Famous Houston po’ boys are coming to Austin and Central Texas

If you grew up in Houston or have spent any amount of time there, you are likely familiar with Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys. The deli and its wholesale operation serves Italian cold cut combo (ham and salami) sandwiches on soft hoagie rolls made by Royal Bakery in Houston. The Original sandwich is brushed with mayonnaise and topped with pickles, Provolone cheese and the deli’s famous chow chow relish, which they sell by the jar. The Super follows the same blueprint but doubles down on meat and cheese.

Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys Super. (Contributed)

Not only can you find the sandwiches at two delis and some grab-and-go kiosks in Houston, they are available at 250 locations throughout Texas and Louisiana. Now Austin will one again get a taste of those sweet, sweet Original (green wrapper) and Super Original po’ boys (red wrapper), as well as the turkey and Swiss (brown wrapper) and tuna varieties (blue wrapper).

Beginning Aug. 31, Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys will begin selling its four signature sandwiches at grocery stores in Austin and the surrounding areas. The first Austin-area stores will have their shipment Friday, with plans for the sandwiches to be available in all 48 Austin-area H-E-B by Saturday.  The company plans to hit shelves at more than 60 area stores by the end of 2018. You will originally be able to find the sandwiches, which will be made in Houston and delivered overnight to Central Texas, at H-E-B locations in Central Texas, with expansion headed to San Marcos, Wimberley, La Grange, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Dripping Springs and Pflugerville. (Yes, day-old sandwiches aren’t quite as good as freshly made, but beggars can’t be choosers, I reckon.)

Antone’s was previously distributed by a licensee, who also briefly operated a storefront, in Austin at Randall’s and Exxon beginning in 1999.

Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys was originally opened in Houston by Lebanese immigrant Jalal Antone in 1962. Legacy Restaurants, which bought the brand in 2015, is also exploring further expansion of its wholesale business into other regions including North Texas and San Antonio.

 

“We are extremely excited to bring Antone’s classic sandwiches into the Central Texas market,” Legacy Restaurants CEO Jonathan Horowitz said. “There are so many people from Houston who grew up eating these sandwiches and who now live in the area – we get calls and emails weekly from fans who ask us if we can send them some sandwiches. Now they will have the opportunity to enjoy them whenever they have a craving. We look forward to continuing our growth through expansion into new markets next year.”

This post has been updated to include arrival of sandwiches in Austin market. 

EXCLUSIVE: Familiar Austin faces buy Sweetish Hill, announce plans for bakery’s future

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A new school titan of the Austin restaurant world is taking over an old-school classic. The McGuire Moorman Hospitality group has purchased beloved Clarksville-area Sweetish Hill Bakery (1120 W. Sixth St.) from Jim Murphy, with the sale slated to close in early September.

Sweetish Hill Bakery was founded in 1975. (Mark Matson FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The owners of Jeffrey’s, Clark’s, Perla’s (and more) will close the doors for remodeling on September 8 and plan to fully reopen by Christmas under the moniker Swedish Hill Bakery Cafe & Deli. The new spelling is a slight rebrand and nod to the Swede’s Hill neighborhood where Patricia Bauer-Slate and Tom Neuhaus originally opened the business at 14th and Waller streets in 1975.

The new Swedish Hill will serve as the bakery for all seven of MMH’s Austin-area restaurants and also operate a retail bakery offering savory and sweet items, a wine bar, and deli serving prepared foods and made-to-order sandwiches. There are also plans to serve bagels and smoked fish spreads (initially probably only on weekends). And, yes, there will still be three dozen parking spaces on site. 

MMH co-founder and native Austinite Larry McGuire points to the business models and offerings of Gjelina in Los Angeles and Russ & Daughters in New York City as inspirations for the concept that will expand on the bakery that Jim Murphy has owned,initially with Bauer-Slate, since 1990.

McGuire, who grew up in the Travis Heights neighborhood and has fond memories of his family buying Italian cream cakes from Sweetish Hill for birthdays, said his business needed a centralized bakery for its wide assortment of baked goods and that purchasing Sweetish Hill and the land on which it sits would allow them to help preserve a bit of Austin and what makes the city cool.

“If we didn’t buy it, somebody was gonna build an apartment complex,” McGuire said.

