Kerlin BBQ’s brisket kolaches now available on weekday mornings

Kerlin BBQ (1700 E. Cesar Chavez St.) is home to some of the best barbecue in the city (it ranked 7th on our list in 2014), and a few years ago they pulled a super Texas move by adding their brisket to kolaches. For the first few years they only sold the kolaches on weekends, but now you can get kolaches every day that the East Austin trailer is open. Kolaches are sold starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday-Sunday, with barbecue sold starting at 11 a.m. In addition to the brisket and cheddar versions, there are also jalapeno-cheddar and smoked sausage kolaches and pork shoulder with Monterrey Jack cheese.


Just don’t tell Statesman content producer Katey Psencik we called them kolaches.


Guild chef talks about his inspiration for seafood-driven restaurant opening next week

Chef Sterling Ridings went home to find the inspiration for the menu at the seafood-driven Guild. Literally. And figuratively.

After a brief period working out ideas in a temporary kitchen, the head chef and partner at the new restaurant from the Chameleon Group (Swift’s Attic, Wu Chow), retreated to the kitchen at his house, testing out recipes on his family and getting in touch with the cooking that first inspired him.

Credit: Chameleon Companies

Diners will get a chance to see where the exploration led the Parkside and Uchiko veteran chef when Guild opens in the mixed-use building at Lamar Boulevard and 38th Street on March 9.

Ridings worked for Hai Hospitality for more than a half-dozen years, ascending from unpaid stage at Uchi to executive chef at Uchiko. Around the time he decided to leave Tyson Cole’s demi empire and forge a new path, he was introduced to the Chameleon Group partners, who had in mind a restaurant with oyster and raw bar. Ridings had an obviously impressive history working with sushi, but he took the opportunity to consider how he wanted the next iteration of his voice to sound.

The sanctuary of his home kitchen meant less cooking sous vide, and more pan-roasting and oven-roasting. He put aside the modernism that had come to define the most recent years of his career and returned to the roots he planted learning to cook from 2007 to 2009 at Parkside under Shawn Cirkiel.

“We’re able to go back to a lot of more fundamentals of cooking, which I think is extremely important,” Ridings said. “It’s been pretty cool to go back to cooking like I did at Parkside.”

Guild’s menu will be seafood-centric (the sea accounting for about 60 percent of the menu and a raw bar). Ridings wants to use American seafood predominantly, sourcing from all the coasts, including as much Gulf seafood as possible.

Ridings loves fish for the protein’s versatility, but he always has been most interested in cooking with vegetables, utilizing ingredients that once seemed exotic but have become part of the culinary lexicon for chefs of his generation. What once might have carried the label of fusion can now be seen as a chef’s organic perspective.

Ridings has long pulled from the global palette to realize his vision, so diners can expect anything from raw oysters with green Szechuan peppercorn mignonette to hanger steak marinated with ginger, jalapeño, rosemary and dark beer or toasted coriander tofu.

“We are in a space right now where people are willing to go on this trip with us and trust us,” Ridings said.

The lessons Ridings has taken from his mentor Cirkiel and Cole and Paul Qui will guide his philosophy. While he learned the importance of the basics from Cirkiel, from Cole Ridings gleaned the way to develop brightness and balance and to refine presentation.

Ridings hopes to take Cole’s “perfect bite” philosophy, which informs all that Hai does, and apply it to larger dishes. This might translate to diners experiencing a variety of perfect bites that build throughout a dish such as brioche-crusted halibut on a plate with roasted broccoli and deviled trumpet mushrooms.

After constructing his menu and getting back to his roots in his home kitchen, Ridings has no interest in abdicating his role in the kitchen.

“We’re in this really strange space, culturally and culinarily … you spend all this time trying to perfect this craft of cooking and then once you reach a certain space, you stop and expedite food and tell people what they’re doing wrong instead of cooking your food and coaching people in real time during the process,” Ridings said.

He wants to do away with that notion.

“I don’t tell people, ‘I’m a chef.’ I tell them, ‘I’m a cook.’”

