Somm Steven Dilley’s Food Lover’s Guide to Austin

The Lone Star State capital is known for its eclecticism, from its lively music scene, to diverse residents, and a wide array of delicious food offerings.

Steven Dilley has traveled around the globe drinking fine wines, but ultimately settled in Austin to open Bufalina, a destination for Neapolitan pizza and natural wine. Focusing on food and beverage was a major career pivot away from finance, but Bufalina was an early success for which Steven was recognized as an “Eater Young Gun.” The restaurant relies on BentoBox as its digital front door. The Marketing and Commerce Platform includes products such as websites, ordering (online ordering, pre-order & catering, gift cards, merchandise, tickets), events management, and marketing tools. Visit getbento.com/chef today to get your first month free. BentoBox is a strong supporter of HRN and is coming along for a ride around Austin with Steven!

HRN: What do you love about Austin’s food scene? 

Steven: The diversity (it’s not just tacos and barbecue, though there are great tacos and barbecue!) and industry camaraderie: Austin still has a small town feel.  

HRN: What has inspired your life-long love of pizza? How did you cross from pizza enthusiast to managing a custom-made wood-burning oven?

Steven: My mom is Taiwanese, so I ate a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese food growing up and very rarely ate out. Pizza always meant it was a special occasion: a birthday, a little league win. It usually meant Pizza Hut, and if I was super lucky, I’d get a few quarters to hit the arcade. All that childhood stuff resulted in an emotional connection. Years later, living in NY, Keste in the West Village opened, and after having their pie (and other Neapolitan and neo-Neapolitan pizzas) and being blown away, I started seriously considering trying my hand.  

HRN: Tell us about your wine shop and your wine club! When you’re looking for a new bottle of wine, what excites you?

Steven: Fun, refreshing wine that isn’t too fucked up! Wine has been a big part of Bufalina since day one, and the wine shop and wine club were ways to keep growing the program during the pandemic.

HRN: How would you categorize the state of hospitality right now? What is important for operators to bear in mind and prioritize?

Steven: Rough waters. Between labor and supply issues and escalating commercial real estate and construction costs, it’s tough. Amidst it all it’s important to continue to prioritize the well being of one’s staff and to stay true to your vision.

HRN: How has BentoBox helped Bufalina thrive?

Steven: By offering a robust platform with inventory management and great reporting, it has allowed us to keep our attention where it belongs: on food, wine, service, and the restaurant experience.

Somm Steven Dilley’s Food Lover’s Guide to Austin

1. Cuanto’s Tacos – Costra-style is the move at this Mexico City-inspired taco trailer in East Austin. Cheese griddled on one of their excellent corn tortillas adds a layer of flavorful protection against juicy suadero or barbacoa.  A weekly stop for me. Be sure to ask for both salsas.

2. Otherside Deli – Owners Derrick Smith and Conor Mack moved from the Northeast and opened this simple, small, focused deli with an emphasis on pastrami, turkey, and cold cut subs. The pastrami is as good as you’ll find anywhere. Keep an eye out for specials like chopped cheese and their chicken cutlet sub.

3. Sip Pho – I put off visiting Sip Pho for months because it’s housed in what used to be home to Ruby’s BBQ, where I ate countless meals over the past two decades… big mistake. In addition to being super sweet, the new occupants are putting out some of the tastiest and most consistent Vietnamese food in Austin. Their vegan take on pho is my girlfriend’s go-to comfort dish.

4. la Barbecue – Part of the newer wave of incredible, genre-defining Central Texas barbecue, la Barbecue also happens to be located a block from the soon-to-open East Side location of Bufalina. If it’s on the menu, it’s good, but definitely order the brisket.

5. Birdie’s – One of the many reasons to be excited about the current Austin dining scene. Pitch-perfect service, nuanced, delicious, and refreshing food, and one of the most exciting wine lists in town.