One of Austin’s top chefs returns in full voice to the Austin restaurant scene tomorrow with a new concept. Former Uchi culinary director Philip Speer will open Bonhomie Thursday at 5350 Burnet Road. The American bistro, which serves what Speer only half-jokingly calls a mash-up of a French bistro and Waffle House, serves lunch and dinner on weekdays, with brunch and dinner service on Saturday and Sunday.
“Where Tom Waits might take Lady Gaga for brunch,” Speer said to describe the concept.
The lunch and dinner menus from the pastry chef who has twice earned James Beard semifinalist nominations include dishes like a smoked salmon Reuben sandwich, croque monsieur, bavette steak with ratatouille, rotisserie chicken, and crispy octopus salad. The menus all prominently feature a selection of pommes rosti — think fancy hash browns — with pairings like roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions and spinach; lox, dill, caper and tomato; or foie gras gravy, cognac and soft egg.
“Smothered and covered, but smothered and covered with nice, polished ingredients, which is the bistro touch on the American diner,” Speer said of the rosti.
Speer is joined at the restaurant by Sean McCusker, formerly of celebrated New Orleans restaurant and cocktail bar Sylvain. The restaurant’s bar program includes a list of mostly French wine, along with beers from France and Texas, and about a half-dozen specialty cocktails.
Speer, who worked for the Uchi group for almost a decade and opened their short-lived St. Philip Pizza Parlor & Bakery, took a hiatus from the Austin dining scene following a 2014 arrest and conviction on drunken driving charges but has returned to host pop-ups and consult with bars and restaurants, while also working to raise money and awareness around the treatment of addiction. He recently partnered with Garage Cocktail Bar owner William Ball to open My Name is Joe, a trailer at Colorado and Fifth streets serving gourmet toasts, grain bowls and coffee.
Returning to run his own restaurant after more than two years away from a leadership position has delivered mixed feelings of anxiety and accomplishment for Speer, but the chef, who said he teared up before his first pre-service early this week, is excited for the challenge.
“It has been a really great experience. It feels good to be back and have a staff and be their fearless leader and co-conspirator and teammate,” Speer said. “I felt honored to have people stand behind me.”
Bonhomie is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.