Dish of the Day: Voodoo Doughnuts

Because every Friday the 13th should involve a little voodoo magic, today’s dish of the day is a box of goodness from the newly opened Voodoo Doughnuts.

Voodoo Doughnut Austin

Voodoo Doughnut Austin

Prior to opening on 6th Street in downtown Austin, the Portland, OR-based doughnut purveyors garnered a cult following, thanks to their extensive menu of doughnuts flavors and surprisingly fair prices. While there are plenty of choices for doughnut traditionalists, Voodoo’s eclectic, offbeat options are what really put the shop on the map. Truly, with toppings ranging from mango to CoCo Puffs, Butterfingers to bacon, Voodoo leaves no flavor combo unturned in crafting its doughnuts.

Sprinkle Cake Doughnut

Sprinkle Cake Doughnut

In the name of research, I have made a couple of trips by the shop to do a little field-testing on some of these said flavors to overall solid results. Voodoo’s traditional cake style doughnut, such as the maple glazed Old Fashioned and double chocolate, are the clear favorites of the bunch. Continue reading Dish of the Day: Voodoo Doughnuts

First Look: Chavez

With a number of highly anticipated restaurants in the works, 2014 is forecasted to be quite the year for eating out in Austin. Right off the bar, the first of these buzzworthy spots, the modern Southwestern-inspired Chavez, set the bar high with the opening of its downtown doors last week.

Located in the former TGIFriday’s at the Downtown Radisson, Chavez is part of the hotel’s larger top-to-bottom overhaul. To spearhead the restaurant’s new direction, the management team tapped Parkside, Backspace & Olive & June chef Shawn Cirkiel, and, based on first impressions, it’s a partnership off to a great start.

Smoked Cherry Habenero Margarita

Smoked Cherry Habenero Margarita

The gorgeous space might just be designer extraordinaire Michael Hsu’s best project yet. To capitalize on the hotel’s exceptional location, floor to ceiling windows overlook Lady Bird Lake and a glamorously redesigned pool area. Clearly a collaborative effort between chef and designer, Hsu made Cirkiel’s modern Southwestern concept come to life down to the smallest detail.

Grilled Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo (lunch) - $15

Grilled Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo (lunch) – $15

But what I found most appealing about the space was how well they incorporated different seating options throughout the bar and main dining area. From semi-private large tables to the open dining room, Chavez is the type of place you can take a client, and yet at the same time, it is a great spot for a laidback group dinner, which is somewhat of a rarity in downtown Austin.  Continue reading First Look: Chavez

Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part II: Bold-Faced Names and Upscale Eats

As 2013 winds down and we look forward to 2014, it’s time once again for a round up of the latest and greatest new additions to the Austin dining scene as well as a few newcomers to look forward to in the coming months. Go ahead and scratch any future New Year’s resolutions to go on that diet because we’ve got a lot of eating to do…

Part I available here.

Get your chicken fried egg on at Odd Duck

Get your chicken fried egg on at Odd Duck

The Bold Faced Names
Odd Duck – Opened in South Austin December 2013
Almost three years to the date of beginning service at his much-lauded Barley Swine restaurant, Chef Bryce Gilmore has opened his second brick and mortar restaurant in South Austin. Inspired by the food truck that started it all, Odd Duck will feature a rotating menu of inventive comfort dishes created from strictly local, seasonal ingredients. Lower in price and bigger in size, Odd Duck should serve as the slightly more approachable brother to Barley Swine. The ah-mazing menu includes the return of such favorites as the Chicken Fried Chicken Egg pictured above (and described here). Odd Duck, located at 1201 South Lamar, is now serving dinner 7 nights a week.

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Noble Sandwich Co. – North Central in Early 2014
After announcing its expansion plans earlier this year, the hotly anticipated central location of Noble Sandwich Co. will open on 49th and Burnet in early 2014. Known for ridiculously good sandwiches crafted from fresh breads, house cured meats, and from-scratch spreads and vegetables, the second outpost will also feature beer, wine, charcuterie and more.

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Chavez – Opens Downtown in Winter 2014
Chef Shawn Cirkiel & co. (parkside/backspace/Olive & June) will be opening the southwestern inspired Chavez restaurant at the completely revamped Radisson Hotel in January 2014. Chavez’s future space, formerly home to TGIFriday’s, is currently being overhauled to reflect the Radisson’s new direction as well as to capitalize on the location’s exceptional views of Lady Bird Lake.

