It looks like Kerlin BBQ headed into their summer break in style. The trailer from Bill and Amelis Kerlin hosted a fifth anniversary party Sunday and then locked up the trailer and headed off for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The East Austin trailer, which has ranked in the Top 10 in our last two Best BBQ in Austin lists, will be closed through August 30. Luckily for you, fellow Top 10 spots La Barbecue and Micklethwait Craft Meats aren’t far away.
D.C.-based Mediterranean fast-casual concept Cava opened to big crowds in Westlake earlier this summer, and this week it brings its customizable bowl and wrap concept to downtown. The restaurant will open at 51 Congress Ave. on Friday, but in advance of its opening, it will be giving away lunch and dinner on Thursday.
Cava is giving away free lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday as part of its Community Day. (I recommend the spicy lamb meatballs.) During this time, Cava will accept donations to benefit local non-profit partner Urban Roots, and will also donate the value of meals provided during their friends-and-family preview services to further support Urban Roots.
Founded in 2011 as a modern, fast-casual version of their Mediterranean restaurant, the ownership group, which includes three friends who are all first-generation Greek-Americans, serves a variety of salad and grain bowls and pitas topped and filled with popular Mediterranean-inspired proteins and mezzes like lamb, falafel, hummus, feta, cucumber, mint, olives and more. The restaurant builds relationships with regional vendors and will source beef for its Austin store from 44 Farms in Cameron, TX.
Black-owned restaurants in East Austin, like many other businesses, face increasingly stiff challenges to remain in operation amidst continued gentrification and rising property taxes and rents. The Austin Justice Coalition next week will shine a light on some of the pillars of the black community in East Austin with its ATX Black Food Week.
The week-long series of dinners and conversations begins Sunday at Roland’s Soul Food (311 Chestnut Ave.). The restaurant will be open from noon to 4 p.m., with a Meet and Eat session slated from 1 to 4 p.m. The event continues along a similar schedule at restaurants throughout the week. Each restaurant has posted hours of operation and then a block of time during which diners and community members can hear the stories of the men and women who have nourished and enriched the East Austin community for years.
The following restaurants will participate, with dining hours followed by Meet and Eat hours: Monday, Mr. Catfish at 1144 Airport Blvd. (11.a.m to 8 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.); Tuesday, Big Easy Bar and Grill at 1806 E. 12th St. (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.); Wednesday, Hoover’s Cooking at 2002 Manor Road (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.); Thursday, Tony’s Jamaican Food at 1200 E. 11th St. (11:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.); Friday, Country Boyz Fixins at 4140 E. 12th St. (11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.); Saturday, Sam’s BBQ at 2000 E. 12th St. (10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m.).
Austin will lose a piece of its dining history later this month when the Frisco closes July 29. The shutter, first confirmed by the Austin Business Journal, will be the end of the 65-year run for a restaurant that was originally opened by Harry Akin at Koenig Lane and Burnet Road in 1953.
Known for its comfort food like beef tips, chicken-fried steak, chicken and dumplings and icebox pie, the Frisco Shop was part of the Night Hawk chain that Akin, mayor of Austin from 1967 to 1969, started in 1932 when he opened the first Night Hawk at Riverside Drive and Congress Avenue. The Frisco Shop, which moved into the former Curra’s Grill location at 6801 Burnet Road when the original was demolished to make way for a Walgreen’s, was the last of that storied chain.
In addition to being a staple for decades for families and devoted regulars, the Frisco Shop and Night Hawk also played important roles in the sociopolitical history of Austin, as Akin was one of the first white restaurateurs to serve black customers.
“He was a hero to me,” former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn told the Statesman in 2008 when the new Frisco Shop location opened. “Harry was open and accessible to all, which is what Austin is all about. He was a visionary and with the times.”
In a sign of the shifting landscape of the Austin dining scene, Shawn Cirkiel announced tonight the immediate closure of his modernist Spanish restaurant, Bullfight. The restaurant, which opened in September 2015, landed the number 25 spot in our annual Austin360 Dining Guide in 2017 based on the strength of the execution of seasonal dishes inspired by the chef’s trips to Spain.
Dishes like branzino crudo with peach and corn, grilled octopus with squid ink bourride and roasted mushrooms topped with a Jamon Iberico-cured egg displayed the kitchen’s appreciation for ingredients and its touch with building flavors.
Though Bullfight is closing, Cirkiel said he still has plans for the space built on the spot next door to where his grandfather, Gene Johnson, once owned a service station.
Many diners likely saw the upmarket Bullfight, which on weekends was often crowded with nice cars parked outside, as a destination location. Cirkiel said he intends to rebrand the spot as a neighborhood restaurant with a menu better suited for daily and weekly dining. He is partnering with a friend, whose name he did not disclose, for the new venture but has not announced a name or an estimated opening date for the new restaurant.
“Bullfight is an emotional and romantic project for me, but we had a unique opportunity to do something that fit in with the neighborhood,” Cirkiel said. “I continue to be excited about the Austin restaurant scene and what it all means. And what I’m most excited about is introducing something new that will work well with the neighborhood.”
Following the closure, Cirkiel said he will place former Bullfight staff at one of his other concepts around town, with Bullfight general manager Tara Davies and many of her crew headed downtown to Parkside. A native Austinite, Cirkiel also owns and operates the restaurants Backspace and Olive & June, as well as downtown juice bar Jugo.
La Posada in South Austin reminded me of my recent trip to San Antonio. It wasn’t just the homemade flour and corn tortillas, the Spanish-language musical soundtrack or the terracotta-colored banquettes. It’s direct, simple and really good.
Shredded strands of barbacoa in one taco ($2.49) cling together, bound by fat more notable for its flavor than grease, and tender strips of lengua ($2.59) are tempered by the sweetness of stewed tomatoes and green peppers. The beef fajita ($2.49) was cooked a few seconds longer than I’d prefer but was still juicy and caramelized, with lightly grilled green peppers and onions lending vegetal snap and not much heat. I recommend spooning the sweet table salsa, a soupy tomato base with flecks of serrano, onion and black pepper.
La Posada makes both flour and corn tortillas, the former gentle and buttery, the latter springy and milky like baked corn custard.
And I didn’t have to get on I-35 to enjoy them.
6800 West Gate Blvd. 512-444-2631, laposadasouth.com
Austin lost a unique and comforting casual spot over the weekend as chef Philip Speer’s Bonhomie closed after brunch service Sunday. The restaurant, which Speer and his partners aptly billed as Waffle House-meets-French bistro, opened in March 2017. The blend of execution and flavors of thoughtful but not pretentious food in a laid-back environment made Bonhomie one of our three favorite new restaurants of 2017 and landed the Burnet Road spot a place in the Top 20 in our annual Dining Guide last year.
Speer, who didn’t seem ready to go into extensive detail about the nature of the closing, said he and his team were “proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to create the concept.”
“I couldn’t be happier with the product and service that we consistently offered to our guests,” Speer said. “We would like to thank the Burnet Road community who welcomed us as well as the patrons that supported us in this time. I am also super proud of our staff, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of service peeps.”
Bonhomie, which was located in a mixed-use development, had been part of the wave of new restaurants that had been building momentum to make Burnet Road a dining destination in recent years, along with restaurants like the Peached Tortilla, Barley Swine and Bufalina Due. Speer opened the restaurant known for its potato rosti, cheeseburger and bistro classics following a decadelong run with the Uchi restaurant group, where he had been director of culinary operations.
Speer says he plans to open a new restaurant where the empty lot is at Fifth and Colorado streets in the months ahead. Speer has no details other than the fact the restaurant is not a partnership with his partners from Bonhomie.