The bakery, which will bake the San Francisco-style sourdough for Clark’s, the laminated doughs and baguettes for Elizabeth Street Cafe and much more, will be under the direction of chefs and MMH partners Alex Manley and Jennifer Tucker.

Sweetish Hill co-founder Patricia Bauer-Slate and Jim Murphy at Sweetish Hill Bakery in 2005. Mark Matson FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

After baking in Houston and New York City, Murphy returned to Austin and became the bakery manager at Sweetish Hill in 1988 and a partner in 1990. The bakery, which relocated to the current Clark’s space on West Sixth street in the late 70s, moved across the street to its current location in 1991. Murphy, who helped found the Bread Bakers Guild of America in the 90s, bought out Bauer-Slate’s interest about 10 years ago.

After more than 40 years of keeping baker’s hours, trying to stay afloat in an increasingly expensive city while catering to an aging customer base, and paying fair wages and keeping prices affordable, Murphy said he is ready for a change.

“It’s something we’ve worked hard it. It’s a tough business. It’s a people business. You have to really like it,” Murphy said. “Ultimately, I’m a baker first. And I think the bakery business all over the world is evolving more and more to restaurants and cafes. I don’t want to be in the restaurant business.”

Friendly neighborhood service and cakes like their legendary Dutch chocolate and the fruit-filled holiday cakes have made Murphy and Sweetish Hill a Clarksville-area institutions for decades. And as word has leaked out in recent weeks, many longtime customers have come by the bakery to say thank you to Murphy and pay their respects.  

“It’s just been great to have such loyal customers,” Murphy said.

While he is ready for the change of pace, and to get out from under the soaring property taxes, Murphy, who took about a month to come around to the idea of selling, admits he still has brief moments of doubt.

“Some days I almost wake up with a panic attack, thinking, ‘Gah, what am i doing?’” Murphy said.

What he’ll be doing in the future is consulting, working on projects and maybe teaching classes as Barton Springs Mill. He’ll also help the MMH team get the bakery up and running once construction, which includes expanding into the adjacent Pause & Imagine dress shop, is completed.

Murphy, who along with his partners has always been steadfast about sourcing locally, avoiding trans fats and using unbleached flour, felt it was important that the brand he and Bauer-Slate worked so hard to cultivate remain in good hands. And he believes that McGuire Moorman will honor their legacy.

This is not MMH’s first time to take over a historic brand and space. The company known for its keen attention to detail and stunning aesthetics and branding revamped 80s and 90s icon Jeffrey’s in 2013. McGuire sees his role in taking over the popular neighborhood bakery in the same light, and appreciates the responsibility of polishing a classic brand and carrying it into the future.

“I’ve been through this a bunch before; it’s a valid concern,” McGuire said of people worried about losing their favorite bakery. “We’re trying to open the best thing we can open. My job is to set them up for the next 30 or 40 years. That’s our goal.”

Bánh mì wizards Saigon le Vendeur open food truck downtown

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The makers of the best bánh mì in the city have dispatched a new food truck to feed downtown denizens on weekdays. Saigon le Vendeur, which I ranked as the best makers of Vietnamese sandwiches last year, recently opened a food truck in the lot at Congress Avenue and Third Street.

Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The truck, which makes pork, chicken and tofu sandwiches on French bread, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Chef Tebi Nguyen, owner of the food truck that originated on East Seventh Street, also opened Vietnamese cafe Le Bleu near Burnet Road and Research Boulevard earlier this summer.

Austin Restaurant Weeks run through Sept. 3

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The next couple of weeks in Austin will offer diner a chance to eat out at some of Austin’s top restaurants while supporting the community. Austin Restaurant Weeks began Aug. 16 and runs through Sept. 3, with more than 80 restaurants in the area serving fixed menus with a portion of proceeds directly benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank.

Olive & June is one of more than 80 restaurants participating in Austin Restaurant Weeks. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Participating restaurants will serve lunch for $25 and offer fixed menus for $35 and $45 at dinner. What kind of impact does that have on the community? Organizers say that for every dinner served, Austin restaurant donate between $5 and $7 to the Central Texas Food Bank. And, with the Food Bank able to create four meals for every dollar raised, a dinner for two could help raise the money to feed up to 50 people.

Participating restaurants Barley Swine, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, Central Standard, Contigo, El Naranjo, La Condesa, Olive & June, Parkside, Via 313 and many more. For a complete list of restaurants and more details on the event, visit austinrestaurantweeks.org.

