Live Oak Barbecue closing

Live Oak Barbecue was one of the first in the new wave of East Austin barbecue joints.
Live Oak Barbecue was one of the first in the new wave of East Austin barbecue joints.

East Austin’s Live Oak Barbecue is closing. Saturday will be the last day of service at the restaurant that opened in 2011. Owner Randall Stockton, who also owns Beerland and Sputnik on East Sixth Street, said the closure was due to “simple math.” Stockton owns the building and says the 1,400 square-foot space is for lease and the smoker is for sale.

Bruegger’s Bagels and Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries close in the 704 on South Lamar

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Bruegger’s Bagels and Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries, two of the flagship retail spaces in the 70 mixed-use development on South Lamar Boulevard, have closed after less than a year in business. The local franchisees of Bruegger’s, who owned the Lamar location, still operate the original Austin location on Bee Cave Road. That store opened in March 2012. Boardwalk Burgers, which originated in Maryland in 1981, has a website listing for a second Austin location at Tech Ridge, but that phone number redirects to the shuttered 704 location.

I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I’m not terribly surprised at the closings. Vertical mixed-use retail, especially restaurants, can be a tough nut to crack. Despite the parking garages at the 704, in particular, it doesn’t have curb appeal that makes it look like an easy stop for lunch or dinner. I think people drive (fast) past those buildings and think ‘residences’ not ‘restaurants.’ That leaves the businesses to rely heavily on the tenants in those buildings, and that will never be a big enough market to move the needle. (Also of note: despite the friendly staff, the music and burgers at Boardwalk were a big turnoff, so maybe that factored into it.) I think it is an especially tough challenge for franchises of national chains in a town that loves local businesses. Of course, I could be wrong. I’d be happy to hear your take.

Coming soon: Salvation Pizza opens next week on Rainey Street

Salvation Pizza on Rainey Street.
Salvation Pizza on Rainey Street.

The second location of Salvation Pizza will open next week, when the New Haven-style purveyors open their doors on February 5 at 51 Rainey St. The original location opened on 34th Street eight years ago.

The new location will serve an expanded menu, cocktails, and craft beers. The restaurant will have outdoor seating and offers take-out and delivery.

Cat cafe coming to Austin?


Austinite Rebecca Gray is trying to raise money for a cat café. What the? No, it’s not a café where the customers are cats. And it’s not a place that serves cats. (Thankfully.)

The Blue Cat Café would be a place that takes in stray and feral felines, cares for them, and offers diners and drinkers a chance to love on the animals and/or adopt them. Gray is currently accepting donations, and her website says she is planning a March Kickstarter. We don’t usually write about Kickstarters on this site, but this one seemed just a little too out-of-the-ordinary to not acknowledge. (However, it wouldn’t be the first of its kind. Gray points to Oakland’s Cat Town as being a hero and inspiration.)

The Blue Cat Café’s website states the following as its missions:

  • Care for, and provide adoption opportunities for homeless and/or feral cats.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of fixing animals.
  • Provide a relaxing, sociable atmosphere where local and small businesses are supported.

The website says they also plan to have a vegan trailer out front for foodstuffs.

This story was first brought to our attention by …

Counter 3 Five VII hires pastry chef

Sarah Prieto will be the pastry chef at the forthcoming Counter 3 Five VII.
Sarah Prieto will be the pastry chef at the forthcoming Counter 3 Five VII.

Counter 3 Five VII hired Sarah Prieto to serve as the upcoming restaurant’s pastry chef. Prieto arrives at the Congress Avenue restaurant from Uchiko, where she was pastry lead. The French Culinary Institute graduate has also worked at Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern and at Saison in San Francisco. Counter 3 Five VII will feature a 26-seat chef’s counter and offer diners the options of several multi-course meals (hence the name).

A quick guide to Austin Mexican food, barbecue and drinking outdoors

La Barbecue tray. (Credit: Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
La Barbecue tray. (Credit: Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin-based writer and artist Austin Kleon caught my attention when he mentioned me in a reply on Twitter. One of his Twitter followers (let’s call them friends) is visiting Austin and expressed an interest in sampling our barbecue and Mexican food. As for fine dining, she already had reservations for Uchi, which I would recommend to any first-time visitor (there and/or Barley Swine).

