Austin will welcome a new face to its culinary landscape when the Line ATX hotel opens in the coming months. “Top Chef” season 10 winner Kristen Kish, who also will be recognizable to viewers of the Travel Channel’s “36 Hours,” will serve as the executive chef for Arlo Grey, the centerpiece restaurant for the hotel that will take the place of the former Radisson at 111 E. Cesar Chavez.
The restaurant will take advantage of its urban-meets-natural location, perched just above Lady Bird Lake. While there are few details on the specific type of cuisine that will be served at Arlo Grey, a look at the Korean-born Kish’s career is instructive.
The Michigan-raised chef and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago worked at the Michelin-starred Sensing in Boston before becoming an integral part in the demi empire of Barbara Lynch, the 2014 James Beard award winner for best restaurateur in the nation, eventually serving as chef de cuisine at Lynch’s Menton, a nationally lauded French restaurant celebrated for its technique, seasonality and sophistication.
Kish left Menton in 2014 and has spent the intervening years traveling the world, writing her first cookbook (“Kristen Kish Cooking”) and appearing on “36 Hours.”
The Line is owned and operated by the Sydell Group, which has a portfolio that includes the Nomad hotels in Los Angeles and New York and iterations of the Line in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and in Washington. In partnering with chefs at some of its other properties across the country, Sydell Group has often identified local talent to lead their kitchens (Roy Choi in Los Angeles, Spike Gjerde in Washington) but decided to take a different route in hiring Kish.
Sydell Group founder and CEO Andrew Zobler said that while he didn’t want to bring in a “celebrity chef” with properties in major cities across America, he was also leery of hiring a local Austin chef and possibly running the risk of having a redundant concept in the market. He wanted to respect Austin’s identity while also aiming for uniqueness and originality.
“When Kristen came along, a bunch of bells went off,” Zobler said. “She doesn’t have her own restaurant; she’s a great cook; she’s very hospitable; has a great story. Her personality to me vibes with Austin culture. We thought it would be more fun to bring in someone who is a little bit different and offer up something to Austin that it didn’t already have.”
While Kish will be new to Austin, she will be joined at the hotel by a chef familiar to discerning Austin diners. Chef Damien Brockway, formerly the executive chef of downtown tasting menu Counter 357, will helm P6, the rooftop lounge atop the hotel’s adjacent parking garage, which Zobler said will have a romantic vibe and sweeping views of the lake. Rounding out the culinary team will be Justin Ermini, previously executive chef at Las Alcobas in Mexico City, who will spearhead a ground-floor burger bar.
The Line ATX is slated to open in late spring, and while no exact dates have been set for the opening of the various food and beverage concepts, Zobler says they will have a strong impact in helping define the hotel’s personality and appeal.
“Our general theory is that people want an experience of travel. They want to go some place that gives them a feeling of being in that place, and food is one way of doing it; design is another way of doing it; art is a third way of doing it. Who you engage with locally, the people you hire … there’s lots of different facets to it. Food and beverage is clearly an important part in creating a sense of destination.”
The barbecue spot with the country vibe is getting an address in the heart of the city. Rudy’s “Country Store” & Bar-B-Q is slated to open in late spring at 3918 N. Lamar Blvd. in the space occupied for 22 years by EZ’s Brick Oven and Grill.
It will be the fifth Austin-area location, and first in the center of town, from local restaurateurs Ken Schiller and Brian Nolen, whose K&N Management is the licensed area developer for Rudy’s. Schiller and Nolen opened the first Austin-area Rudy’s in 1994. The restaurant will serve the same barbecue and breakfast taco menu as the other Austin-area locations, blend the familiar meat-market ambience with some nostalgic design elements from the building’s past and offer 81 parking spaces.
The new restaurant, which will also incorporate the adjacent building that is currently home to Banzai Sushi & Grill, will be designed in collaboration by architect Morris Hoover and builder John King, who intend to “create a distinctive space that fits the neighborhood,” according to the owners.
