Austin Food & Wine Festival releases schedule

Chicago chef Graham Elliott returns to the Austin Food & Wine Festival for a demo on April 23.
Chicago chef Graham Elliott returns to the Austin Food & Wine Festival for a demo on April 23.

National names and first time Austin Food & Wine Festival participants Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr. (Purple Pig in Chicago) and Los Angeles partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Son of a Gun and Animal in Los Angeles) will be a few of the stars at AFWF’s presentations and demos on Saturday afternoon. Headlining the day’s afternoon festivities will be returning favorites Graham Elliot and Andrew Zimmern, who pulled a WWE-style smackdown at last year’s festival. Famed chef Jonathan Waxman returns to take one of the late afternoon spots Sunday, along with Austin Master Sommeliers Craig Collins and Devon Broglie. The exact topics of the demos is not listed on AFWF’s site.

The roster of talent for the popular Fire Pits was also released and includes Ned Elliot (Foreign & Domestic), Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen); Paul Qui (Qui), and Blaine Staniford (Grace, Little Red Wasp) on Saturday and Brian Moses (Contigo), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine, Odd Duck), Jack Gilmore(Jack Allen’s Kitchen) and Kent Rathbun (Abacus, Hickory, Jasper’s) on Sunday.

Fore complete schedules and ticketing information, visit



Dish of the week: Grilled pork banh mi




Gently sweet grilled pork? Check. Tangy, crunchy pickled carrot and daikon? Check and check. Floral cilantro, fierce raw jalapeno and homemade mayonnaise? Check, check and check. Housemade French baguettes? Well, seven-and-a-half out of eight isn’t bad.

This stuffed banh mi sandwich ($6.45) is one of my favorite of its kind in town. There’s probably more chargrilled pork stuffed into that soft roll than any banh mi I’ve had in town. No, the bread is not completely homemade, but they do finish the product they receive par-baked from out of state. Not bad for a trailer.

Tebi Nguyen has been selling banh mi sandwiches and more from his wood-paneled red trailer Saigon Le Vendeur for two years. He previously worked at ramen spot Daruma, but it’s the cuisine of his native Vietnam that is the star here. Saigon Le Vendeur also sells a tofu sandwich, spicy chicken, pork patty and O.G. version. That last one comes with aromatic Vietnamese meatloaf and pate. Today’s special was also a winner: a bowl of springy vermicelli and crisp bean sprouts and lettuce scattered with about a half-dozen grilled shrimp warmed with toasted garlic ($11).

Saigon Le Vendeur (located at 2404 E. Seventh Street next to the MetroRail tracks) is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. If they were located just a little closer to bars, they’d sell a million of those sandwiches at night.





Opening this week: Mettle transforms to Bayou-centric Ophelia

Update: Due to unforeseen issues, the opening of Ophelia will be delayed (possibly until next week).

The space that previously housed Bridget Dunlap’s bistro Mettle transforms to Bayou-centric Ophelia this week. The bluesy restaurant and bar, which will feature creole dishes crafted by Lynzy Moran of Baton Creole food truck, is slated to open Wednesday.

A press release for the new hang bills the spot as “naughty by night and healing by day,” with Dunlap calling Ophelia “The kind of place where you can melt your blues away and be revived.”

The working food menu includes frog legs and waffles, boudin balls, fried chicken, and crawfish and shrimp etouffee.

“I cook my life,” Moran said in the release. “The menu is a culinary interpretation of my experiences. Food transforms my nostalgia into reality which is broadened by Austin’s dining culture. It’s classics, but Cajunfied – kicked up a notch.”

In the anthropomorphic tradition of many of Dunlap’s other properties, Ophelia is billed as the daughter of Lustre Pearl, father unknown, who coos and entreats patrons to “Cry on my shoulder, honeychile – here’s a spoonful of my precious love. I hurt you at night, but you’ll come back begging for more in the morning.”

Part of that hurt will come from a cocktail menu that includes updates on classics like the Hurricane and Ramos Gin Fiz, seasonally rotating frozen daiquiris, and Sazeracs served in absinthe-rinsed glasses.

The space, colored with red velvet curtains, will feature altars paying homage to female legends like Nina Simone, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Billie Holiday.

Ophelia will be open for dinner Monday-Thursday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Sunday service runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Brunch and lunch will be added in coming months.


