For Tio Pepe Chicken owner Pepe Garcia, owning a restaurant may be a matter of fate. Although he began his career as a software engineer, his family has been in the restaurant business since 1953, when his grandfather opened his first eatery.
After traveling through Europe, Garcia decided to follow his dream to become a restaurateur. He quit his job and began looking a space for the restaurant, eventually opening November 1 in The Linc Austin shopping center with a menu inspired by one of the favorite dishes he encountered on his adventures — peri peri chicken.
Named after a pepper made into a piquant sauce along with citrus, onion, garlic, and other aromatics, the Portuguese specialty hasn’t yet swept the U.S. “In Europe, peri peri is known, but it is a different concept here in the states,” says Garcia.
With few places to find the dish, he took matters into his own hand. Since this was his first foray into the restaurant world, he kept the menu simple. The fast casual joint mostly carries flame grilled chicken, but the possibilities are endless. Six sauces are available, ranging in flavors from lemon herb to garlic, and the flame-grilled chicken is available whole, half, or quarter; in a burger; or topping a trio of salads.
There’s also plenty of sides to try like hummus, wings, mixed olives, croquettes, and jocoque, a spreadable yogurt cheese served with grilled pita chips. Sides include fries, corn on the cob, a roasted cauliflower and broccoli medley, mashed potatoes, and cilantro rice.
Although the format is counter service, Garcia has designed the spot to feel like a neighborhood restaurant. To help settle guests in, he brought in beer from local faves like Hops & Grain and Thirsty Planet Brewing Company and a selection of Portuguese wines.
Although Tio Pepe has been open for couple of weeks, Garcia is just now finding his groove and has finalized hours of 11 am-9 pm Monday through Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday and Saturday, and 11 am-8 pm on Sundays.
The restaurant joins a culinary scene at The Linc, which includes Tex-Mex favorite Vivo, Peruvian eatery Lima Criolla, wing bar Pluckers, AFS Cinema cocktail bar, and a forthcoming location of Easy Tiger. With Tio Pepe’s peri peri chicken, the once threadbare shopping center is turning into one of Austin’s essential foodie destinations.