There were 14 finalists for the hot and highly visible property that has a storied history dating back to 2-J’s in 1954. The property owners, the Moton Crockett Jr. family, chose K&N Management,which also owns Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, due in part to Moton Crockett Jr.’s great-grandson’s love for both Mighty Fine and Rudy’s, according to a news release.
“We are pleased to be working with the Crockett family, who embodies our commitment to supporting the local community,” Schiller said. “We are proud and honored to be able to bring Rudy’s to Central Austin.”
The original Rudy’s opened in Leon Springs in 1989, and there are now 32 locations in Texas, two each in Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona, and three in New Mexico.
After more than 20 years in Central Austin, Austin Java will be closing the doors at its original location, 1206 Parkway St. The coffee spot and lunchtime hang that opened in 1995 will close permanently on November 1, citing “economic changes in the area.” The coffee shop always maintained its original 90s Austin vibe, coming along well before the recent wave of hip coffee shops. Austin Java remains open at Austin City Hall on Second Street and at 1608 Barton Springs Road.
But don’t think that one closure means the business is struggling. In fact, the coffee shop announced they will be opening three new locations in the coming months and years. There is one opening at 3799 US 290 in Dripping Springs coming at the end of this year, and three slated for opening in 2018 and 2019. They include slated 5404 Manchaca Rd., the Met Center at 7701 Metropolis Drive and one at on the cellphone lot called The Landing at ABIA.
Like a phoenix rising from the barbecue ashes, John Mueller has another rebirth in store. The longtime Texas barbecue boss and grandson of Taylor barbecue scion Louie Mueller will soon be cooking again, this time at the Black Box Barbecue trailer in historic Georgetown. Owners Gary Brown and Justin Bohls will soft open the trailer at 201 E. Ninth St. next weekend during the town’s Red Poppy Festival.
The black trailer will serve Mueller’s famous brisket and beef rib, along with pork ribs, pulled pork, chicken and his various side dishes. The trailer is intended to be just the first step in Mueller’s reintroduction to the Central Texas market. His partners, with whom Mueller has been friends for decades, plan to open Black Box barbecue on the adjacent property, with construction to begin soon.
“It feels frickin awesome,” Mueller said of his return to professional cooking.
Black Box Barbecue will be the third barbecue business the enigmatic pit masters has been associated with in the past six years in Central Texas. He opened J Mueller Barbecue on South First Street in 2011, but his involvement came to an end in 2012 following a fiscal dispute with his sister, LeAnn Mueller, who transformed the business into La Barbecue. Mueller then headed to East Austin, where he operated John Mueller Meat Co. at East Sixth and Pedernales streets from 2013 until last August, when the State of Texas closed that business, citing Mueller’s unpaid taxes.
Mueller says that those who may wonder about his business acumen and relationships this time around shouldn’t worry.
“I’m going to cook for people who’ve known me all my life, who’ve read everything there is to read about me and still want to work with me,” Mueller said. “We’re gonna have a really sound business and cook really good food.”
Mueller first came to recognition in Austin, almost as much for his surly attitude as his stunning brisket, while running John Mueller BBQ on Manor Road from 2001 to ’06, during which time a young Aaron Franklin cut onions and worked the register. Following that shutter, Mueller took a hiatus from Austin before returning for his tumultuous run of the last seven years.
As for any doubters or haters, Mueller laughs at the idea.
“Are there still any out there?” asked Mueller. “I don’t think anyone remembers who I am.”
One of Austin’s longest-running fine dining restaurants will see its 32-year run come to a close in the coming months. Carmelo Mauro will shutter his namesake Italian restaurant in downtown on Father’s Day, June 18. Mauro sold the property at 504 E. Fifth St. in March, according to county records, and cites rising property tax prices for the closure.
