Radar: 8 “Must-Go” New Restaurants of 2023

By: Kiley Pettit

From a retro food truck serving delicious dips around Atlanta to scrumptious Yucatan-inspired fare in Austin, these eight new restaurants bring something new to the South’s diverse culinary landscape. Pack this list of our must-go restaurants during your travels, and be sure to arrive with an empty stomach!

Steamboat Creek Oysters Credit Jonathan Bancek
Image courtesy of Jonathan Boncek.

Costa | Charleston

Find yourself transported to picturesque Italian shores at Costa, Charleston’s newest culinary destination opening November 16. Think Amalfi coast lemon groves meet the majestic cliffs of Sicily. From Capri to Carolina, the open-concept restaurant embodies “sprezzatura,” Italian effortless grace, with its breezy floor-to-ceiling windows and gorgeous views of the Charleston Harbor. The menu, curated by chef Vinson Petrillo, combines inventive global arrangements, seasonal hints, and whimsical nostalgia.

Lynn Easton and Dean Porter Andrews, founders of the Easton Porter Group, describe the restaurant as “a seafood haven where the colors of the sea come alive in the design, decor, and on the plates. We invite guests to savor and share delectable seafood, our handmade pastas, and specialty meat dishes.”

Drawn from chef Petrillo’s cherished family traditions, Costa will serve authentically crafted dishes like carabinero shrimp, pecorino ravioli, and savory Wagyu beef tortellini with braised octopus. An Italian meal is not complete without an assortment of apéritivi and digestivi. Complement your evening’s spread with a refreshing spritz, citrus gin cocktail, bitter Amari, or a glass of Italy’s finest wines.

Nami | Orlando

Nami, the contemporary Japanese gastronomical experience from world-class culinary gurus like Michelin-starred chef Freddy Money, is the latest concept to engage late-night dining. Located inside Orlando’s lavish Lake Nona Wave Hotel, this European-inspired restaurant holds an intimate, modern 67-seat dining room lined with traditional Japanese maple trees. Opt to dine at their sleek and exclusive omakase counter for a more personal, curated culinary journey. Each dish on Nami’s exceptional menu precisely executed and offers noteworthy textures and dynamic flavors. Order the 24-hour marinated paprika Chilean sea bass topped with vibrant pickled cabbage or the sharable Nami nuggets paired with a house tangy kimchi.

Must go restaurants: Dips Kitchen. Image of light blue retro van with chevron pattern on the back. Mobile dip delivery business.
Retro Dip Mobiles stocked with ready-to-go delicious, homemade dips.

Dips Kitchen | Atlanta 

Atlanta’s latest mobile eatery, Dips Kitchen, puts shareable dishes into the spotlight. The “dip mobiles” serve local favorites like creamy hummus, vegan queso, and smoky paprika pimento cheese alongside dipping vessels like vegetables and artisanal crackers. 

“When envisioning this business, I was inspired by my family’s tradition of our all-dip Christmas Eve dinner, where the entire meal consisted of dips, as they were everyone’s favorite part of the gathering,” says owner Jeff Scardino. “Dips Kitchen is a unique concept that reimagines these shareable dishes as a meal. We’re focused on implementing the latest themes in the food space from adopting a delivery-forward model to identifying the trendiest flavors and beyond.”

Sustainability is top of their mind with 100% compostable on-the-go dip containers. To snag these delicious dips, flag down the retro pastel blue trucks cruising around the Buckhead neighborhood, place a delivery order with the Dips Kitchen app, or book them for your next event.

Tuk Tuk Snack Shop | Lexington

The long-awaited brick-and-mortar restaurant from Lexington, Kentucky-based chef, Sam Fore, a nationally acclaimed James Beard Award finalist, is here. Originating in pop-up tents and various Michelin-starred kitchens around the country, the Tuk Tuk Snack Shop opened its own doors in late September.