So, let’s turn our attention toward barbecue and Mexican food, the two things for which the city is probably now best known. Since this was originally written for an out-of-towner, most of choices are centrally located.

For barbecue, the brisket at Franklin Barbecue has few equals, but the line can take a huge bite out of your day, and if your time is limited, you may want to go with other options. In that case I’d recommend going to La Barbecue for brisket, and the cayenne and tumeric sting of spicy hot-guts sausage made with beef liver, beef heart, ground brisket and fatty brisket trimmings. Also of note: the best pulled pork in town.

If you want a taste of the hot-and-fast (relatively) treatment of brisket, go attack the peppery bark surrounding John Mueller’s brisket and beef rib at J. Mueller Meat Co. on East Sixth Street. As an added bonus: you get to experience a truly colorful Texas character with a lineage in Central Texas barbecue that goes back to his grandfather, the legendary Louie Mueller of Taylor.

For more sausage, head to the Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer for a rotating selection of encased meats that one day may feature pork-and-beef kielbasa seasoned with garlic, mustard and mace and a fierce pork jalapeno sausage the next. (Also: Make sure you try dessert.) If it’s fowl you’re after, go get the bronzed barbecue chicken from Brown’s BBQ on South Lamar. And, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ can take care of both cuisines at once. Their chopped smoked brisket taco, served on a bubbled tortilla that balances fluff and crunch, comes dressed with a serrano-tinged red salsa and a smooth dollop of guacamole. Best of both worlds. If you want to get out of the elements, grab a nice cocktail, some excellent brisket and catch a glimpse of the University of Texas, hit Freedmen’s.

For my top 10 barbecue spots in Austin from last year, check out this video or

Cochinita pibil at El Naranjo (Credit: Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Cochinita pibil at El Naranjo (Credit: Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Mexican food (and Tex-Mex), we could talk for hours here.

South Austin

Al pastor tacos from the tiny El Primo trailer on South First Street … no frills, no ambiance, lots of friendliness and flavor.

Cochinita pibil and an avocado margarita at Curra’s Grill in South.

Shrimp fajitas and a great salsa bar at Polvo’s.

Chicken mole and guacamole at El Borrego de Oro on South Congress Avenue.


Interior classics like chile poblano relleno de picadillo Oaxaqueno from Mexican chef Iliana de la Vega at the handsome El Naranjo in the Rainey Street district.

Tuna toastadas, ceviche and arabicos tacos at La Condesa.

East Austin

The best migas taco in town from Veracruz All-Natural trailer on East Cesar Chavez Street.

Pescado empapelado at La Catedral de Marisco on East Cesar Chavez Street.

Quesadilla with huitlacoche and huarache Maria at Licha’s Cantina.

Central Austin 

Brunch at the legendary Fonda San Miguel.

Multiple locations

Akaushi picadillo and papadulce tacos at Taco Deli.

Puerco en pipian and rajas y hongos at Papalote.


The deck at Perla's on South Congress Avenue. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The deck at Perla’s on South Congress Avenue. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

And … I think she mentioned something about drinking alcoholic beverages outdoors. 

Craft cocktails and cold beer at Ranch-style restaurant Contigo in East Austin.

Craft cocktails and cold beer at Whisler’s in East Austin (maybe after a bite at Licha’s Cantina).

Wine on the back lawn at the Four Seasons downtown.

Craft cocktails at Half Step on Rainey Street (maybe after a visit to El Naranjo).

Mescal-based cocktail at Licha’s Cantina (maybe before or after or during dinner there).

The outdoor seating area of the elegant Bar Congress for great cocktails and people watching.

A cold drink of your choice on the patio at Perla’s, great for Congress Avenue people watching.

House-brewed beers at ABGB off Oltorf Street.

Craft cocktails at Wonderland in East Austin.

The classic margarita at La Condesa (with those tuna toastadas and ceviche).

All of the beers at Draught House.

Anything on the balcony of the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue.

Callie Speer joins Delish Bakery as head pastry chef and creative director

Callie Speer is the new head pastry chef and creative director at Delish Bakery. (Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Callie Speer is the new head pastry chef and creative director at Delish Bakery. (Credit: Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Swift’s Attic pastry chef Callie Speer has joined Delish Bakery (209 W. Third St.) as head pastry chef and creative director. Speer will continue to work at Swift’s, where her desserts, like the whimsical popcorn and a movie, have drawn raves.

