Micklethwait Craft Meats opening location in Smithville this summer

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Micklethwait Craft Meats, the East Austin trailer that recently ranked #5 in my best barbecue in Austin list), took to Facebook yesterday to tease its forthcoming Smithville location. The photo is of the old Vasek Automotive building at 114 NE 2nd St. in the burgeoning town in Bastrop County. The photo says it will open this summer.

Texas Highways Magazine published a starry-eyed story from Michael Corcoran last year documenting all of the growth in the much-filmed town. We’ll have more details about opening date, hours and menu as they become available.

The future home of Micklethwait Craft Meats in Smithville. (Credit: Facebook.com/MIcklethwaitCraftMeats)

The original Micklethwait Craft Meats on Rosewood Avenue is closed until March 27, as they recover from SXSW and feed folks at the World Golf Championships at Austin Country Club.


Correction: This blog has been updated to reflect the publication date of Texas Highways Magazine’s story.



Exclusive: View the menu at Loro, the Japanese smokehouse from Uchi’s Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin, opening April 4

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The world will soon get a taste of what happens when two of Texas’ best chefs combine their talents and minds.

Thai green curry pork sausage sandwich, smoked turkey breast, crunchy sweet corn fritter, and Malaysian chicken bo ssam at Loro. (Credit: Logan Crable)

Hai Hospitality’s Loro, a collaborative effort between Uchi co-founder chef Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin will open to the public on April 4, and we have the first look at the menu from the Japanese smokehouse from the two James Beard Award winners.

The casual restaurant located at 2115 South Lamar Blvd. will feature a menu divided into snacks, starters, sandwiches, rice bowls, plates and sides, with smoked and grilled dishes heightened by Asian flavor profiles serving as a major centerpiece. The restaurant will open daily at 11 a.m., closing at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (See the full menu below.)

“The complex flavors of Southeast Asian food, ranging from the acidity in citrus, to heat from a variety of spices, to all the clean fresh flavors of the herbs, create a balance that is the perfect counterpoint to the richness of smoked meat,” Cole said.

Rice bowl with Malaysian chicken. (Credit: Logan Crable)

The snacks and starters have a variety of Asian influences, including togarashi-dusted kettle corn served with brisket burnt ends, oak-grill snap peas with kimchi emulsion and siracha powder, a Vietnamese kale salad with yuzu vinaigrette, and chicken karrage with sweet Thai chili gastrique and Szechuan peppercorns.

People likely will be the most excited about the hallmark dish of the collaboration between Franklin and Cole, the smoked beef brisket. The beef is marinated in Vietnamese nuoc mam and Thai chili gastrique and finished with herbs and chili oil. It will be served only at dinner, though the brisket finds its way to a sandwich with papaya salad, Thai herbs and jalapeno aioli served at lunch.

“That dish is probably one of the most literal combinations of our styles,” Franklin said.

Thai green curry sausage sandwich at Loro. (Credit: Logan Crable)

Other entrees include Malaysian chicken bo ssam served with lettuce wraps and curry dipping sauce, Thai green curry sausage (also available on a sandwich), char siu pork shoulder, oak-smoked salmon and smoked turkey breast (a Franklin secret weapon) served with apricot gastrique.

“Aaron rubs it with black pepper and we use Korean chilies,” Cole said. “It adds a colorful component to it but it also – Korean chilies have this great, kinda smoky quality. They’re not very spicy but they have like a little hint of spice and a lot of savory character.”

Coconut rice bowls with proteins like crispy Szechuan tofu and grilled Malaysian chicken, along with an assortment of sides such as Texas sweet corn with miso beurre blanc finished with shiso and edamame round out the menu from the kitchen will be helmed by chef de cuisine James Dumapit, an Uchi alumnus and one of the founding chefs of Old Thousand.

The restaurant, full of natural light, patio seating and open space, was designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture in collaboration with interior designer Craig Stanghetta of Ste. Marie Design and inspired by the historic dance halls of the Texas Hill Country. That casual feel is complemented by counter-service and table delivery. To-Go service will be available and encouraged, with a separate pick up area at the bar.

Loro will give a preview to the public with a No Kid Hungry benefit on March 29. Tickets cost $100 and are available online.

