Sagra closing permanently on Sunday

The Basil Ginger Martini from Sagra. (Credit: Emma Janzen AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The Basil Ginger Martini from Sagra. (Credit: Emma Janzen AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

After almost a decade in business, Italian restaurant Sagra will close its doors for good after service this Sunday. The restaurant from Sarwat and Gabriel Pellegrini, opened in the former Mars space (now Olamaie) at 1610 San Antonio St. before moving to East 11th Street. Sagra gave notice of its closing yesterday on its Facebook page.

Exporting Austin: Tacodeli and Hopdoddy to open first Houston locations

Tacodeli Exterior_1

If you’re visiting Houston and find yourself missing Austin, you will soon be able to get a taste of home in the Bayou City. Austin-based Tacodeli and Hopdoddy will both open their first Houston locations soon.

Hopdoddy is slated to open on Memorial Day at 4444 Westheimer Road, in between the Galleria and the Highland Village shopping areas. Tacodeli will open its first Houston location, at 1902 Washington Ave., later this year.

“I’ve been a huge fan of the Houston restaurant scene since I first started visiting the city back in the 80’s! It is very exciting to know that we will finally be able to sling tacos in a city with some serious culinary heritage,” Tacodeli co-founder Roberto Espinosa said. “We are especially excited to be opening in a unique part of the city along Washington Avenue with great neighbors such as B&B Butchers, Julep, and soon to open Platypus Brewing in our building.”

Tacodeli and Hopdoddy will join Uchi, JuiceLand and Torchy’s Tacos among Austin businesses that have expanded to Houston in recent years.

There will be no alcohol at new Torchy’s on South Congress Avenue. For now.

Concerned citizens, AISD Trustees and City of Austin officials meet to discuss Torchy’s Tacos attempt to obtain a waiver so they can sell alcohol at their new South Congress location which is within 300 feet of Fulmore Middle School, at Travis Heights Elementary on Wednesday, May 19, 2016. (Erika Rich FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Concerned citizens, AISD Trustees and City of Austin officials meet to discuss Torchy’s Tacos attempt to obtain a waiver so they can sell alcohol at their new South Congress location which is within 300 feet of Fulmore Middle School, at Travis Heights Elementary on Wednesday, May 19, 2016. (Erika Rich FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

I walked by Torchy’s on South Congress Avenue on Wednesday night and saw an employee wiping down the outdoor bar. Taps exposed though nonoperational, I assumed the taco slingers would be slinging alcohol soon. I was mistaken.

The Austin-based taco empire Tuesday night withdrew its request to city council for permission to sell alcohol at its latest Austin location, according to the Statesman’s James Barragan. Torchy’s had faced opposition from ‘local stakeholders,’ including AISD, due to its proximity to Fulmore Middle School across the street.

While Torchy’s has withdrawn the request, the move is just temporary.

“We look forward to continuing these current discussions and will update the community when we refile our waiver,” Torchy’s said in a statement. “We fully intend to go through the appropriate notification process and we remain committed to being a good neighbor to the South Congress area.”

For the complete story, visit MyStatesman.com.

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Which Austin chefs are headed to Feast in Portland?

Pok Pok chef-owner Andy Ricker at the inaugural Feast in 2012. (Credit: Addie Broyles)
Pok Pok chef-owner Andy Ricker at the inaugural Feast in 2012. (Credit: Addie Broyles)

One of the best food festivals in America will once again have an Austin contingency on hand, as several local chefs will participate at Feast in Portland this summer.

The multi-venue festival in Portland presented by Bon Appétit celebrates its fifth year in September and will welcome Austin chefs Rene Ortiz (Launderette), Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas (Olamaie) and Aaron Franklin. Tickets go on sale at 11 a.m. today.

Other visiting chefs include Hugh Acheson of 5&10 (Athens, GA), Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark of Parachute Restaurant (Chicago), Kotaro Asakura of Kirakutei (Tokyo), Alex Barkley of Manolin (Seattle) and Nina Compton of Compère Lapin (New Orleans). Portland chefs will also be heavily represented, obviously, by chefs like Elias Cairo of Olympia Provisions, Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of OX Restaurant, Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood of Bunk Sandwiches, Jin Soo Yang of Bamboo Sushi and many more.

“Our fifth year is here and we are ready to up the festival ante once again,” festival co-founders Mike Thelin and Carrie Welch said. “Our goal is to continue to best ourselves every year. Our fifth anniversary is a no-rerun year – everything is new and fun!”

The festival, which runs from September 15-18,  features more than 40 events, tastings, panels, parties and more spread across downtown and East Portland. To see the full roster of talent and events, and to buy tickets, visit FeastPortland.com.

Readers react to snubbed fried chicken sandwiches

When we released our top 10 fried chicken sandwiches list earlier this week, some readers cried fowl. Matthew Odam ate about 20 fried chicken sandwiches in search of Austin’s best and somehow pecked picked 10 to highlight in this week’s Austin360 cover story. The list included dining establishments like Fixe and Odd Duck alongside the dive likes of Luke’s Inside Out and Lebowski’s Grill.