There’s a new place for sushi and Pacific Asian flavors in 2nd Street District

The 2nd Street District received an infusion of Asian flavors today, as She’s Not Here opened in the former Malaga space at 440 Second St. next to the Violet Crown Cinema.

Nigiri at She’s Not Here. (Credit: Nicolai McCrary)

The menu at the restaurant operated by Uchi veterans Ben Cachila (former Uchi development director) and Chris Romero (branding and marketing director) includes nigiri sushi ( yellowtail, big eye tuna), hand rolls (soft shell crab, ume shiso), cold dishes (marinated yellowtail with lychee, green apple vinegar and pickled Asian pear), and hot dishes (pork adobo). Cocktails will feature Pacific Asian-influences flavor profiles from the use of hibiscus rye, roasted coconut, jasmine, cloves, falooda syrup, cardamom, kaffir lime and more.

She’s Not Here is open Sunday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. The restaurant plans to expand to lunch, which will include grab-and-go bento boxes, soon.

Exclusive: Freedmen’s barbecue near UT is closing. Here’s what’s next.

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Freedmen’s — the barbecue restaurant near the University of Texas that has consistently held a spot on the Austin360 list of Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin — will close Aug. 31 amid plans for construction of an apartment complex around the historic building at 2402 San Gabriel St.

Freedmen’s is closing Aug. 31. (Contributed)

Cuatro Kowalski earlier this summer sold the building, which has been home to Freedmen’s barbecue and cocktail bar for the last five-plus years and which is registered and protected as a historical landmark by the City of Austin, to a group called AMS Retail Two. The group plans to develop the surrounding area into a horseshoe-shaped apartment building that caters to student housing in West Campus, Kowalski said.

Kowalski, who bought the building in 2010 and opened Freedmen’s in December 2012, said he wanted to stay in the space, but when he realized that the coming construction would surround him, taking away his parking and introducing obstacles such as temporary interruptions of gas and electricity, he decided to sell. Once the housing complex, which includes the land where the former Tap 24 and current 7-Eleven stand, is completed in approximately two years, Kowalski said he hopes to reopen in the historic space.

The building was originally constructed in 1869 by former slave George Franklin and served an important role in the early African-American community of Austin, including a stint as home to the Rev. Jacob Fontaine, a community leader and newspaper publisher.

While the storefront is closing, Kowalski said he has found a commissary space that will allow Freedmen’s to continue to operate and service the company’s catering and event business. Additionally, Kowalski said he is working on securing a lease for a new business called Four Stones, which the Austinite said will be “a sexier Freedmen’s.”

When he opened Freedmen’s in 2012, Kowalski intended the space to be a cocktail bar first and restaurant second, but that equation got turned on its head over the years. Four Stones, which Kowalski hopes to open by the end of the year, would be a return to that intended business model, focusing on whiskey and an expanded wine list while serving Freedmen’s barbecue cooked at the commissary.

While the future of Freedmen’s sits in limbo with the new development coming and the new focus on Four Stones, Kowalski said he has not completely given up on the idea of relocating Freedmen’s if he found an appropriate space.

“Freedmen’s has a certain feel about it. If we find that in another location, we would open a Freedmen’s in another location, but the location I’m negotiating right now doesn’t have that feel,” Kowalski said. “We didn’t want to force Freedmen’s into this location.”

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Austin restaurant lands on Food & Wine’s 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years

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If you want to take a tour of modern American culinary history, from West Coast to East, you could do a lot worse than starting with Food & Wine magazine’s recently released list of the 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years. It would be a dining tour that would take you from The French Laundry in Yountville to Daniel in New York City, with stops at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and much more.

Franklin Barbecue in Austin. (Laura Skelding/2014 American-Statesman)

Food & Wine’s comprehensive list would also send you to Texas where you would make a stop at arguably the most famous barbecue restaurant in the world. Aaron Franklin was the first barbecue cook to ever win a James Beard Award for Best Chef, and now his and wife Stacy’s restaurant, Franklin Barbecue, has landed a spot side by side with some of the nation’s most classic and beloved institutions. Of the restaurant, the magazine writes, “The occasional six-hour line is worth it, we promise; the lunch-only spot delivers on the hype, a rare feat in restaurants.”

Also making the list were Brennan’s of Houston and The Mansion in Dallas. Check out all 40 here.

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