Two Austin restaurants land on Texas Monthly’s annual list of 10 best new restaurants

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The national magazine of Texas this morning weighed in on all of the great new additions to the state’s dining scene. Longtime Texas Monthly restaurant critic Patricia Sharpe announced her 10 Best New Restaurants in the state and Austin’s Kemuri Tatsu-Ya came in at #2, behind Houston chef Hugo Ortega’s Oaxacan restaurant Xochi; and Pitchfork Pretty in East Austin landed at #7. I named those two restaurants (along with Bonhomie) as best new restaurant in Austin last year. Bonhomie also found a spot on Sharpe’s list, earning an honorable mention nod, along with Spanish restaurant El Chipirón. Houston had the biggest 2017, nabbing four of the top 10 spots. For the complete list, visit TexasMonthly.com.

Ruby trout poached in olive oil with roasted tomatoes, fennel and breadcrumbs at Pitchfork Pretty 2708 E Cesar Chavez, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (Stephen Spillman/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

RELATED

2017 Austin360 Dining Guide: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (#9) | Pitchfork Pretty (#11) | Bonhomie (#16)

Vox Table closed suddenly yesterday before Valentine’s Day dinner

We received an email this morning from a frustrated reader. They weren’t frustrated with us (yea!) but with the fact that they had received an email yesterday afternoon at 3 p.m. alerting them that Vox Table had closed suddenly due to a maintenance issue and therefore the emailer’s Valentine’s dinner reservation could not be honored. The email (which we’ve seen) actually went out, apparently, to all people who had a reservation. The restaurant responded to aggravated diners with a list of restaurants that still had reservations and with phone numbers for those restaurants.

Arianna Auber AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It is unclear if the closure is permanent. We went by the restaurant this afternoon and found a sign on the door that stated the following: “Due to reoccurring maintenance issues, we will be closed this evening. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

We have reached out to Vox for more details on the closure. Their Tex-Mex offshoot, El Burro, closed last year after only six months in business. It was one of the most recent in a string of shutters at the Lamar Union.

A sign on the door at Vox Table on February 15. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Four Austin chefs earn James Beard semifinalist nominations; one local restaurant tabbed best new restaurant contender 

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The James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest has quite a bit of Austin flavor this year. The prestigious culinary institution announced its semifinalists today and Austin took home four nominations, with chefs Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye) and Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine) all earning nods for Best Chef Southwest and Laura Sawicki (Launderette) earning a semifinalist nod for Best Pastry Chef in America, her third consecutive nomination and fifth total. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, the izakaya-smokehouse from Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa was named a semifinalist for the honor of best new restaurant in America. In addition to the kitchen awards, Jester King Brewery’s Jeffrey Stuffing’s earned a semifinal nod for best wine, beer or spirits or professional.

Chef Michael Fojtasek at Olamaie on May 9, 2017. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Gilmore was Austin’s only semifinalist last year, and the chef went on to earn his fifth consecutive finalist nod, but the city has done well in recent years. Aaron Franklin won the award in 2015, and former Austin winners include Paul Qui (2012) and Tyson Cole of Uchi (2011), Austin’s first-ever winner.

The other Texas chefs earning semifinalist nods for best chef southwest are Ross Coleman and James Haywood (Kitchen 713, Houston), Diego Galicia and Rico Torres (Mixtli, San Antonio), Anita Jaisinghani (Pondicheri, Houston), Ronnie Killen (Killen’s Steakhouse, Pearland), Steve McHugh (Cured, San Antonio), Trong Nguyen (Crawfish & Noodles, Houston), Ryan Pera (Coltivare, Houston), Regino Rojas (Revolver Taco Lounge, Dallas) and Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz (Snow’s BBQ, Lexington). For the complete list of all nominees, go to jamesbeard.org.

The finalists will be announced on March 14 and the awards will be handed out on May 7 in Chicago, with the ceremony streaming live online.

RELATED

Austin360 Dining Guide’s Top 25:

Olamaie (#1) | Emmer & Rye (#5) | Barley Swine (#7) | Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (#9) | Launderette (#18)

Barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis is closed until next Wednesday

Life happens, as the Tweet from LeRoy & Lewis said this afternoon. What that means in this case is that the barbecue truck from chef Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis is closed until next Wednesday.