The menu at Loro.


Chef Philip Speer’s food truck dedicated to recovery closes but mission continues

Bonhomie chef Philip Speer and partner William Ball have closed their brunch-centric food truck My Name is Joe after a little over a year in business.

Ny Name is Joe owners Philip Speer (left) and William Ball. (Credit: Julie Cope Photography)

The truck donated profits to Comfort Cafe in Smithville, which supports the Serenity Star recovery center. My Name is Joe raised over $50,000 in 2017 and sent 100 percent of that to Serenity Star to fund the completion of their Women’s Center and their Family Center, according to Speer.

“We are happy to continue to work with Serenity Star and Comfort Cafe, not only with fundraising but with job placement as well,” Speer said. “With My Name is Joe, we have been able to employ several people in recovery and move them on to restaurants such as Holy Roller, Juniper, Bonhomie, etc.”

While the truck has shuttered for now, Speer, who got sober in 2014 and has since raised awareness also by running marathons and rappelling down buildings with chefs, says the work helping those in recovery continues.

“For us, this is our focus right now, being as impactful as we can be. Joe is absolutely still alive, we are just refocusing our efforts right now!”

Original brick pit from Ruby’s BBQ headed to Ladybird’s Austin Kitchen

One of the great relics of the Austin barbecue scene will live on. When Pat Mares announced last month she was closing Ruby’s BBQ, which she and her husband opened in 1988, people worried about the future of the brick pits that had been used to smoke meat for decades. Enter chef Demmerick Johnson.

Ladybird’s Austin Kitchen’s Facebook page.



The chef of Ladybird’s Austin Kitchen, the East Austin food trailer located at the food trailer park at 1608 E. Sixth St., posted on Facebook that he was salvaging one of the pits, keeping a piece of Austin food history alive. Johnson said fans of Ladybird’s can expect traditional Texas-style barbecue at Ladybird’s in the future and possibly a brick-and-mortar location.

“Our unexpected underground success, and our new role as ‘Curator’ of this heirloom piece (the pit) opens many doors to new horizons and opportunities,” Johnson said.

Johnson took to Facebook Live to talk about his reasoning and the logistical concerns in preserving this piece of history. You


Top 10 barbecue restaurants/trailers in Austin

Chef Demmerick Johnson and Ruby’s BBQ co-founder Pat Mares. (Credit: Demmerick Johnson’s Facebook page)

Jester King opening restaurant helmed by chef from recently shuttered the Hollow in Georgetown

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One of the best hidden gems in the greater Austin metropolitan area apparently closed over the weekend. The Hollow, the amorphous farm-to-table bistro from chef Jacob Hilbert, ended its three year-run. The end of the restaurant, which I reviewed positively in 2016, was fittingly accompanied by a passionate, lengthy letter from the chef, one full of energy and romance and devoid of many grammatical strictures. I say “apparently closed” because a Facebook post makes it seem like the closure is not definite, and I say “fittingly” because in recent years, I (and l presume others in media) received several similar impassioned letters from the chef who opened the Georgetown restaurant with his wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law in 2013. Also, fittingly, the very long letter buried the lede: Hilbert says he has plans to open a farmhouse restaurant on the Jester King Brewery property with the brewery owners. But more on that in a minute.

Beet-cured redfish crudo flavored with ginger and citrus vinaigrette at the Hollow. (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The letters from Hilbert over the past few years would sometimes explain a temporary closure or a wholesale menu change. They could be filled with abstruse ramblings or poignant vulnerability, but at their heart they showed the soul of a creative person struggling to come to terms with his gift and his place in the world (and specifically his place in Georgetown).

Chef Jacob Hilbert dressed in an apron featuring the image of famed chef Marco Pierre White. (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The letter that came last week detailed Hilbert’s formative years as a promising baseball prospect and the heartbreak that came with a career-ending injury, along with the manner and style in which he aborted graduate school, leaving behind the pursuit of a career as a therapist to follow his love for food. Like good food memoirs, the letter waxes rhapsodically, with the eventual chef describing his departure from academia thusly: “I became drunk in vats of menudo and posole, my thoughts were irrational, my studies lost in the steam of simmering pots, and I quit.”