(Guild is at 3800 N. Lamar Blvd. #170. The restaurant offers valet parking on 39th Street, as well as self-parking in the garage on Medical Parkway. Guild will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.)


Freedmen’s owner opens Texas 46 BBQ in the Hill Country near Canyon Lake

Freedmen’s owner Cuatro Kowalski’s interest in smoked meats has taken him out to the Hill Country. The Austinite recently opened Texas 46 BBQ at 2 Sun Valley Drive in Spring Branch, about 12 miles from Canyon Lake.

The kitchen is run by chef/pitmaster Austin Fry, who menu includes traditional post-oak smoked barbecue brisket, beef and pork ribs and housemade sausage, along with dishes like a chicken-fried steak burger and a smoked salmon burger.


Credit: Matt Lankes

Fry, whose resume includes serving as executive chef and general manager at La Condesa in 2009, spent much of the past eight years living in Asia, where he worked as executive chef at Blue Smoke in Hong Kong, among others. 

The original bar and burger joint was owned for about 30 years by Gary Stebbins, who passed away last year. Kowalski purchased the restaurant and bar last spring. The space maintains much of the roadhouse aesthetic of its previous incarnation and includes a covered front patio and lawn with picnic tables and washer pits. Texas 46 has a full bar and features 20 draft beers.

“We are not trying to reinvent the barbecue restaurant,” said Kowalski. “We just want to do barbecue well—and create a meeting place for the neighboring communities to gather, whether for a beer, a meal, or a celebration.”

Texas 46 BBQ is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owners of Le Politique and La Condesa opening Italian concept Il Brutto in March in East Austin

New Waterloo, one of Austin’s more prolific hospitality groups, announced today that it will open Italian restaurant Il Brutto on March 12. The restaurant is located at 1617 E. Sixth St. in the mixed-use Arnold building, around the corner from New Waterloo’s new Italian deli, La Matta.

Squid ink tagliolini with fresh clams, mussels, sweet tomatoes and marjoram. (Credit: Travis Hallmark)

The pan-Italian restaurant, which will initially serve dinner before expanding to lunch and weekend brunch in April, is helmed by executive chef and Italian-raised Erind Halilaj, a veteran of Obicà Mozzarella Bar and Hotel Marriott Milano, among others.

The menu will include house-made pastas (ravioli, pappardelle, lasagna), pizzas baked in a Neapolitan wood-burning oven and entrees such as squid ink tagliolini with mussels and clams, beef tenderloin slow-cooked in Nebbiolo, and baby octopus with olives and capers. See the full menu here

“Il Brutto’s menus represent the cuisine of Italy as a whole, from Mediterranean flavors of the south to central lamb dishes and beef tenderloin from the north,” Halilaj said. “Our dishes are respectful to tradition, and that starts with fresh ingredients and classic techniques.”

New Waterloo’s corporate executive pastry chef, former James Beard award semifinalist Amanda Rockman, will oversee a pastry program that includes Italian classics like tiramisu, cannoli and panna cotta.

Il Brutto, its name translating to “the ugly one,” a nod to Italian director Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” also features a separate bar and lounge, a private dining room and a live oak tree-shaded patio for dining al fresco.  The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the Arnold, a mixed-use building that is home to residents and businesses such as C3 Presents, Condé Nast, and Front Gate Tickets. Il Brutto will initially be open 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. 

New Waterloo opened La Matta and French restaurant Le Politique last year and operates Sway, La Condesa, Hotel Ella and the South Congress Hotel.





Exclusive: Owners of Kemuri Tatsu-Ya and Ramen Tatsu-Ya sign lease for space on Burnet Road

The owners of Kemuri Tatsu-Ya and Ramen Tatsu-Ya have signed a lease for the former Teriyaki Madness space at 7301 Burnet Road, next to Tacodeli.

Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto of Kemuri Tatsu-Ya earned the attention of both the James Beard Foundation and Texas Monthly. (Contributed by Bertie Pearson)

Chefs Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa say they are not ready to announce their specific plans for the space. The two chefs opened the first Ramen Tatsu-Ya in 2012, and their izakaya-smoke, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, recently earned a semifinalist nod for best new restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation and was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the state by Texas Monthy.