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Laundrette/Angry Bear – Opens South Austin Summer 2014
After Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki abruptly departed La Condesa and Sway Thai earlier this fall, the rumor mill was churning with buzz that the duo was cooking up something amazing for Austin. Since that time, it has been announced that the James Beard nominated chefs have teamed up with Fresa’s owners Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath to launch a pair of eateries off South Lamar in summer 2014. As detailed in an interview with Texas Monthly, plans include Laundrette, an upscale café and grocery, and Angry Bear, a Szechaun takeout spot.

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Wu Chow – Opens Downtown Late 2014
The team behind downtown favorite Swift’s Attic recently announced plans for a second concept to open in late 2014. The new restaurant, called Wu Chow, will serve ‘authentic, modern Chinese cuisine’ from its space located in the forthcoming IBC building near Republic Square Park. In developing the concept, Wu Chow GM and co-owner C.K. Chin drew inspiration from his own Chinese roots and plans to feature dishes that blend his traditional family recipes with the modern face of Chinese cuisine today. Mouthwatering already…

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Best of the Rest/Upscale Eats Continue reading Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part II: Bold-Faced Names and Upscale Eats

Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part I: Burgers, BBQ, and Comfort Eats

As 2013 winds down and we look forward to 2014, it’s time once again for a round up of the latest and greatest new additions to the Austin dining scene as well as a few newcomers to look forward to in the coming months. Go ahead and scratch any future New Year’s resolutions to go on that diet because we’ve got a lot of eating to do…

UPDATE: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – Now Open as of January 6, 2014
Memphis-based southern eatery Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is set to open its 5th location downtown in January 2014. The finger lickin’ good franchise will be located at 117 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701.
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Austin Restuarant Openings

Austin Restuarant Openings

East Side Kings – Open in South Austin December 2013
It’s a Boxing Day miracle! East Side Kings’ newest location on South Lamar officially opened today (12/26). Menu items include ESK favorites such as Liberty Rice, fried Brussels sprouts, and Chicken Kara-age and Asian-fusion tacos such as the ‘Ebi Ebi’ shrimp tempura, Spicy chicken thigh, and mocha vegetarian taco. East Side Kings is open daily for lunch and dinner at 2310 South Lamar, Austin TX 78704.
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P. Terry’s – Opened in North Austin December 2013
The end of 2013 also marked the beginning of the battle of the burger in Austin. Local favorite P. Terry’s opened its 8th location at 183 & Oak Knoll Road this December. The ‘anti-fast food’ chain also announced plans to open 12 area locations by the end of 2015, including a 9th spot on Burnet Road in early 2014.
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In-N-Out – Opened in North Austin December 2013
Meanwhile, California cult favorite In-N-Out opened its much-anticipated drive through windows early December. Known for its wallet friendly prices and a not-so-secret menu featuring the famed ‘Animal Style’ burger, In-N-Out’s new Airport & I-35 location has quickly become a local hotspot. Must be all those Californians headed to Texas we keep hearing about…
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Shake Shack – Opens South Austin Late 2014
Only further adding to Austin’s Burger Battle Royale was the announcement that East Coast transplant Shake Shack will be setting up shop in the South Lamar shopping center anchored by Alamo Drafthouse, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Shake Shack is expected to open late 2014.
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Schmidt Family Barbecue – Opened in West Austin Fall 2013
Lockhart BBQ fans now can enjoy the legendary eats from Smitty’s and Kreuz Market by way of Bee Caves with the recent opening of Schmidt Family Barbecue. Now under third generation leadership of Keith Schmidt, the family has granted the wishes of many by bringing its famed meats to Austin.  Sticking with family tradition, the Schmidt’s new restaurant employs the same cooking methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. Schmidt Family Barbecue is located near the Hill Country Galleria at 3812 Market Street, Bee Cave, TX 78738.
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Continue reading Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part I: Burgers, BBQ, and Comfort Eats

Parkside Austin

Since opening over four years ago, Parkside has been a welcome breath of fresh air on an area of downtown Austin generally reserved for college shot bars. With the recent announcement that Chef/Owner Shawn Cirkiel will be expanding his mini restaurant empire to include the forthcoming Chavez restaurant at the Radisson Hotel, I’ve had a hankering to make a return trip to the new American eatery. Not to mention, with its laidback atmosphere and strong selection of both drinks and dishes, Parkside has generally always been a solid selection for fine dining with friends, despite a few service related ups and downs (more on that after below).

