Now open: Vox Table at Lamar Union

Chef Joe Anguiano of Vox Table, which opened this week.
Chef Joe Anguiano of Vox Table, which opened this week.

With Tuesday’s opening of Vox Table and next week’s opening of Shake Shack, the Lamar Union mixed-use project is starting to take shape.  Executive chef Joe Anguiano helms Vox Table, a New American restaurant specializing in small plates.  Anguiano’s previous experience includes time as executive chef at Eleven Plates and as executive sous chef at The Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills. Designed by celebrated Austinite Joel Mozersky, Vox Table currently serves a dinner menu of small plates influenced by flavors of France and Spain, with dishes such as crispy frog legs served with Wildfire blue cheese and an herb noisette; blackened kampachi collar with celery root, Fuji apples and a citrus aioli; and braised Akaushi oxtail. The team at Vox Table includes executive pastry chef Allison Henschel (formerly of the W Hotel and Driskill Hotel), and beverage director Travis Tober, whose program will include wine, beer, and craft cocktails, with a separate drinks menu devoted to Old Fashioneds. Vox Table serves dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with plans to eventually add brunch and lunch. For more details including menus, visit

Dallas’ Twisted Root Burger Co. makes second effort in Austin market

The first Twisted Root Burger Co. location in Austin closed after several months.
The first Twisted Root Burger Co. location in Austin closed after several months.

Dallas-based Twisted Root Burger Co. is taking another shot at Austin. The build-a-burger restaurant which got its start in Deep Ellum opened a location near the University of Texas location last year, but that experiment ended after about six months.

The new location is at 7211 Burnet Rd. in the former Hilbert’s space and in the same parking lot as TacoDeli. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Those Austinites skeptical of intruders from the North should take note: Twisted Root, which is very popular in Dallas, was named one of the Top 50 burgers by Texas Monthly in 2009.



Hey Cupcake! selling Willie Nelson-inspired Red Headed Stranger cupcake today only

The Red Headed Stranger from Hey Cupcake!
The Red Headed Stranger from Hey Cupcake!

Local pastry producers Hey Cupcake! are celebrating the Honorary President of Texas (my words, not theirs) on his birthday with the return of their Red Headed Stranger cupcake. The sugary treat, which nods to Willie Nelson’s nickname and 1975 album of the same name, is sold today only for $3.50 at all Hey Cupcake! locations.

The cupcake features a moist lemon cake, which is the predominant flavor, with a sweet strawberry frosting that is a few shades lighter than Willie’s early braids. But pink-headed stranger doesn’t quite sound right.

And, as my own acknowledgment of the birth of one of the greatest Texans of all time (and because I always look for a reason to trot out this picture), a photo circa 1979 of me and the Abbott, Texas native …

Willie Nelson and Matthew Odam at Willie's annual fun run, circa 1979.
Willie Nelson and Matthew Odam at Willie’s annual fun run, circa 1979.








Coming soon: Shake Shack opening next week on South Lamar

Shake Shack was established in 2004.
Shake Shack was established in 2004.

Popular New York City-based burger restaurant Shake Shack will open on May 5 at Lamar Union ( 110 S. Lamar Blvd.). The restaurant, which also serves hot dogs and frozen custard, will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Click here to check out my post about the menu items on which Shake Shack will collaborate with Kreuz Market and Uchi. The South Lamar location will be only the second Shake Shake west of the Mississippi River.

Austin restaurants: Where to eat on Mother’s Day

The brunch at Jacoby's will include shrimp and grits, smoked brisket hash, chicken-fried steak fingers, buttermilk biscuits and sticky buns
The brunch at Jacoby’s will include shrimp and grits, smoked brisket hash, chicken-fried steak fingers, buttermilk biscuits and sticky buns

Apis. A Mother’s Day brunch will be served, including oyster Benedict; sweet corn pancake and smoked pork belly; steak and eggs; and French toast and Poteet strawberries and cream. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $45; children, $20. 23526 Texas 71 West, Spicewood. 512-436-8918,

Bribery Bakery. Mothers can enjoy a gift basket filled with the bakery’s treats, including strawberry-lemon cake, pineapple brown butter blondie, caramel chocolate almond brownie and carrot cake. $45. 2013 Wells Branch Parkway, Suite 109. 512-531.9832,

Carillon. The restaurant on the University of Texas campus will have a Mother’s Day brunch buffet with an omelet station, seared ahi tuna, risotto station, meat-carving station and desserts. Includes a complimentary champagne bar. Seating times: 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.; 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. $65; kids 5 and younger, free. 1900 University Ave. 512-404-3655,

