Now open: Black’s Barbecue on Guadalupe Street

Legendary Lockhart smoked meat purveyors Black’s Barbecue opened at 3110 Guadalupe St. in the former home of Boomerang’s.

The restaurant, which brings in post oak-smoked meat daily from the Lockhart original, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., serving beef brisket, pork spare ribs, beef ribs, jalapeno and original sausage links, and smoked turkey breast.

The restaurant will celebrate barbecue scion Edgar Black’s birthday on November 8 as part of a grand opening event. Details to come, but expect the late-morning/early-afternoon event to feature giveaways and signings by the man who worked the pit for more than five decades in Lockhart.

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20 Things I Love About Austin

People are moving to Austin at an incredible rate. Weather, jobs, quality of life … everyone has their reasons. Many move here thinking they will love it. Those of us who live here know they will. There are a million reasons to love the Austin area, so we decided to name a few. In this week’s Austin360, my colleagues and I name 175 things we love about Austin. Below are my 20, and here is the link to the story that includes all of ours. Let us know what some of yours are.

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He may not have been born here or started his career here, but Willie Nelson put Austin on the map musically. He is the Godfather of Austin, embodying the city’s spirit. His natural ease and Zen nature beautifully represent that to which many Austinites aspire. Some of my earliest memories are of hearing his music and going to his fun run. (willienelson.com)

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Fittingly, Nelson starred in the pilot episode of “Austin City Limits,” the greatest music television show ever created. Nelson is justifiably memorialized in bronze outside the beautiful new studio. The show has evolved over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to see acts like Willie, Wilco, Jack White, Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Jarosz, Radiohead and many perform for tapings. The intimate old studio was the best live music experience in town, and the new one at ACL Live is even better. The show represents Austin to the world, and it does us proud. (acltv.com)

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David Bull, Shawn Cirkiel, Tyson Cole, Todd Duplechan, Ned Elliott, Bryce Gilmore, John Lewis, Aaron Franklin, Janina O’Leary, Vilma Mazaite, Rebecca Meeker, Rene Ortiz, Paul Qui, June Rodil, Laura Sawicki, Mark Sayre, Iliana de la Vega, and the hundreds of other chefs, restaurateurs, sous chefs, line cooks, bussers, servers, and front of house folks who nourish this town with their creativity and incredibly hard work.

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My favorite way to end any meal is the foie nigiri with a glass of sauternes at Uchi, a world-class restaurant that marked a turning point for Austin cuisine when it opened in 2003. They sear the foie gras, glaze it with fish caramel and top it with candied quinoa for a perfect blend of texture and flavor. It’s a sensual experience. (uchiaustin.com)

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Sipping a glass of bubbles while slurping down oysters on the patio at Perla’s feels like vacation in your own town. (perlasaustin.com)

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I can get quality New York (Home Slice), Detroit (Via 313), New Jersey (Little Deli), Connecticut (Salvation Pizza) and Neapolitan style (Bufalina) pizzas in this town.

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Tam Bui and her sister, Tran Ngoc, infuse Tam Deli with their ebullient spirits and treat diners like friends. They’ve also reinforced the idea that I must visit Vietnam before I die.

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Lions Municipal Golf Course is just three miles from the heart of downtown, tucked into residential West Austin. I love the layout, the old-school grill, the temptation to drive the green on number 9 and the fact that it hosts the greatest golf tournament in Texas, the Invitational. I’m gonna miss the old girl when the University of Texas comes to take it from us. (ausitntexas.gov)

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The Paramount Summer Classics Film Series transports me through time and space and reminds me why I love cinema. It also allows me an opportunity to interact with the charming red coat ushers like Flo Thompson. I love hearing their takes on music and movies, both classic and modern. You might be surprised by what some of them like. (austintheatre.org)

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Whether it’s for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which I’ve never missed, walking my dog, playing soccer or tossing the Frisbee, I’m always happy to be out on Austin’s Great Lawn — Zilker Park. And the views of downtown are spectacular. (austintexas.gov)

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The camaraderie among aspiring and accomplished writers at the Driskill Bar during the Austin Film Festival inspires me. A decade ago I would walk through the bar, wishing in some way to be a part of the action at the festival. I’ve covered it for 10 years now and dig it every time. (driskillhotel.com, austinfilmfestival.com)

Eye-catching holiday lights, thanks to city crews

The sky in Austin at twilight hums with the beauty and ache of the world. Taking it in as I walk across one of the bridges over Lady Bird Lake is an ethereal experience, and soaking it in as I walk through my neighborhood (be it Zilker, Hyde Park or Crestview) has always made me feel at home.

