1744 E. Common St.
Noli Zogaj learned to cook in his native Kosovo, a cultural epicenter on the map between Italy and Greece. “So you better believe my family knew how to cook Italian,” Zogaj said. He opened Noli’s Vite on East Common Street in 2018, calling it “vite” in the convivial spirit of “grapevine” or “winery” the translation confers. He opened another location in Cibolo last year, keeping up with his cousin Albi Zogaj, the force behind Albi’s Vite in San Antonio and Leon Springs. New Braunfels attracted Noli Zogaj because “it’s not too big, not too small,” he said, just right for his mix of pasta, pizza and Italian standards, all supported by a strong Italian wine list. His crew makes the sheet pasta for a 10-layer lasagna by hand, with a robust marinara that also lends its big-shouldered twang to a novel plate of mussels marinara. Garlic bread steals the show, baked fresh for each table from the same dough that creates the hand-tossed pizza crusts. Zogaj designed the casually elegant interior himself, along with the small kitchen that manages an eight-page menu with heroic efficiency.
Muck & Fuss
295 E. San Antonio St.
San Antonians will appreciate the cruel irony of this burger bar’s address, on San Antonio Street, a street trapped in a cruel construction loop the same as their own city streets. But with its cool cathedral dining room and dog-friendly shaded picnic courtyard, Muck & Fuss provides a sociable escape from the chaos. The bar makes boozy milkshakes and margaritas and composes beer flights from a draft wall more than 25 taps deep. The kitchen’s a mad lab of a dozen burgers and the exponential possibilities of maxed-out fries, all drawing from the same table of elements: poutine, fried green tomatoes, street corn, havarti jam, pimento cheese, Asian slaw and 50 shades of bacon. Put those bar-and-grill juggernauts together, add tacos and sandwiches and wild cards including crab cakes and tempura shrimp, and that’s the sound & fury of Muck & Fuss.
Cody’s Restaurant Bar & Patio
188 S. Castell Ave.
When the Top 10 trattoria 188 South next door to Krause’s Cafe closed last year, it opened the door for the well-regarded bistro and chophouse Cody’s in San Marcos to expand southward. The result is a refined operation tucked into this former newspaper office on Castell Avenue, a warren of red bricks and black leather with a full-service bar and a kitchen that turns out a lush Wagyu flat-iron steak, a clever appetizer with tuna tataki and tempura-fried brie and an Asian-influenced dish of seared scallops with ponzu sauce and candied pork belly.
303 W. San Antonio St.
Huisache Grill will turn 30 next year, a labor of love and renovation from owners Don and Lynn Forres that was cool way before the rest of New Braunfels caught fire. For a destination dinner of duck and tenderloin, for a quick lunch of hot-and-crunchy trout, for an afternoon glass of cold German piesporter wine and charcuterie, Huisache is a moveable feast where khakis and cargo shorts fit in just fine with suits and sundresses.
1324 Common St.
It’s Carol Irwin’s world at Buttermilk Cafe; you’re just waiting for a table in it. But it’s a good world, this country-cosmopolitan diner that opened in 2011, a world where meatloaf and turkey and dressing share a menu with build-your-own omelets, house-cured salmon lox, chicken-fried steak and the best buttermilk pancakes in New Braunfels and beyond. The list of side dishes is 20 lines long, the first-class waitstaff pours truly good coffee, and the kitchen abides by Irwin’s country-cafe mantra: “Country cooking uses fresh, seasonal ingredients. It knows how to make do with less. And it makes everything from scratch.”
148 S. Castell Ave.
Krause’s was my No. 1 pick last year. A spot at No. 4 doesn’t mean they’ve slipped; it means the others have stepped up. Krause’s is still the city’s most vibrant, most well-stocked German biergarten, with live music, a Saturday farmers market and a menu of German standards that reminds us this place started as a German diner back in 1938. The late Ron Snider and his family restored and reinvigorated the place in 2017, and chef Jeremy “Boomer” Acuña turns out breakfast, lunch and dinner, including a German variation on chicken-fried steak called Texas schnitzel with fork-tender pork and jalapeño gravy, along with a restorative sausage plate with roasted potatoes, housemade sauerkraut and braised red cabbage.
Myron’s Prime Steakhouse
136 N. Castell Ave.
Myron’s is the kind of place where you can taste a California red blend and a French Bordeaux side by side before you order a glass. The kind of place where a vodka martini shimmers with crystals of ice. The kind of place where a steakhouse wedge salad is a meal of bacon and blue cheese unto itself. The kind of place where one uniformed staffer brings bread and another makes sure your steak’s a proper Pittsburgh rare — charred on the outside, scarlet red inside. It’s old-school, a dinner theater in a restored theater, where the show is all about the food, wine and service, the way it’s been for the last two decades.
208 S. Castell Ave.
Seven years after it opened on Castell Avenue, I think I’ve finally figured out The Downtowner. It’s a calculated mix of cloth-napkin kitchencraft and renegade get-down, orchestrated by co-owners Chad Niland and Jason Sublett. The cloth-napkin part comes from rib-eye tartare and Thai chile salmon and a champagne cocktail for weekend brunch. The get-down part? That’s bacon-wrapped barbecue meatloaf, a mezcal old-fashioned that’ll fog your glasses and a Wagyu burger with a hitchhiker of fried Nashville chicken. The man at the host stand paints like Keith Haring, there’s a punk-rocker portrait looming over a midcentury TV console and the diner-style kitchen counter draws a straight line to the divey bartop crowded with regulars. Hang out, fuel up, get down.
McAdoo's Seafood Co.
196 N. Castell Ave.
The building that houses McAdoo’s is more than 100 years old, the old U.S. Post Office built in 1915 on Treasury Secretary William McAdoo’s watch. But like so much of the city it once served, the space is living its second life, restored and reopened in 2009 as McAdoo’s Seafood Co. by the Wiggins Hospitality Group. In six visits over six years, I’ve seen McAdoo’s get better every year, growing deftly into the restored glory of its Doric columns, its vaulted ceilings, its marble service counter. The smart, uniformed staff carries plates of fresh East Coast oysters, fried shrimp, roasted sea bass, seafood fondue and cocktails including a true-to-form daiquiri. It’s a vertical sampler of price ranges and Gulf Coast styles. McAdoo’s sealed this year’s spot at the top with Mahi-Mahi Boudreaux that captured the Cajun side of its persona with pearled filets of grilled fish and a curled pas de deux of shrimp over dirty rice with crawfish cream sauce. And the story doesn’t end there. Wiggins Hospitality brought the former Mamacita’s restaurant space back to life in 2019 as La Cosecha Mexican Table, and they’ve just filed to revive the old New Braunfels City Hall as a restaurant and office space. A city on the verge, a city with a sense of history, a city with 10 good reasons to visit. Come hungry.