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Kirsten Kaiser
September 17, 2020
The Weekly Austin Restaurant News Update
Austin restaurant news for the week of 9/17/20.

If you want to stay on top of what’s happening with Austin restaurants and bars right now, you’ve come to the right place. Every week, we’ll be keeping track of the latest openings, restaurant and bar reopenings, takeout specials, and other exciting or noteworthy updates around the city.

If you have any tips or questions, send us an email at austin@theinfatuation.com.

Week of September 14

  • At a press conference on September 17th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that beginning September 21st, restaurants in the state can officially increase to 75% capacity (from 50%), if they are in a region with under 15% of hospitalizations due to COVID.

Week of August 24

  • On Tuesday, August 25th, The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) approved emergency rule changes allowing bars to apply for food and beverage certificates and then reopen.

  • The Wall Street Journal has a story on how Austin’s music venues are in trouble, as is the entire music scene itself.

  • The southern restaurant Olamaie may be currently closed, but they’re currently operating a biscuit-based takeout business called Little Ola’s Biscuits. To celebrate the six year anniversary of Olamaie, they’re doing a stunt in which this weekend (Thursday through Sunday), they’ll sell their 2600th fried chicken biscuit sandwich. It will be wrapped in 24k gold, giving the winner a free fried chicken biscuit sandwich every week for a year.

Week Of August 17

  • The Austin Justice Coalition announced the lineup for the 4th annual ATX Black Food Week. This time around there two weeks for restaurants and a full week dedicated to food trucks. It starts Monday, August 24th.

  • A four-episode season of the Netflix series Chef’s Table dedicated to barbecue is coming September 2. Called Chef’s Table BBQ, episode one features pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz from Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas. Check out the trailer.

  • The city of Austin extended the mask mandate through December 15th.

  • In a press conference last Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott said that bars caused some of the most “prolific spreading events.” He also said that bars could potentially reopen once coronavirus metrics improve, including a drop in the state’s positivity rate and for hospitalizations to decrease.

  • Openings

    • Restaurants and food trucks just keep opening at a furious pace. In the last week alone, there was Salt & Time Cafe, a Neapolitan pizza trailer Paffuto Pizza, the Korean fried chicken chain BB.Q Chicken opened a location in Highland, the Tex-Mex spot Enchiladas Y Mas reopened with new ownership, and more.
  • Closings

    • The 16-year-old South Austin music venue One-2-One Bar announced that they were going to close down.
    • After 27 years of selling hot sauce downtown, Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop will be closing its doors at the end of August.

Week Of August 10

  • The Texas Tribune has a look at how bars and breweries are finding loopholes to work around Gov. Greg Abbott’s bar shutdown. Essentially, they’re reinventing themselves to be technically considered restaurants under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s rules. And there have been a lot of applications: “The TABC received more than 600 requests from existing businesses for Food and Beverage Certificates since Abbott’s order took place and granted about 300, according to commission spokesperson Chris Porter.”

  • Along those lines, the local Fox affiliate has a story about how West 6th bar Key Bar was able to reopen and bringing in a Taco Flats food truck.

  • The West Lake location of Thai restaurant Sway is now offering meal kits and sauces. We can attest that the nahm prik pao is very good. As are their to-go cocktails.

  • Openings

    • A whole bunch of restaurants and food trucks opened over the past couple of weeks, including the semi-permanent pasta pop-up Le Cowboy; the wood-fired Neapolitan pizza truck in Arbor Food Park Dough Boys; the takeout-only sandwich and taco operation Eldorado Taco y Torta; and more.
    • The “fancy” and “popular” salad chain Sweetgreen opened their 110th location, and their first in Austin, on South Congress. A location on the Drag is in the works.
  • Closings

    • Ni-Kome, the sushi and ramen stall from the Kome team in the downtown food hall Fareground, has permanently closed.

Week Of August 3

  • KUT has a profile of the Austin Country Flea Market that’s set to close at the end of August.

  • The auction for memorabilia from Threadgill’s Old No. 1 is this Saturday, and online bidding has already started.

  • The Southern/Asian restaurant The Peached Tortilla is launching a pop-up at the Burnet Road dog park/bar Yard Bar called Fat City. Running from August 7-8, it’ll feature sliders inspired by White Castle, chicken fingers, root beer floats, and more.

