The Domain Northside’s Rock Rose is continuing to add names to its long roster of dining and drinking options. Salvation Pizza just opened at the Domain Northside’s Rock Rose and the development will welcome 24 Diner, Houston-based Tex-Mex favorite Cyclone Anaya’s, Austin’s own Hat Creek Burger Company and the California-based Paul Martin’s American Grill over the next year. There are no set opening dates for those restaurants at the development that includes Mad Greens, Tarka, Jinya Ramen Bar and more. Soon, North Austinites will have no reason to venture south of US 183.
To celebrate the opening of its 100th location (hello, Boston Seaport), NYC-based burger chain Shake Shack is giving away 100 ShackBurgers to its first 100 customers at every Shake Shack location in the world. The giveaway starts at 10:30 a.m. Which means you probably better get in line pretty soon at the South Lamar Boulevard and Domain locations in Austin if you want that free grub. Pro tip: If they’re all out of free burgers by the time you get to the front of the line, try the Chicken Shack, one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in town.
It appears “Old Austin” will suffer another major blow later this year. Tex-Mex restaurant El Azteca, which was founded by Jorge D. Guerra and Ninfa Guerra in 1963, will close its doors, pending a sale of the property, according to Lonnie Limon, a longtime family friend of the Guerra family. The iconic restaurant is one of the longest running Mexican restaurants in Austin and is now owned and operated by Mr. Guerra’s son, Daniel Guerra, and daughter-in-law Flora Guerra.
The restaurant, known for for its colorful calendars, serves Tex-Mex staples like enchiladas and tacos, and earned a name for itself based on the strength of dishes like juicy cabrito, rich chicken mole and barbacoa de cabeza.
“Barrio restaurants owned by people who had a strong sense of community are (becoming) a thing of the past and that’s a shame. But between the proliferation of chains, the gentrification, increased property values and the aging of long time barrio residents, those kinds of places are difficult to sustain,” former Statesman editorial page editor Arnold Garcia wrote in an email.
The restaurant has been a cultural touchstone and meeting place for the East Austin community over the decades, and Austin music great Alejandro Escovedo even told Anthony Bourdain that it was the first place he ever dined in Austin. (See that clip from “No Reservations” at the 27-minute mark here.)
The Guerra family has not made public the name of the potential buyer or any expected closing date of the restaurant.
- Related: A Culture Conversation: Gauging Hispanic influence on Austin’s scene by Michael Barnes
- Related: What did Austin make of El Azteca 25 years ago? Below is a review of the restaurant from Hilary Hylton in the Austin American-Statesman in March of 1991:
As you drive down East Seventh Street, you can’t help noticing the tantalizing aroma of toasted corn from the nearby tortilla factories that crank out zillions of tortilla chips, corn tortillas and taco shells enjoyed by Central Texans. It serves as a palate-teaser as you head for one of the numerous family cafes that dot the area.
This is the heart of Austin’s barrio, and home of some of the best Mexican food in town. One longtime favorite is El Azteca, owned by the Guerra family. The atmosphere is friendly, the surroundings familiar – no trendy Southwest furnishings here – and the food hearty, filling and delicious.
The menu is extensive, and it offers all the popular Mexican favorites: enchiladas, tamales, tacos, flautas, chalupas, etc. But it also offers some dishes that are typically found in family restaurants throughout South Texas and northern Mexico. Cabrito (spit-roasted kid goat) is just one of the specialties that marks El Azteca as a genuine Mexican restaurant, not a pale imitation. There is also barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued beef head) that is served with rice, beans, and corn or flour tortillas.
A good test of any Mexican restaurant is to try the mole dishes. Mole poblano is a rich concoction of chocolate, spices and chiles, and if not made properly, it can become soupy, or the oil can separate and make the dish greasy. El Azteca’s chicken mole enchiladas are very good, the sauce thick and rich with a distinct bitter chocolate flavor. The enchiladas are made as they are in Mexico, the corn tortillas simply heated quickly in a little oil, then filled and rolled and topped with sauce. Baking enchiladas, as some restaurants do, can make them rubbery or hard.
The accompanying refried beans and rice are also good tests of the kitchen’s skill. Again, El Azteca gets good marks. The beans are not bland or blended into a mush, but they are thick and flavorful; the rice is fluffy and dry as true Mexican rice, called sopa seca (“dry soup”) should be.
We also tried steak a la Mexicana, a braised beef dish made from chunks of steak cooked with peppers and tomatoes. The dish had just the right touch of heat and was especially good in corn tortillas.
Other favorites on the El Azteca menu include carne guisada, a popular South Texas dish of slow-cooked beef in thick, spicy gravy. And El Azteca also serves menudo and caldo, the first a thick soup made from tripe and peppers, the second a rich chicken soup.
