First Look

First taste of Emmer & Rye: Rainey Street's newest restaurant dishes up chef-driven fare

Emmer & Rye dishes up chef-driven fare in new Rainey Street digs

Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant grain salad
Emmer & Rye's dishes allow ingredients to speak for themselves, such as this grain salad with Pure Luck chevre, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant dim sum tray
Servers circulate the room with carts and trays carrying small plates, dim sum style. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant dim sum broccoli cheese
An example of the dim sum is this play on cheese and broccoli, served as finger food. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant pasta noodles
The team mills all of their flour, including emmer, an ancient grain for pasta. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant garden beds
Diners can look out to raised garden beds from the dining room. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant polenta
Plates here are often complex, such as this polenta with roasted shiitake mushrooms, marigold spuma, and fermented oyster mushroom. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant panna cotta dessert pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph
Pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph throws his own spin on familiar desserts, like this panna cotta made with goat milk, honeycomb, pecan granola, and tomato preserves. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant bar manager Adam Stellmon
Bar manager Adam Stellmon whips up classic cocktails, livening them up with house-made ingredients like thyme syrup. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant kitchen
Tall shelving divides the open space while the busy kitchen is on display for all. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant outdoor patio Rainey Street
Ample outdoor seating looks out to a quieter section of Rainey Street. Photo by Melody Fury
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant grain salad
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant dim sum tray
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant dim sum broccoli cheese
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant pasta noodles
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant garden beds
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant polenta
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant panna cotta dessert pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant bar manager Adam Stellmon
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant kitchen
Emmer and Rye 2015 Austin restaurant outdoor patio Rainey Street

Small plates, farm-to-table, and New American are the trending restaurant buzzwords these days. So how do restaurateurs set themselves apart?

Since day one, Emmer & Rye has defined its identity as grain-driven; milling ancient, small-crop grains onsite is fundamental to the concept. Executive Chef and Owner Kevin Fink showcases the namesake grains by grinding and transforming them into breads, pastas, desserts, and more. Before opening, Emmer & Rye teased Instagram followers with other slow-food techniques like foraging, fermenting, and curing.

The veil was lifted on November 7, revealing an airy and light-filled dining space on Rainey Street. Design features include a laid-back patio next to raised garden beds, a 14-seat private dining room, and a shiny open kitchen that displays all the action. A floor-to-ceiling shelf that divides the room is styled with copperware, vintage glasses, and bushels of wheat. 

Without surprise, the hyper-seasonal menu made up of snacks, small plates, pastas, and larger entrees changes weekly. Chef Fink draws some of his inspiration from his stint cooking in Copenhagen. His whimsical dishes, garnished by edible blossoms and dainty herbs, have similar qualities to those seen at the famed Noma of the same city. While Fink incorporates local ingredients and flavors, his cuisine is not easy to define. The polenta, for example, has the comforting properties of grits, but is elevated with roasted and fermented mushrooms.

In addition to the menu, Emmer & Rye also offers “dim sum service,” where servers circulate the dining room with wooden carts filled with small plates. Diners can pick and choose on the spot and share them among their table. Partner and Pastry Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph highlights freshly milled grains in his desserts, too, overcoming the challenge of working with unpredictable moisture contents. Bar Manager Adam Stellmon concocts refined cocktails that nod to the classics. 

As upbeat '90s R&B streams through the speakers, it reinforces that playfulness is the secondary theme here, after the grains.

Emmer & Rye is now open for dinner service and Sunday brunch.