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Few Austin businesses capture the electric, spontaneous and harmonious spirit of Austin the way JuiceLand does. (juicelandaustin.com)

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With its rebellious yet inclusive nature, the Mohawk ushered in a new era of live music and nightlife in downtown Austin when it opened in 2006. I’ve communed with great friends and seen some amazing shows there. Some I even remember, like Miike Snow, Spoon, Dinosaur Jr., Ghostland Observatory, Bob Mould and Too Short. (mohawkaustin.com)

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Every time I visit the Four Seasons, whether it be for a meal, a drink, a visit to the spa or to interview a visiting celebrity, the staff makes me feel like I’m the one who’s special. They do that for everyone. (fourseasons.com/austin)

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Stay a night at the Hotel St. Cecilia or visit friends at the hotel’s bar or pool and you’ll feel like one of the many rock stars who have stayed there. (hotelsaintcecilia.com)

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Every great city should have a club that celebrates America’s great art form — jazz. I’m grateful every time I’m able to dip into the underground catacombs of the Elephant Room. (elephantroom.com)

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A great jukebox, ice cold beer (nothin’ fancy), shuffle board and pool tables, and the polished gravel of a bartender like Ms. Dixie, equal parts hospitable and no-nonsense, is everything you’d ever want in a dive bar. The Horseshoe Lounge endures. Thankfully. (horseshoeloungeaustin.com)

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When I can summon the funds or the gumption to be stylish, I go to Service Menswear. Cool threads, great staff. (servicemenswear.com)

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Matthew McConaughey. “Alright, alright, alright.” “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.” More than 20 years on, the words from Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” live on, thanks to the man who made (who is?) David Wooderson. His recent renaissance (“Mud,” “Magic Mike,” “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “The Dallas Buyers Club,” the sublime “True Detective,” and November’s “Interstellar”) has been a joy to watch. He’s Austin’s Spirit Animal. (jklivinfoundation.org)

 

Barley Swine owner to open restaurant on Burnet Road

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The headline pretty much says it all: Bryce Gilmore, owner of Barley Swine, is opening a third farm-to-table restaurant on Burnet Road.

“I signed a lease for a restaurant space on Burnet, currently set to open next summer,” Gilmore said in an emailed statement.

That’s all we know for now, but it is good news for folks north of the river.

For more on Gilmore, here’s our chat from last year when I named Barley Swine Austin’s best restaurant …

If you were trite enough to ask talented Barley Swine chef-owner Bryce Gilmore what kind of food he makes, he’d likely answer, “Texas Cuisine.”

What’s Texas Cuisine, you wonder? Like chili? Not exactly, but in at least one case you’re not far off. Try a complex and hearty dish of smoked lamb loin with pinto beans, pickled mustard seeds and wilted turnip greens. It tastes like haute cowboy campfire food served in beautiful earthenware instead of a jangly tin pot.

Or there’s a pancake made of mesquite-smoked flour that wraps its gentle embrace around apples, bacon, candied hazelnuts and acorn squash.

But Texas Cuisine can also mean more exotic flavors like grilled goat heart with curried eggplant, sweet figs and crunchy homemade falafel.

The common element among all of these dishes is the utilization of fresh, local ingredients. When Gilmore talks about Texas Cuisine, he isn’t limiting himself to particular flavor profiles or techniques.

“We’re one of the purest forms of Texas Cuisine because we use regional ingredients,” Gilmore said.

The sourcing of those local ingredients and abiding by the unique growing seasons of Central Texas dictate what comes out of the galley-sized kitchen at Gilmore’s South Lamar Boulevard restaurant that seats about 36 people. (It used to seat about six more, but more on that in a bit.)