Check out the menu from Better Half, the restaurant from Brew & Brew that opens next week

Better Half, the all-day Southern-influenced restaurant from the group behind the popular beer/coffee bar Brew & Brew in East Austin, will officially open to the public Tuesday morning at 406 Walsh St. (at the corner of Fifth and Walsh streets).

Fried chicken biscuit with jalapeño honey butter at Better Half. (Contributed)

The restaurant’s offerings will start at 7 each morning, with quick items like a tasso ham and jalapeño honey butter biscuit ($6) and granola bowl ($9), expanding to a full breakfast and lunch menu that runs from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. That menu features dishes like a fried chicken biscuit ($7), greens and grains bowl with smoky mushrooms in a tamari broth ($11), Gulf redfish torta ($15), a green salad with carrots, beets and avocados, a cheeseburger made with 44 Farms beef ($9) and more. And, if you hit the pop-up held at Brew & Brew, you will remember the pastrami sandwich, which will be a Wednesday special. 

The menu from chef Rich Reimbolt, formerly of Josephine House, lengthens in the evening to include a petite chicken fried steak ($12), savory churros with queso ($8), a ham flight with deviled egg spread ($14) and more. Reimbolt is joined in the kitchen by fellow McGuire Moorman Hospitality alumnus Jenn Tucker, who oversees a pastry program that includes the biscuits, beignets and all of the bread, which will be made in-house, and a dessert menu featuring buttermilk pie and s’mores cake. The kitchen will close at 10 p.m., but owners say they will be making fresh batches of biscuits at 9:30 p.m each night for late-night eats. See full opening menu below. 

Better Half at 406 Walsh St. (Credit: Justin Cox)

Given the owners’ history, you know you can expect a strong selection of brews and brews, as well as cocktails. Coffee is from Heart Roasters and Flat Track; there are four cocktails and six beers on tap, as well as stirred and frozen cocktail selections.

The modernist space from Chioco Design and Lillianne Steckel Design is open until midnight Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Better Half closes at 3 p.m. Mondays.

The opening menu for Better Half.

Easy Tiger has split from the ELM Restaurant Group

One of the more active restaurant groups of the past decade in Austin has decided to amicably split.

Artisan sausages at Easy Tiger. Matthew Odam/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

ELM Restaurant Group co-founder Bob Gillett has left the group to focus all of his attention on bakery, bar and restaurant Easy Tiger, the second concept from ELM, which opened on East Sixth Street in 2012.

Gillett is joined in leading Easy Tiger into the future, which includes a forthcoming location at the Linc, with partner and “head dough puncher” David Norman, one of Austin’s most accomplished and revered bakers, who will oversee bakery operations and kitchen offerings. Easy Tiger “has received additional capital from a group of local investors that will help immediately ramp up work on the eagerly anticipated Linc shop, which features a vastly expanded baking facility,” according to a rep.

Folks keeping on the Linc, have undoubtedly notices that the store originally slated to open in 2015, has been very slow in progressing. The impediments have come from the variety of ELM projects, but that pace of development should now increase.

“The Linc slowed down because ELM had so many great opportunities (Cookbook, Fareground, etc.) come up at the same time that we didn’t want to turn down,” a representative for ELM said. “We had to prioritize projects based on quite a few factors (timelines, partners, resources, etc). The pace will definitely pick up again with the new focus and money.”

The other three founding ELM partners – chef Andrew Curren, co-founder Scott Hentschel and finance director Vince Ashwill – will continue to manage 24 Diner, Italic, Irene’s and Fareground (where Easy Tiger will remain  in operation), as well as work toward opening Cookbook at the Austin Central Library this spring and 24 Diner at Domain Northside.

In addition to those changes, ELM also recently said goodbye to Mark Sayre, who led the group after two-plus years to be the new service director at McGuire Moorman Hospitality.

*This post has been updated to include information on the Linc and Fareground. 

Star chefs, upscale mall food and ZZ Tapas: Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival returns in May

The second annual Hot Luck festival returns to Austin on May 24-27 with a dazzling array of regional and national culinary talent, quirky and engaging food programming and eclectic live music acts ranging from swamp funk to post-hardcore. 

