First Look: Juniper Austin

Long awaited Italian restaurant Juniper officially opens its East Austin doors this week. Originally slated to open this past summer, permitting headaches and construction delays kept our mouths watering for the highly anticipated restaurant. Despite this red tape, the Juniper team, led by longtime Austin chef Nicholas Yanes, turned lemons into lemoncello by hosting a series of pop up dinners throughout the spring and summer. During one such dinner at Barley Swine, the former Uchi chef gave a preview of Juniper’s northern Italy meets Texas cuisine over six delicious courses.

Our dinner started with Juniper’s take on one of my favorite Italian summer dishes, crispy zucchini blossoms stuffed with fontina and ricotta. Served with a flavorful sweet pepper sauce, it made for a fortuitous start to our preview dinner.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Arriving next was a beautifully composed plate of figs, San Daniele ham, and Brunet goat cheese drizzled with local honey vinegar. The rustic, classic dish was designed to let the ingredients shine, which was a consistent theme throughout the meal.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Next came one of the most surprising dishes of the evening featuring squid with grapes and smoked tomato served on top of a celery root puree. In lesser hands, this combination of ingredients could have easily been a bit of a mess, but instead the dish represented a subtle, harmonious balance of smoky and sweet flavors that married well the textures of the meaty squid and creamy celery root. Continue reading First Look: Juniper Austin

April Eats in Review

My apologies for the lack of posts as of late – work and life have been a bit hectic. Though I have had an unintentional break from food blogging, my waistline can attest I have not taken a break from food eating. Have no fear – new content will be posted imminently. Here are a few snapshots of some of the delicious bites I have been enjoying to get your appetite going in the meantime!

One of the best Sunday afternoons I had in April was spent strolling through the grounds of four local farms during the East Urban Farm Tour. A uniquely Austin experience, the annual fundraiser allows guests to tour local farms while enjoying small bites from some of Austin’s best restaurants created from produce grown on site. The four participating farms – Springdale, Rain Lily, Boggy Creek, and HausBar – are close enough together to walk to and from, which was perfect for working up an appetite in between stops.

Next to pizza, meatballs, and other amazing things topped with cheese, imagine my surprise to find my unexpected favorite of the day to be an ah-mazing roasted carrots, quinoa, pesto, and mustard dish from Bufulina.

Bufulina at East Austin Farm Tour

Bufulina at East Austin Farm Tour

Keep your cake, candles and frosting; for my birthday, the only dessert I want is Uchi’s Peanut Butter Semifreddo. This little piece of heaven taste like the PB&J you wish your mom used to make it. A very happy birthday indeed!

Peanut Butter Semifreddo at Uchi Austin

Peanut Butter Semifreddo at Uchi Austin

Speaking of birthdays, I naturally spent my birthday as any girl should: Drew Drinks at the Texas Chili Parlor followed by a special Selena tribute night during TuezGayz at Barberella. While at the TCP, I was tipped off to a dish I had somehow never tried: the pork tamale topped gratuitously with a housemade green chili sauce and cheese. See you later Freddy Style Nachos; I just found my new go-to order. Continue reading April Eats in Review

First Look: Licha’s Cantina

One of the most disappointing, though not entirely unsurprising, closures of last year was East Austin Mexican restaurant Papi Tino’s. Its former location, situated in the heart of East Austin, is now home to the promising Licha’s Cantina. After brightening up the space and opening the back patio, owner Daniel Brooks quietly opened the new restaurant just prior to SXSW, drawing on his Mexico roots in developing the cantina concept.

Licha's Cantina

Licha’s Cantina

Roasted Duck Tacos - $12

Roasted Duck Tacos – $12

Having earned his stripes as the GM at Austin’s Vespaio, it should have come as no surprise to find the service at Licha’s Cantina to be exceptional. The gracious and friendly staff helps create a welcoming atmosphere one can’t wait to return to again and again. Our server was also well versed on the components of each dish and extremely helpful making recommendations. Continue reading First Look: Licha’s Cantina

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

First Look: Haymaker

East Austin isn’t exactly known as a sports bar mecca, but Haymaker, the newly opened Manor Road bar/restaurant from the Black Sheep Lodge family, has quickly filled that void since opening in early fall. And, with plenty of beers, hearty eats, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, Haymaker is the type of place even those with an allergy to ESPN can appreciate.

Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites

Because one should never be forced to watch football sans beer, Haymaker’s lengthy list of beer options includes everything from popular domestics to cult craft favorites. Though beer prices are on the mid to higher end of the spectrum, there are various daily happy hour specials available. For the non-beer drinker, Haymaker offers a number of specialty cocktails as well.

 Legendary comfort eats from around the country inspire much of Haymaker’s menu. The Louisville Slugger Big and Burly sandwich, for example, is representative of he famed Benedictine BLT from The Cheddar Box in Louisville, KY. Continue reading First Look: Haymaker

Summer Drinks: Weather Up

Weather Up, with its ridiculously ambitious drink collection and unexpectedly unpretentious service, is one of the best places to unwind after a long day. While the bar might have arrived in East Austin by way of Brooklyn, its relaxed, eclectic house turned lounge space is decidedly Austin. Weather Up’s deliciously boozy cocktail program is built around precise preparations of different spirits ranging from classic to innovative and served either shaken, stirred, served long, on the rock, tall & cool, and fizzes, flips and sours.

The ultimate secret sauce of each cocktail is Weather Up’s ice, which is carved from a 300-pound block produced by a heavy duty Clineball machine. While a focused ice program may seem like the plot of a Portlandia episode, its merits are hard to deny.  The ‘Bramble’, for example, with its overflowing bullets of ice, muddled blackberries, and gin, makes for a refreshing adult sno-cone. ‘On the rock’ cocktails like the Fancy Free, served with a slow melting, single substantial cube of ice, allow patrons to enjoy drinks that aren’t watered down even in the hot summer sun.

The Bramble - $10

The Bramble – $10

With a plethora of drink options, many using ingredients unfamiliar to the average drinker, it’s especially necessary to rely on one’s server for advice. Speaking in generalities, it’s often been my experience – in Austin and elsewhere – similar mixology-driven bars tend to serve their cocktails with a tiny shot of pretention. Fortunately, Weather Up is a break from this norm. Continue reading Summer Drinks: Weather Up

Summer Eats: Openings and Updates, Part I

Photo courtesy Umami Mia Pizzeria

Photo courtesy Umami Mia Pizzeria

Umami Mia Pizzeria, a pizza joint aimed at conquering that hard to identify 5th taste, is now open on in the former Romeo’s spot on Barton Springs Road in South Austin. Launched by a team of seasoned local restaurant vets, including Executive Chef George Thomas (Paggi House, Soleil), Umami Mia’s affordable food menu focuses on capturing ‘the beautiful taste’. The drinks menu includes pizza friendly wines, local brews, and specialty cocktails. Visit Umami Mia Pizzeria at 1500 Barton Springs, Austin, TX 78704.

Bridget Dunlap’s East Austin restaurant Mettle has opened just in time for summer. Helmed by former Olivia chef de cuisine Andrew Francisco, Mettle will serve French bistro fare with ‘an international twist’ with dishes such as salmon crudo, bone marrow, and braised pork spaghetti. In addition, Mettle will specialize in serving seasonal cocktails such as thai chili infused caiprinha and East Side Collins. Visit Mettle for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday at 507 Calles Street, Austin, TX 78702.

Take deep breaths: According to Eater Austin, Qui is set to open its main dining room on June 20th with plans to open its tasting room later this year. Qui, of course, is the highly anticipated new restaurant from Top Chef and East Side King Paul Qui. For more details, including menu secrets, check out Eater’s full post here or the official Qui website here.

Benji’s Cantina is now open for dinner 7 nights a week, with plans for lunch and brunch service in the near future. The West 6th Street restaurant specializes in serving Tex-Mex favorites such as enchiladas, tacos, and fajitas by the pound. Visit Benji’s rooftop lounge, the El Gusano Bar, for a specialty margarita or mezcal. Benji’s is located at 716 W 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701.

‘Fabric-inspired’ restaurant Searsucker by celebrity chef Brian Malarkey has softly opened* its downtown Austin doors. Continue reading Summer Eats: Openings and Updates, Part I