Take a look inside the new Home Slice Pizza on North Loop

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Home Slice Pizza has set May 30 as the grand opening date for its new location in Central Austin. In the meantime, the restaurant is having a “soft opening,” with limited seating and take-out service for the next two weeks. Check out the video for a look inside the new restaurant at 501 E. 53rd St.

Credit: Julia Keim

 

Watch: Aaron Franklin discusses the early morning fire at Franklin Barbecue

10:36 a.m. update:

The Austin Fire Department says that the fire at Franklin Barbecue was an accident caused by a wind-blown ember from a pit that ignited combustible surrounding materials. The fire is estimated to have done $200,000 worth of structural damage and $150,000 worth of content damage.

Earlier:

A fire destroyed part of Franklin Barbecue, one of Austin’s most iconic businesses, early Saturday. Nobody was injured in the blaze.

James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin said he received the call at 5:37 a.m. alerting him that his restaurant was on fire. He jumped in his truck and headed to the restaurant he and wife Stacy opened at 900 E. 11th St. in 2011.

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He and his team deal with fire everyday, so he says he didn’t freak out when he first heard the news. But when he arrived, he realized the fire was much worse than he expected.

The smokehouse, where the fire originated after what Franklin suspects was an errant ember that escaped the smoke box, was almost completely destroyed. Part of the roof had caved in, and the walk-in coolers suffered serious damage.

“Damage is certainly worse than I thought it was going to be,” Franklin said following a walk-thru with the Austin Fire Department. “We deal with fire everyday. It was inevitable someday something was going to be a problem. I just hope we can get it back together.”

The fire was contained to the room that houses the smokers, however, so the restaurant’s kitchen and dining room only suffered smoke damage.

“There was not as much property loss as most restaurants would have,” Franklin said.

Franklin said he assumes the entire frame of the smokehouse will have to be torn down and rebuilt.

“I kind of had a gameplan to get us back open, but going inside kind of crushed that,” Franklin.

Franklin said he still hopes they will be able to reopen in a few weeks, but they will have to wait for the rain to cease before a full analysis can be done.

“It’s odd for me to not be cheerful,” Franklin said in between some laughs and levity. “I got some thoughts going on for sure. I’m not so upset about what’s already happened; I am more looking toward what we’re going to do going forward.”

Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Watch: Kula Revolving Sushi Bar opened today in North Austin

Kula Revolving Sushi in North Austin. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The conveyor-belt sushi craze has hit Austin in a big way. Kula Revolving Sushi Bar celebrated the grand opening of its first Austin location in the Highland Village shopping center at 6929 Airport Blvd #125 (at the corner of Airport Boulevard). The concept has long proven a hit in Japan and various iterations can be found in California and Hawaii.

The airy and bright restaurant was packed within minutes of the doors opening at 11:30 a.m. Friday. The concept is pretty simple: you sign in via a tablet at the hostess stand and mark your preference of table or counter seating. Once seated, you can grab plates of sushi like seared salmon with Kewpie mayonnaise or salmon roe or seared beef or sushi rolls from the conveyor belt at eye level and have at it. You can also use the tablet at your seat to order other dishes, like yellowtail or tempura shrimp, and those come zipping to you in short order on an upper track.

Each dish comes with two pieces and costs $2.25. You order drinks (including sake and beer) from your human server. After finishing a dish, you slip the plate into a bin, and they are presumably whisked back to the kitchen. Once you’ve deposited five plates, you get to watch some Japanese animation on your tablet. After 15 plates, a toy drops to your seat. When you complete your meal, you hit a button and a server (again human, and very friendly in our experience) brings you a check. The differences I noticed between Kula and the ones I visited in Tokyo — the ones in Japan didn’t have plastic bubble covers over the plate and the dining experience didn’t feel as rushed.

Now, for some questions you undoubtedly have: Is the sushi good? Not particularly, from our limited experience of about six dishes. Is it a good deal? Unarguably. Is service prompt and professional? Yes. Is it fun and different? Yes. Is it review-proof? For sure.

I did a Facebook Live video on my visit today. Check it out below.

SXSW video: Grilling steaks with ‘Free Fire’ star Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer and Brad from Freedmen’s grilling steaks. (Credit Arnold Wells)

Sure, “Free Fire” star Armie Hammer is better looking than you and has more money than you. But can he grill better than you? Maybe so, according to the video below. One of his tips: get your steaks on the fire within five minutes of seasoning or after 40 minutes (though I would recommend salting steaks from a higher position than seen here in order to get better salt distribution). Dude even throws around words like myoglobin. He also likes to brush his steaks with a little rosemary-garlic-butter.

