Rosen’s Bagel Co. now serving bagels out of Brew & Brew in East Austin

After several months of pop-ups, Rosen’s Bagel Co. has found its somewhat-permanent home. The bagel company from Tom Rosen operates six days a week out of Brew & Brew (500 San Marcos St.) in East Austin. The bagel operation is closed on Tuesday.

(Credit: Nicolai McCrary)

Rosen serves about a half-dozen varieties of bagels, including everything, poppy seed, sesame seed and rosemary salt, and tops them with a variety of schmears, from the traditional plain and scallion to more creative offerings like maple syrup almond and lemon-basil. Rosen’s Bagel Co. operates out of the Brew & Brew kitchen, with customers ordering their bagels at the same counter where they order their drinks.

Rosen, who also has history working in fine dining, earned a graduate degree in sociology studying gender and food issues, but after school, he couldn’t “ignore the creeping influence of wanting to do something creative.”

The Topeka, Kansas native attended Vanderbilt University for his undergraduate education frequently visited his friends’ families’ homes on the East Coast, which originally turned him onto bagels.

“It was a transcendent experience,” Rosen said.

Confounded by the lack of great bagel options in Austin and the question of whether East Coast bagels could be replicated here, Rosen started working on his bagel recipe about 18 months ago before landing on his current recipe. Recognizing that the famed water in which New York City bagels are boiled is more basic and softer, Rosen changed the pH levels of Austin tap water to arrive at his current recipe.

In addition to the regular bagel and schmear offerings, Rosen’s Bagel Co. will also serve a lox sandwich special and have a breakfast and two lunch sandwiches on the menu daily, with a vegan option at both breakfast and lunch.


Aaron Franklin appears as guest judge on tonight’s ‘Chopped Grill Masters’ on the Food Network

How’d you like to try and woo and wow James Beard Award-winner Aaron Franklin with your grilling prowess? That will be the challenge for four contestants on tonight “Chopped Grill Masters,” the cooking show off-shoot of the popular “Chopped.”

Aaron Franklin rocks the cafeteria look at Hi Lo. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Franklin will join show host Ted Allen, TV personality Maneet Chauhan and Stanton Social Chris Santos of New York’s Stanton Social, as contestants compete for the final slot in the show’s grand finale with challenges that include making a vegetable “steak,” and cooking with dragon fruit and mesquite powder. The show airs at 9 p.m. CST on the Food Network.

[cmg_anvato video=”4061843″]


Study shows Austin diners are some of the best tippers in the country

Maybe it’s because many Austinites have worked in the service industry. Maybe it’s because the average consumer here is sensitive to the city’s high cost of living. Maybe it’s simply the metrics of the study and data compiled. Regardless, July consumer data tracked by Square, “which provides transaction software and related credit card-processing equipment to retailers throughout the United States,” according to the Austin Business Journal, shows that people in Austin (at least in July) are really good tippers.

The Tomahawk pork chop is on the menu at the revamped Stagecoach Inn in Salado. (Cody Graham)

The data, analyzed and charted by San Francisco Business Chronicle and the Houston Business Journal, revealed that the average consumer tipped 16.7 percent in July, just behind San Antonio at 16.8 percent. The data came from “retailers ranging from small businesses to those as large as Whole Foods Market Inc.,” according to the Chronicle and Journal, though you can’t tip on your card at the Whole Foods in downtown Austin, so, who knows. Anywho …

Austin ranked #5 among the Top 30 cities in America, while Pittsburgh was #1 at 17.6 percent. Dallas and Houston came in tied for 9th, at 16.3 percent. Where do you apparently not want a job in the service industry? Cleveland, which came in 30th, with an average tip of 14 percent. Check out the full list and graphics here. 

Cisco’s to remain open under new ownership team that includes founder’s grandson and co-owner of Antone’s

Score one for the preservation of Old Austin. Legendary East Austin migas spot and regular hangout for politicos and locals, Cisco’s will remain open at 1511 E. Sixth St.