A couple of years ago the Growers Alliance of Central Texas named Gilmore’s original Odd Duck Farm to Trailer as one of the most regular purchasers of protein and produce from local farmers and farmers markets. Odd Duck closed in 2011, but Gilmore uses the same approach at Barley Swine (which opened in 2010) as he did with the trailer that originally brought him critical and popular acclaim.

But Gilmore didn’t always have that sourcing ethos as his motivation. First he had to learn how to cook. Had to learn the basics of tasting and technique.

Growing up in Austin, Gilmore started working in restaurants at the age of 14, busing tables at Z’ Tejas where his father, chef Jack Gilmore, worked. By his senior year of high school, Gilmore knew he wanted to cook for a living. He attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, then returned to his hometown of Austin, where he worked at Wink. It was there the soft-spoken chef got his first taste of the culinary standards that would guide his young career, one that includes a James Beard Award nomination.

“Seeing those guys go to the market every day and create a menu based on what we have, I thought it was a cool idea,” Gilmore said. “Once you kind of get to a point where you’re confident in your cooking ability, I started to think more about the whole other side of this that is neglected.”

What that means for diners at Barley Swine is a bountiful, imaginative and rotating menu. One month you might find a plate of earthy roasted beets with thinly sliced smoked trout, served with a scoop of honey-mustard ice cream topped with smoked roe. Another visit may introduce you to Barley Swine’s decadent take on “nachos” — delicate pieces of corn tuile with foie gras and cheese custard; or a scrambled egg nesting a sublime shiitake mushroom dumpling.

And the desserts are just as compelling as the savory dishes — Earl Grey tea-flavored pressed melon served with pear sorbet, funky Hopelessly Bleu cheese and crunchy pine nuts; or the fall flavors of apple sorbet with rich peanut butter mousse and a shaving of brioche that has as much flavor as an entire loaf of bread.

Barley Swine’s menu has always featured about a dozen items, with some daily chalkboard specials, but just this week Gilmore decided to move to a tasting menu. When you enter Barley Swine now, you won’t find a menu. Your server simply says, “We want to feed you.” What that means is 10 courses for $60, with most items shared between two people. On a recent visit, general manager Billy Timms paired those 10 dishes with five varied wines that perfectly suited the meal for $40. The tasting menu delivered a broad array of flavors and a satisfying amount of food during a two-hour dinner. (I imagine the restaurant will take a few weeks working out the kinks and nuances of its new system.)

Barley Swine also has made a move away from its communal seating, which had been a hit with some and a nit to pick for others. There remains one communal table at the front of the restaurant, but most of the seats are now available for online reservation at OpenTable.com (strongly recommended), and the tables that once squeezed six now seat four, making for a more intimate dining experience.

There have been minor (and welcomed) changes made as Gilmore and crew eye the late November opening of Odd Duck as a brick-and-mortar at 1219 S. Lamar Blvd., but Barley Swine remains committed to bold flavors, exceptional service and imagination in the collaborative kitchen.

“But the main thing is: Where is our food coming from and what do we have available to work with? And then create stuff based off that,” Gilmore said.

That approach, paired with creativity and technique, have made Barley Swine the most exciting restaurant in the city and brought Gilmore national media attention and the tag of “celebrity chef,” one the humble and quiet chef dismisses with a slight laugh.

“We are just cooking food; we aren’t saving lives,” Gilmore said. “At the end of the day what’s fulfilling is the people who actually come in here and eat and go out of their way to say how much they enjoy something. That’s why we do what we do.”

 

Wet Whistle on East MLK closing Tuesday

East Austin grocer the Wet Whistle will close Tuesday after more than two years in business. Jon Lawrence, who owns the store with the retro design and wide assortment of local, vegetarian and vegan products, says he hopes to open in a new location next year. Lawrence, whose East Austin store was part of the early trend of neighborhood boutique grocers, has been in a protracted battle with an “absentee landlord” who has refused to help pay for parking and an outdoor patio. Lawrence says he’s been on a month-to-month lease for some time and his landlord recently told him his rent would be going up another $500, leading the small business owner to close the store.

