The developing Rainey Street district will welcome a new restaurant in the fall when Emmer & Rye opens at the SkyHouse Austin (51 Rainey St.).
The contemporary American restaurant will feature handmade pasta, bread and empanadas featuring heritage grains milled fresh daily. Chef-owner Kevin Fink, who spent much of his career working at his family’s group of restaurants in Tucson, Ariz., says the restaurant will have a community feel, a theme reflected in the restaurant’s name.
“I wanted to have a name that really meant something to me,” Fink said. “Emmer, beyond just being an ancestral grain … was one of the first grains and wheats to really evolve us as a community.”
The seasonal cuisine will rely on the product and flavors indigenous to the Austin area while taking cues from the chef’s time in Florence and Denmark, where he worked for several months at the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen. Fink says he will draw on the preservation techniques and simplicity of both culinary cultures.
The chef’s time in Denmark taught him about using vinegar to create bright flavors and helped him understand the way fat transfers through food, while he learned about simplicity and cooking from the heart while working at Florence’s 13 Gobbi.
“I’m never going to try and recreate food from exactly where I was. I don’t believe in that. I don’t think you take horseradish from Norway and bring it all the way to Austin because it’s going to be a different product,” Fink said, adding that success will come through “partnering with people growing things that are more indigenous to this climate.”
Emmer & Rye’s menu and service style will offer a change of pace for many Austin diners. The casual restaurant will have a menu featuring five appetizers and four pastas, but the rest of the rotating roster of dishes will be served on rolling dim sum carts that travel from table to table.
“I’ve always tried to look at service and the restaurant experience as a way to make it really enjoyable for the guest,” Fink said. The dim sum cart “is a way to make the dining experience less stuffy and more interactive” for both guests and the chef.
After arriving in Austin, Fink worked as chef de partie at refined Southern restaurant Olamaie, a restaurant whose business model and success he says inspired him and pushed him to continue his evolution as a chef.
So, why did Fink and his wife choose to make Austin home?
“We were looking for a place that pushed us as people … and a place to have a family and grow old.”