Credit: Hot Luck

Any diner worth their Maldon salt will immediately recognize some of the biggest names attending the festival co-founded by barbecue wizard and James Beard winner and festival co-founder Aaron Franklin. Momofuku empire builder David Chang; Ashley Christensen of Poole’s in North Carolina; and James Beard winner and Seattle mainstay Renee Erickson are a few of the new out-of-town faces attending this year’s event that takes place at multiple bars, restaurants, event spaces and nontraditional venues around town. Returning talent from outside Texas includes ramen specialist Ivan Orkin, featured in Netflix’s “Chef’s Table”; Alex Stupak of Empellón in New York; Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok; and Peter Cho of Portland Korean restaurant Han Oak.

Joining the out-of-town guests are some of the best talents Texas has to offer, including James Beard award winners Chris Shepherd (Underbelly) and Justin Yu (Theodore Rex) of Houston; Diego Galicia and Rico Torres (Mixtli, San Antonio); John Tesar (Knife, Dallas); pastry star Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); and Steve McHugh (Cured, San Antonio).

Hot Luck’s hometown will also be represented by a slew of award winners and standouts, with chefs from more than half of the Statesman’s Top 25 restaurants of 2017 appearing at the festival. That group includes Bryce Gilmore (Odd Duck, Barley Swine); Laura Sawicki (Launderette); Fiore Tedesco (L’Oca d’Oro); Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due); Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye); Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa (Kemuri Tatsu-Ya);  Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie); Todd Duplechan (Lenoir); Tyson Cole (Uchi/Loro); Philip Speer (Bonhomie); and Yoshi Okai (Otoko).

Stradling the line of in-town and out-of-town chefs will be Kristen Kish, the recently announced executive chef at Arlo Grey at the forthcoming Line ATX Hotel. The fest will afford many attendees the first opportunity to taste Kish’s food and will also serve as a preview for forthcoming Austin projects from chefs Zach Hunter (Brewer’s Table), Erind Halilaj (Il Brutto) and Fermin Núñez (Suerte).

Hot Luck takes a different approach to its tasting events and parties than many other food and wine festivals. The centerpiece Saturday night event at the idyllic Wild Onion Ranch in South Austin plays like an oversize backyard cookout, with world-class chefs cooking over open flame, and the other events all have themes ranging from the irreverent to the inspired. There’s the Friday night Night Court at Fair Market, which will feature the chefs delivering takes on some of their nostalgic favorites from mall food courts of their youth. Ever wanted to try Franklin’s take on an Arby’s beef and cheddar? You might just be in luck. What happens when award-winning chefs get into a taco throwdown at a Tex-Mex institution? You’ll find out at Cisco’s Bakery and Restaurant one late night. And what happens when you mix hot rods and hot plates? ZZ Tapas.

Festival founders Franklin, Guerrilla Suit and Mohawk co-founder James Moody and Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast food festival in Portland, created the festival to celebrate the worlds of food and music in a casual setting, complete with a DIY aesthetic and a choose-your-own adventure sense of programming. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing this back to Austin. Hot Luck isn’t a festival; it’s a party. These chefs and bands just want to do their thing with friends … where everyone is welcome to hang out and have a good time. That’s what Hot Luck has become, and we love it,” Moody said.

Supplementing the programing of food events stretched over four days is a slate of live music featuring a diverse cast of acts, ranging from Galactic to former Joy Division bassist Peter Hook & the Light and indie rock titans Okkervil River to the DJ stylings of Peanut Butter Wolf.

Tickets can be purchased to all the food events, with prices ranging from $70 for the taco party at Cisco’s to $195 for access to Saturday night’s Al Fuego main event. Hot Luck also sells a Whole Enchilada package for $550, which allows attendees to hit all five of the food events, every music show, special parties and more. Tickets for the music shows will also be sold individually, with prices ranging from $15 to $35.

