When the Bonneville opened in early 2013, downtown was not exactly a dining destination. Sure, a scattering of steakhouses and hotel restaurants offered decadence for visiting conventioneers, but the kind of chef-driven fare that now defines the Capital City was largely missing from the corridor, save for a few promising newbies like Swift’s Attic.
Now, one of the restaurants that helped usher in the neighborhood's dining renaissance is saying goodbye. The Bonneville chef-owners Jennifer Costello and Chris Hurley have decided to turn out the lights at 202 W. Cesar Chavez St. In a January 5 release, the couple announced the New American eatery is closing on January 18.
Costello and Hurley did not share the reason, saying only that they “decided to allow the torch to be passed to a new restaurant group.” The chefs did not name the players behind the new concept.
The Bonneville ran into hiccups as soon as it opened its doors, chief among them low street visibility due to signage restrictions and landscaping. Nonetheless, it became a favorite of local foodies for its artful New American cuisine focusing on seasonality and approachability.
The brunches became especially popular with dishes like bananas Foster French toast served with rum syrup and cinnamon Chantilly cream and the restaurant's famous popovers. It didn’t hurt that the floor-to-ceiling windows bathed the dining room in natural light, providing a sunny backdrop for the weekend ritual.
That same environment, however, began to feel anachronistic. While the Bonneville’s service and spare space exuded a quiet elegance, Rainey Street ushered in a louder model downtown — one that is still echoing through more Millennial-focused concepts like the recently opened Punch Bowl Social on Congress Avenue.
Whether the new paradigm played into the decision, we may never know. But in Austin’s ever-shrinking fine dining arena, it’s absence will be sharply felt.