What do you do when you and your partner can’t agree on what to have for dinner? In the case of Lynda Michaels, you open an all-day cafe that appeals to almost everyone’s taste.
As with many couples, Michaels and her partner often disagreed on where to go for date night. She preferred lighter vegetarian or vegan entrees paired with a good glass of wine. He was more likely to pick a place featuring meatier fare and a great Bourbon selection. Kicked Up Grub, a new gastropub that opened on July 7 at 3403 S. Lamar Blvd., was born out of desire to please them both.
To help her execute her vision, Michaels drafted three chefs whose cooking styles are rooted in a variety of traditions. Samuel Albert, who handles the savory menu, comes from Italy, where he found an early love of cooking through his grandmother. Charles Cherentin oversees the baking duties in the traditions of his native France. His wife, Steffi Gutierrez, brings the lightness of Filipino food to the restaurant’s desserts.
All of the influences come together in a menu that Albert describes as “elevated food that’s really enjoyable.” The offerings include classic Italian dishes like spaghetti carbonara and Margherita pizza; European favorites like fish and chips and steak frites; and creative burgers like the Don’t Judge Me with a brisket patty, applewood bacon, cheddar, blackberry jam, and peanut butter.
There is also a variety of plant-based options like a Lebanese chickpea stew with za’atar or a cauliflower steak dressed in chimichurri. If you have been meaning to try the meat substitutes from Impossible Foods, which is purported to mimic the beef in both texture and taste, Kicked Up gives you plenty of options from a lasagna to crispy tacos.
For breakfast, guests can choose from farm fresh omelettes; simple toasts topped with goat cheese and prosciutto, avocado, or macerated strawberries and ricotta mascarpone cream; and sandwiches like a croque madame. For those with a sweet tooth, there's also brioche French toast and pancakes like chocolate chip cookie, blackberry coffee, and peach streusel and oats.
All of the produce is sourced from area farms like Francis & Thatcher in Allen and Buena Tierra in Fredonia. The team also uses vegetables grown by Austin nonprofit Urban Roots. The commitment to quality sourcing is partly how the team came up with the unpretentious name.
“We liked the gastropub concept with craft beer, Bourbon, and cocktails,” says Albert. “But most bar food sucks.” The name came from their desire to “kick up” familiar fare.
The same commitment extends to the bar program. Instead of relying on pre-made mixers, the team makes all the nonalcoholic ingredients in house, including syrups and sours.
Although the location was previously home to two failed concepts, aRoma Italian Kitchen & Bar and Manin Pasta, Albert feels the new concept sets itself apart by being approachable and affordable. “We noticed there’s a lot of good cuisine [in Austin]," says Albert, “but it is a little north of what most people think is reasonably priced.” Instead of small plates, Kicked Up focuses on larger portions.
Albert says the connecting thread between all the people involved in the project is that they enjoy making people happy. "We wanted to create a place where you want to hang out and where people get to know you."