A portion of the proceeds from Hot Luck will benefit SAFE Alliance, a merger of Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace, both long-standing and respected human service agencies in Austin serving the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

For more programming information and to purchase tickets, visit


Chefs participating in Hot Luck 2018

AFAR: Abraham Conlon & Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice (Chicago); Alex Stupak, Empellón (New York); Andy Ricker, Pok Pok (Portland); Ashley Christensen, Poole’s (Raleigh); Bill Durney, Hometown Barbecue (New York); David Chang, Momofuku (New York); David McMillan and Frédéric Morin, Joe Beef (Montreal); Elias Cairo, Olympia Provisions (Portland); Ivan Orkin, Ivan Ramen (New York); Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene’s (Portland); Peter Cho, Han Oak (Portland); Renee Erickson, Sea Creatures (Seattle); Riad Nasr, Frenchette (New York); Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ Restaurant (North Carolina).

TEXAS: Chris Shepherd, Underbelly (Houston); Diego Galicia & Rico Torres, Mixtli (San Antonio); John Tesar, Knife (Dallas); Justin Yu, Theodore Rex (Houston); Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio).

AUSTIN: Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue; Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo/Chicon; Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck; Callie Speer, Holy Roller; Casey Wilcox, Central Standard; Chad Dolezal, Hightower; Damien Brockway, P6 at the Line ATX Hotel; David Norman, Easy Tiger Erind Halilaj, Il Brutto; Fermin Núñez, Suerte; Fiore Tedesco, L’Oca d’Oro; Jason Stude, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill; Jesse Griffiths, Dai Due; Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye; Kristen Kish, Arlo Grey at the Line ATX Hotel; Laura Sawicki, Launderette; Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie; Miguel Vidal, Valentina’s Tex Mex; Philip Speer, Bonhomie; Sarah McIntosh, Epicerie; Takuya Matsumoto & Tatsu Aikawa, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya; Todd Duplechan, Lenoir; Tyson Cole, Hai Hospitality/Loro; Yoshi Okai, Otoko;  Zach Hunter, The Brewer’s Table.

Emmer & Rye’s series of collaborative dinners with some of country’s best chefs starts Thursday

Emmer & Rye kicks off a series of collaborative chef dinners Thursday when the fermentation and heritage grain-obsessed restaurant in Rainey Street welcomes former Catbird Seat (Nashville) chef Trevor Moran (who was briefly pegged to return to world-class Noma in 2017) and David and Anna Posey of the Michelin-starred Elske in Chicago. There are no special tickets, just make reservations online like normal and be prepared for a menu divided between the guest chefs and Emmer & Rye partners Kevin Fink and partners Page Pressley and Tavel Bristol-Joseph. Consider it a sneak peak into dining at some of the best restaurants in other cities.


The special dinners continue on March 29 with new Austin resident and reigning Bocuse d’Or champion chef Matthew Peters and 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist for Rising Young Star chef Jay Blackinton from Hogstone & Aelder. The series concludes April 29 with Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme (New York City), one of the best Mexican restaurants in America and Diego Galicia and Rico Torres of Mixtli (San Antonio), one of the best Mexican restaurants in Texas.

“We are excited to offer a different look at guest chef dinners. These events are about creating a completely unique restaurant from some of the best chefs in the U.S. who inspire us,” Fink said.

Reservations for the dinner series can be made online or by calling (512) 366-5530. For more information on Emmer & Rye, visit

Event: Taste of Black Austin Tuesday night offers flavor of Texas foodways

The Greater Austin Black Chamber hosts the Taste of Black Austin Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Peached Social House. The tasting and reception “will trace the influence of food and farming in the preservation of black history and American culture” and feature food from about a dozen Austin chefs along with a photography exhibit honoring Austin’s culinary history.


The roster of chefs, who will prepare bites of dishes found in archived recipe books and historic menu selections, includes Hoover Alexander (Hoover’s Cooking), Demmerick Johnson (Ladybird’s Austin Kitchen), Salimah Muhammad (Word of Mouth Catering), Nahika Hillery (Kreyól Korner Caribbean Cuisine) and more.

Event tickets are available for $85 and VIP tickets are available for $150, which includes a VIP cooking demonstration preceding the reception. More information and tickets here.