Founding Barley Swine and Odd Duck partner opening Mexican restaurant in old Dario’s space in East Austin

People have long wondered what would become of the old Dario’s space at 1800 E. Sixth St. We now have our answer. 

Chef Sam Hellman-Mass, a founding partner of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, has purchased the space and will convert it into Suerte, a Mexican restaurant centered on 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. The chef also intends to renovate the existing structure.

Sam Hellman-Mass is a former partner in two of the city’s best restaurants. (Photo credit: Suerte)

“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. “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.”

Longtime East Austin Tex-Mex staple Dario’s closed in 2014. Founder Dario Gonzalez and his sons still operate Don Dario’s Cantina at 8801 S. I-35 in Southpark Meadows.

Correction: A previous version of this headline incorrectly called Hellman-Mass a former partner in Odd Duck and Barley Swine.

Louie Mueller, Black’s Barbecue, Stiles Switch and Micklethwait Craft Meats headlining Taylor festival this weekend

A plate of brisket, bratwurst, knockwurst and jalapeno sausage from Micklethwait Craft Meats.

The inaugural Stomp’n’Holler BBQ and Music Festival is bringing together some of the biggest names in Texas barbecue and a mixture of rockabilly, country and bluegrass musical acts in downtown Taylor’s Heirtage Square on Saturday.

Taylor’s Louie Mueller Barbecue, Black’s Barbecue of Lockhart, Elgin’s Southside Market, and Austin’s Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew and Micklethwait Craft Meats are the biggest names of a group of 10 pitmasters that will serve smoked meat throughout the day.  Grammy-winning band The Mavericks will headline the list of bands that includes the Whiskey Shivers and Rosie Flores

Three levels of tickets are on sale, from $35 to $100. Visit for tickets and more information.


Juliet Ristorante on Barton Springs Road closing; will shift gears and reopen

Lasagna al forno at Juliet Ristorante. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Italian stunner Juliet Ristorante will close  after service Sunday and undergo several weeks of revamping. The restaurant intends to reopen in late June as Juliet Italian Kitchen, with more of an emphasis on family-style service and Italian-American classics, or “red-sauce dishes” as the style of cooking is often described. There will be changes to the space, as well as the menu.

The high design of Juliet, its most noteworthy feature, will apparently give way to a more approachable atmosphere, as the restaurant appears desirous to attract a different audience.

“It will feature menu, service and atmosphere developments that better serve both families and our neighborhood,” owner Dan Wilkins said in a release.

Executive chef Jacob Weaver will stay on board with Juliet, which is bringing in Austin-based Design Hound (Dai Due, L’Oca d’Oro) to reimagine the space.

“We will maintain a strong emphasis on quality and handmade products including our own pastas, cheeses, breads and desserts while delivering a more comfortable, predictable and nostalgic menu that we hope Austin will soon fall in love with,” Weaver said.

The restaurant opened about two years ago in a space that has seen several Italian restaurants pass through in the past decade, including Romeo’s and Umami Mia Pizzeria.


From the archives (2015 review): Juliet is a beauty, but the packaging is misleading


Houston Chronicle not impressed with Tacodeli

“Baffled and underwhelmed,” not two words you usually hear an Austinite use to describe Tacodeli. But Alison Cook isn’t an Austinite, and she’s probably eaten more tacos than most Austinites reading this. The multiple James Beard award-winner uses those two inflammatory words up top in describing one of her experiences at the Austin-based restaurant that opened on Washington Avenue in Houston in April. And we thought San Antonio and Houston had taco beef.

The Otto at Tacodeli is proof that simplicity — black beans, bacon, cheese and avocado — is sometimes all you need. (Contributed by Tacodeli)

Tacodeli is one of several exports from Austin to Houston in recent years (including Uchi, Hopdoddy and JuiceLand), and Cook isn’t really feeling it. The esteemed critic and lover of Mexican food admits that one initial problem was lofty expectations. (Read the full review on

After that admission, she gets into the many reasons that led her to only gave Tacodeli one star, a rating that defines a restaurant as “a good restaurant that we recommend.”

She first goes in on the popular Frontera Fundido Sirloin taco. To wit:

The Frontera Fundido Sirloin taco that sounded so great on paper, with its carefully Texas-sourced grilled beef, never quite ignited for me despite its raja ribbons of sautéed onions and poblano, or its curious “jack cheese glaze.”

That glaze proved to be a salty gloss that hinted at the full, fat satisfaction of cheese without really coming through on its “fundido” promise. Later, I began thinking of the cheese glaze as a metaphor for my Tacodeli reservations. Ingredients I thought I’d love kept coming together in packages that left me strangely indifferent.

As for the tortillas, double fail. The “mediocre” flour variety had an “uninterestingly uniform texture, and none of that layery effect a really good flour tortilla acquires when it’s slapped on a griddle,”and the corn “were even more disappointing.”

