2020 started off as one of the busiest years for me: a bachelorette party in Sonoma (Jan.), a ski trip in Vail (Feb.), my brother’s wedding in Palm Springs (March), and working on the launch of Equinox’s first, at-home workout app Variis at SXSW—well we all know what happened. I remember panicking as I watched the walls fall down at every restaurant across the country. This is my business! I help restaurants open, liquor brands come to life, and work with lifestyle brands and stores to open to the public with strategic live events. Then it hit me: OK fine while I stay home for a month or so (ha remember when we thought it wouldn’t be too long), that I will learn how to cook. That definitely happened, and I now have some sharp skills and confidence for cooking for friends.
On the other hand, I watched some businesses flourish, chefs start new delivery concepts, furloughed pastry chefs open their own at-home bakery, and tech guys offer on-demand oyster shucking in people’s backyards. It was also a great time to explore Texas where I found lots of natural springs to swim and hike in, and found a great Austin and Hill Country Vacation Rental company called Lodgewell with tons of homes nearby for a local or quick getaway to spots like The Shorewood on the lake. Below you’ll find a list of the top food and restaurants that I was still able to discover in 2020 in no particular order:
- Comedor Meal Kit– Texas Monthly named this upscale Mexico City inspired restaurant filled with masa #1 in their March issue. When dining room’s closed, Chef Philip Speer and co-owner William Ball pivoted faster than anyone I’d seen across the country. They created Assembly Co., a pick-up and delivery nationwide meal kit that provided their signature dish ingredients paired with videos from the chefs teaching people at home how to make their food. Yeah, I recreated their Bone Marrow tacos in my own home flawlessly! Not because I can break them down and make, but because the box included the perfect amount of ingredients needed with directions on how to finalize and cook the almost already cooked pieces. This is so fun and really lit my spirits up.
- Uchiko Curbside Omakase – Sushi is the one thing I missed most during the spring because sourced fish from Japans is obviously something I cannot get my hands on. In the summer, renowned Uchiko offered a 10 courses with 3 sake bottles for curbside only for a total of $150. The cauliflower with raisins, sashimi, tuna loin, wagyu and ice cream sandwich were some of the best dishes I’ve ever had from them and it was all at my own home!
- Doughboys Pizza – When co-owner Tony lost his gig at Aba, he turned his day around by focusing on wood-fired ‘zas in a light blue food truck at Arbor Food Park. I love their attitude on instagram as they are all about making good pizza, having fun, and serving their community right. Open Tuesday-Saturday.
- Chef Teddy Simon’s Tuna Lunchbox – Chef Teddy Simon is a mysterious sushi chef who has worked in and owned Japanese restaurants in Austin for the last 20 years. While large catering for spaces like F1 became his main gig, when that was pulled out, he started selling lunchboxes and sushi platters to customers via instagram @ChefTeddySimon. While there isn’t exactly an order time cut-off, if you DM him you get his line-up and can order big plates as well. I got a toro and chutoro sushi lunchbox delivered to my door on a Thursday (pre-ordered the night before) for $25 total. He sources from fisherman in Japan, and you truly can’t get a more tasty or better deal than from this guy!
- Justine’s Brasserie – This is my favorite restaurant to dine at when I’m looking for a stylish and who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen night out. The staff dresses impeccably and it’s pretty far east and away from everything else going on yet it feels like this is where EVERYTHING is going on. The French spot makes the best steak frites, steak tartare, burger, and espresso martini’s. They always have a gorgeous NYC- style winter tent with a bar outside, but during the pandemic they created these individual cabanas where you can make a reservation. It’s just what you need to feel lively again!
- Lenoir’s Outdoor Wine Garden – Lenoir has always been one of my favorite restaurants in Austin because of their Whole Fish made with Curry and herbs and their natural wine list. I was lucky enough to gain them as a client during the pandemic once they reopened to an outdoor-only restaurant. They turned the backyard wine garden into a full on restaurant with cute pink and blue custom-table cloths, a heated tent with chimneas, and opened for lunch for the first time on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Southhold Farm + Cellar Winery – This winery in Fredericksburg is the classiest of them all. I actually convinced myself I was at Scribe in Sonoma and when I opened my eyes it worked and felt it. This vineyard started in the North Fork of Long island and moved here to Texas back to one of the owner’s roots. The lovely outdoor area with long tables and a coverage area with swings overlooks the hills and natural terroir. It is enchanting and worth the drive for some wine tasting! Tasting with a View Ressies Here.
