Confituras opens jam and biscuit shop off South Lamar

Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny has been delivering tasty preserves made with local ingredients to Austinites since 2010. Her efforts have nabbed awards, national attention and grant money from the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Now, she has a shop serving the preserves, jams and jellies on homemade biscuits.

Confituras’ Facebook page.

Confituras Little Kitchen opened this week at 2129 Goodrich Ave. just off South Lamar Boulevard. It is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Related: Restaurants scheduled to open in 2018

Seafood-centric restaurant TLC opens next to Alamo South Lamar next week

If you’ve been to the Alamo Drafthouse (or Vox Table or Lick Honest Ice Creams et al) over the past year, you’ve seen the work-in-progress that is TLC for months. Well, the wait is almost over. The restaurant from the Manera Restaurant Group, which also operates J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge, will open the comfort spot that draws on coastal inspiration on Tuesday.

The menu from chef Jeff Parks (formerly of Gumbo’s) will include a variety of seafood boils, sandwiches sandwiches, Gulf redfish, oysters and shrimp, along with comfort staples like deviled eggs and chicken fried steak. The restaurant states in a release that the seafood will be “local, and sustainably sourced when possible.” See the complete menu below. 

The counter-service restaurant will serve 30 beers on tap and feature large tables for communal seating, outdoor space for dining and drinking, TVs set to spots and a game room area with classic arcade games.

TLC opens softly next week with service Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Follow this link to get 25 percent off your meal on Tuesday night. After its soft opening, TLC will be open Monday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

 

 

Aaron Franklin partners with Uchi chef Tyson Cole for Japanese smokehouse Loro

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What happens when you team two of the most distinguished and celebrated chefs in Austin’s history and put them under one roof? We’re about to find out.  

Aaron Franklin has partnered with Uchi founding chef Tyson Cole to become part of the team at Loro, a Japanese smokehouse from Uchi’s parent company, Hai Hospitality, that is slated to open late in the first quarter of next year at 2115 S. Lamar Blvd.

Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole have partnered for Loro, a Japanese smokehouse in South Austin. (Credit: Logan Crable)

Longtime friends Cole and Franklin casually discussed the idea of the smokehouse about three years ago, but it was earlier this year that the idea of a partnership first arose, a light-bulb moment Cole credits to his partner and Hai Hospitality founder Daryl Kunik.

While the two chefs’ areas of expertise may seem disparate — Cole working with raw fish and Franklin mastering smoked meat — the Uchi founding chef sees obvious parallels.

“I had an epiphany years back. If you look at it, the meat thing, specifically barbecue, it’s kind of just like sushi,” Cole said. “When it’s the best barbecue and the best sushi, it’s cut a la minute. It’s sliced right then before you eat it.”

Franklin echoes the sentiment: “I think the way the two of us cook is pretty synonymous. We do almost the same thing, if you think about perfecting one thing over and over and over.”

Loro, which was announced at the beginning of the year, will center around grilled and smoked meats, with the culinary team applying the Uchi style and flavor profiles to meat dishes and inventive sides.

Franklin, who has long been a fan of Uchi and Uchiko, shares Cole’s enthusiasm for this unique new partnership that essentially amounts to a James Beard Voltron, with both chefs having taken home Best Chef Southwest honors from the esteemed organization, Franklin in 2015 and Cole in 2011.

“The first thing is that those guys are so hugely inspirational. The level of precision and the amount of integrity that those guys have is incredible,” Franklin said. “If I was ever going to do anything, those guys are the only people I’d ever go into cahoots with on something like this. I’d never open another barbecue place, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do something else that’s really exciting and fun.”

Cole first started toying with the idea of trying something new about seven years ago, with the smokehouse idea percolating about three years ago. The Uchi team kept a Green Egg smoker in the backyard at the South Lamar Boulevard restaurant and used it to experiment with dishes, some of which, like brisket nigiri, made their way onto the specials menu of the restaurant Cole opened in 2003.

“Some of our best specials came off of that. And we thought there’s a concept on its own,” Hai Hospitality president John Baydale said.

Franklin and Cole are spending time in the Uchiko and Franklin Barbecue kitchens tinkering with menu research and development. For Cole, the new restaurant offers a chance to do something that puts a different spin on something that is familiar.

“It’s going to be familiar but unique. Unique sides, unique selections of meat,” Cole said. “The game changer is going to be the way it’s served, the sauces we’re going to make and what we’re pairing it with and how it all fits together. Hopefully it’s an amazing experience and food that people have never had before.”

Franklin has long had a predilection for the light, acidic flavors found in the dishes at Uchi and Uchiko and taps into his trademark enthusiasm and humility when discussing the opportunity to work with the Uchi/Uchiko team.

“I’ve looked up to those guys for so long. I’m excited to learn. I think it’s going to be great. I’m super excited to get to know those guys a little bit better and actually learn how to cook,” Franklin said.

What can diners expect Franklin to bring to the table at Loro? Franklin says the restaurant, which will likely use all post oak, will taste like Central Texas. And the chef, who will spend time working in the kitchen at Loro once it opens, intends to apply the same simple seasoning and complex fire principles he’s crafted at his East Austin barbecue restaurant. 

“I think the biggest thing is going to be the clean flavors of the smoke. Not a whole bunch of over-smoked things. Just really tastefully done. The more delicate side of smoking,” Franklin said.

