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.
After spending the lion’s share of 2020 adapting to his industry’s ups and downs, Olamaie chef and owner Michael Fojtasek has big plans for the new year. Little Ola’s Biscuits, the casual, contactless carry-out operation he pivoted to after temporarily shuttering fine-dining institution Olamaie, is getting its own brick-and-mortar at 14735 Bratton Ln., in the former Garbo’s space. As first reported in Eater Austin, Little Ola's will continue offering biscuits and biscuit sandwiches, as well as Southern favorites like chicken-fried steak, and a cocktail program from beverage director Erin Ashford. The new Wells Branch location of Little Ola's is set to open in February, but will continue operating out of Olamaie at 1610 San Antonio St.
Other news and notes
Austin's latest culinary trend is 200 years in the making. South Congress elevated Japanese eatery Lucky Robot Japanese Kitchen is for the first time offering prime, dry-aged fish, a technique typically associated with beef in the U.S. Using a commercial glass-door refrigerator between seven and 60 days, depending on the fish selection, the sophisticated aging process breaks down fish’s connective tissues, activating umami and glutamates via enzymes. “Along with that richer flavor also comes a more tender texture, showcasing the fish in its best form,” said executive chef Jay Huang in a press release. “We like to think of it as ‘age = flavor.’” The currently running dry-aging program will initially feature Lucky Robot’s market fish, with Huang’s team set to launch new Picnic Sakura boxes in February (in addition to occasionally highlighting other sustainable offerings such as specialty catches from their domestic fisheries’ partnerships).
Following the November debut of its casual take-out burger concept, Butcher’s Burger, grocery/butcher shop/eatery Salt & Time is dipping into the wide world of wine. Helmed by beverage director Erika Widmann, wine buyer for Whole Foods Market's Lamar flagship store for the past six years, the new retail shop specializes in natural wine and offers over 100 different bottles representing a mix of traditional and modern creations. The new Salt & Time Wine Shop also offers a monthly wine club, featuring three- or six-bottle options, both curated by Widmann. Salt & Time Wine Shop is located at 1912 E. Seventh St., next to the operation’s originating butcher shop and restaurant, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm and Sunday from noon to 7 pm. The retail shop is currently open at limited capacity and will eventually offer wine by the glass and snacks on the patio with additional limited indoor seating.
One of Austin’s most acclaimed brewery operations needs your help in designing its next label. Inspired by their new Bee Cave tasting room, Driftwood-based Vista Brewing is collaborating with Bee Cave Arts Foundation on a new honey wheat brew appropriately dubbed Bee Cave Honey Wheat, to be released on draft and in tallboy cans in February. Before then, local artists are encouraged to submit their prospective can designs for a chance to receive a prize pack including cans of the new beer, a Vista hat, a Vista gift card, and a jar of honey from Vista’s onsite apiary in Driftwood. Details on how to enter can be found in the contest’s entry form as well as the can label template download. The winning design will be chosen by a panel of Vista team members and the Board of the Arts; all entries are due by January 29.
Austin Pizza Garden’s shuttering after 27 years may feel like the end of an era, but that doesn’t mean ongoing financial support isn’t appreciated. A new GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign created by longtime Austin Pizza Garden regular Karen Rodriguez aims to cover the former employees’ food, gas, and bills in the wake of the eatery’s January 17 closure. The campaign launched on Friday, January 15, and will remain operational until the end of the month.
A total of six Texas-based, woman-founded companies are getting a boost thanks to an area nonprofit. Launched in September, the Beam Angel Network helps to combat systemic barriers faced by women entrepreneurs. The six companies, which cover sectors ranging from consumer goods to medical devices, will receive $300,000 in collective investment. Among those receiving funding is Austin-based smoothie bowl shop Blenders & Bowls, who will use the cash toward a line of ready-to-eat organic açai bowls, the company’s first retail product. Applications for Beam’s next funding round are now open. Entrepreneurs or investors interested in learning more and becoming Beam Angel Investors can sign-up at BeamFounders.org.
Hot Luck Festival, the food-, beverage-, and music-centric spring festival co-founded by Franklin Barbecue's Aaron Franklin is joining forces with nonprofit Southern Smoke Foundation to support the ailing food and beverage industry. Moving forward, Southern Smoke will become the new charity beneficiary of the Hot Luck Festival, with Hot Luck (along with the support of founding partner YETI) making an initial donation to the foundation. The 2020 Hot Luck Festival was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns and rescheduled for Memorial Day 2021.