  • A couple quick stories about how restaurants are dealing with the pandemic: The Texas Observer profiles several Texas restaurants, including Bufalina in Austin. And Texas Monthly talks to the chef/owner of Emmer & Rye and Hestia about how he’s trying get the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act passed.

  • Closings:

    • The coffeeshop mini-chain Austin Java closed three locations - City Hall, Met Center, and Dripping Springs. So now there is only one left, at 5404 Manchaca Road.

Week Of July 27

  • The North Shoal Creek Tex-Mex restaurant Eldorado Cafe is going to be joining Seoulju and Ramen 512 at Kitchen United Mix, the cloud kitchen on Burnet Road. The concept will be called Eldorado Taco y Torta Co..

  • In a whiplash move, over the weekend the TABC reversed course and is now allowing breweries in Texas to operate their outdoor spaces. The TABC issued new guidance on how the 51% measurement is calculated - it will now exclude beer sales to distributors and beer to-go.

  • Some bars in Texas - it’s unclear how many - opened on Saturday in protest of Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide shutdown of bars. They called it “Freedom Fest.”

  • Openings:

    • Lots of new openings the past couple of weeks, including Austin Eastciders opened a restaurant on Barton Springs Road, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner until late.
  • Closings:

Week of July 20

  • Austin Monthly has a quick look at the newish Pallet Pops, a floating popsicle stand out on Town Lake. They have boozy popsicles (and non-boozy as well).

  • The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) announced that businesses can apply to “temporarily modify their current licensed premises to either expand or contract the area it covers,” which will allow breweries to serve beer to customers to-go, who can then take their drinks to the patio. Several breweries have been reopening - we’re keeping our guide to breweries constantly updated. Update 7/23: The TABC reversed its guidelines and Texas breweries have to close their patios and go back to beer-to-go only.

  • A new survey by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild found that “1 in 3 Texas craft breweries believe they will have to permanently close in less than three months without some change to the current shutdown order or new economic relief options.” And even worse: “2 in 3 believe they will not make it to the end of the year.

  • A new Instagram popped up over the weekend and exploded onto the Austin restaurant scene: @welp___512. It is self-described as “a safe space for service workers in Austin to share their stories about customers, management, & business owners.” While everything is anonymous and unverified, the accusations can sometimes be extreme.

  • Openings:

  • Closings:

Week Of July 13

Week of July 6

  • A survey conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs found that 90 percent of Austin live music venues will likely close by Halloween.

  • For Texas Bakers Against Racism, a bunch of bakers, bakeries, and restaurants across Austin are selling baked goods and then donate the profits to organizations supporting racial equality and combatting racism.

  • Ever since the pandemic hit, the Southern-inspired restaurant Olamaie has been closed. Starting July 9th, they’re reopening as Little Ola’s Biscuits, a takeout-only operation focusing on biscuits and biscuit sandwiches. There’s also salads, desserts, and cocktails (including bottled Negronis). Place your orders online.

  • Ramen 512, winner of Austin Monthly’s 2020 Best Pop-Up, announced that they’ll be joining Kitchen United Mix, a “cloud kitchen” concept that will eventually allow ten restaurants to operate for takeout and delivery from a shared space. They’ll be offering ready-to-eat ramen bowls as well as take-home ramen kits.

  • Closings:

  • Openings:

    • The third location of the sandwich and taco spot Austin Daily Press opened on July 7th. It’s located in the Lavaca St. Bar on South Lamar (the other two locations are on the East Side).
    • The breakfast/brunch spot Paper Boy has officially opened their brick and mortar location, right where their trailer used to be (1203 E 11th St.)
    • Verbena is a new restaurant in the Canopy by Hilton Hotel on West 6th Street. It’s from the chef behind Juniper, so the menu leans Italian.

Week Of June 29

  • On Thursday, July 2nd, Texas Governor Abbott issued a statewide mask order requiring that people wear masks in public spaces (in counties with more than 20 positive COVID-19 cases). There are some exceptions, including while eating and drinking. The following day, Austin Mayor Steve Adler filed a new local order prohibiting groups larger than 10 people.

  • The Austin City Limits Music Festival, set to happen in October, has been canceled by its organizers.

  • The grocery chain HEB announced that they’ve been secretly working on a new food hall at the Mueller location called Main Streat. Chef and Top Chef star Tiffany Derry will open a location of her duck fat-fried chicken spot Roots Chicken Shak. There’ll also be True Texas BBQ, Calle Taqueria (street tacos), Yumai Japanese Grill, and The Meltery, (grilled cheese sandwiches). It will open in August.

