Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.
Openings and closings
Ember Kitchen and Subterra Agave Bar are now open at the historic Seaholm Power Plant. The stylish multi-floor concept is headed by Chef Nayely Castillo, who gleans inspiration from a childhood in El Paso, her grandmother's cooking, and her own experience with live fire cooking. The latter style is the main idea at Ember, which modernizes the classic steakhouse concept and adds Latin flavor wherever possible. Even though the space is huge (8,000 square feet) and seats 80, reservations are filling up fast for both the restaurant and bar. Thankfully, they also accept walk-ins. Reserve at emberatx.com.
Bento Picnic and its attached wine shop, Saba San’s, announced that they will close for a “sabbatical,” with a last day of business on February 18. Although this implies a return, it is not clear in what capacity owner Leanne Valenti plans to continue on with the restaurant, and she has put noticeable effort into getting her staff hired elsewhere until that is decided. Until then, Saba San’s is hosting a sale until closing day with discounts on all wine and sake, in-person and online. Those deals include 10 percent off a $35 spend, 15 percent off a $150 spend, and 20 percent off a $300 spend. Merch, housewares, and medicinal mushroom extracts are also on sale. More information on Bento Picnic’s faithfully updated Instagram.
There are already three Pokeworks locations in Austin, but we’ll always take more opportunities to build our own refreshing, protein-filled bowls. The Pokeworks chain, which allows visitors to build bowls step-by-step at the service counter, has a total of 16 new locations planned nationwide “over the next few years,” 10 of which will open in 2023. One will become Austin’s fourth location, although an address has not been announced yet. The existing Pokeworks in Austin are in Riverside, North-Central Austin off I-35, and Northwest Austin on Anderson Lane. More information about the chain is available at pokeworks.com.
Other news and notes
If you had to work on Valentine's Day or otherwise need a redo, Chef Bar, the profit-sharing concept by Bar Peached, is hosting "A Service Industry Valentine’s Day" pop-up on February 20 at 6 pm. There will be R&B tunes by DJ Eli Arbor, Japanese-fusion bites, and an extensive drink menu including creative cocktails like the Frozen Ube-Bae (Cruzans rum, pineapple, ube-coconut cream, and lime) and more straightforward offerings like "the best wine on the menu," the Romeo + Juliet Prosecco Rosé. The event is free and open to everyone, in the service industry or not. The event benefits the DAWA Fund.
We can't all be as helpful as girl scouts, but those of us with less time on our hands can give blood instead. We Are Blood is in special need after the winter storm, so donations are even more helpful than usual. There are calories in blood (surprise!) so it's important to replace those right away; We Are Blood is giving one box of Girl Scout Cookies to all donors throughout the month of February. A list of donation locations is available on the scheduling page at weareblood.org.
The Wine & Food Foundation is looking forward to its biggest gala, the Rare & Fine Wine Auction, with new announcements about the schedule. The event will be held on May 12, and welcomes Laurent Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin (Burgundy) and Domaine Drouhin (Oregon) as its keynote speaker and featured winemaker, respectively. The latter's winemaking history reaches back to 1880, making this a great example of rare finds. More information at winefoodfoundation.org.
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild held its second annual Texas Craft Brewers Cup, rating beers from across the state in 27 medal categories, for more than 150 styles. Austin, of course, swept the competition, with 25 wins out of the 81 total medals. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Zilker Brewing Company, Central District Brewing, Lazarus Brewing Company, Meanwhile Brewing Company, and Blue Owl Brewing all took home gold medals. See the full results at texascraftbrewersguild.org.