In the not too distant past, restaurant openings in Austin were not commonplace and summer openings were absolutely unheard of. Fast forward to this year and we’ve seen six places open in the past couple of weeks, with more projected to debut over the summer. On the Eastside, Bridget Dunlap‘s long anticipated Mettle (507 Calles) opened quietly last weekend, as did Sonya Coté‘s Eden East, a reservation-only outdoor dining concept at Springdale Farm (755 Springdale); the re-imagined, eat-in or take-out Quickie Pickie on East 11th is now part of that neighborhood’s emerging restaurant row. Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey‘s new Searsucker (415 Colorado) opened with media fanfare last week, only to close for a few days of repairs after a nonlethal kitchen fire on Saturday night. Benji’s Cantina(716 W. Sixth) brought $40 per pound fajitas to the burgeoning West Sixth dining district just as Opal Divine’s Freehouse departed, and, south of the river, Umami Mia Pizzeria (1500 Barton Springs Rd.) is now at home in the former Romeo’s spot.
Weekend recon of restaurant construction sites reveals Bufalina Pizza (1519 E. Cesar Chavez) is on the home stretch, opening-wise, but Say LaV (1501 E. Seventh) will be in their trailer in the courtyard behind Hotel Vegas for several more months while their restaurant is being built at the corner of East Seventh and Onion. Noble Sandwiches will soon begin work on their new midtown outlet in a small strip center at 4805 Burnet. The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. (1305 W. Oltorf) from former Uncle Billy’s brewers Amos Lowe and Brian Peters is making real progress on the brewpub and casual dining spot. Farther west, both Paul Qui‘s East Side King (2310 S. Lamar) and Bryce Gilmore‘s Odd Duck (1219 S. Lamar) have building permits and are under construction, while Daniel Olivella‘s Barlata Tapas Bar (1500 S. Lamar) is far along enough to be hiring. Lamar Village is still just a gaping hole in the ground at the moment, but this time next year it will be home to a 140-seat Italian eatery from Emmett and Lisa Fox of Asti and Fino. Though the new place doesn’t have a name as yet, the chef couple did reveal that it will include a rotisserie and take-out options for neighbors in all the condos nearby.
Not sure what sparked this trend, but Mexican food seems to be the new favorite concept in Downtown Austin. Within the past year alone we’ve seen the opening of Pelons (802 Red River) in the refurbished Jaime’s Spanish Village and Micheladas Cafe y Cantina (333 E. Second) just across the street from the Convention Center, as well as the aforementioned Benji’s Cantina. We’ve also recently been advised that the popular Dallas Mexican chain Uncle Julio’s will take up residence at 301 Brazos in July.
Kudos to 24-year-old Executive Chef Erica Beneke of Max’s Wine Dive (207 San Jacinto), who won Chopped on Sunday night. She’ll be using the $10,000 prize money for travel to expand her culinary horizons. Beneke is the fourth Austin chef to compete recently, with chef David Garrido‘s appearance still to come.