Bridget Dunlap to open Italian restaurant Nuns and Lovers in East Austin next year

Bridget Dunlap plans to open an Italian restaurant in East Austin in 2015. (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Bridget Dunlap plans to open an Italian restaurant in East Austin in 2015. (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Bridget Dunlap exploded onto the Austin scene with a host of bars on Rainey Street, a self-contained entertainment district she helped popularize. She expanded to the east side last year with the bistro Mettle and has more in store for East Austin. Dunlap plans to open a Lustre Pearl (the original bar that got things started for Dunlap in Austin in 2009) near Cesar Chavez and Pleasant Valley streets and Italian restaurant Nuns and Lovers at Chicon and East Sixth streets, according to the Austin American-Statesman’s Gary Dinges, who profiled the entertainment impresario in Sunday’s Statesman.

“We’re excited to be bringing a budget-friendly Italian restaurant to East Sixth,” Dunlap told Dinges. “Pizzas, pastas, wine … it’ll be so simple, but so good.”

Dunlap originally planned to open Nuns and Lovers with Mettle chef Andrew Francisco, but he recently left the East Austin bistro and has signed on to serve as chef de cuisine at Gardner, the new restaurant from the Contigo owners.

For the complete story on Dunlap’s 2015 plans, which also involve a new Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street, head to MyStatesman.com

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John Lewis of La Barbecue opening a restaurant in Charleston

John Lewis is the pit master at La Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Photo by Laura Skelding, American-Statesman
John Lewis is the pit master at La Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Photo by Laura Skelding, American-Statesman

La Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis plans to open a barbecue restaurant in Charleston, S.C. next April.

The ‘cue master says that South Carolina has a “great tradition of pork barbecue,” but that the area has room and need for more beef barbecue.

Lewis, who has been thinking about the idea for awhile, first went to South Carolina a couple of years ago. He loves the city of Charleston, which he visited in July for the South Carolina-Texas BBQ Invitational.

Lewis will continue to serve as cook-partner at the La Barbecue trailer in East Austin. He said he and his father are currently building a third pit for the top-rated barbecue trailer, which will allow for increased production. But Lewis will be spending the first few months of operation at the new South Carolina restaurant when it opens next spring. The not-yet-named restaurant will be located at 464 Nassau St. in Charleston’s upper peninsula.

“I’m very excited,” Lewis said about the new opportunity.

Event recap and photos: Cochon555 Heritage BBQ Tour

Dustin Harvey of East Side King celebrates his restaurant's win at Cochon555. (Credit: Galdones Photography/COCHON 555)
Dustin Harvey of East Side King celebrates his restaurant’s win at Cochon555. (Credit: Galdones Photography/COCHON 555)

Justin Yu of Houston’s exceptional Oxheart restaurant came to the Cochon555 Heritage BBQ event at the W Hotel Sunday with the intention of shaking up his image. Yu, whose restaurant was just named best in the city (again) by Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook, said he wants be known as someone who can do meat as well as he does vegetables.

He came to the right place. The pork-centric event featured five restaurants competing in a challenge that required them to make five dishes with a 200-pound heritage breed pig. At the head of the ballroom at the W, rest a massive pig that butchers from Salt & Time broke down for a charity auction that raised about $800 for the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

The event was one of five stops on the Heritage BBQ tour, part of Cochon555’s mission to spread the gospel of local sourcing and heritage breed pigs.

“Austin is this young, vibrant, super-hip, food-eating mecca right now for entertainment and enjoyment. And this conversation is all about local, so it is the perfect fit,” Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe said. “From a level of sourcing I think Austin is in elite conversation when talking about artisanal production.”

East Side King took home the crown at the event that also served to highlight global barbecue from the culinary traditions of China, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Spain Hawaii, Vietnam, and South America. ESK’s Dustin Harvey’s win came on the strength of a crunchy but tender pork confit topped with soft poached quail egg and served with pickled chilies.

