Opening alert

Renowned Chicago restaurant sneaks into Austin to open first-ever Texas location

Renowned Chicago restaurant sneaks into Austin to open new location

Aba Chicago
Chicago's buzzy Aba appears to be opening a location in Austin. Aba Restaurant/Facebook

Austin’s reputation as a sizzling restaurant city might have been largely driven by the national press, but most of its growth has been driven by local hospitality groups like McGuire Moorman and New Waterloo. That may soon change as one of the giants of the Midwestern dining scene makes its Capital City debut.

According to a permit filing with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is opening a location of its red-hot Chicago restaurant Aba at 1011 S. Congress Ave. in building two of the Music Lane development. The Mediterranean concept, first introduced in June 2018, is the work of chef CJ Jacobson — a Top Chef alum who also helms Chicago's acclaimed Ema.

A rep for Lettuce Entertain You declined to give further details about the concept, including an estimated opening date. The Chicago menu includes several takes on hummus and other spreads and a sharp focus on proteins, ranging from raw hamachi to “humble cuts” of chicken, lamb, and pork belly to seafood like grilled Spanish octopus.

Aba is also known for a cocktail program headed by lauded mixologist Liz Pearce of buzzy bar The Drifter and a stunning rooftop patio — a feature that would no doubt be welcome in Austin’s al fresco culture.

The restaurant will not only be Lettuce Entertain You’s first Austin project, but its first in Texas. The group has a ridiculously varied portfolio including world-renowned tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago icon R.J. Grunts, fast-casual chain Big Bowl, and Everest — a Michelin-starred showpiece on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange.

Aba will fit right in with what is shaping up to be one of Austin’s toniest developments. Music Lane will also be the home of upscale fitness club Equinox, Gelateria Gemelli, exclusive social club Soho House, and "playful department store" Neighborhood Goods.