Driskill. Enjoy a Mother’s Day Victorian tea with pastries and sandwiches. 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. $46; children 12 and younger, $23. Reservations required. 604 Brazos St. 512-391-7073,

Due Forni. The restaurant will serve a special Mother’s Day brunch with $2 mimosas and $3 Bloody Marys. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 106 E. 6th St. 512-391-9300,

Finn & Porter. A Mother’s Day brunch will be served with dishes ranging from miso-cured salmon to bananas foster-stuffed brioche French toast. $3 mimosas. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. $55. 500 E. Fourth St. 512-493-4900,

Jacoby’s. Enjoy a special Mother’s Day brunch, including shrimp and grits, smoked brisket hash, chicken-fried steak fingers, buttermilk biscuits and sticky buns. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. $40; kids 6 to 12, $20. 3235 E. Ceasar Chavez. 512-366-5808,

LaV. Treat your mother to a special three-course prix fixe dinner that features chef Allison Jenkins’ favorite dishes for the week. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. $40. 1501 E. 6th St. 512-391-1888,

La Patisserie. The bakery is offering Mother’s Day baskets, which include a blanket, six macarons, two sugar cookies and two chicken salad croissant sandwiches. $36. Orders can be placed until May 8. 602 W. Annie St. 512-912-0033,

Max’s Wine Dive. The venue is offering a special Mother’s Day brunch buffet featuring spinach and artichoke skillet frittata with chevre, served with dill butter roasted potatoes and shaved asparagus salad. Includes a build-your-own bellini bar. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. $45; children 6 to 12, $15. Kids 5 and younger eat free. 207 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-904-0111,

Roaring Fork. Enjoy a special Mother’s Day brunch including breakfast pastries, salads, crème brulee French toast and honey fried chicken. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $25. 701 Congress Ave., 512-583-0000; 10850 Stonelake Blvd., 512-342-2700;

Searsucker. The restaurant will offer a Mother’s Day three-course brunch, which includes shrimp cocktail, mushroom and truffle scramble, drunken chicken, chilaquiles and blondie cake. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $35; kids 10 and younger eat free. 415 Colorado St. 512-394-8000,

Trace. Enjoy a special Mother’s Day three-course fixed menu featuring capelleci en brodo, spinach and crabcakes, braised short rib, maple-brined double cut pork chop, and red velvet cake. 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. $55. 200 Lavaca St. 512-542-3660,

Trio. The restaurant will have a Mother’s Day brunch with made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, egg white frittata, salads, poached shrimp and crab claws and more. 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. $85; kids, $27. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-685-8300,

View an interactive showing the locations of each restaurant here.

Shake Shack South Lamar menu will feature collaborations with Kreuz Market, Uchi

The Lockhart Link Burger at Shake Shack on South Lamar will feature a link of sausage from Kreuz Market in Lockhart. (Credit: Shake Shack)
The Lockhart Link Burger at Shake Shack on South Lamar will feature a link of sausage from Kreuz Market in Lockhart. (Credit: Shake Shack)

New York City favorite Shake Shack will team with some local culinary heavy-hitters and introduce several menu items exclusively for the Austin market when it opens at Lamar Union (1100 S. Lamar Blvd.) in the coming weeks.

Danny Meyer’s popular burger, hot dog and frozen custard fast-casual operation will serve a cheeseburger called the “Lockhart Link,” which will be topped with a griddled jalapeno-cheese sausage link from Kreuz Market of Lockhart.

The restaurant will also serve several Austin-themed concretes (dense frozen custard ice creams blended at high speed with mix-ins) that will include the Uchi-koncrete (vanilla custard, Uchi and Uchiko miso hazelnut blondie, and huckleberry jam); Cold Shot (vanilla and chocolate custard, brown sugar caramel sauce, chocolate toffee and malt powder), named in honor of the Stevie Ray Vaughan song; and the Shack Attack (chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough, chocolate sprinkles, and dark chocolate chunks from Austin’s Kiskadee Chocolates).

“When an opportunity to work with an innovative and culinary phenomenon like Shake Shack comes along, we couldn’t pass it up. We think that the flavors of a hazelnut miso blondie, combined with cream cheese and huckleberry jam, mixed with classic vanilla custard, showcase a perfect combination of Uchi and Shake Shack,” Uchiko executive pastry chef Andrew Lewis said.