Mauro said he believes the new owners, listed as AHC-Seazen ODH LLC, intend to build a high-rise condominium on the plot of land at Fifth and Red River streets. According to state records, AHC-Seazen is connected to Houston-based firm Allen Harrison Company, which develops multi-family apartment buildings. The Statesman has left a message with a representative for the buyer.
Mauro first opened Carmelo’s in Houston in 1981 after arriving from his native Sicily in 1978, and opened the Austin location in 1985. The restaurant is located in the 145-year-old building that once the housed Old Depot Hotel, recorded on the National Register as a Texas Landmark.
Mauro said he never intended to sell the land, which he purchased in 1992, but that property tax increases in recent years made staying impossible. According to the Travis County Appraisal District’s website, the property was appraised around $3 million in 2014 and rose to just over $5 million last year. Mauro said his restaurant would have to do $8 million-$10 million in sales annually, a number he says is unfathomable, in order to remain profitable.
“We are not here to become wealthy but because we love what we do,” Mauro said. “But at one point if you work just for the tax man then it is not fun anymore.”
Carmelo’s parking lot had helped Mauro generate extra revenue in recent years. The space played a major role during South by Southwest for 2012 to 2014, with Doritos building a massive stage on the lot. But an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in 2014 to regulate public safety during SXSW kept Carmelo’s from being able to obtain a permit to host such shows in its parking lost, according to Mauro. Mauro said the change cost his business hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he would have used to defray the rising tax cost.
Mauro thinks local government is making financial concerns the primary factor in Austin’s growth, a move that puts the city’s unique culture at risk.
“They are on a mission and their mission is to get as much money from the business community. The tragedy is there is no cap on businesses, so they can increase as much as they please,” Mauro said. “They forgot who made this corner. Now they are looking for the top bananas with a lot of funds.”
Carmelo’s was once one of the hottest spots in Austin, home to special-occasion family dinners and a regular dining destinations for some of the city’s power players. When Anne Richards was elected governor in 1990, the Statesman’s Lee Kelly wrote that lunches at La Zona Rosa and dinners at Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant were “in.”
Mauro, who served as president of the Texas Restaurant Association from 2007-2008, was recognized in 2001 by the National Restaurant Association as the group’s Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year, and he regularly participated in charity and community events, including last year’s “Austin Loves Amatrice” benefit following the devastation earthquake in Italy.
“The beauty of Austin through the years is we were able to get involved with a lot of charitable organizations and helped raise substantial amounts. So we were part of the community, and we will always be a part of the community,” Mauro said.
Mauro gave three months notice to his staff, in hopes they’d have time to find new jobs. Some of the employees at Carmelo’s are children of some of the restaurant’s original employees, according to the owner.
The closure in Austin will not affect the original Houston location in that city’s energy corridor.
“Houston is more sensitive when they increase,” Mauro said. “Five or 10 percent.”
Carmelo will spend time in his restaurant in the weeks leading up to the closure, hoping to get a chance to say goodbye to many of his longtime customers and employees.
He closes the Austin chapter of his restaurant life with mixed feelings.
“It’s a shock to each one of us. So even though I cashed in, there is no celebration,” Mauro said. “The heart tells you one thing but the brain says it’s time.”
The restaurant is still finalizing its menu, but fans of the Longhorns, politics, good times and anyone else who wanders into the 151-year-old establishment should expect some true German fare like sauerbraten, rinderrouladen, obatzda, brezn knödel, konigsberger klopse, and spaetzle, according to Frank owner Geoff Peveto. Those new items will be in addition to some German-flavored menu items like the Schwarzbier-infused brat, Reuben fries and more that are already on the menu at Frank, which opened in 2009 in the Warehouse District. The food and beverage operations at Scholz have been run by the owners of Green Mesquite since 1996.
“Knowing the significance of Scholz and its place in Texas and Austin history was the most exciting part of the opportunity to run it. We did a lot of digging at the Austin History Center to understand the history and tradition of Scholz and the Saengerrunde,” Peveto said. “I have also traveled through Germany multiple times, which is why you see things like Currywurst on the Frank menu. Taking the history of Scholz and traditional German biergartens into consideration, we will be updating the menu and space to reflect those traditions.”
