Editor’s note: Austin’s hospitality scene was dealt an impossible blow this year, leading to the heartbreaking loss of dozens of restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafes. In pulling together our 10 most-read bar and restaurant stories, an interesting trend emerged. Unlike past years, when closure stories dominated the year-end most popular story list, in 2020, we largely wanted good news. Our 10 most popular stories of the year ranged from local brands making big moves to ever-popular barbecue drive-thrus.
1. Austin-born taco chain receives ‘damn good’ $400 million investment for major expansion.Â Fourteen years after launching as a South Austin food trailer, Torchyâ€™s Tacos has received a damn good investment: $400 million to ignite a nationwide expansion. For the record, that’s enough cash to purchase roughly 75 million orders of chips and queso.
2. Acclaimed downtown Austin eatery crowned Texas Monthly‘s Best New Restaurant for 2020.Â Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharpe delivered her annual assessment of the state’s best new restaurants, and for the first time since 2011, an Austin eatery took the top spot. A lot has changed since Comedor took the crown in February, including the executive chef’s surprising departure.Â
3. Oldest barbecue joint in Texas opens drive-thru restaurant in Austin suburb.Â What’s the only thing more Texan than barbecue? A barbecue drive-thru. Southside Market & Barbeque, the 134-year-old purveyor of all things meat, opened its fourth location near Austin this fall, complete with a grab ‘n’ go window.
4. Austin’s decadent brunch-all-day restaurant permanently closes after 3 years. In October, Austin lost another local gem with the departure of Holy Roller due to the financial impact of the pandemic. The restaurant’s closing means Austin is not only losing a brunch-time favorite, but one of the city’s few women-led kitchens.
5. Austin’s iconic wood-fired pizza restaurant closes last location after 38 years.Â Brick Oven, the homegrown, wood-fired pizza joint thatâ€™s been an Austin staple since 1982, closed its last remaining location at the end of November â€” but not for the usual reasons.Â
6. Texas’ beloved Whataburger trades iconic A-frame design for new look.Â What-a-story! News that Texas’ beloved Whataburger is trading its iconic A-frame design for a sleek, modern look got fans fired up. Like, really, really fired up. People loved or hated the design (mostly hated), and boy, did they let us know. You don’t mess with Texas, and you don’t mess with Whataburger fans.
7. No-frills North Austin Tex-Mex spot ends 26-year run. The pandemic prompted the retiring owners of Enchiladas Y Mas to close earlier than anticipated. After 20 years dishing out no-frills Tex-Mex in North Austin, the owners announced the news in April, just as COVID-19 began to ramp up.
8. Shuttered North Austin Tex-Mex favorite cooks up reopening plans. Plot twist! In July, two nieces of the Enchiladas Y Mas owners announced they were reviving the beloved brand. One of the few heartwarming stories to come out of a devastating year.Â
9. H-E-B reveals open date for massive new South Austin store and barbecue drive-thru.Â H-E-B’s new South Austin store opened in early June, and people were stoked. It has, among other things, a barbecue drive-thru, an indoor children’s play area, and a mega beer and wine selection.
10. Austin suburb announces massive new hub for restaurants and entertainment. Party in Leander! Northline, an $800 million development currently under construction in the Austin ‘burb, made a big announcement this fall. The HUB, a food, beverage, and entertainment venue, is slated to be the projectâ€™s lead retail tenant. It will feature restaurants, bars, shops, patio space, and even an events stage.