Speer, a Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef Nominee in 2013, will introduce new items to the third street bakery, while continuing with the bakery’s custom cakes and signature cupcakes. She plans to add cake decorating and baking classes later this spring.

“I am excited to introduce new desserts and try new things at Delish. The store-front allows me to be more direct with the customers and see how they react to new desserts,” Speer said. “I love connecting with people over dessert and am ready to keep upping the dessert game in Austin.”

As part of the new partnership, Speer will host bi-weekly pasty pop-ups at 10 a.m. on Saturdays, beginning this weekend. The pop-ups at Delish will feature Parkside Project’s Erica Waksmunski (Jan. 31), former Uchi culinary director Philip Speer (Feb. 14), Casey Wilcox (Feb. 28), Swift’s Attic’s Mat Clouser (March 14), and artist Keith Kreeger (March 28).


Now open: Gourdough’s Public House Downtown

Gourdough's Public House Downtown is now open in the former Red Fez space.
Gourdough’s Public House Downtown is now open in the former Red Fez space.

Gourdough’s Public House opened at 209 W. Fifth St. this week. The donuts specialists got their start in a trailer on South Lamar Boulevard before moving to South First and then opened a trailer near campus and a brick-and-mortar pub on South Lamar in the old Kerbey Lane Café building.

The new downtown location serves lunch, dinner and late night seven days a week from a trailer kitchen located inside the entry way of the building. The bar inside offers stools and tables for dining and drinking. The menu includes appetizers like a kolache with Smoky Denmark sausage, Gourdough’s infamous donut burgers and donut sandwiches, and dozens of dessert donuts. They will also serve beer and liquor. (See the drink menu here.) Gourdough’s Public House downtown is open Sunday-Wednesday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.


Italian restaurant Juliet coming to Barton Springs Road

Jacob Weaver is the executive chef at Juliet, an Italian restaurant slated to open in mid-spring on Barton Springs Road. (Credit: Erica Wilkins)
Jacob Weaver is the executive chef at Juliet, an Italian restaurant slated to open in mid-spring on Barton Springs Road. (Credit: Erica Wilkins)

Italian restaurant Juliet plans to open in mid-spring at 1500 Barton Springs Rd. The restaurant, housed in the former Romeo’s and Umami Mia Pizzeria space, will be helmed by executive chef Jacob Weaver. The Corpus Christi native most recently worked at Hyde Park Italian restaurant Asti following time at Haddington’s and Mulberry. Weaver’s menu will include wood-fired pizzas, pasta, seafood, steak and daily specials.

“I am most excited about the opportunity to start from scratch with a menu and kitchen driven by my own thoughts, philosophies and style. The menu at Juliet will be a study of simple, approachable Italian flavors presented in a modern format,” Weaver said. “I am grateful for the valuable time I have spent at Asti, and I look forward to bringing my take on Italian to Austin through Juliet”.

The restaurant, designed by Paul Clayton of Clayton Little Architects and Joel Mozersky of Joel Mozersky Design, is owned by first-time restaurant proprietors Neeca Leitao and Dan Wilkins, who have entrepreneurial, financial, retail and operations experience.

“I love Italian wine, food and the abundant ‘feeling’ of Italy,” Leitao said. “It seemed to be the perfect time to launch this concept, in this ideal location and setting, and I knew we needed a dream team to realize the vision. I feel very fortunate to have the culinary and design talent we have on board.”


Bufalina, Barley Swine and Lick all opening locations in North Austin

Steven Dilley (Bufalina), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), and Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier (Lick) will open locations of their businesses in a development on Burnet Road.
Steven Dilley (Bufalina), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), and Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier (Lick) will open locations of their businesses in a development on Burnet Road.

A development in North Austin will be home to some beloved brands from South and East Austin, my colleague Gary Dinges reports on Neapolitan pizza masters Bufalina, Bryce Gilmore’s Barley Swine, and farm-to-cone purveyors Lick Honest Ice Creams will open locations at 6555 Burnet Rd. The restaurants will be located in a 14,232-square-foot center, originally built in 1973, that is undergoing major renovations. Lick hopes to open in May. Barley Swine is eyeing a late summer early fall open date, and Bufalina Due is slated to open in the fall. For more details on the development, check out the full story on