Peveto says the changes at Scholz, including updates to the original dining hall and north dining hall, will come in phases over the next year, with a full renovation of the biergarten following the football season. Other changes will include a reintroduction of the original water feature, along with more greenery and a new stage. Peveto says the large tap selection means there will be plenty of room for existing customer favorites, as well as new craft beer choices and a few non-traditional beer styles like those from locals Blue Owl Brewing.
Frank has not determined what the hours of operation will be at the revamped Scholz, which will soon be getting a new neighbor in the Dell Medical School.
BEER, HISTORY AND OOMPAH MUSIC MAKE SCHOLZ AN AUSTIN CLASSIC
May 20, 2004
Change is in the air. Friends are breaking out of long-term relationships. Other friends are getting back together. The fabulous Susan is moving to Illinois for a fabulous post-doc and will no longer be around for girls nights and after-hours merriment. My housemate (and friend) of three years is moving in with her boyfriend, and I’m about to start the grown-up stage of living alone. I heard Mercury was in retrograde; maybe that explains it (or so I’m told by people who know about such things). In any case, with so much change swirling about, it was good to have a beer this week in a place that’s been around almost as long as Austin itself: official historic landmark Scholz Garten.
Scholz’s is an old-fashioned beer garden. Opened at the end of the Civil War in 1866 by August Scholz, it’s an enormous place, able to cater to parties of as many as 700 people (500 outside, 200 inside). Outside, more than 25 picnic tables seat guests — some of whom share tables when the place is crowded, just like in a German beer garden.
Inside are three separate dining/drinking areas — the wood-heavy main room with the bar, the larger north dining room, and a third room downstairs between the beer garden and front. Neon beer signs from Schlitz to Budweiser, old newspaper clippings and posters decorate the walls. Food ranges from roasted chicken (an occasional special) to jagerschnitzel. Scholz’s was leased about eight years ago to Green Mesquite BBQ, though it’s owned by the Saengerrunde folks, and Green Mesquite brought in barbecue.
And of course there’s beer. German brews from Lowenbrau to Spaten are on draft, along with various and sundry others from Fat Tire to Live Oak and Guinness. Those looking for a Bud or Miller or Red Stripe can find those and others in bottles. All can be drunk in any of the rooms, but are most especially enjoyed outdoors, where patrons can sit and stare at the stage with its backdrop depicting an Alpine scene. On Thursdays in spring and for a short while in the fall, a German oompah band plays. A polka band was recently added to Monday nights — and on a Monday, if you’re lucky, you might even see a couple dancing with vigorous hops and twirls.
Scholz’s, being so close to the University of Texas, is particularly popular (like body-to-body popular) before Longhorn football games — or any UT sporting event. Or so I’ve heard: Despite my two-year stint at the flagship institution, I never went to any sporting event, and so missed the pregame madness. But those without tickets can watch games — Scholz’s has more than a dozen televisions tuned to various sporting events — and sometimes CNN. As it’s also so near the various government buildings and the Capitol, Scholz’s hosts legions of politicos. LBJ drank there, most Texas governors have eaten there, the state constitution was rewritten there and it’s a safe bet that during lunch or just after work, you’ll find suits hanging out and wrangling and hammering out details. The bar has a long history of hosting liberals — most recently the Deaniacs gathered during Howard Dean’s ill-fated campaign — though it’s been known to allow in Republicans, too (in 2002 the Travis Country Republican Party launched the campaign season at Scholz’s). The bar also was a character in a book: “The Gay Place, ” former LBJ staffer Billy Lee Brammer’s fictionalization of Texas politics, politics that sometimes took over the garden.
Change, they say, is a good thing. Or at least a necessary thing. Or, at the very least, something you can ponder at Scholz’s, where the Austinites hanging out there may have changed over time, the menu and the folks in charge may have changed too, but the bar itself, in its various permutations, has existed for more than 100 years.