My friend saves a good amount of her subtle snark for Austin culture, generally, rolling her eyes at the (admittedly”exceptional”) fair-trade coffee, Hill Country rainwater, organic ingredients and employees who looked like the belonged at a co-op or bookstore.

But it wasn’t all disappointment, Cook, who obviously prefers a less modernist take on tacos, did find some things she liked (hence the one star).

Among the positives: salsa roja, the breakfast tacos (specifically the Jessica), and the red chile adobo on pork al pastor.

In summation, she writes:

In other words, I’d go if it were convenient. But for destination-worthy tacos, I’d head to Villa Arcos or Laredo Taqueria, and their doughy hand-made flour tortillas with homestyle fillings; or to the Quesadillas y Mas Los Parados truck on North Main at Temple, where the blue-corn tortillas really do make my eyeballs roll back in my head a little, just the way they should.

Read the complete review on And, check out Alison Cook’s list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Houston.


U2 went to Whataburger?

(L-R) Adam Clayton, Bono, Larry Mullen Jr. and The Edge of U2 perform onstage on The Joshua Tree Tour at NRG Stadium on May 24, 2017 in Houston Texas.

If Burger King could co-opt Ashford and Simpson’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” maybe Texas-grown Whataburger can license U2’s “Even Better than the Real Thing.” The Irish rockers allegedly dig the Texas chain. At least if this un-credited  photo from Twitter is to be believed.

It seems U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bass guitarist Adam Clayton hit Whataburger following their show in Houston. But, anyone with Photoshop could’ve pulled that off, right?

After this one photo, it may seem specious at best that the world-famous rockers would go to the Texas institution, but then there’s this photo of Bono at the same Whataburger, retweeted by Fernanda Bottini (@febottini). a Brazilian woman whose Twitter bio declares her a member of the U2 news staff. In her thread, Bottini says the photo up top was taken by Kaleen Bliss, wife of Canadian music promoter and power player Arthur Fogel.

If these Tweets are to be believed, that means Bono hung out with George W. Bush and went to Whataburger in a two-day span. Quite the Texas experience.

Now, the question is, what did they order? If it was me, it’d be a bacon Whataburger with cheese, jalapeños, mayo, mustard, pickles and onions. Spicy ketchup for the fries. Duh.


How La Barbecue landed an Austin DJ a front-row seat in Stephen Colbert’s audience

We all knew La Barbecue was good. Apparently it’s good enough to get you a front-row seat at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

My buddy and I were heading into the parking lot to eat Thai food from the Dee Dee trailer (look for that review next week) when he ran into old friend Mikey Pendon, aka DJ Jester the Filipino Fist, a longtime Austin DJ. Mikey was loaded up with to-go brisket and sausage from the adjacent La Barbecue.

When asked what he was doing with all of that meat, Mikey said that a friend in New York City told him that if he brought him some awesome barbecue, he’d get him VIP tickets to “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” DJ Jester lived up to his word, and so did his buddy, as you can see Mikey (pictured) in a prime audience seat on Colbert’s show.

Mikey didn’t get to speak on camera, but the mash-up king did get to meet Colbert. He gives credit to people skills and “the best damn barbecue in the world.”

His only regret?

“I didn’t have time to give him a DJ Jester the Filipino Fist whoopee cushion. Had it in my back pocket ready, though,” Pendon said.

Old Thousand team opening Italian restaurant with former 40 North pizza trailer owner

Clint Elmore made a name for himself in Austin serving Neapolitan pizzas from the 40 North trailer on South First Street. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Pizza lovers in Austin likely remember 40 North, the former South First Street pizza trailer that landed on my list of the best pizza in Austin in 2015. Chef Clint Elmore, who trained studied in Naples and worked at Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn before moving to Austin, said at the time of the trailer’s closure that he hoped to eventually be serving his pies from a brick-and-mortar restaurant and that time has arrived.

Elmore is moving his focus from Neapolitan pies to New York City-style pizzas at PS 35 in Round Rock, which opens Tuesday at 1500 N. I-35 in Round Rock. The restaurant will be operated by SMGB Hospitality Co., the group behind the successful East Austin casual Chinese restaurant Old Thousand. The name is a hybrid of the public school naming conventions of NYC (PS) and the location of I-35.

The menu will include some pizza stylings familiar to 40 North customers,  like the Hot Honey, with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ricotta, parmesan and Mike’s Hot Honey. In addition to pizzas, the restaurant will serve thin-crust pizza, hot and cold sandwiches on fresh baked bread, a selection of pasta dishes, salads, soft-serve ice cream, craft beer, and cocktails. The family-friendly restaurant will feature classic video games and an outdoor pavilion for live music,yard games, dining and drinking.

PS 35 is initially open only for dinner, from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.


From the archives (2015): The best pizza in Austin