Austin restaurants Barlata, Foreign and Domestic, and Swift’s Attic also competed in the piggy proceedings that were enlivened with plenty of bourbon. For Swift’s Attic the event offered a chance to preview their forthcoming Chinese restaurant Wu Chow in downtown Austin.

If their steamed buns with sweet pork shoulder and excellent pork soup dumplings with their gelatinous blast were any indication, the restaurant will be a welcome addition to the scene.

As for Yu’s team, the cardamom-infused pain au lait with tender pork shoulder was a hit, but there was no denying the beauty of his plate of roasted and pickled okra served with smoked cheddar and black garlic. He served it as a sixth bonus dish, proving some habits are hard to break.

To the photos …

Justin Yu (far right) and his team from Oxheart attended the Cochon555 event. It was only Yu's second event appearance in Austin. (Credit: Galdones Photography/COCHON 555.)
Justin Yu (far right) and his team from Oxheart attended the Cochon555 event. It was only Yu’s second event appearance in Austin. (Credit: Galdones Photography/COCHON 555.)

 

Chefs Mat Clouser (Swift's Attic), Daniel Olivella (Barlata), Ned Elliott (Foreign & Domestic), Dustin Harvey (East Side King), Justin Yu (Oxheart) and Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe take to the stage for the announcement of the winner. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Chefs Mat Clouser (Swift’s Attic), Daniel Olivella (Barlata), Ned Elliott (Foreign & Domestic), Dustin Harvey (East Side King), Justin Yu (Oxheart) and Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe take to the stage for the announcement of the winner. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

Bryan Butler of Salt & Time breaks down a heritage breed pig that was sold during a live auction that raised about $800 for Le Cordon Bleu. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Bryan Butler of Salt & Time breaks down a heritage breed pig that was sold during a live auction that raised about $800 for Le Cordon Bleu. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Foreign & Domestic served a savory fried bacon cornbread topped with whipped honey lardo, Canadian bacon, and a pickled peach. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Foreign & Domestic served a savory fried bacon cornbread topped with whipped honey lardo, Canadian bacon, and a pickled peach. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
East Side King's pork confit came topped with a soft poached quail egg. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
East Side King’s pork confit came topped with a soft poached quail egg. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

Okra dish from Oxheart. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Okra dish from Oxheart. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin Restaurants: Oysters

Foreign & Domestic sells oysters for $1 each on Tuesdays, along with a raw menu.
Foreign & Domestic sells oysters for $1 each on Tuesdays, along with a raw menu.

Restaurant listings

Each week in Austin360, we’re offering a rotating list of places to eat right now. This week: The old saying is that it’s best to eat oysters in months with the letter “r.” Well, you have three more months. So we’ve rounded up 13 options. And if you don’t have Valentine’s plans, oysters are always a good bet when it comes to romance. More restaurants broken down by category here.

Café Josie. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-322-9226, CafeJosie.com. This elegant revamped restaurant serves large crispy Gulf oysters with horseradish aioli, Sriracha honey and sweet potato fries.

Clark’s. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, ClarksOysterBar.com. The oyster program at this sister restaurant to Perla’s is spectacular, with briny summersides from Prince Edward Island and creamy Wellfleets from Massachussetts. Also try a diverse sashimi plate, which on one visit featured slabs of hamachi, hirame, walu, halibut and tuna.

Evangeline Café. 8106 Brodie Lane. 512-282-2586, EvangelineCafe.com. Take a trip to the bayou at this Cajun restaurant in South Austin for gumbo, po’ boys and music by the likes of Charles Thibodeaux and the Austin Cajun Aces. Their Oysters Contraband are served on top of homemade potato chips and topped with spicy sausage remoulade sauce.

Foreign & Domestic. 306 E. 53rd St. 512-459-1010. FnDAustin.com. They only have them once a week, but $1 oyster nights on Tuesday at this North Loop restaurant is one of the best deals in town. Get there early.

Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, HillsideFarmacy.com. Pâtisserie and café in the morning, solid deli in the daytime and an evening menu full of bistro classics and oysters, this well-designed space has a little bit of something for everybody.