Additionally, Shake Shack announced they will serve craft beer from locals Hops & Grain, Independence Brewing Co., Karbach Brewing Co., Real Ale Brewing Company and Austin Eastciders.

Closing next week: Omelettry on Burnet Road

Omelettry on Burnet Road will close May 4. (Credit Mike Sutter AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Omelettry on Burnet Road will close May 4. (Credit Mike Sutter AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

After 37 years on Burnet Road, Austin institution the Omelettry will close its doors after service on May 4. The longtime breakfast favorite will open a new location at 4631 Airport Blvd. in mid-to-late May.

Owners Kenny Carpenter and his son, Jesse, said the old Omelettry building, built as a Frostop Root Beer stand in the 1950s, will be torn down and replaced with luxury apartments.

“We laughed when we first heard the local business community was trying to turn Burnet into a hip neighborhood,” owner Kenny Carpenter recalled. “It’s not like this old road has any fancy architecture or historic buildings (unless you count Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon). Who would have thought it would ever be trendy?”

While the Carpenters understand longtime customers’ nostalgia for the original location, they are happy to get a fresh start in a new building.

“I love this old building – I grew up here,” said Jesse Carpenter, “but I won’t miss all the work and upkeep we’ve had to do to keep things going. We know folks are attached to this building, but we’re more than just this place. The Omelettry’s soul is in its food, staff, and the community it creates.”








New on the menu: Vegan tempeh at Freebirds; brunch at Apis

The original Austin Freebirds. (Credit: Great Big Signs)
The original Austin Freebirds. (Credit: Great Big Signs)

Freebirds World Burrito, which recently relocated their headquarters to Austin, introduced the vegan calabacitas to its menu. The dish features tempeh, a soy-based protein, sourced locally from the mother-daughter team at the Austin-based Hearty Vegan. Guests can order the tempeh with their tacos, burritos, salads, bowls and nachos.

Spicewood fine dining restaurant Apis (23526 Hwy 71 West) began Sunday brunch service this week. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features items like bavette steak and eggs; ham, biscuits and redeye gravy; and brioche French toast.

Austin Food and Wine Festival: Tim Love proves he’s the master of the grill

steakIt was a No-F-Word-Saturday for chef Tim Love. Until it wasn’t.

For several years I have heard the popular Fort Worth chef boozing, carousing and cajoling from afar. The sexual innuendo (I guess it’s too blatant to be called innuendo) and hollerin always left me a little nonplussed. Then I took part in his hands-on grilling event and I understood. I also cooked the best steak I’ve ever cooked in my life.

If you’re going to captivate a crowd of 400 for 90 minutes (especially on a hot, humid day) you best bring some charisma and some volume. Love has those two things in spades. He also has an obvious affection for the grill. After a Van Halen musical prelude (“Why Can’t This Be Love?” of course), Love took the stage at told the attendees that “there is no comparison” to cooking on a grill.

You didn’t have to convince my grill mates, Gus and Barbara Colessides. This was the fourth festival for the couple from Salt Lake City that keeps a home in Austin, and they’ve been to the grilling demo every year.

“I love it,” Barbara Colessides told me as we waited to enter the demo. What keeps bringing her back to the demo? Tim Love. And his tips.

Barbara said they gleaned new facts from the Lonesome Dove owner each year, and this year they learned another new thing: For the first time, Love grilled one side of the steak, took it off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before finishing it briefly on the uncooked side. The lesson is an important one for the home chef. Instead of sweating over a grill when you have a dinner party, you can sear the steaks on one side and let them rest and release their energy for up to three hours. Then, when it’s time for dinner, finish them for a minute or so on the top rack of your grill. That’s what the top rack is for – not for buns or asparagus, Love said, but for finishing that steak.


Before cooking we rubbed the New York strip (Love digs the cut because it has just enough fat and a nice    chew) with peanut oil (good flavor and high smoke point) and seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper. Season from up high to keep from having the salt and pepper clump together, and season twice as much as you think you should.

We then places the one-and-a-half-inch thick steaks on the center of the piping hot grill and covered it, allowing for air to flow through the lid’s vent. After about two-and-a-half minutes we turned the steaks a quarter turn to get cross-hatch marks and covered again for about two minutes. We then took the steaks off, and Love explained the technique (while mixing in more sexual jokes – he likes his grills hot and ready, like he likes his women, he explained).