Locally owned Flyrite opened its first location on East Seventh Street at the beginning of the year. (DO NOT USE)
Locally owned Flyrite opened its first location on East Seventh Street at the beginning of the year. Readers wondered why it wasn’t included in our list of best fried chicken sandwiches.

But several readers claimed our rankings missed some worthy breaded birds. Many commenters wondered why Flyrite, a new local establishment specializing in the stuff, was left off the list completely.

Others defended the Barton Springs staple Shady Grove.

One commenter urgently suggested the sandwhich at this dog park/bar/restaurant.

And for those who are worried about keeping costs low:

You can choose to follow the critic or the community, but you now have fourteen fried chicken sandwich suggestions. Ok, fifteen if you count this guy who likes the simple things in life:

 

The best fried chicken sandwiches in Austin

The fried chicken sandwich at Tahi Fresh in South Austin. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The fried chicken sandwich at Tahi Fresh in South Austin. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

When you consider that celebrated chef David Chang (Momofuku) rolled out a fried chicken-sandwich concept (Fuku) and Shake Shack added a fried chicken sandwich to its permanent menu this year, it’s safe to say that the fried chicken sandwich is having a moment.

You can find them all over Austin menus, from drive-thrus to fine dining establishments. Given their recent ubiquity, I set out to try sandwiches all over town and determine the best in Austin. I’ve eaten so many fried chicken sandwiches in the past month, during conversation I get scared I might start ‘squawking’ or ‘bawking’ or whatever it is chickens do.

Follow this link to read about my Top 10 fried chicken sandwiches in town. They range from bowling alleys to the kitchen of a James Beard nominee.

 

Taco Tuesday: Smoked gouda on a taco?!

Cheese, please? Try this gouda-topped taco.
Cheese, please? Try this gouda-topped taco.

I dig cheese. I could eat a wheel of it for breakfast, follow that with a salad at lunch and come back for more cheese at dinner. So, you’d think that this steak, egg and cheese taco would be right in my wheelhouse (pun intended). While I love the smoky taste of the gouda cheese (yes, that’s crumbled gouda piled atop that not photogenic taco above), the texture of the cheese and scrambled eggs, toasted at their golden edges, was too homogeneous for me.  I wanted some crunch, some variation. The eggs and cheese blanketed strips of juicy grilled meat. The bright orange habanero salsa, with its sweet sting, gave some complexity to the taco ($2.95) but not enough to save it for me.

While I was lukewarm on the breakfast taco (which is served all day), there is also a lunch version called the Señor Crockett, served with onions, peppers and beef. Now we’re talkin’. I mistakenly ordered the breakfast taco, after hearing our social media and engagement editor, Eric Webb, rave about it.

“Smoked gouda is addictive on its own – and on burgers, and as a chip flavor and slice by slice. But it’s not a flavor you ever find in Mexican food. Pairing it with beef on the Señor Crockett taco ($3.75) makes the smoky flavor pop, and  the bell peppers cut through the gooey texture like a fresh, zesty knife. Those homemade tortillas are an added bonus,” Webb told me in an email.

I guess I have to go back.

While the breakfast taco version didn’t thrill me, I did like a different steak taco at this new taqueria. Find out where this new taqueria is and which taco I preferred by following this link to MyStatesman.com.

Conveyor-belt sushi restaurant coming to North Austin

Those who’ve traveled to places like London and Tokyo have seen the phenomenon before: conveyor-belt sushi. It’s like the culinary version of the trolley that visits Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Austinites will soon have a local option for the whimsical delivery device, as Kula Revolving Sushi Bar will be one of the new tenants at the revitalized Highland Village shopping center at 6929 Airport Blvd. near North Lamar Boulevard, according to Statesman business writer Gary Dinges. The restaurant will be joined by 99 Ranch Market, a full-service Asian grocery store. For more details on the development, check out Dinges’ story on MyStatesman.com.

 

 

Now open: Venezia Italian Gelato on South Lamar

 

Venezia Italian Gelato on South Lamar Boulevard. (Credit: Matthew Odam)
Venezia Italian Gelato on South Lamar Boulevard. (Credit: Matthew Odam)

South Austin has welcomed a new gelato store just in time for summer. Venezia Italian Gelato opened recently at 1701 S. Lamar Blvd. (just north of Austin’s Pizza). The gelateria serves a rotating selection of more than a dozen gelatos, with a few vegan options, as well as other gelato products, like chocolate-covered gelato bars, and coffee drinks. Venezia is open noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday

 

Looking ahead: Deckhand Oyster Bar coming to South Lamar

Photo via Facebook.com/DeckhandOysterBar
Photo via Facebook.com/DeckhandOysterBar

The Asian-influenced Deckhand Oyster Bar will open its second Austin-area location in the coming weeks. The restaurant owned by the Saybounkham family will fill the space of the former Outback Steakhouse at 4211 S. Lamar Blvd. in the Lakehills Plaza near Ben White Boulevard. The expansive menu includes an array of global flavors, from Thai (tom yum seafood soup), to Texas (crab-stuffed jalapenos), Japan (roe-topped oysters) and Louisiana (boudin). The restaurant is slated to open in the next three to four weeks.