Jeffrey’s. 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584, JeffreysOfAustin.com. The popular crispy Gulf oysters at this Austin institution have changed a bit, but they’re as solid as ever, with parsnip puree & chips, grapefruit & celery slaw and habanero vinaigrette.

Kome. 4917 Airport Blvd. 512-712-5700, Kome-Austin.com. What started as a trailer called Sushi A-Go-Go has become a popular destination on Airport Boulevard because of a solid sushi list, and dishes like a panko-fried jumbo oyster with housemade tartare sauce.

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. 401 W. Second St. 512-494-1500, LambertsAustin.com. They’re known as a “fancy barbecue” establishment thanks to items like pork shoulder and beef brisket, but don’t overlook an appetizer of broiled Gulf oysters with barbecue butter and creamed poblanos and topped with toasted breadcrumbs.

Parkside. 301 E. Sixth St. 512-474-9898, Parkside-Austin.com. This gastropub transports you to Boston or New York City, helped by a raw bar featuring about a dozen quality oysters from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island. Sit at the bar and watch the shuckers do their tricky work right in front of you.

Perla’s. 1400 S. Congress Ave. 512-291-7300, PerlasAustin.com. Feel like you’ve visited the East Coast when you sit on the expansive deck where the people watching pales in comparison to a star-studded oyster menu featuring about two dozen varieties from all across North America.

Quality Seafood Market. 5621 Airport Blvd. 512-452-3820, Qualityseafood.Wordpress.com. One of Austin’s most beloved homes of seafood, Quality Seafood features a huge oyster bar in the middle of the restaurant serving Gulf oysters and East coast varieties on the half-shell. And really cold beer.

Shoal Creek Saloon. 909 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-474-0805, shoalcreeksaloon.com. When the season’s right, you can get your Gulf oysters on the half-shell at this Louisiana-lovin’ bar and eat them down by the creek.

Sway. 1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999, SwayAustin.com. This home of Australian-influenced Thai food features oysters topped with the crunch and kick of crispy shallots and a sweet and mildly spicy green nahm jim (a chili-based sauce).

From the archives: Profile of Jeffrey’s server Johnny Guffey

Johnny Guffey at Jeffrey's in 2005. (Credit: Amber Novak FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN.)
Johnny Guffey at Jeffrey’s in 2005. (Credit: Amber Novak FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN.)

This profile from Kitty Crider ran in the Statesman on November 2, 2005.

‘Hi, my name is Johnny and I will be your waiter — for the next 25 years.”

Like that would really happen in Austin.  This is a university town, where waitstaff changes with the semester. No sooner do the Ashleys, Brads and Sams learn the difference between coulis and couscous than they exit for another gig.

Except for Johnny.  He didn’t leave.

Johnny Guffey,  57, has been at Jeffrey’s Restaurant for two and a half decades. “We’re now oldies sweating to the oldies,” Guffey quips of his tenure. “I came with the dirt, not with the building.”

It was 30 years ago this month that Peggy and Ron Weiss and Jeffrey Weinberger founded Jeffrey’s, one of Austin’s first fine-dining restaurants. Located in Clarksville, the intimate eatery has long been a gathering place for power brokers and guests celebrating special occasions.

Next to the owners, Guffey has seniority at the restaurant, where the staff calls him Mother because of his age. But he is not the only one there with more than a decade at Jeffrey’s. This funny fella, who spouts more lines than Tuna’s Aunt Pearl, has become such an icon that his character is in the “Keepin’ It Weird” production playing at Zachary Scott Theater.

Guffey works five tables in the center section of Jeffrey’s — polishing the glasses, folding the napkins, adding the fresh flowers, mastering the daily menu,  waiting on the guests. He’s served governors, stars, CEOs, politicos including President Bush, John Kennedy Jr. and more.

“Lady Bird still comes in. What kind of honor is that to wait on her?” he says.

But it’s not just the stars he loves to serve. It’s the young people on their first dates and the people having their anniversaries, even those entering with walkers. He’s gone so far as to drive an elderly regular couple home one night.

He has another couple who have come to see him every year on their anniversary. Now they are divorcing after 25 years and they are coming to have their last dinner with him as well. He considers it an honor.