For some Scholz History, check out these stories from the Statesman archive:
May 31, 1996
Scholz Garten’s assets sold off; Owner of GreenMesquite plans to renovate and reopen watering hole in July
Tom Davis bought up the rest of Scholz Garten lock, stock and beer keg Thursday when he outbid the field at an auction to pay off the local landmark’s debt to the IRS.
Davis, owner of The GreenMesquite BBQ & More restaurants, paid $1,400 for Scholz‘s hard assets, from the beer cooler to the barbecue pits to the picnic tables, and another $850 for the unopened beer and wine stock.
Davis acquired the lease on the legendary watering hole earlier this year and was scheduled to take over operations Saturday. The building is owned by Austin Saengerrunde, a local German singing group.
“What I did was protect the contents and the building until we get in here Saturday, ” Davis said.
The auction raised $2,310, which will go to pay off the Internal Revenue Service’s $9,700 tax lien against both Scholz and the family of the late Larry Bales, former manager of the bar and restaurant. The lien stems from unpaid 1995 income taxes.
Scholz will close for a month while Davis renovates the inside of the building. When it reopens in early July, he added, patrons will find “clean bathrooms, decent plumbing, better service and good food.”
Davis insisted that he will not lose the laid-back atmosphere that for 130 years made Scholz a popular meeting place for Austinites, university students and legislators. But he added that when Scholz-lovers return, “they’re going to notice a big difference.”
An Austin without Scholz Garten would be like an Austin without the Capitol.That is why aficionados of the venerable political watering hole — generations of them — should be pleased that the institution’s new handler is a Scholz historian.
Love for Scholz Garten
March 31, 1996
Come May, the Larry Bales family is relinquishing the lease to the institution, established in 1860 by August Scholz, to Tom Davis. GreenMesquite barbecue was successfully steered by Davis from one local eatery in 1980 into three today. Davis’ background and his affection for Scholz would seem to make him the right man, in the right place, to recall and restore the best of Scholz traditions while sprucing up the building’s interior and modernizing its kitchen and bathrooms.
The Bales family has served oceans of beer accompanied by miles-high platters of bean and cheese-swathed tortilla chips adorned with dark green circles of jalapenos over 30 decades to many a University of Texas student, many a youth league coach and many a politician and campaign follower. Now they are passing on the mantle of responsibility for one of Austin’s most treasured traditions.
The tradition is made up of intangibles. It consists of more than the building and the food, which have seen their upticks and their downturns. It consists of blooming and booming camaraderie beneath the trees in the garten. It exists in the ghosts that haunt the place, the ghosts of Legislative sessions past and future. It is reflected in the sloping wooden floors, worn-down and replaced as cowboy boots, tennis shoes, tassled loafers and high heels have walked across them. It consists of millions of hours of conversations, of promises made, kept and unkept. Political promises. Relationship promises.
That’s the way UT and Legislative alums remember it. But for the Bales family, and the Davis family by May, restaurateuring is hard work and unforgiving. Mistakes show up quickly.
Those who want to see Scholz‘s future unlimited — and who doesn’t? — would be well-advised to stop by Scholz‘s in the coming weeks. It would be a good time to wish the Bales family well and to wish the Davis family luck.
The inaugural Hot Luck Festival co-founded by Aaron Franklin announced a large roster of impressive talent from Texas and across the country today, as tickets went on sale at hotluckfest.com for the celebration of food and live music that will take place in venues across Austin May 18-21.
James Beard award-winner Franklin and partners will welcome famous chefs who cover a wide swath of culinary and physical ground, from Thai (Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok) to Korean (Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles), Mexican (Alex Stupak of Empellón in New York City), barbecue (Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May’s BBQ in NYC) and more.