Of his pursuit of culinary bliss, Hilbert writes sweetly about his late mother, ominously about his life-threatening drug problems of the past, achingly about Little League baseball and wistfully about Allen Ginsberg. He saved his most heartfelt words for his wife, Lynda. 

“Lynda believed in me when she should not have, she loved me when I did not deserve it. She did not give up. She did not give up through lies, infidelity, grotesque dedication to my lost craft, absent fatherhood, narcissistic rants. I took her to hell, and she stood among the perils of tectonic consequence. I did not ask her to be stoic, but she was, and I am now just a slight reward for her suffering, the miracle being that I may just be enough for her, as I am, without dazzling plates or articles extrapolating my character, without my be anything to anyone other than her. She is a hand that reaches out in the breathing light of day.”

But, then, this …

“When I first met with Jeffrey & Michael from Jester King there had been much talking prior, however the question or the statement had not been made. I said ‘I know this is crazy, but I want to make one of the best restaurants in the world.’ Without so much as a hesitation and in harmony the response was, ‘we want that too.’

“So this letter begins a story, a story that asks a question. How do you build one of the greatest restaurants in the world? I suppose we’ll find out together.

“This year the farmhouse will open, a more casual accessible restaurant built on the cuisine of nomads and ancient peoples, there will be fire and spit roasting and vegetables cooked in mud. We will muddle sauces in ancient ways and walk the land looking for tomorrow, we will bake bread and we will preserve things. The goal is to have the restaurant completely self-sustained, growing all of the produce, milking the cows and goats, making the cheese, hanging the charcuterie. Over the next two to three years we will be building accum. The restaurant that will change everything about the cooks working there, about the service and will make every effort to be great, even if it fails.”

Dramatic, intense, romantic and vague … sounds like Hilbert won’t be changing too much in his new setting. 

Reached for comment, Jester King founder Jeff Stuffings confirmed that the group is collaborating with Hilbert on a restaurant on the property in Southwest Austin.

“We’ve had a great relationship with chef Hilbert over the last five years though beer dinners and events, and we’re really excited to have the chance to work with him directly,” Stuffings said. “For now, we’re focused on a more casual, family-friendly restaurant, which we seek to open this year. In the future, we’d like to open a smaller, more focused restaurant that’s an extension of our nascent farm. The latter would have a multi-year timeline.”

Barley Swine and Odd Duck founding partner opens Mexican restaurant Suerte in East Austin this week

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Chef Sam Hellman-Mass, a founding partner of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, will open modern Mexican restaurant Suerte  at 1800 E. Sixth St. on Thursday.

The restaurant helmed by executive chef Fermín Núñez will feature a selection of tlacoyos, tacos and tostadas made with house-made masa dishes using heirloom Central Texas corn. As with the two restaurants he helped build, Hellman-Mass will source locally, using seasonal ingredients from local farmers. Check out the complete menu on the restaurant’s website. 

Pastor tacos. (Credit: Andrew Reiner Photography)

“We are so excited to join the East Austin community. Over the past few years I have really fallen in love with Mexican flavors and the quest for perfect masa. So far the search has led me to New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Oaxaca, the Yucatan and more,” Hellman-Mass said last summer when the restaurant was announced. “I’m not sure only one perfect tortilla exists, but I am certain that our team is going to make some delicious food inspired by our travels. We can’t wait to share a bit of our journey and welcome everyone into our place.”

Suerte will be open for dinner from 5 p.m. daily, closing at 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

BBQ news: Micklethwait Craft Meats closed until next week; Kerlin BBQ closed until Friday

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If you’re jonesing for some of the best barbecue in Austin this week, your choices will be slightly limited. Two of the top 10 barbecue spots in Austin are closed for a few days. Micklethwait Craft Meats (which landed at #5 on our list last week) will be closed until March 27, as they recover from South by Southwest and service the folks out at the World Golf Championships at Austin Country Club (get the chicken salad), and Kerlin BBQ (which nabbed the #7 spot) is closed until Friday. 


Micklethwait Craft Meats amps up its Frito pie with a slice of brisket.
Matthew Odam/American-Statesman