An ownership team that includes Matt Cisneros, grandson of restaurant founder and namesake Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros; Antone’s co-owner Will Bridges; commercial builder and co-owner of historic Hoffbrau Steakhouse Rick McMinn; and Bryan Schneider, a local business and real estate investor, intends few immediate changes for the restaurant that opened in 1946. Future updates will include the addition of a liquor license and evening hours, but there is no announced timeline for those changes.

Credit: Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Previous owner Clovis Cisneros, Matt Cisneros’ uncle, had put the restaurant in the 103 year-old building on the market last year for $3.5 million after unsuccessfully trying to sell it in 2010.

“I got burned out,” Clovis Cisneros told the Statesman’s John  Kelso in 2010. “I’ve been coming in here 40-something years and I’ve had enough. Can you imagine waking up on weekends and putting out a thousand orders of migas in one day?”

An Austin native, Bridges, who is a partner in Lamberts and helped revive Antone’s along with Gary Clark Jr., made a similar move in 2014, when he and his father purchased Austin institution Deep Eddy Cabaret. While they added liquor and credit card payments, the vibe and aesthetic remained true to the original version. I’d expect a similarl update but not overhaul at the restaurant Cisneros opened more than 70 years ago.

“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to not only keep Cisco’s going, but to one day be a part of the ownership,” Matt Cisneros said. “It is our hope that with this new team, we can preserve an iconic East Austin institution that my grandfather founded over 65 years ago and help maintain its place in East Austin’s culture.  We look forward to continuing to serve our East Austin neighbors and Austin residents, who together have been instrumental in keeping this local establishment alive for the better part of a century.”


Update: Second Bar + Kitchen opening at Austin airport delayed until August 29

Update (2:47 p.m.): A representative for Second Bar + Kitchen said the opening has been delayed by a “last-minute issue” related to construction at the airport. The airport is almost certain the new restaurant will open on August 29, a week after the originally announced date.

The dining upgrades at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport are starting to kick into gear. Italian market, cafe and wine bar I Vini, from the owners of Annie’s Café & Bar owner Love Nance opened last week near gates 20-23, and on Tuesday Second Bar + Kitchen will open to the public at Barbara Jordan Terminal, Gate 7. The restaurant, operated by La Corsha Hospitality Group and chef David Bull, originally opened on Congress Avenue in 2010 and helped change the face of downtown dining in Austin.

The Black + Bleu pizza from Second Bar + Kitchen will soon be served at ABIA. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Executive chef Jesse Marco will replicate parts of Bull’s original menu, with popular Buffalo fried pickles served with gorgonzola sauce and hot sauce, the SBK Club sandwich and pizzas, like the Black + Bleu, with black truffle, blue cheese, mozzarella, pork belly confit, medjool dates and red onion.

Jason Stevens oversees a bar program that includes local spirits like Dripping Springs, Treaty Oak and Bone Spirits and brews from locals Hops and Grains, Oasis Texas Brewing Company, Austin Beerworks, and more.

“Our newest airport restaurant lands in the best of Austin restaurant rankings with its bold and savory flavors,” said Jim Smith, Executive Director, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. “The new venue offers seated service with a host station, new to the airport.”

Second Bar + Kitchen at ABIA will be open from 4:30 a.m. until 30 minutes after the last flight departs. The airport branch will be operated by concessionaire Paradies Lagardère.

These are just the first steps of a major food-and-drink overhaul at Austin’s airport. It was announced last month that Tacodeli, Flyrite, Peached Tortilla, JuiceLand, and other local brands will also be opening at ABIA.

Tex-Mex restaurant Vaqueros now open in former Tres Amigos space in Westlake area

After sitting dormant for about two years, the former Tres Amigos space at 1801 Loop 360 has a new tenant.

Vaqueros Café and Cantina recently opened, serving classic Tex-Mex dishes like fajitas, which the restaurant smokes with mesquite; enchiladas; and more. The restaurant is owned by Steiner Ranch owner Bobby Steiner and Don Burdette.

Credit: Vaqueros Cafe and Cantina’s Facebook page.