Classic Ceviche - $13

Classic Ceviche – $13

One of the highlights to visiting Parkside is its exceptional raw bar. This visit was no exception as a well-balanced, flavorful classic ceviche and a dozen deliciously briny oysters were the perfect precursor to our dinner.

Gnocchi - $11

Gnocchi – $11

Equally as successful was an order of buttery, creamy bone marrow served with mixed greens, rock salt and freshly grilled bread. Continue reading Parkside Austin

The Happiest Hour: Ranch 616

Though its fried-and-true Southwestern menu is typically too indulgent for my liking, when it comes to work happy hours or football weekends, Ranch 616 is usually part of the equation. To be fair, one hardly needs to twist my arm to sip on one of the restaurant’s famed Ranch Waters. Consisting of Hornitos Reposado, Citronge and lime juice on the rocks and a Topo Chico on the side, the heady cocktail is both strong and delicious.

Ranch 616 Ranch Water - $10

Ranch 616 Ranch Water – $10

Ranch 616 recently updated its drink menu to include a drink similar to the legendary Texas Chili Parlor Drew Drink. The ‘Autumn Water’, consisting of Kettle One, Topo Chico, cranberry and lime, is a refreshing alternative to the Ranch Water for tequila adverse happy hour attendees. Not sure exactly what makes this cocktail autumn-esque, but there is usually falling involved after too many of the aforementioned Drew Drinks, so we’ll go with it.

Ranch 616 Autumn Water - $11

Ranch 616 Autumn Water – $11

Moving from drinks to eats, it’s hard to go wrong with the house favorite ‘The Don Combo’. Continue reading The Happiest Hour: Ranch 616

Summer Drinks: Second Bar + Kitchen

Today’s drink of the day is Second Bar + Kitchen’s ode to the original gin & juice: the Gin & Jam. In this silver spooned version of the magic elixir made famous by Snoop Dogg Lion, the ‘juice’ is a heaping spoonful of housemade jam.

Whereas many jammed-up cocktails are shaken before being served, Second’s deconstructed version features a stiff pour of Monopolowa gin on the rocks with a mound of jam meant to be stirred in as one drinks. Second offers two seasonal offerings: Blackberry Fresno Lime Marmalade and a Strawberry-Watermelon Jam.

Gin and Jam - $8

Gin and Jam – $8

Of the two flavors, I preferred the blackberry version. The still-plump blackberries gave the marmalade plenty of fruit flavor while the subtle lime notes made it surprisingly less sweet than expected. Continue reading Summer Drinks: Second Bar + Kitchen

Kenichi Austin

Recently, I joined a few fellow food writers for dinner and sake tasting hosted by Kenichi Austin. Considering my sake expertise is limited to perfectly balancing shots on chopsticks above beer, the evening offered the opportunity to expand my sake knowledge. And, truth be told, it had been a while since my last visit to the downtown sushi restaurant, and I was eager to see what the kitchen had in store.

Butterfish Sashimi w/pickled diakon & carrots over tomari gastrique

Butterfish Sashimi w/pickled diakon & carrots over tomari gastrique

The evening began in the bar with a tasting of Kamoizumi ‘Autumnal Elixir’ sake paired with pork belly asparagus kushiyaki and roasted shishito peppers. The night’s sake sipping began on a high note with the Autumnal Elixir, which proved to be my favorite of the evening. It was incredibly smooth with a nice balance of tartness and sweetness. Though I’ve been suffering from serious pork belly fatigue of late (I know, I know #firstworldproblems) I couldn’t help but enjoy Kenichi’s thinly sliced, lean strips. Salty and light, the kushiyaki dish played nicely next to the caramel notes in the sake.

Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus

Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus

We moved next to the sushi bar to taste three sashimi plates created by Chef Richard Lee. Continue reading Kenichi Austin