  • Towers has a bunch of photos of the new hotel Canopy by Hilton on West 6th St that opens July 1st. It’s conveniently (or inconveniently, depending on your perspective) sandwiched right between the bar/nightclubs Buford’s, Rio, and Star Bar. The Canopy will also house Verbena, an all-day restaurant and bar from the chef behind Juniper and Uncle Nicky’s. Verbena will open sometime in July.

  • Over the weekend, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) announced a waiver that allows restaurants and bars holding a Mixed Beverage Permit to sell mixed-drinks for takeout and delivery.

  • Additionally, after Governor Greg Abbott ordered all bars in Texas to close again last week , the TABC did spot checks at hundreds of bars across Texas over the weekend and issued 30-day suspensions of the alcohol permits of several bars, including The Park at the Domain in Austin.

  • Openings The highly-anticipated Sazan Ramen serving paitan ramen (with a creamy chicken broth) has opened in the Crescent shopping center in the Highland neighborhood.

Week Of June 22

  • On Friday, June 26th, Governor Greg Abbott ordered all bars in Texas to close again. Restaurant capacity will go back down to 50% (from 75%).

  • Opening on Thursday, June 25th is the brand-new Arbor Food Park at 1108 East 12th St. It’s the new home of the food truck Cuantos Tacos, which serves tremendous Mexico City-style tacos on corn tortillas. Also in the park is the newish food truck Rosarito (with ceviche and tostadas) and the El Tigre Coffee trailer.

  • Over the past few months, restaurants all over Austin have been closing temporarily as staffers have tested positive for COVID-19. The latest to close is the East Austin barbecue destination Franklin Barbecue.

  • On Monday, the TABC also closed down Soho Lounge, the two-level night club on 6th Street downtown.

  • Last week Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced that face masks would be mandatory in all Austin businesses, including bars and restaurants. He signed a new order on Monday detailing that violating the requirement is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, but with no jail time. Additionally, “Peace officers, City of Austin Code Department inspectors, and the Office of the Austin Fire Marshal” are authorized to enforce the order.

  • Over the weekend, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) temporarily suspended the liquor licenses of 12 bars all over Texas, including the West 6th Street bars Buford’s Backyard Beer Garden and Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot Icehouse on Saturday, as well as Unbarlievable on Sunday. The Rainey Street location of Unbarlievable remain open (for now). The suspensions will last for 30 days. The TABC even posted video of Unbarlievable and Buford’s on Twitter.

  • Closings: The bar, burrito restaurant, and record store Troublemaker on East 7th St permanently closed.

Week Of June 15

  • In an order issued by Mayor Steve Adler, effective June 17th, 11:59pm, face masks are now mandatory in all Austin businesses, including bars and restaurants. There’s no immediate rush, as places have until June 23rd to develop and implement new health and safety policies. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including if a customer is eating or drinking.

  • Last Friday, June 12th, Texas entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Restaurants were allowed to go from 50% to 75% capacity, with the recommendation that tables remain six feet apart. Tables can be four feet apart as long as there’s a partition.

  • Meanwhile, the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations in Austin went over 20 on Sunday, June 14th, which triggered the Stage 4 guidelines set by Austin Public Health. In a press conference on Monday, Mayor Steve Adler said that businesses are “strongly encouraged to operate at a minimal indoor capacity (25% or below).”

  • It’s awards season, it seems. Food & Wine published its list of the best new restaurants of 2020, and Austin’s Nixta Taqueria made the cut. The Robb Report also published its list of the best new restaurants, and it includes the downtown restaurants Hestia and Comedor.

  • The seasonally-minded small plates restaurant Emmer & Rye is offering a six-course menu indoors and a contactless patio picnic. On Tuesday, June 16th, they’re launching a new takeout menu called Emmeroni’s, what they’re calling “an old school red sauce joint, with a Central Texas twist.”

  • Openings: From the people behind restaurants like Perla’s, Swedish Hill, Pool Burger, and Elizabeth St. Café comes the new spot, Neighborhood Sushi, on South Congress. It opened Thursday, June 18th.

  • Closings: The downtown ramen shop Daruma Ramen permanently closed.

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