The restaurant, which blends Mexican and Texas ranch design elements, features hand-tooled leather saddles with silver horns and stirrups flanking the door, on loan indefinitely from Steiner’s friend, former Gov. Rick Perry, according to Westlake Picayune contributor Suzanne Majors Davis.

Tres Amigos assistant general manager Issi Faria Dobbs and 79-year-old waitress Joyce Dooley, otherwise known as “Grandma,” have returned to the restaurant, along with a cook and server also returned, according to Davis.




Laredo Taco Company at Stripes will change the way you think about gas station tacos

If you’ve spent any time in South Texas or the Rio Grande Valley,  you will either welcome this post with a “Finally!” or possibly a “ja ja ja!”

For what I am about to say is no secret to the folks who have driven through Harlingen and Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo. But when you first discover Laredo Taco Company for yourself, it’s a game changer.

(Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

There are Stripes gas stations clustered throughout Texas, with locations in Houston and even a couple as close as Bastrop and Elgin. But South Texas is the land of Stripes.  And many of them are home to the Laredo Taco Company. Yes, Austin has its own gas stations with excellent taquerias tucked in the back. The one that first rushes to mind is Tierra Linda Taqueria in North AustinBut Laredo Taco Company locations aren’t in the back of Stripes gas stations, just beyond coolers of Jarritos sodas and Takis, they are right there up front. Right by the salsa bar. Yes, a salsa bar in a gas station. A good salsa bar. We’re talking red and green salsas, raw onions, escabeche, pico de gallo, cilantro. Whatever you need. (OK, so the red salsa ain’t all that great, but still.)

You can order a bean and cheese and a ham and egg for $2 at breakfast. Two breakfast tacos for $2. Now you know why people from the RGV scoff anytime they come to Austin and see our $3.75 breakfast tacos. The breakfast menu gives way to a lunch menu of fajitas, picadillo, asado de puerco tacos and much more. And the best part, you order them on flour tortillas made fresh in house that rival some of the best flour tortillas at taquerias in Austin. Want to know why people from the RGV don’t take Austin tacos seriously, they get better tortillas when they fill up their tanks than many of us get anytime of the year. Puffed, buttery, lightly toasted and dusted, with just the right amount of chew to them, it’s everything you want in a flour tortilla.

I first discovered Laredo Taco Company from taco aficionado and Laredo native Sammy “The House” Ramirez while touring South Texas on my taco tour. (Read about it here.) After drinks one night, while compiling my list of taco stops, he told me to make sure I stopped by Laredo Taco Company at Stripes to get one. I thought he was kidding, as I’d seen dozens of them on my trip. Sammy doesn’t kid about tacos. 

Laredo Taco Company is now my new road-trip jam: If I’m in Port Aransas, I hit Laredo Taco Company on the way to Mustang Island (this is the Stripes at the south end of the island,  reached via Corpus, not at the north. That Stripes doesn’t have an LTC, and is thus weak.) Going to the outlet mall in San Marcos? There’s a LTC on the right-hand side before you pass under I-35.) Once you come to know LTC, you won’t zip pass the sign if you’re hungry, and you won’t stop anywhere else for gas on your trips south of Austin. I don’t know the history of the stores or why we don’t have any in Austin. (For the record, the closest one to downtown Austin is in Kyle and the ones in Bastrop and Elgin or equidistant from downtown Austin.) But I do know that I’ve seen the light, and it illuminate a green-and-black sign that is now a road-trip taco beacon.

You can keep your Buc-ee’s, I’m  riding with Stripes (as long as they have a Laredo Taco Company).


Bon Appetit names Austin restaurant #8 on list of 10 best new restaurants in America

Bon Appetit released its Hot 10 today. The list covers the 10 best new restaurants in America, and it includes a unique East Austin restaurant that has captivated critics around the country.

Brisket at Kemuri. (Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell)

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, which nabbed the #8 spot on the list, blends Japanese izakaya and Texas smokehouse for good eats and a real good time. The food captivated the Bon App writers, as did the vibe. The magazine’s restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton wrote:

And at no place did I party more than at Kemuri Tatsu-ya in East Austin. That’s bound to happen when you combine a raucous izakaya (think Japanese pub) and a smoky Texas BBQ joint with the “keep it weird” mantra of the capital.