Since our small grills didn’t have a second rack, we finished the steaks on the cool side of the grill for about a minute. The result: A rosy, medium-rare steak with a well-seasoned char. Sway and La Condesa owner Jesse Herman, a partner in the festival, eyed me during my session and came over to inspect the restaurant critic’s effort. He gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, which allowed me to breathe easy.

So, the basics:

  1. Brush steak on all sides with peanut oil.
  2. Season with twice the amount of salt and pepper you expect. Sprinkle from high for good distribution.
  3. Place on hottest part of grill, covered, for about 2.5 minutes.
  4. Turn ¼ rotation. Cover for two more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat for up to three hours.
  6. Finish on the non-grilled side either on the top rack or the cool part of the grill.
  7. Drink lots and lots of white wine and tequila shots.

After the steak we also learned how to season and cook salmon. Sprinkle meaty side generously with paprika mix and Love’s secret spice mixture. Salt the skin side liberally, which allows moisture to be pulled from the fish, giving you a crispy skin. Grill meaty side down for a few minutes, covered. Be patient.


The salmon was also the best piece of fish I’ve ever cooked, and he taught us to work wonders with an ear of corn (cook on the cool part of the grill), but I’ll be thinking about that steak for a long time. I’m usually a sear-it-in-cast-iron, throw-it-in-a-hot-oven kind of guy, but it will be hard to cook my steak on anything other than a hot grill after Saturday.

I’ve also come to better understand the roguish and juvenile charm of grill master Love. Food & Wine publisher Christina Grdovic introduced Love by calling him the “greatest grilling demo chef in the world.” The 400 people at the packed Saturday event likely would not argue with that claim. Grdovic also announced that Love would be opening his Lonesome Dove Western Bistro at 419 Colorado St. in June.

Love followed his afternoon antics with a win at the Rock Your Taco event at Republic Square Park Saturday night.

Closed: Melvin’s Deli Comfort

pastrami reuben at melvins

Sad news for Austin sandwich lovers but happy news for Kevin and Melinda Ennis … Melvin’s Deli Comfort closed for business yesterday.

Ennis said he closed to spend time with his family, as he and his wife are preparing to welcome a baby girl into the world.
“My wife and I are looking forward to it and we think it is the right thing to do while our daughter is young,” Ennis said in an email.
The fire-engine red trailer at 53rd and Duval streets served some of the best pastrami in the city, and Ennis said he is considering coming back to the food world in 2017 or 2018, possibly with a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“We have truly reached our production capacity, even with my 12-14 hour days,” Ennis said. “The business is doing very well and the idea, as of now, is to relaunch in a larger, more permanent location.”

ken at melvin

Here’s what I wrote about Melvin’s in 2013:

The best pastrami in Austin comes from a fire-engine-red trailer in the parking lot of a nondescript business in the North Loop neighborhood.

The bright red beacon for lovers of brined and smoked meats is called Melvin’s Deli Comfort. But there is no Melvin. The name derives from a portmanteau of husband-and-wife owners Kevin Ennis and Melinda Baggett-Ennis.

After years of working with charcuterie and barbecue “for sport” at home, Kevin decided to follow his long-time fascination with classic preservation techniques and tackle the world of pastrami. He spent time researching the greats of New York City and says that with his killer sandwiches, stacked high with more than a half-pound of meat, he’s “just trying to do justice” to his inspirations.

NYC would be proud. The monstrous Reuben ($9), which comes on grilled rye, almost overflows with pastrami as tender as some of the city’s top brisket, the fatty sinew a supple bridge between the ridges of meat. Draped with a tangy homemade Russian dressing, melted Swiss cheese and a tangle of crunch sauerkraut, the sandwich is a rewarding and jaw-jacking challenge. Between making his own condiments and frying the homemade potato chips, Ennis smokes as much brisket as he can (150 pounds a week), but the pastrami often runs out before the lunch hour ends.

Ennis, who worked for almost a decade as a buyer and production manager for a seafood company in Alaska before moving to Austin in 1997, also has a way with turkey ($7). He smokes the coriander-and pepper-rubbed bird over applewood; it comes out almost unbelievably supple with a mild spicy kick. Get it on grilled white bread with Ennis’s giardiniera, a pickled blend of peppers and veggies.

The sleeper hit of the menu that offers a dozen sandwiches? The croque monsieur, a sinfully rich sandwich with ham and mustard, topped with a creamy blast of béchamel pooled on crispy melted gruyere ($9).

In a town in serious need of more quality delis, does Ennis envision a brick-and-mortar restaurant? Sounds like a good idea. But for now, “I’m just along for the ride, really,” Ennis said.