Deeply influenced by Fore’s upbringing and culinary journey, the menu thoughtfully incorporates Sri Lankan techniques and ingredients fused with traditional Southern influence. A fan-favorite is “The Webster,” Fore’s signature Tuk Tuk fried buttermilk chicken sandwich seasoned with her curry-inspired spice blend and paired with a hint of tropical sweetness with coconut sambol. Order “The Duke” if you are in the mood for a crispy Texas toast grilled cheese sandwich slathered with caramelized onions. Or, if you’re seeking a vegetarian option, opt for “The Tuey (2-E),” a curry-jackfruit sandwich. Tuk Tuk also offers DIY rice bowls, fritter-battered vadai “corndogs,” and flavor-packed Tuk Tuk sweet and spicy spare ribs.

Bacalar’s golden Tikin-Xic. Image courtesy of Jessica Attie.

Bacalar | Austin

Inspired by the Yucatán Peninsula, chef Gabe Erales’ two-story neighborhood restaurant, Bacalar, delivers authentic Mexican cuisine steps away from Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Named for Erales’ recollections of family trips to Pueblo Magico Bacalar in Quintana Roo, the restaurant’s symbolic walls are a tapestry of community, culture, and authenticity. 

“I am excited to honor and showcase the food diversity of the Yucatán region of Mexico, which is currently not as widely known as other places like Mexico City or Oaxaca,” says chef Erales. “Our vision for Bacalar is for it to not only serve as a restaurant where food memories are created, but also an institution where guests are educated on ingredients, techniques, and the many diasporas that provide a foundation for the cuisine.”

Bacalar celebrates comida milpera, the relationship-based Mexican agricultural system where chefs use native ingredients sourced from small communities. Honing in on this concept, the menu highlights include bacalao—crunchy salt cod fritters served with Yucatan salsa, and Tikin-Xic—light golden tilefish topped with recado rojo and smoked plantains. Bacalar offers an interconnected culinary journey with flavors of the Yucatán, Lebanon, and Caribbean.

Enso Interior Photo Credit Destiny Robb
Ensō decor. Image courtesy of Destiny Robb

Ensō | Louisville

Ensō, the recently opened vibrant restaurant in Louisville’s Clifton neighborhood, creates a culturally blended rarity between Japanese techniques and Southern tradition. Ensō means “circle” and stems from a Buddhist symbol representing unity, harmony, and clarity—elements reflected in Ensō’s harmonious environment and meticulously balanced menu. Owner and chef Lawrence Weeks draws inspiration from his creole and Cajun roots and international travels, weaving parallels across cultures in his menu. Unique dishes include chili she-crab noodles—ramen noodles, sweet uni cream, and spicy chili crab—and agedashi tofu—grit-crushed tofu, carrotsauboshi, and kombu dashi (a flavorful kelp broth).

SupperClub SouthEnd | Charlotte

Charlotte’s most anticipated culinary and entertainment complex, SupperClub SouthEnd, seamlessly blends traditional southern fare with European influences, nightly live music, a bounty of beverages, and a spirited gaming area. The golden chandelier-lined ceiling and local art-covered walls boast a dynamic ambiance. In terms of menu, the kitchen collaborates with local farms and food purveyors to deliver a seasonally focused menu with an essence of global flavors. Favorites include lobster shooters with fruity watermelon and citrus and braised pork belly with popcorn grits.

Nineteen Hyaku | San Antonio

Poised to become the Lone Star State’s most desired sushi bite since it opened its doors on September 27, Carpenter Hospitality’s most recent concept, Nineteen Hyaku, creates a new standard for Japanese cuisine. With a sweeping variety of traditional offerings like rolled makimono, nigiri, and skewers from the charcoal-fired robata grill, the restaurant also offers a chef-driven omakase menu. Request one of the many Japanese-inspired cocktails or the sample their extensive sake list. Located in San Antonio’s Pearl neighborhood, Nineteen Hyaku has an elevated atmosphere with towering 25-foot floor-to-ceiling windows and a minimalist, open-aired dining room.


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