In addition to out-of-towners, a large group of local talent, headlined by Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Tatsu Aikawa (Ramen Tatsu-ya and Kemuri Tatsu-ya), Todd Duplechan (Lenoir) and Tyson Cole (Uchi), will also participate in the festival, along with other Texas talent like fellow Beard-winner Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, John Tesar of Knife in Dallas and Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio.
The festival kicks off in earnest on Friday night when more than 10 chefs, including Franklin, David Bull (Second Bar + Kitchen), Fiore Tedesco (L’Oca d’Oro) and others, come together for an evening event called The Hi Lo, which will showcase the chefs’ preparing the dishes that originally inspired their cooking, from slow-cooked ribs to cast-iron chicken.
Saturday night’s main attraction, Al Fuego, will give the chefs a chance to show off their live-fire cooking skills with a range of cuisines from a group that will include Ricker, Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), Matthew Rudofker (Momofuku in NYC), Nong Poonsukwattana (Nong’s Khao Man Gai in Portland), Sara McIntosh (Epicerie) and about two dozen other chefs.
While the two featured night events take place at Fair Market (Friday) and Wild Onion Ranch (Saturday), an assortment of other venues will also host food programming and live music, with Franklin Barbecue, Fair Market, Barracuda, Mohawk, White Horse and Alamo Drafthouse among the names that will appear on the schedule. The live music portion of the programming will be announced in April.
Tickets are being sold individually for the Friday ($145) and Saturday evening events ($155), and there is a “Whole Enchilada” ticket package for $550 includes early access to the featured events, admission to all food and music programming, special parties and more. As the additional a la carte food events and concerts are announced, those tickets will also go on sale individually, starting at $20. A portion of the proceeds from Hot Luck will benefit the SAFE Alliance, a merger of Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace.
“We are super excited to have the opportunity to launch a new festival with our Austin family and our extended family,” said James Beard Award-winner and Hot Luck partner Aaron Franklin. “Hot Luck will celebrate the food we love, the music we love, and the city we love.”
The chef lineup, featuring an eclectic collection of local, regional, and national world-class culinary talent, is as follows:
Adam Perry Lang, APL Restaurant (New York); Adam Sappington, The Country Cat (Portland); Alex Stupak, Empellón (New York); Andy Ricker, Pok Pok (Portland); Roy Choi, Kogi BBQ Truck (Los Angeles); Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene’s (Portland); Joshua Pinsky, Momofuku (New York); Matthew Rudofker, Momofuku (New York); and Nong Poonsukwattana, Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Portland)
Chris Shepherd, Underbelly (Houston); Jason Dady, Jason Dady Restaurants (San Antonio); John Tesar, Knife at The Highland Dallas (Dallas); Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); and Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio)
Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue; Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo; Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck; Callie Speer, Bombshell; Chad Dolezal, The Hightower; David Bull, Second Bar + Kitchen; David Norman, Easy Tiger; Fiore Tedesco, L’Oca d’Oro; Jason Stude, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill; Jesse Griffiths, Dai Due; Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye; Laura Sawicki, Launderette; Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie; Michael Paley, Central Standard; Miguel Vidal, Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ; Philip Speer, Bonhomie; Rene Ortiz, Launderette; Sarah McIntosh,Épicerie Café & Grocery; Tatsu Aikawa, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya; Todd Duplechan, Lenoir; Tyson Cole, Hai Hospitality; and Yoshi Okai, Otoko.
“Awesome” — A whole bunch of regular folks on Yelp
But if you’re one of the half-dozen or so people in Central Texas who hasn’t spent a morning waiting in line for lunch, what do you really make of these opinions? You don’t know these people. What you need is some cold, hard facts.
How many pounds of barbecue does Aaron Franklin’s joint cook a year? How many customers eat there a year? Just how many people have been standing in that line at one time? What’s the most money someone tried to bribe Franklin with to skip that line?
(For the record, $300 did not work.)
The graphic also examines the earliest someone has arrived to wait in line (so far nobody has waited as long as it takes to cook a brisket) and the earliest the line has been shut down (you’re pressing your luck if you wait until mid-morning).