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Texas Monthly spotlights 7 Austin dishes, desserts and drinks you have to eat now

Lutie's garden hand rolls made the list. (Lutie's/Instagram)

The 21st edition of Texas Monthly’s annual Where to Eat Now survey, which highlights favorite dishes from around the state, is out now and highlighting seven crispy, decadent and boozy delights from Austin restaurants.

Organized by Texas Monthly veteran and Pat’s Pick columnist Patricia Sharpe, this year’s edition of Where to Eat Now follows in the footsteps of last year by featuring favorite dishes, instead of favorite new restaurants.

Houston took the gold with eight dishes mentioned, Austin and Dallas tied with seven, and Fort Worth and San Antonio followed closely behind with five restaurants mentioned. In order to be considered, each of the restaurants had to have opened between Dec. 1, 2020, and Dec. 1, 2021.

​Panisse With Pecorino and Black Pepper at Birdie’s | 2944 E. 12th St.

Run by husband-and-wife duo Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and Arjav Ezekiel, Sharpe highlighted Birdie’s panisse, or chickpea fritters. Birdie’s makes the fritters crunchy on the outside, “light as a soufflé” on the inside and topped with grated pecorino romano and black pepper.

​Garden Hand Rolls at Lutie’s | 4100 Red River St.

Another husband-and-wife team, Lutie’s made the list for its garden hand rolls. Made with paper-thin sheets of daikon radishes, the rolls are stuffed with carrot, zucchini and avocado before being cut into “coins” and served with some cucumber basil aioli while you overlook the gardens of the restored Commodore Perry Estate.

Grilled Yellowtail Carpaccio at Sammie’s Italian | 807 W. 6th St.

The new, yet still familiar, Sammie’s Italian will serve you all the Italian comfort foods—like chicken parmigiana and ravioli bolognese—but the dish chosen to feature the restaurant is its new-age yellowtail carpaccio. Topped with crushed pistachios, mint leaves and fish roe, the dish is exactly what you would expect from an MML Hospitality joint.

Lavraki at Simi Estiatorio | 601 Congress Ave.

Put together by New York restaurateur George Theodosiou, Simi Estiatorio is known for its seafood and Mediterranean meals. You may catch a glimpse of some live lobsters when you walk in, but the dish that took the Greek-inspired restaurant to the top is its Lavraki: a whole branzino fish, grilled and then oven-finished, topped with herbs and capers.

Black Cake at Canje | 1914 E. 6th St.

Described by Sharpe as the “love child” between a British plum pudding and American fruitcake who got “rip-roaring drunk,” Canje’s black cake is doused in rum and brandy and topped with a cream cheese frosting. The chef and co-owner Tavel Bristol-Joseph also owns Austin restaurants Hestia and Emmer & Rye.

​Belgian Chocolate Tartufo at J. Carver’s Oyster Bar & Chop House | 509 Rio Grande St.

Steak and seafood restaurant J. Carver’s really shines when it comes to dessert. Chosen for its Belgian chocolate Tartufo, which is made of chocolate mousse, meringue and pieces of dark chocolate, it makes for a sharable end to the meal.

​Slurping Bastard at Tiki Tatsu-Ya | 1300 S. Lamar Blvd.

Yet another version of Ramen Tatsu-Ya chef Tatsu Aikawa’s unstoppable ventures, Tiki Tatsu-Ya has funky cocktails down. According to Sharpe, ordering a cocktail here is an exciting feat, often coming with billowing smoke from dry ice and flowers to decorate. The Slurping Bastard, a play on the Suffering Bastard, is gin-and-brandy-based with a touch of shochu liquor and plum-based drinking vinegar.


‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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