But it wasn’t just the sweet vibes that captivated the writer. The food is no joke.

But it’s the more oddball, ambitious dishes that really show Kemuri’s penchant for playfulness. “Hot pocketz,” a kind of crispy sandwich involving fried tofu slices, gouda, and yes, more brisket, can’t possibly be delicate and nuanced, can it? Let’s just say I’m still trying to re-create them at home. Then there’s the octopus fritter topped with Texas chili that defies classification.

This isn’t the first national nod for the East Austin restaurant from the owners of Ramen Tatsu-Ya.  Kemuri took a spot on the Best New Restaurants list from GQ earlier this year, as well. And, of course, we raved about it with our review in March.


Porfirio’s Tacos in East Austin closing at end of the month

East Austin staple Porfirio’s Tacos will close its door in the coming weeks. The restaurant at 1512 Holly St. announced on Facebook that it will close August 30 after 32 years in business. Porfirio’s says it has no plans to relocate.

Below is what former Statesman critic Mike Sutter had to say about their humble breakfast taco in 2010.

“It’s nothing but smoky beans and commercial-grade yellow cheese on a soft flour tortilla.” the Statesman’s Mike Sutter wrote in 2010. “But out of 40-some tacos I ate with Mando Rayo of Taco Journalism last year, this is the one I still crave.”

Making the case FOR fair pay in the service industry and AGAINST factory food

There has long been inequity in the way service industry members are paid. Often the back of the house has made an hourly wage, while front-of-house staff like servers and bartenders have made well below minimum wage and relied on tips.

Texas is one of 23 states where tipped employees make less than $3 an hour. L’Oca d’Oro co-owner Adam Orman recently contributed an op-ed to the Statesman in which he details the history of so-called tip minimum wage employees, a conceit, which he wrote, “started during Reconstruction as a way to ‘pay’ ex-slaves,” and makes the case for a system in which all employees can earn a living wage. (Read the complete op-ed here.)

“Working for tips means you are working for the customer — and employers have little incentive to side with their expendable $2.13-an-hour employees,” L’Oca d’Oro co-owner Adam Orman wrote in a recent op-ed. (Tamir Kalifa AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Orman touches on some of the federal government’s effects on the wage standards, such as when “Bill Clinton signed the ironically titled Minimum Wage Increase Act, separating the tipped minimum from the federal minimum wage,” and makes the plea that Texas join seven other states that have agreed to pay One Fair Wage, “meaning they do not allow a subminimum option.”

In the op-ed, Orman details how his restaurant has worked to make pay more equal and fair.

“At L’Oca d’Oro, we pay everyone in the restaurant at least $8 an hour. We include a 20 percent pretax service charge. All kitchen and waitstaff share in those tips. In order to compensate our whole staff equitably, the service charge has to be mandatory, because another law requires that voluntary tips stay with front-of-house staff.”

Orman, who visited Washington, D.C. in the spring to lobby for One Fair Wage with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United realizes there is no one way for all restaurants to make sure employees can make a living wage, but says that going up against massive lobbying efforts that fight for low wages and unregulated factory farms to keep costs down only makes the plight of ethical restaurants more difficult.

“Low wages and the absurdly low cost of food from factory farms are what makes it possible for most folks to go out to eat at all. But there are hidden costs on both sides of this equation. On the agriculture side, we pay an environmental cost for the groundwater that is polluted by fertilizer and animal waste. We pay with our lives when there are outbreaks of mad cow, listeria and bird flu. On the labor side, we all help support $2.13-an-hour employees who can’t afford health insurance and are on food stamps and welfare.”

We’d like to see the city of Austin create an awards system for restaurants with higher standards. We’d like to see a Central Texas independent restaurant association established to raise the profile of restaurants that are breaking ground in the areas of zero-waste, local sourcing and labor policy.”

Read Orman’s entire op-ed on