats: Roman pizza by the slice
the bucks: $7 a slice
the full nelson: Rome comes to Austin at this pizzeria in Westlake

Two things will strike you when visit Baldinucci Pizza Romana. The first will no doubt be encountering Roman style pizza which is seldom scene outside of Rome let alone outside of Italy. If you’re like me and just haven’t been to Rome in a minute, I’ll clue in to how they do their “‘za”.  Light and airy like Focaccia bread, this pizza employs a Zero Flour which is imported from Italy. You can get whole pies but the pizzas are available by the slice for a mere $7.

The next you will notice it the outright value. Each slice feels like two and frankly constitutes a meal. There are a lot of great pizzas in Austin but few make a better case for value. Pro tip: get the mortadella.

Beet Tostada at Nixta

#3 Best Bite in Austin: Beet Tartare Tostada at Nixta Taqueria

The Vitals:
the spot: Nixta Taqueria 2512 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
the eats: Beet Tostada
the bucks: $9
the full nelson: One of the best Mexican dishes in Austin is Vegan. Really. 

Nixta Taqueria is an Austin treasure. Not only is the casual taqueria a draw for locals and foodie tourists alike but the restaurant is committed to community. That sense of community was no doubt a compelling factor when Chef Edgar Rico was a James Beard award in 2022 for Best Emerging Chef.

Success like that plus being recognized as Time magazine’s 100 most influential people often mean success has gone to one’s head. Not Edgar. He is still the jovial laid back guy I met back in 2019 when he and his future wife Sara were starting out.

Let’s talk food though. If you know me, you know I love the meats. Well, the dish I’m raving out at Nixta is vegan. And this isn’t a holdover from my January resolutions either. I’ve been a die hard fan of the beet tartare tostada for years which speaks to the consistency of the kitchen along with the brilliance of the dish.

The chopped roasted and chilled beets are intense like raw minced beef, the avocado crema is a luscious layer of fat and the dish as a whole is satisfying without using a single animal ingredient. I order it everytime I go to Nixta and you should too. Who said Meatless Monday only had to happen once a week?

The Smash Burger at Old Pal Tavern

#2 Best Bite in Austin: The Smash Burger at Old Pal Bar

The Vitals: 
the spot: Old Pal Bar 100 E Market St, Lockhart, TX 78644
the eats: Smash Burger
the bucks: $8
the full nelson: One reason why the coolest Austin neighborhood is in Lockhart

A chef friend of mine told me a few months ago over a burger that the best burger in the state was at Old Pal in Lockhart. He said this to the chef of the burger we were eating. That’s pretty bold. He also has a point. The Burger at Old Pal is smashed burger bliss and I have had my share of those lately especially in Houston last year.

The burger is simple and perfect. The right ratio of meat to cheese to bun. A juicy patty with crisp edges. It’s not too far off from what you might find at Patty Palace or Silver Medal but neither are this cheap. The burger at Old Pal is $8 for a damn double. These are like pre covid prices. If I’m dreaming please don’t wake me up.


#1 Best Bite in Austin: The rotating pasta at Birdie’s

The Vitals: 
the spot:Birdie’s 2944 E 12th St Unit A, Austin, TX 78702
the eats: The rotating pasta special but really the whole menu
the bucks: $24
the full nelson: One of Austin’s most hyped up restaurants more than lives up to it

For the sake of this list/round up I’m focusing in on the Campanelle pasta with pioppino mushrooms, calçots, and breadcrumbs. If you’re like me the only word you might recognize is mushroom and breadcrumbs. That’s because Chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel ain’t playing games. But don’t think the dish eats too high brow. It is the epitome of comfort food. I thought the sauce was cream but it turns out you don’t need it when you have good butter, parmesan, mushroom stock and Sicilian olive oil.

Speaking of olive oil, Chef Malechek-Ezekiel is really into the stuff. She has a blood orange olive oil she pours over her soft serve gelato ice cream for dessert. If that sounds weird, so did Ben and Jerry’s concoctions when they first came out. What those Vermont hippies and Birdie’s have in common is resounding accolades. I could go on about the steak tartare or the perfect seared bass or the outstanding wine list but there is something more unique happening here: a counter service format that allows this fine dining experience to happen.

The staff gets two weeks paid time off each year. The prices aren’t cheap but neither is the food you are getting. This was most likely the best meal I have ever had in Austin. The cooking here is on par with what I would expect at the big name restaurants in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, I could go on. Or maybe I need to slip in Birdie’s in Austin as a restaurant those cities should be aspiring too.

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