- Brunch at Summer House – The new Bunkhouse Hotel on Music Lane called Magdalena opened with a great summery vibe with nods to old school hospitality and lake house vibes. I love the tuna tostada at dinner, but the gorgeous patio with hues of hunter green and neutral tones is what draws me in. That being said brunch is the way to go to be in that spotlight and enjoy the Eggs in Purgatory, Pancakes, and always, always their thick fries!
- Dinner at The Peacock – I’ve been told I make bold statements about food and this one is going to be one of those times. The Peacock makes the best pita bread I’ve ever had in any city, any country (including Israel), and it’s pillowy and doughy in the center making me dream about it. It’s kinda the same way I like my cookies so maybe that is why! Go for the Mediterranean food which is rare in Austin and you’ll appreciate their citrus, herby, and healthyish dishes. I love their octopus, simple greens salad, and hummus, of course, for the pita usage.
- Scull House Sweets Pop-Tarts – I got these pop-tarts as a gift, and I’ll say they taste the perfect every bit of homemade and loving. They aren’t too rich like other bakeries, and feel light and with such fresh dough. I love that a social worker by trade starting making these this year. DM her for orders and go for the Caramel Apple @Scull_House_Sweets.
- Austin Oyster Co. – If you love seafood and entertaining as much as I do, then you’ll love the fact that you don’t have to prep anything for this oyster party! Hire the boyz from Austin Oyster Co. and they’ll show up for a shucking good party in your backyard with fresh east coast oysters so you can have these at home safely. Use code CHEK10 when you purchase online for 10% off.
- dō by Camila – Camila is a local Puerto Rican baker who got furloughed from her job and turned her sweet fixings into a virtual bakery at home! I LOVE her breads and she is so cute when she meets you herself in neighborhood parking lots so you can get the breads. Go for the Pan Sobao and Sweet Rolls. She also makes bagels, focaccia, and cookies. You can order here.
- Taquero Mucho’s Passion Fruit Margarita’s (tried these pre-covid) – This downtown pink hot spot has pink disco balls in the bathroom, a pink telephone booth outside, and well, pink everywhere even in the tortillas (beets)! I loved their Passion Fruit margs. We all deserve a good margarita after this year!
Groceries, packaged foods, beverages, and dining stuff I fell in love with:
- Hu Kitchen– Obsessed with their paleo line of chocolate. Specifically the Hazelnut Butter, Cashew Butter, and Sea Salt gluten-free crackers. I’ve been such an avid customer they are giving 15% off when you use REICHEK15 at check-out.
- The Green Cart Pantry (Austin only)- Try her homemade chicken salad, array of prepared vegetable deli salads, pecan oil, sourdough crackers and more. They deliver weekly and also include nice flowers
- Barnana– Plantains are my favorite salty snack and Barnana uses vinegar+ sea salt to add healthy flavor. I also love their chocolate chip banana brittle.
- Haus – I love a good aperitif before or after a big meal and this Sonoma based drink company makes a beautiful bottle and low ABV sip. It’s all natural ingredients. Go for the Citrus Flower or Spiced Cherry.
- Made In Cookware – This Austin-based cookware company makes pots, pans, and now beautiful, crisp cocktail/water/ and wine glasses. I love watching them grow and their pans are restaurant quality and backed by professional chefs like Tom Colicchio and Nancy Silverton.
- Atelier Saucier Cocktail Napkins– My dining room encompasses a wavy rainbow rug that sits boldly right beneath my glass table. These champray rainbow cocktail napkins are where the party is at!
- Banza Pizza– This chickpea-based company is known for their chickpea pasta, rice, and just launched frozen pizzas with chickpea crust. I can’t get enough of it! WHO KNEW. It’s a problem when you think it’s OK to eat a whole pizza, but Banza made me do it!