Related: At SXSW, intricate, hyperviolent ‘Free Fire’ makes bloodshed fun again

Famed chef David Chang’s final, globe-trotting meal would include stop in Austin

Owner/Founder of Momofuku David Chang (right) speaks at South by Southwest. (Credit: Suzanne Cordeiro Photography FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Owner/Founder of Momofuku David Chang (right) speaks at South by Southwest. (Credit: Suzanne Cordeiro Photography FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

David Chang visited Austin last year during South by Southwest, and if he was forced to have a “last supper,” he’d be coming back to the capital of Austin. The founder of the Momofuku empire told The Ringer that his final meal would start in Los Angeles and make its way to Tokyo (of course). Along the way, he’d hit Austin for some brisket from you-know-where …

Video: Bon Appétit shows off its five favorite Austin restaurants

Chilled crab salad with canary melon gazpacho at Olamaie. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Chilled crab salad with canary melon gazpacho at Olamaie. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The folks over at Bon Appétit have put together a slick and hunger-inducing video highlighting some of the best Austin restaurants has to offer. The list of their Five Best Restaurants in Austin includes several of my favorites as well. They are (with my 2016 rankings in parenthesis) Olamaie (#2), Odd Duck (#4), Emmer & Rye (#6), Franklin Barbecue (#12) and Thai Kun (Critic’s Pick). There’s no date on the video, but judging by some of the dishes, it is from one of their recent spins through town.

Check out the kinetic video below.

 

Video: The life of a restaurant critic’s spoiled dog

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So, what’s it like being the dog of a restaurant critic? Not too shabby. Check out a day in the life of Ziggy Odam. And, when you’re looking for something good to eat, check out the Austin360 Dining Guide at austin360.com/eats.

 

Restaurant review: Boiler Nine Bar + Grill

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill restaurant recently opened in the Seaholm Power Plant location on Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin.  RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Boiler Nine Bar + Grill restaurant recently opened in the Seaholm Power Plant location on Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Check out this video preview of the new Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, and then get a taste of the review by reading the first few grafs below. For the complete review, head to MyStatesman.com.

“This doesn’t look like Austin.”

“This doesn’t feel like Austin.”

Or, worse: “This looks like Dallas.”

You’ll hear some variation of that lament as you traverse parts of recently sprouted or newly polished Austin.

It’s too sparkling. It’s too slick. It’s too … new.

We like things a little more lived-in around here. Places with character. It doesn’t have to be old, but it helps if it can pass for having been around since before the 21st century. Sometimes just a reincarnation of an old spirit in a new body will do.

At least, that’s how a certain strain of Austinites feel. Many recent transplants, younger consumers and trend-chasers are drawn to the glossy, antiseptic familiarity of mixed-use developments found in every major city in America today. Servicing such disparate masters can be a real challenge.

Welcome to the world of being a restaurant operator today in Austin. The problem is highlighted by the wealth of first-generation restaurant spaces in town. How can you make a new space feel like it has earned history? And how can someone who’s been around awhile avoid the label of newcomer?

The sleek, industrial Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, named after its location in the former Seaholm Power Plant’s ninth boiler room, sits at the crux of Austin’s old-new conundrum. One of Austin’s newest restaurants (it opened this summer), it is located in one of the older buildings in Austin to house a restaurant. The restaurant is centered on the warming cuisine fueled by live-fire cooking, though the space looks like it just got removed from its plastic wrapping. And the team behind it isn’t new, but their context has changed.

Read the full review on MyStatesman.com.

Video recap: Chris Shepherd’s fundraising block party Southern Smoke welcomes Aaron Franklin and other James Beard winners

Video: Review of Kyoten Sushiko

Austin’s hottest new sushi restaurant is Kyoten Sushiko and it has everything: a quirky, obsessive chef; exceptional food; a server who does his dry cleaning in a bathtub; and all of the charm of an unfurnished model apartment.

Apologies to Bill Hader’s Stefon character from “Saturday Night Live,” but I kept slipping back into that absurd and lovable character’s voice when trying to explain the surreal experience of dining at chef Otto Phan’s omakase-style sushi restaurant.

The slight chef with a shaved head opened his tiny restaurant at the Mueller development at the end of June. Calling it a restaurant almost feels like a stretch. Situated on the ground floor of one of Mueller’s new mixed-use buildings, Kyoten more closely resembles a one-bedroom apartment that someone decided to turn into a restaurant at the last second.

What would be the living area serves as lunch seating (see inset box for details), the kitchen is, well, the kitchen, and the should-be bedroom acts as the dining room for a 20-course omakase-style (chef’s choice) dinner service that takes place two times a night, five nights a week.

With the exception of a small picture of Phan’s original East Sixth Street sushi trailer that served as his launchpad, the white walls are bare. Silence smothers the musicless room. The only architectural detail: a gorgeous, eight-seat ash wood counter designed by Wimberley artist Michael Wilson. I snuck a glance at the floor to see if there was still a drop-cloth to indicate the space was not finished, or some plastic lining that might alert us that we had wandered into a scene from “Dexter.”

Continue reading my review at MyStatesman.com.