Mac-and-cheese-stuffed smoked quail at LeRoy & Lewis.

The closure comes as a result of some personal matters that have taken the duo away from town. Rumor-mongerers and bored guessers need not look for mysterious or portentous reasons, as the closure is simply a matter of life happening and timing. The truck will be up and running at full steam next Wednesday.

If you end up over at Cosmic Coffee & Beer Garden, you can still check out the newly relocated Pueblo Viejo taco truck.

Exclusive: Founders of Esther’s Follies buy back the historic Tavern on Lamar Boulevard

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Esther’s Follies co-founders Shannon Sedwick and Michael Shelton purchased the historic Tavern (922. W. 12th St.) last week from brothers Ellis and Austin Winstaley. The couple, who met while performing in a rock musical at the University of Texas in 1968, opened their popular comedy theater downtown in 1977 and owned and operated the Tavern from 1979 to 1981, with Shelton renovating the historic building.

The Tavern located at 12th and Lamar. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Sedwick and Shelton, who founded the legendary Liberty Lunch and also own Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe, intend to update the menu under the guidance of Three Little Pigs owner and former Jeffrey’s chef Raymond Tatum (who has also made changes at Patsy’s) and say they have touch-ups but not major changes in store. In addition to menu changes from Tatum (think pork belly sliders and his famous meatloaf), the new/old owners also plan to introduce live music from singer-songwriter types in the upstairs space. The Tavern will remain open during the changes, and Sedwick expects the menu to evolve over the coming months.

“We are excited to have the Tavern back and want to preserve its legacy as one of Austin’s first watering holes, while bringing some new energy to the food and look of the place, to bring it into the contemporary bar scene. No frills, just bringing back its glory,” Sedwick said.

Michael Shelton and Shannon Sedwick are the new owners of The Tavern. (Alberto Martinez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 102-year-old building, which began as a grocery, was originally designed by German native Hug Kuehne, who modeled it after the public houses of Europe, according to the Tavern’s website. The Winstaleys, who also own El Arroyo, Hill’s Cafe, Star Seeds Cafe, Abel’s on the Lake and Cain and Abel’s, bought the Tavern from Bob Cole in 2013.

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Taco Ranch from P. Terry’s will open in old Taco Cabana spot on MLK Boulevard

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You can almost see the lines forming now. Taco Ranch from P. Terry’s will open this summer in the former Taco Cabana at 517 W. MLK Blvd., Patrick Terry said this weekend. Terry says the restaurant will be open from breakfast through late night and feature a double drive-thru and the same menu as the South Austin location.

The first location of the fast-casual approach to Tex-Mex using the responsible sourcing that helped make P. Terry’s a hit opened to mild hysteria in January. The response was so great (3,000 tacos a day) that Taco Ranch had to shorten its hours, changing its closing time to 3 p.m. Terry says those hours should eventually expand in the coming months.

The former Taco Cabana at 517 W. MLK Blvd. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Though Terry, who has been invigorated and excited by the response to Taco Ranch, had originally said he only had one location in mind for Taco Ranch, when he came across the available space near campus, it just felt like the perfect fit. Taco Cabana on MLK Blvd. closed last summer. As for a third location, Terry says none is in the works.

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Open Table says Austin is the second-most romantic city in Texas

Looking to have a romantic dinner for two in the state of Texas? Maybe not if you live in Dallas or Houston. San Antonio on the other hand …. dim the lights.

Macarons at Elizabeth Street Cafe. (Credit: McGuire Moorman Hospitality)

Reservation website OpenTable.com came up with a system to rank the Most Romantic Cities in America. San Antonio was the highest-ranked city in Texas (coming in at #14), while Austin snuck in at #19. Fort Worth was right behind Texas at #20.

So, how do they rank such a subjective idea?

OpenTable Most Romantic Cities Index was calculated using three variables: the percentage of restaurants rated “romantic” according to OpenTable diner reviews; the percentage of tables seated for two; and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine’s Day in 2017.

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