For heartier eaters there are several charcoal-roasted dishes in addition to cabrito: chuleton (beef rib steak), pork chops and fajitas.
While we reviewed the menu, we munched on crisp, light tortilla chips and the house salsa, a particularly well-made sauce, thick and with just enough heat to be addictive. Some of the dishes are accompanied by a small single scoop of guacamole salad, while a side order of guacamole is made up of two scoops for $3, a good bargain given the price of avocados these days.
Most of the traditional menu items range from $4 to $6, with specialties like chile relleno priced around $7. Grilled and barbecued dishes range from about $7 to $9. Rice and refried beans accompany most dishes, and frijoles a la charra also are available. In addition, egg dishes are served before and after the lunch-hour rush.
One nice finishing touch is the presentation of a small bowl of pineapple ice cream, instead of the usual praline. Like a sorbet served at elegant restaurants, the ice cream freshens the palate after all that spicy food.Three generations of the Guerra family work in the restaurant. The service is friendly and efficient, and family members often sit at a corner table and talk to regular customers as they come and go.
El Azteca is decorated with the sort of bric-a-brac that is found in Mexican family cafes throughout Texas – portraits of President Benito Juarez and his contemporary President Abraham Lincoln hang near the door, while on a back wall is a painting of John and Robert Kennedy. A glass case on one wall contains a collection of Mexican peso notes, many of them long out of circulation now that the peso is counted in thousands against the dollar.
All of your easy-to-order cupcake dreams are coming true. Sprinkles cupcake bakery plans to open at the Domain Northside’s Rock Rose development in November and the shop will feature a Cupcake ATM.
The bakery, founded by Candace Nelson, a judge on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” will serve more than 50 flavors of cupcakes, cookies and ice cream using organic dairy. The Cupcake ATM will serve freshly baked cupcakes 24 hours a day and can hold up to 800 cupcakes at a time.
UberEats is celebrating its first birthday in Austin with a week of deals. The delivery app is giving away free Baked by Amy’s cookies with any Instant order between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday.
On Tuesday they will $1 BBQ sandwiches, with no delivery fees, from Stiles Switch from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday is $3 Chi’lantro burritos all day, and Thursday will feature a slew of $5.
The week of specials builds up to a big Friday reveal of 20 new partners restaurants, which will offer deliveries from Friday thru Sunday for $1.
Get the deals by opening your UberEats app and stay up to date by following Austin’s UberEats @uber_atx on Twitter.
Charcoal chicken and taco specialists Fresa’s takes its game to a new level when it opens at 1703 S. First St. next Thursday in the massive space formerly occupied by Freddie’s Place.
Fresa’s will be open lunch, and dinner (along with to-go options) and feature homemade margaritas. In addition to the existing menu items from the original location, will be new items such as four quesadillas (huitlacoche, squash blossom, bistek and chicken tingas), grilled chimichurri skirt steak and striped bass by the pound, tres leches tropical, soapapillas, grapefruit ice box pie and a half-dozen ice creams. The new items are only available at the South First location and only for dine-in service.
Fresa’s on South First Street is open Sunday-Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10pm and Thursday-Saturday until 11pm.
One of Austin’s most popular paleo-centric dining options is expanding. Picnik, which has operated out of a re-purposed shipping container at 1700 S. Lamar Blvd. since 2013, opened a brick-and-mortar location at 4801 Burnet Road (in the former Fork & Taco space, next to Noble Sandwich Co.). Naomi Seifter founded Picnik in 2013, inspired in part by her battle with food allergies.
“It was nearly impossible for me to find food to eat unless I made it myself,” Seifter said in a release. “Picnik started as a solution to the dietary struggles in my own life and as a way to provide a fun dining experience for everyone – regardless of whether they have food allergies or not. We wanted to take the guesswork out of safe, nutritious, readily accessible food.”
The Picnik restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, expands on the trailer’s grab-and-go menu of gluten-free, corn-free and soy-free food items, as well as bone broth, juices and butter coffee. The menu includes breakfast risotto, quiche Lorraine, tacos, chicken tenders, fried Brussels sprouts and several salads.
The restaurant, designed by McCray & Co. (Lenoir, Leaf), will offer indoor and outdoor table services, as well as grab-and-go purchases and a counter for their trademark butter coffee, which is made with grass-fed butter, MCT oil, maple syrup and collagen . Picnik will also serve wine and gluten-free beer because even health nuts need a little booze now and then.
The new Picnik is open Sunday-Thursday from 7 am. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m., and the trailer will continue top operate daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.