The culinary scene in Texas is firing on all cylinders as two Texas eateries snag spots on Esquire's prestigious Best New Restaurants list for 2023. Este, an Austin-based Mexican seafood restaurant, and Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, a pizzeria out of Houston, have caught the attention of the magazine's discerning taste-makers. While Nonno's scored big as the Pizza Joint of the Year, Este is the lone Texas establishment gracing the coveted main list, a catch for any gastronome's bucket list.
Este hasn't been shy about racking up accolades, previously earning nods from heavyweight culinary publications such as the New York Times, Bon Appetit, and Texas Monthly. With a rich menu spotlighting ceviche, oysters adorned with salsa negra and chiltepin mignonette, as well as their adored fried fish tacos, Este has put Austin's East Side on the foodie map. Esquire’s Omar Mamoon put it best, "You might think you’re on the Mexican coast, but alas, you’re in good ol’ landlocked central Texas. East Austin, to be exact," in an evocative praise according to a CultureMap Austin report.
Jeff Gordinier, Joshua David Stein, Omar Mamoon, and Kevin Sintumuang, Esquire's dining crew, embarked on a formidable gastronomic journey, spanning over 200 establishments across the US to curate their list. Even among a list led by Ilis, a Brooklyn-based New Nordic spot, Este's flavors beaming with Mexican flair and locally-sourced vibrancy managed to resonate with the magazine's quest for soulful innovation in the kitchen.
Este's journey, helmed by owner Sam Hellman-Mass and executive chef Fermín Nuñez, is not just about the flavors. It's a testament to the community and vigor of Austin's culinary spirit. Lauded as one of the city's most identifiable chefs, Nuñez's touch has not only won over the local crowd but also captivated a national stage, earning him prominent industry accolades such as a Best New Chef nod from Food & Wine magazine in 2021. Este’s placement in the former home of the East Side Cafe, which boasted the city's best seafood and Mexican restaurants, conveyed a synergy of nostalgia and forward-thinking cuisine, as noted in the American-Statesman's coverage.
Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, a beacon of Houston’s pizza scene, was described by Mamoon in a warmly reminiscent tone, "Nonno’s in Houston evokes the retro pizza parlors of my youth, Pac-Man and all, but the pizza is much, much better," stated in Culture Map Austin report. With a sincere hat tip to Nonno's, featuring not only standout pizza but also a robust wine and cocktail list housed within a retro design, surrendering to the allure of Houston's Italian fare is almost a given. Amidst stiff competition and with more than a nod to their Chicago-style cracker-thin pizzas, Nonno’s carved a name for itself in Esquire's experienced hearts and hungry bellies.