“Over the years I’ve built a following,” he acknowledges. “It’s like having people over to your house, but you don’t have to cook.”

Some of his regular customers know his schedule and won’t come in if he is not there, owner Peggy Weiss says. Some nights all of his tables are requested.

Former Gov. Ann Richards says, “Everybody knows Johnny. He has the best sense of humor and knows the menu backward and forward. He has the biggest collection of Fiesta pottery anywhere, but you don’t have to talk to him about it. ”

His boss Ron Weiss adds: “It’s very comforting for me to know that Johnny is there taking care of our customers and giving them our best. When people dine out, they’re buying more than food and drinks; they’re buying a dining experience. Johnny has been a significant part of that dining experience for most of our existence.”

Not that there hasn’t been a hiccup on occasion.

“Every time I drop a knife or piece of silver, which isn’t often, I always think of the time I was waiting on Sissy Spacek and missed her little Adidas tennis shoe with a steak knife by 3 inches. She looked up and said, ‘You missed me.’ “But she came back the next night and asked for his table again.

Guffey considers his four-nights-a-week waiter job a great job. “My hours are good. The food is good. If I want to take three weeks off, there is always someone who wants to pick up the tables. It’s the ultimate slacker job in the ultimate slacker town,” he says.

He never set out to become a professional waiter. That’s a New York thing, not Austin, he adds.

Instead, he studied English and history for three years at what was then Southwest Texas State College. He says he worked with disabled students at the Brown schools in the area and with Marcia Ball in the library system in Austin before her musical career took her on the road. He became one of the first shuttle bus drivers at the University of Texas. Then he decided to go to Europe in 1976 during the U.S. bicentennial (“roots in reverse”) and hang out a while.

Upon his return, he got a job at the Texas Chili Parlor as a busboy and then became the first male waiter. When a friend told him about a busboy job at Jeffrey’s, he applied and got it.

“But he was such a terrible busser we almost fired him,” Peggy Weiss says. “We were in a bind, though, so we gave him a shot at waiting. Once he could interact with customers, we saw that he was all personality.

“He loves people. He really cares about them and wants to take care of them. And they love him back.

“Johnny is not only family to us, but to so many of our customers, ” she says.

He is single. His kids are his two dogs — Max, a 95-pound standard poodle,  and his sister,  Sophie,  a 55-pounder. Guffey is a self-described Old Austinite who bikes to his job from his Clarksville home,  enjoys a good burger at the Frisco or Dirty’s,  exercises at Castle Hill Specialized Fitness,  frequents local theater productions,  collects Fiestaware and loves his job.

But he knows he is not a one-man show at Jeffrey’s.

“I breeze in here at 5 o’clock (in the afternoon); the chefs have been here all day. A lot of time we get the glory, but it is such a team effort, down to the dishwashers.” He knows. He remembers scraping that dried-up, melted cheese off those plates at the Chili Parlor decades ago. So when he got that $850 tip from a customer recently, he shared it with the busboys, the kitchen staff and the bartenders. Smart “Mother.”

kcrider@statesman.com;  445-3656

Johnny Guffey on the perfect waiter

* Can read a table within a minute or two of walking up and know whether his patrons want to be entertained or want him to be invisible, whether they want him to be their friend or just their waiter.

* Must be clean, be neat.

* Must be familiar with the restaurant’s drinks.

* Must know the menu and what’s in the dishes. Better yet, have tasted the food. It is very important in fine dining to be able to speak knowledgably.

* Must be able to communicate the guests’ needs to the kitchen. If people are allergic to nuts, you certainly don’t want to kill them.

* Must be observant: Keep water glasses filled, replace butter,  anticipate needs.

* Must know how to upsell without overselling. Don’t try to rip off the customer.

The waiter in a nutshell

Wants to go: with a creme brulee in his hand.

Will pig out on: the duck, any fish and the crispy oyster nachos. ‘I don’t like oysters, yet I can eat these all night long like Tater Tots.’

Salutes: the regular customer who has chocolate intemperance (Jeffrey’s signature dessert) first, then the oysters,  then the entree,  then another chocolate intemperance.