Best of 2021: 6 Northwest Austin dining features

Food from House of Three Gorges
House of Three Gorges opened in North Austin less than a month before the pandemic began affecting the area. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

House of Three Gorges opened in North Austin less than a month before the pandemic began affecting the area. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Community Impact Newspaper featured six Northwest Austin restaurants in 2021. Revisit these articles, which ran in our print editions over the last year.

March: Z’Tejas cooks up new ways to serve customers throughout pandemic

After a tumultuous 2020 in which it faced shuttered dining rooms and operational changes, Austin’s longtime restaurant group Z’Tejas started 2021 with a twist—it expanded a portion of its Northwest Austin location.

Z’Tejas in January opened the Z’ecret Garden, an uncovered patio space shaded by the restaurant’s cedar grove, adjacent to the porch of its Arboretum-area restaurant. A half-dozen tables sit out on the deck space, each equipped with a private campfire and cushioned seats. Read more

Note: Z'Tejas closed its Arboretum location over the summer, but plans to open a new restaurant in Avery Ranch.


April: Northwest Austin restaurant Masala Wok has dished Asian fusion flavors for decade-plus

After moving to Austin from Florida, Sanjay Parikh bought the Asian fusion restaurant Masala Wok in the Tech Ridge area. A few years later, Parikh opened a second Masala Wok dining room in Northwest Austin at the Shops at Arbor Walk, just south of The Domain.

Now, more than a decade after the second location opened its doors, the two kitchens are some of the longer tenured restaurants in the Northwest Austin area. Read more

August: Kerbey Lane Cafe serves the Austin community with 'family feeling'

Managing Partner Jon Haben and Kerbey Lane Cafe’s University location have one thing in common: a history of seeing customers and employees through decades of life.

Haben, who manages that location near the University of Texas, began his career in the restaurant industry as a server for the original location on Kerbey Lane in 2000. Having worked for Kerbey Lane Cafe for 14 years, Haben’s career shifted from serving comfort food to fine dining at resorts and hotels, including The Driskill Hotel, before returning to become general manager of the University location on Guadalupe Street. Read more

September: North Austin’s House of Three Gorges specializes in hard-to-find authentic Chinese cuisine

Less than a month after the Li family opened House of Three Gorges in North Austin—the family’s first foray into the restaurant industry—they were forced to close their dining room due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jim Li, one of the restaurant’s owners, said the business quickly pivoted last March to serve customers through takeout. But Li said many of the restaurant’s dishes are best enjoyed as a dining experience inside the restaurant, and the family is excited to welcome customers back when the opportunity arrives. Read more

October: Vietnamese cuisine gets a kick of Texas barbecue at North Austin's Smokin Beauty

At Smokin Beauty, diners will find two cultures fused into a shared love of cooking.

Husband and wife co-owners Matt and Thao Roth have brought together the meaty flavor of Texas barbecue with the lighter ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine to create a diverse menu of sandwiches, meat plates and side dishes such as coleslaw and creamed spinach. Read more

November: Pitmaster turns focus from sandwiches to smoked meats in Northwest Austin

The past year of COVID-19 pandemic alerts may have put a stop to many things, but the fires within InterStellar BBQ have stayed lit 22 hours a day.

John Bates, owner of InterStellar BBQ, said he has been in the food industry for 30 years. After working as a chef, Bates opened Noble Sandwich Co. in 2010 a half-mile down the road from InterStellar BBQ, which is at 12233 N. RM 620, Austin. Read more

Iain Oldman, Greg Perliski and Trent Thompson contributed to these stories.
By Claire Shoop

Reporter, Sugar Land/Missouri City

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition and in December 2021 moved to Austin to become the reporter for the Northwest Austin edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.