The word is out

Acclaimed Austin chef wants to bring Mexico City to anticipated downtown restaurant

Acclaimed Austin chef wants to bring Mexico City to downtown eatery

Comedor Austin rendering
Comedor will open downtown in April. Rendering courtesy of Comedor

Until the morning of March 4, details about Philip Speer’s upcoming restaurant at 501 Colorado St. were kept so tightly under wraps that Austinites didn’t even know the name. Now, the longtime fixture of the Capital City culinary scene has revealed the first few details.

Speer is partnering with developer William Ball, owner of adjacent cocktail bar Garage, to open Comedor sometime in April. The name translates to “dining room,” and the team hopes to capture the essence of Mexico City hospitality. Although the concept is a contemporary downtown restaurant, he says that the entire team wants to celebrate the traditions behind Mexican cuisine.

Speer, who is overseeing the culinary program, is joined by two notable chefs — Daniela Vazquez and Gabe Erales. Vazquez, a veteran of Mexico City’s dining scene, was most recently at Dulce Patria, a spot named in 2016 among the finest restaurants in Latin America by the makers of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Austin's own Erales, formerly of Dai Due Taqueria, also joins the team.

The menu is still being finalized, but will include dishes like a grilled dorade wrapped in hoja santa leaves and served with a mole verde made of Mexican herbs, chiles, and seasonal green vegetables. All components, including tortillas, will be made from scratch.

Although Speer has most lately been on the savory side of the kitchen, with stints at St. Philip, and his recently shuttered Brentwood diner Bonhomie and My Name is Joe food truck, he is returning to his culinary roots at Comedor.

The chef began his career as a baker in Houston before working at such notable restaurants as Jean-Luc’s Bistro, Seven, Starlite, and Uchi, where he racked up a four semifinalist nods for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Speer says he is excited to be “fully immersed in the pastry program." 

The beverage program has some major talent behind it, too. General manager Paul Finn and the Garage bar staff worked with consultant Phil Ward, a former bartender at illustrious New York City concepts Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, and Death & Co. His work creating the drinks at the city’s Mayahuel and Madre Cocina & Mezcales hints that Comedor will be particularly adept at Mexican spirits.

Keeping with the modern Mexican focus, the building’s design comes from one of the America’s most award-winning architects. Tom Kundig of Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects has been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Institute of Architects, and his work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Dwell, and The New York Times.

Speer says that steelwork inside the building was created closer to home by Drophouse, whose work can be seen at ATX Cocina, Yeti's South Congress flagship, Austin Beerworks, and Suerte.

Opening day partially depends on how quickly the team can get the restaurant staffed. Perspective employees can apply at a job fair being held 10 am-4 pm on March 5-7 at Garage, next door to the construction site.