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.
Seafood-centric Mexican restaurant Alcomar on South First Street closed permanently after service Tuesday night. The restaurant was a member of the El Chile Group, which got its start on Manor Road with El Chile in 2003.
In the decade and a half since, the restaurant group has opened several concepts (El Chilito, El Alma and Yuyo among them) and swapped restaurant locations inside the group.
El Chile opened a location on South First Street in 2013, but that location morphed into the breezy Alcomar In 2015.
In an emailed statement, management thanked its patrons and said it was actively searching for a new location.
“We worked diligently to renegotiate a new lease that would allow us to continue offering an affordable, high-quality dining experience, but staying open was simply not a viable option,” the statement read.
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.
Chef James Holmes’ short-lived run with Lucy’s on the Fly on South Lamar, an extension of his Lucy’s Fried Chicken brand, will come to an end this weekend, as the longtime Austin chef says goodbye to the space at which he has operated a restaurant for 10 years. Holmes says he was unable to renew the lease at the space at 2403 S. Lamar Blvd., where he first opened Olivia in 2008, a fine dining restaurant that was at the forefront of the farm-to-table wave of upmarket dining that came to Austin over the last 10-15 years.
Lucy’s on the Fly will close Sunday, but with that shutter comes news of a new location for Holmes fried chicken restaurant that got its start off South Congress Avenue in 2011. Lucy’s Fried Chicken plans to open in June at 401 E. Whitestone Blvd. A-108, in the the Railyard complex. Holmes will have more details, including opening date, in the weeks to come.
The ever-changing landscape of the downtown dining scene will receive some more action next month when Annies Cafe & Bar closes after an almost-10-year run at 319 Congress Ave..
Love Nance, who founded Annies in 1982 and moved it to its Congress location in June 2009, has sold the hot piece of real estate where the restaurant sits on Congress Avenue and will turn her energy to her concepts at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), Annies & Farm Aireand I Vini, a fast-casual Italian restaurant, wine bar and market. In an emailed statement, Nance also hinted at a future street-side home for Annies.
“To our treasured downtown customers and family of employees, thank you for years of extraordinary memories,” Nance said. “All of your favorite Annies menu items and classic dishes are still available at our Annies & Farm Aire location (gate 18) at the Austin airport. Until we see you again street-side, we look forward to seeing you at the airport.”
The last day of service at the restaurant’s Congress Avenue location will be April 22.
The downtown Austin lunch scene has seen increased competition in recent years with the arrival of chains like Mad Greens, Flower Child, Modern Market and Newk’s Eatery.
The Austin-born cafe, which opened its first location at Brodie and Slaughter Lanes in 2004, plans to relocate the shuttered business to a location with more of a neighborhood vibe, and one with fewer parking and logistical distractions, allowing the business to focus on food and guests, according to co-owner Kelly Chappell. The partners hope to make an announcement on expansion by the end of the year, if not sooner.
West End Italian restaurant, happy hour hang and listening room Winflo Osteria (1315 W. Sixth St.), which is owned by the Dickson family of Austin, will close on March 30 after five years in business. A new restaurant group will take over the space in the coming months.
“We are thankful and grateful for our customers, neighbors, staff, family, and friends for their support,” the family said in a statement. “After much deliberation, we’ve decided to close the restaurant with service concluding on March 30. We are transitioning to a new operator from New Orleans with strong restaurant experience that has great plans for our little bungalow and we are very supportive of the next chapter of this special place.”