Looking ahead: Chuy’s opening in San Marcos


Elvis-loving Tex-Mex restaurant Chuy’s plans to open a location at the Springtown Shopping Center (205 W. Hopkins St.) in San Marcos this summer. The 6500 square-foot restaurant will have an outdoor patio and will be the 70th restaurant in the Austin-based chain that now has locations in 14 states.

“San Marcos has been on our radar screen for a while because of its growth rate. We just needed to find the perfect location, and we’ve found that with Springtown,” Don McKechnie, director of real estate and construction for Chuy’s, said. “Now, with that decided, we’ll focus our efforts on designing a restaurant that’s as custom and unique as San Marcos itself.”

Gold’s Gym and EVO Entertainment Group’s the Spot, a six screen luxury theater and bowling alley, have also signed leases at Springtown, with the gym slated to open in March and the Spot later this summer.

New all-day menu and extended hours from Ramen Tatsu-ya

 #1 Original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
#1 Original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Veggie ramen all day, every day. That’s just one of the changes going on at the two locations (1234 S. Lamar Blvd and 8857 Research Blvd.) of Ramen Tatsu-ya. The Japanese noodle soup purveyors are combining their lunch and dinner menus and extending their hours. The restaurants on Research and Lamar boulevards will be open non-stop daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. beginning Monday. The new master menu will include all of the popular ramen dishes, as well as small bites like the Katsu slider, sweet and sour Yodas (Brussels sprouts), and handmade gyoza.

“We want guests at Ramen Tatsu-Ya to have as many options as possible with the least amount of wait time,” Tatsu Aikawa said. “We really listen to our guests requests and have worked very hard to make them a reality.”

The new hours will include ‘Slurpin’ Hour’ from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., with discounts on house sake and specialty cocktails.

Jesse Herman steps down as partner at New Waterloo

Jesse Herman has left his position at New Waterloo.
Jesse Herman has left his position at New Waterloo.

A big name in the Austin restaurant world is making a change. Jesse Herman has ended his partnership in New Waterloo, the hospitality management company that operates a roster of businesses that includes the South Congress Hotel and Sway and La Condesa, two restaurants Herman opened. New Waterloo also manages the three restaurants and coffee shop at the South Congress Hotel, Hotel Ella and its Goodall’s Kitchen, and the Paul Qui-helmed Pao in Miami.

“After helping to establish New Waterloo, I have decided to leave to pursue other interests,” Herman said in a message. “I want to extend a special thanks to my partners and friends, Delfo Trombetta, Bill Stapleton, Bart Knaggs, Patrick Jeffers and Stuart McManus for the time we spent together building New Waterloo and advancing the brands that make up the company today. It’s been an extraordinary experience, and my partners are ideal stewards for the future of these businesses. While I remain a partner in these businesses, I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations. I’d like to thank everyone at New Waterloo (now a 500 person strong company), especially those still there from the opening of La Condesa, as well as the City of Austin and its residents for supporting us and for their continued support. I’m excited about what the future holds for both Austin and myself. I’m not going anywhere; Austin is home.”

Herman, who often served as the public face for New Waterloo, opened the hip Mexican restaurant La Condesa in 2009, helping give personality and flair to the nascent 2nd Street District, and opened Thai restaurant Sway in late 2012.

James Beard Award semifinalist: Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine

Bryce Gilmore at the original Barley Swine on South Lamar Boulevard. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Bryce Gilmore at the original Barley Swine on South Lamar Boulevard. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“One year ago, we knocked on the door. This year, we beat on the door. Next year, we’re going to kick the son of a bitch in.” Those were the words of Texas native and legendary Houston Oilers coach in 1980 at a pep rally in the Astrodome following an AFC title game loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bryce Gilmore, executive chef of perennial Austin standout Barley Swine, might be feeling the same way, though the mild mannered chef may not say such things out loud. The Austin native today earned his fourth consecutive James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest semifinalist nod. Last year he was named a finalist, along with Austin’s Aaron Franklin, who took home the honor. Let’s hope this year belongs to Gilmore, who closed his original Barley Swine in January and opened a new iteration of the farm-to-table standout on Burnet Road.

For the full list of semifinalists, click here. The finalists will be announced on March 15.