Taco Ranch from P. Terry’s now open on MLK near UT

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After bringing his clean take on Tex-Mex fast food to Southwest Austin, P. Terry’s owner Patrick Terry has opened the second location of Taco Ranch. The restaurant, which features a drive-thru, is located in the old Taco Cabana space at 517 W. MLK Blvd.

Taco Ranch servers soft and hard flour and corn tortillas. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Haven’t had the chance to dine at Taco Ranch? Check out my Taco Tuesday report from June.

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Best taco truck in Austin opens Mueller location today

The best migas tacos in Austin (America?) now have another point of distribution. Maritza and Reyna Vazquez opened their third Veracruz All Natural taco truck today.

Migas taco Veracruz All Natural. Contributed

The latest truck is located at 4209 Airport Blvd and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

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Talented chef leaves Austin area for new Salado restaurant

Chef Jacob Hilbert seemingly popped up out of nowhere in 2013 when he opened The Hollow restaurant on the square in Georgetown and steered the casual but sophisticated restaurant to a spot in my annual Austin360 Dining Guide.

Garden terrine at Ramble Restaurant. (Contributed)

Using local ingredients and refined European technique, the colorful North Carolina native brought fine dining to an unexpected locale and developed a local following. Hilbert, who ran the restaurant with an assist from his wife and in-laws, shuttered The Hollow in the spring, and there were some rumblings that he may partner with the owners of Jester King Brewery on a venture South of Austin. But, Hilbert surprised diners once again when he recently reappeared in yet another unexpected place, this time an hour north of Austin in Salado.

With the backing of customers he met while at The Hollow, Hilbert helped open Ramble Restaurant and Farmhouse Grill in August. The restaurant sits on three partially wooded acres and features a garden from which Hilbert intends to source much of his herbs and vegetables. The property is also home to a cotton gin Hilbert says they intend to convert to an events space in the future.

North Carolina native chef Jacob Hilbert helped open Ramble Restaurant and Farmhouse Grill in Salado in August. Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As for the menu, diners can expect shades of The Hollow, though Hilbert says it eschews any direct cultural, regional or ethnic ties. Salado has likely never seen many of the types of dishes and ingredients that Hilbert has brought to the table. Sure a simple salad of fresh ricotta and tomatoes, poached shrimp with lemongrass aioli or ribeye with puréed potatoes may not seem too adventurous, but something tells me lamb belly pancetta with hyssop jus, oxtail with kuri squash gnocchi, and a Flemish stew of snapper, oysters, leeks and hen of the woods mushrooms will turn a few heads.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have touched folks enough to inspire them to believe in my cooking and my team,” Hilbert said. “The goals of the restaurant are essentially simple: to create uniquely delicious cuisine informed by the environment we are in. The philosophical underpinnings are truly no more forged than that.”

Ramble is located at 109 Royal St. in Salado and is currently serving dinner Wednesday-Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. More information at ramblerestaurant.com.

The former Hollow space at 708 S. Austin Ave. in Georgetown will become home to a second location of Round Rock-based Greenhouse Craft Food later this year.

 

Famous Houston po’ boys are coming to Austin and Central Texas

If you grew up in Houston or have spent any amount of time there, you are likely familiar with Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys. The deli and its wholesale operation serves Italian cold cut combo (ham and salami) sandwiches on soft hoagie rolls made by Royal Bakery in Houston. The Original sandwich is brushed with mayonnaise and topped with pickles, Provolone cheese and the deli’s famous chow chow relish, which they sell by the jar. The Super follows the same blueprint but doubles down on meat and cheese.

Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys Super. (Contributed)

Not only can you find the sandwiches at two delis and some grab-and-go kiosks in Houston, they are available at 250 locations throughout Texas and Louisiana. Now Austin will one again get a taste of those sweet, sweet Original (green wrapper) and Super Original po’ boys (red wrapper), as well as the turkey and Swiss (brown wrapper) and tuna varieties (blue wrapper).

Beginning Aug. 31, Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys will begin selling its four signature sandwiches at grocery stores in Austin and the surrounding areas. The first Austin-area stores will have their shipment Friday, with plans for the sandwiches to be available in all 48 Austin-area H-E-B by Saturday.  The company plans to hit shelves at more than 60 area stores by the end of 2018. You will originally be able to find the sandwiches, which will be made in Houston and delivered overnight to Central Texas, at H-E-B locations in Central Texas, with expansion headed to San Marcos, Wimberley, La Grange, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Dripping Springs and Pflugerville. (Yes, day-old sandwiches aren’t quite as good as freshly made, but beggars can’t be choosers, I reckon.)

Antone’s was previously distributed by a licensee, who also briefly operated a storefront, in Austin at Randall’s and Exxon beginning in 1999.

Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys was originally opened in Houston by Lebanese immigrant Jalal Antone in 1962. Legacy Restaurants, which bought the brand in 2015, is also exploring further expansion of its wholesale business into other regions including North Texas and San Antonio.