In addition to experimenting with a new format and cuisine, Loro will also offer a new challenge and opportunity for Cole, as Loro will be the only restaurant in the Hai Hospitality family that serves lunch. Preparing more food for more people at a lower price point are pieces of a puzzle that Cole and company will sort through during the R&D process. As the team continues to hone its vision for Loro, the one recurring theme is excitement.

“Putting two people at the strongest point in their discipline together is a rare thing,” Baydale said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun putting these two mad scientists together, and we’re just super excited.”

AUSTIN360 DINING GUIDE: The Top 25 restaurants in Austin | #26-#75

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Original Austin Java is closing

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After more than 20 years in Central Austin, Austin Java will be closing the doors at its original location, 1206 Parkway St. The coffee spot and lunchtime hang that opened in 1995 will close permanently on November 1, citing “economic changes in the area.” The coffee shop always maintained its original 90s Austin vibe, coming along well before the recent wave of hip coffee shops. Austin Java remains open at Austin City Hall on Second Street and at 1608 Barton Springs Road.

But don’t think that one closure means the business is struggling. In fact, the coffee shop announced they will be opening three new locations in the coming months and years. There is one opening at 3799 US 290 in Dripping Springs coming at the end of this year, and three slated for opening in 2018 and 2019. They include slated 5404 Manchaca Rd., the Met Center at 7701 Metropolis Drive and one at on the cellphone lot called The Landing at ABIA.

 

Austin Java Company in 2004, located on Parkway near 12th and Lamar. (Deborah Lykins AMERICAN STATESMAN)

 

Scarlet Rabbit in Round Rock is closing

Round Rock will soon say goodbye to the Scarlet Rabbit, according to Dahlia Dandashi of the Statesman. The “Alice in Wonderland” themed restaurant that was opened by Greenhouse Craft Food’s chef Rob Snow and chef Rich Taylor (formerly of Quality Seafood) in the summer of 2014. The restaurant located at 410 W. Main St. in downtown Round Rock will serve its final meal on Mother’s Day.

The puerco al pastor at The Scarlet Rabbit has achiote pineapple braised pork, sweet corn rice, 50/50 tortillas, cojita, pepitas, slaw, cilantro and onions for $16. CRISTINA PENA/ROUND ROCK LEADER

“Round Rock has been an amazing home to the Scarlet Rabbit and its staff for the last three years,” owner Rich Taylor said in a press release. “Soon, there will be a new project to take our place in this wonderful space, so there will still be fun and interesting things to do downtown.”

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From the archives, 2.2014: Greenhouse Craft Foods is one of five to try in Round Rock

Maria’s Taco Xpress on South Lamar not closing … yet

Mauri McAlister, a third-generation Austinite, visited Maria’s Taco Xpress on South Lamar after learning the restaurant will close in the coming months. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Maria Corbalan announced last month that she would be closing her beloved Taco Xpress at 2529 S. Lamar Blvd. after more than 20 years of business.  She said she was in the process of selling the land and estimated the restaurant’s closure would come sometime soon after South by Southwest. Well, SXSW has come and gone, but Maria’s remains. The restaurant, which held its famed Hippie Church this past Sunday, has a sign on the door (right) saying the restaurant won’t close for another couple of months or so. Reached by phone, Corbalan said she would share more details in the days to come.

A sign at Maria’s Taco Xpress alerts customers that there is still some life left in the South Austin staple.

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SEE THE PHOTOS: Maria’s Taco Xpress through the years

 

J.T. Youngblood’s fried chicken starts weekend dinner service Friday

Update: J.T. Youngblood’s starts weekend dinner service this Friday and will serve dinner Friday and Saturday only until 9 p.m. for at least the next two weekends as it phases in a more robust dinner schedule.

Lenoir executive chef Todd Duplechan and his partners opened J.T. Youngblood’s today at 1905 Aldrich St. in the Mueller development. The retro-inspired restaurant is initially only open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will expand hours in the near future.

Duplechan’s, Jeffrey’s co-founder Jeffrey Weinberger, and former Trio at the Four Seasons general manager Jeff Haber have given new life to the brand that originally opened in the 1940s and grew to more than 30 locations across Texas before shuttering around 1970.

The restaurant serves the trademark Youngblood’s fried chicken, which Weinberger featured at his old Shoreline Grill, along with rotisserie chicken. You can order the chicken in a variety of baskets, with sides like braised greens, honey carrots, buttermilk mashed potatoes with gravy and more. All of the chicken is humanely raised Smart Chicken brand. Youngblood’s also serves a couple of sandwiches and salads, along with handmade milkshakes. See the complete menu here.

The menu at the new J.T. Youngblood’s.

“We’re trying to usher in a new style of fast food,” Duplechan told the Statesman last year. “The Southern food your grandparents would have had. Not Paula Deen-Southern, but from-the-garden Southern. Good, fresh healthy food.”

The original Youngblood’s had an Austin location near the current P. Terry’s on South Lamar Boulevard. Austin native and former adman Forrest Preece has fond memories.

“I still remember the smell of that place — the fried chicken and yeast rolls. My version of nirvana in the fifties,” Preece told the Statesman last year. “The breading on that chicken had a certain crispy pop that made each bite special. Of course, it was a day of total entertainment when my parents would take me to the Kiddie Park directly across South Lamar and I could ride the ponies and the merry-go-round and then we ate at Youngblood’s.”