In this age of Austin hospitality PR machines (and nosy food editors), it’s difficult to open a new concept without fanfare. The owners of campus gastropub Hopfields have managed to do just that with the debut of Nicolaza’s, far South Austin’s newest bar.
Located in the former home of Red Shed Tavern at 8504 S. Congress Ave., the bar snuck onto the scene on February 2, according to an employee. The Hopfields team secured the space in summer 2018, but co-owner Bay Anthon remained mum on the date.
Those who are expecting Hopfields: The Sequel are in for a surprise. Nicolaza’s scraps the Red Shed’s rustic vibe for a poppy environment with dime store silk flowers, a mix of wooden and colorful perspex chairs, and a comfy Chesterfield sofa front and center. A side room, painted a deep peacock blue, features a center chandelier accented with gold barstools and a giant macrame canopy.
Fans of Red Shed shouldn’t fret, however. Despite the new glossy touches, the place feels homey. The barn windows still let in fresh air and the outdoor area retains the friendly atmosphere of the previous occupant.
The menu has been amped up with six house cocktails, each based on a different spirit. Ven Dinero, built with Rittenhouse rye and Giffard pêche de vigne, gets its mild sting from sage black pepper syrup. Bitter Campari and Cynar keeps a strawberry shrub from being too cloying in the Cimmaron reposado tequila-based Miel de Amor. Other drinks employ basil and cucumber with gin, turmeric juice with vodka, pineapple with mezcal, and rum with creme de banane and horchata.
There is at least one thing that carries over from Hopfield’s, however. Nicolaza’s features an eclectic selection of draft beer that covers local favorites like Hops & Grain’s popular The One They Call Zoe pale lager to a raspberry sour from cult Fort Collins, Colorado, brewery Funkwerks. A canned lager from Bell’s and Montucky Cold Snacks — the latest hipster beer du jour — rounds out the menu.
Unlike Hopfields, Nicolaza’s does not currently serve food. A menu is coming soon, but for now, the Shop & Carry convenience store is just across the street. We won’t vouch for how well any of the cocktails pair with Dinamita Chile Limon Doritos.