 

“We are extremely excited to bring Antone’s classic sandwiches into the Central Texas market,” Legacy Restaurants CEO Jonathan Horowitz said. “There are so many people from Houston who grew up eating these sandwiches and who now live in the area – we get calls and emails weekly from fans who ask us if we can send them some sandwiches. Now they will have the opportunity to enjoy them whenever they have a craving. We look forward to continuing our growth through expansion into new markets next year.”

This post has been updated to include arrival of sandwiches in Austin market. 

Bánh mì wizards Saigon le Vendeur open food truck downtown

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The makers of the best bánh mì in the city have dispatched a new food truck to feed downtown denizens on weekdays. Saigon le Vendeur, which I ranked as the best makers of Vietnamese sandwiches last year, recently opened a food truck in the lot at Congress Avenue and Third Street.

Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The truck, which makes pork, chicken and tofu sandwiches on French bread, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Chef Tebi Nguyen, owner of the food truck that originated on East Seventh Street, also opened Vietnamese cafe Le Bleu near Burnet Road and Research Boulevard earlier this summer.

There’s a new place for sushi and Pacific Asian flavors in 2nd Street District

The 2nd Street District received an infusion of Asian flavors today, as She’s Not Here opened in the former Malaga space at 440 Second St. next to the Violet Crown Cinema.

Nigiri at She’s Not Here. (Credit: Nicolai McCrary)

The menu at the restaurant operated by Uchi veterans Ben Cachila (former Uchi development director) and Chris Romero (branding and marketing director) includes nigiri sushi ( yellowtail, big eye tuna), hand rolls (soft shell crab, ume shiso), cold dishes (marinated yellowtail with lychee, green apple vinegar and pickled Asian pear), and hot dishes (pork adobo). Cocktails will feature Pacific Asian-influences flavor profiles from the use of hibiscus rye, roasted coconut, jasmine, cloves, falooda syrup, cardamom, kaffir lime and more.

She’s Not Here is open Sunday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. The restaurant plans to expand to lunch, which will include grab-and-go bento boxes, soon.

Now open: Tex-Mex barbecue restaurant N’Esperado opens in old Alcomar space

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The new restaurant N’Esperado brings together Tex-Mex and barbecue in the space formerly occupied by Mexican seafood restaurant Alcomar at 1816 S. First St.

The building that once houses Alcomar is now home to N’Esperado. (Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The restaurant, which is operated by the owners of Tex-Mex/Indian hybrid Nasha on East Sixth Street, features a menu with Mexican dishes like enchiladas (which can come with barbecue sauce) and carne guisada, and Tex-Mex staples like chili con queso, along with crossovers like brisket quesadillas. The barbecue section is limited to brisket, pork ribs and chicken. As for any Indian influence on the menu, the only real trace is on the turmeric. N’Esperado is now going through a soft open, with lunch service daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and plans to expand to dinner service once the restaurant has acquired its liquor license.

The El Chile restaurant group closed Alcomar in May.

Mediterranean fast-casual Cava giving away free meals Thursday on Congress Avenue

D.C.-based Mediterranean fast-casual concept Cava opened to big crowds in Westlake earlier this summer, and this week it brings its customizable bowl and wrap concept to downtown. The restaurant will open at 51 Congress Ave. on Friday, but in advance of its opening, it will be giving away lunch and dinner on Thursday.

Cava is giving away free lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday as part of its Community Day. (I recommend the spicy lamb meatballs.) During this time, Cava will accept donations to benefit local non-profit partner Urban Roots, and will also donate the value of meals provided during their friends-and-family preview services to further support Urban Roots.

Cava, a fast-casual Mediterranean concept from Washington D.C., has big plans for the Austin market. (Contributed)

Founded in 2011 as a modern, fast-casual version of their Mediterranean restaurant, the ownership group, which includes three friends who are all first-generation Greek-Americans, serves a variety of salad and grain bowls and pitas topped and filled with popular Mediterranean-inspired proteins and mezzes like lamb, falafel, hummus, feta, cucumber, mint, olives and more. The restaurant builds relationships with regional vendors and will source beef for its Austin store from 44 Farms in Cameron, TX.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken now open in Cedar Park

James Holmes’ fried chicken empire has expanded to the suburbs. Lucy’s Fried Chicken recently opened at 401 E. Whitestone Blvd. in Cedar Park. In addition to the fried chicken, sandwiches and architectural slices of homemade pie for which the local restaurant is known, Lucy’s Cedar Park is following in the footsteps of Lucy’s Lake Travis with a half-pound burger. The new location also features an oyster bar and, along with the other three locations, is shucking East Coast oysters in addition to the big boys from the Gulf.

Lucy’s Friend Chicken. (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Lucy’s Cedar Park is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Sunday, with brunch served until 3 p.m.

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Ramen Tatsu-Ya on East Sixth Street now open

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Ramen Tatsu-Ya has opened its location at 1600 E. Sixth St. The new East Austin shop, the fourth Ramen Tatsu-Ya, is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant serves the same menu as its other locations, along with an expanded craft cocktail menu. 
#1 Original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)