High on the hog
Cult-favorite Canadian sandwich chain makes porky U.S. debut in Austin
Downtown Austin is about to “meat” its match thanks to the U.S. debut of a Canadian sandwich company that specializes in the savory pork delicacy that is porchetta.
Licensees Lindsay and Ernie Villarreal will open the first U.S. location of Meat & Bread at Third and Nueces streets, in the 360 Condos building, by mid- to late-February.
The restaurant concept, which got its start in 2010, is defined by the company with this eloquent pitch: “It’s simple. We make sandwiches.” But “simple” belies Meat & Bread’s spectacularly prepared menu items, particularly its signature carved-to-order porchetta sandwich.
While the menu does also feature some magnificent-looking meatball and Buffalo chicken sandwiches and other offerings, it is the porchetta that originally drew the Villarreals to the Vancouver, British Columbia-based concept.
“My wife and I had been dreaming up a concept that headlined a porchetta,” Ernie Villarreal tells CultureMap. “We both feel it is such an attraction. It’s unique and not done very often due to the laborious nature of preparation and attention to detail. However, when done right, it is not only a spectacle to be seen but is insanely delicious.”
After happening upon a YouTube video featuring Meat & Bread’s porchetta, the couple knew right away it was the concept they’d been looking for.
“[We] both had a moment while we were watching and looked at each other and were like, ‘There it is!’” says Ernie Villarreal, who has spent decades in the restaurant biz and managed a variety of restaurant franchises in Austin, including Velvet Taco, Raising Cane’s, and Chipotle.
After taking a trip to Vancouver and spending four days with the Meat & Bread team, the Villarreals returned to Austin with the master franchise rights for the Capital City and the surrounding areas.
“We fell in love with the concept, the people, and most importantly, the porchetta,” Ernie Villarreal says of the boneless pork roast Italian tradition, also noting the restaurant’s previous spot on Diners, Dine-ins and Dives and its cult-like following in the Vancouver area.
Meat & Bread is quickly becoming a reality in downtown Austin, with plumbing and framing in the Villarreals’ restaurant being completed in December and the eatery getting one step closer to wowing locals with its luxurious porky bites.