The final details surrounding Hotel Ella and its new restaurant, Goodall's, have been piecing together over the last few weeks; the well-designed, locally sourced restaurant is set to open any day now. The former Mansion at Judges Hill space has been transformed into a revitalized, refined central-city escape — complete with sophisticated, casual cuisine and the kind of aesthetically pleasing atmosphere only Austin architectural star Michael Hsu could create.
What's in store for the exciting new restaurant? Hotel Ella's general manager, Steven Shotsberger, and Goodall's executive chef, Scott Mechura, sat down to discuss everything from what it's like to work alongside renowned architect Michael Hsu to what ingredients they're planning to highlight in their fall dishes.
CultureMap: How will Hotel Ella and Goodall's be different from their predecessors? What inspired you to change up the hotel and restaurant?
Steven Shotsberger: Hotel Ella holds a piece of Austin history in the legacy of Ella and Goodall Wooten. There is a story to be told, and we are excited to be the conduit for that story. Hotel Ella features an extensive renovation of the property, injecting a renewed sense of life into the structure while preserving the rich history. The estate is an iconic Austin landmark, so we have made a point to approach Hotel Ella's renovation with a deep respect for the past by implementing a contemporary design that also showcases the history of the site. Named after Dr. Goodall Wooten, Goodall's will showcase a comfortable, creative, yet refined approach to dining.
CM: Goodall's is described as a "sophisticated neighborhood concept." Could you explain what that means from your point of view and how that will translate from the menu to the plate?
SS: We want to take fine dining to a neighborhood level. We'll deliver a level of service that gives our neighbors — well-traveled Austinities — a location where they can be proud to host guests. This sophisticated concept is translated from menu to plate by allowing our executive chef, Scott Mechura, to unpretentiously keep the integrity of local ingredients and inspire them with global influences. Goodall's can't be labeled under well-known restaurant mantras; it's a "sub-urban" approach to simply good food in a pleasant dining experience.
CM: How will the menu work? Who are some farmers and purveyors you're planning to work with?
SS: We call it "512." Everything is seasonally inspired and sourced from within 512 miles of Austin, which is essentially the whole state of Texas. It just happens to play on our area code as well. The menu offers variety and allows our guests many choices, from small plates to full entrees. Our bar menu offers the opportunity have small bits and a fine cocktail from "Dr. Goodall's Remedies & Prescriptions." We feature Dewberry Farms for chickens, Johnson's Backyard Garden for produce, Broken Arrow Ranch for game, Third Coast Coffee, Zhi Tea and local draft beers like Adelbert's, Independence and Austin Beer Works.
CM: Tell me about some of the work Michael Hsu did. What did you tell him you wanted to see in Goodall's, and how did he incorporate those overall concepts and subtle nuances?
SS: We asked Michael and his team to see us as a trustee of a historic place and use their design talents to give it a modern yet refined update. Michael chose to focus on the quality of the craftsmanship — updating the feel to be more in line with where Austin is now. The design focuses on color palettes and a mix of textures that makes Goodall's a warm, comfortable environment for our guests to enjoy. The updated landscaping gives the restaurant a quality experience in one of Austin's finest settings of indoor and outdoor dining spaces.
CM: I saw some of the dishes on the initial menu: cinnamon-smoked duck breast, Gulf black drum with apple-jalapeño slaw and pan-seared Gulf grouper with crispy prosciutto. What do you think will be some of the favorite dishes off the initial menu?
SS: The cinnamon-smoked duck breast, no question. It's going to be a gem. The Amatriciana pasta dish is one of Scott's favorites, and he feels the customers will definitely enjoy it.
CM: Scott, what attracted you to working at Goodall's, and what are some of the plans you have as the executive chef?
Scott Mechura: What attracted me was the opportunity to deliver the culinary experience in a new restaurant. I have been given the freedom to create dishes that I feel define the concept and use my creativity. My goals for Goodall's are to see it have an identity versus being just another restaurant in a hotel. There are so many talented chefs in Austin, and I want to stay current and relevant in the Austin dining scene.
CM: We're coming up on the fall season. What are some of the ingredients you want to employ and utilize in your fall menu?
SM: I love game. I'll definitely work with bison and elk as the fall and winter come on. You also can't go wrong with squashes and pumpkins, and I associate the fall with apples. Expect a game cassoulet to be part of Goodall's upcoming menu.
CM: Goodall's is a new addition to the Austin culinary scene. Who are some of the local chefs and restaurants that inspire you and your restaurant?