7 things to know in Austin food right now: Famed chef couple rolls out 2 new restaurants

7 things to know in Austin food: Chef couple rolls out new restaurants

chefs Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee
Sushi by Scratch and Pasta|Bar ATX, from Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee, are now open.  Scratch Restaurant Group

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

Two celebrated chefs are elevating their presence in the Austin region, rolling out two new restaurants that are sure to capture the attention of discerning local foodies. Acclaimed husband-and-wife chef duo Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee of Scratch Restaurants Group have just opened Sushi by Scratch Restaurants at 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd., in the nearby Cedar Creek community. Promising an omakase speakeasy experience, Sushi by Scratch offers a 17-course take on the traditional counter experience, with the menu changing seasonally and highlighting only the best ingredients. The new spot opened shortly after the Lees sold their Austin Sushi|Bar concept in a buyout deal that gave the pair complete control over their restaurant business. In addition to their new Sushi by Scratch concept, the Lees have also just opened their new Pasta|Bar ATX eatery — inspired by the flavors of Texas and the culinary techniques of Italy — at 1017 E. Sixth St. in downtown Austin. Pasta|Bar ATX offers a 13-course tasting menu, with intimate seating for only 10 guests, who are served at the chef’s counter by the chefs themselves. Reservations for Sushi by Scratch are available via Tock on the first of every month. Reservations for Pasta|Bar ATX are also available via Tock on the first of every month.

Here’s news Northwest Austin can raise a margarita to: Z’Tejas Southwest Grill is set to open its newest location at 14900 Avery Ranch Blvd., in the Avery Ranch shopping center, on April 18. The fully renovated 3,800-square-foot space housing the new Z’Tejas location features a modern design with Southwestern accents, a hand-painted mural, a private dining room with a large chef’s table, and a massive 2,000-square-foot patio for kicking back and enjoying some green chile mac ’n’ cheese, enchiladas, and a delicious array of margs, cocktails, tequila flights, and mocktails. The new Z’Tejas restaurant essentially replaces a former Avery Ranch location that closed in 2017. Once it opens in April, the new location will also serve breakfast daily. The Avery Ranch restaurant will offer daily happy hour specials and be open Sunday through Thursday 9 am-9 pm, and Friday and Saturday until 10 pm.

One area fried chicken joint has officially flown the coop. According to a social media post, the Round Rock location of Bonchon, a fast-casual restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken and Asian fusion dishes, has closed permanently. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Bonchon in Round Rock has permanently closed,” a member of the restaurant’s management posted on March 10. “We would like to thank the community for the ongoing support over the last three and a half years.” No reason was given for the closure. Though the company has several locations throughout Texas that remain open, the Round Rock restaurant was its only Austin-area location.

Other news and notes

Just weeks after employees at a San Antonio Starbucks location announced their intentions to unionize — making it the coffee chain’s first unionized location in Texas — employees at an Austin Starbucks location say they’re following suit. According to a letter posted to Twitter on March 7, workers at Starbucks’ location at W. 24th and Nueces streets near the UT campus — and mostly staffed by students — are “acting with courage, challenging the status quo, and finding new ways to grow our company and each other: by unionizing.” The letter also notes the employees have experienced “a fundamental erosion of trust” with Starbucks and a “lack of support and confidence” with management. According to local NBC affiliate KXAN, which reached out to Starbucks, a company spokesperson said in part, “We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed,” also adding, “We will keep listening, we will keep connecting, and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.”
Beloved local eatery Foreign & Domestic will host a must-attend upcoming dinner series as part of a nationwide, 10-city touring event organized by collaborative group Indie Chefs Community. Road to Commune: Austin, taking place March 23-27, is part of the lead-up to the organization’s large-scale “anti-food festival” planned for Houston next spring. In collaboration with Foreign & Domestic’s Nathan Lemley and Sarah Heard, the Austin event will include five days of collaborative culinary events featuring dishes (and wine pairings) from more than 25 nationally acclaimed chefs, including many of Austin’s favorites. The event also includes benefit after-parties and pop-ups, and is certain to be a local foodie’s dream come true. Tickets for this multiday culinary extravaganza are now available online.

One of Austin’s most legendary greasy spoons may be in danger of falling by the wayside thanks to the city’s unforgiving growth. According to a recent Facebook post, Dirty Martin’s Place, the perfectly greasy burger joint located near the UT campus that was founded in 1926, may be in danger of losing its long-loved spot. The post says the City of Austin recently issued the restaurant with an eminent domain letter, noting the Project Connect plans would include creating a light rail line where the restaurant sits. Within that social media post, Dirty Martin’s GM Daniel Young says the restaurant aims to start a petition asking the City to keep the rail line underground in order to save the historical restaurant. Follow Dirty Martin’s on Facebook for updates.    

When you’re awesome, you don’t really have to try hard to get some shoutout perks. That’s definitely the case with Austin’s super cool Try Hard Coffee Roasters, which was named the best coffee shop in Texas on Food & Wine’s new list of The Best Coffee Shops in Every State. “When life hands a group of good coffee people a pandemic, they scrap their plans (at least in this case) and open a shop, with a DJ, and tacos, and CBD rollies to enjoy on the back patio,” Food & Wine gushes about Try Hard. “Beans are roasted in-house, breakfasts are superb, and the environment infectiously energetic — because what we really could use right now is a whole lot more fun.” Now, that’s what we’d call a coffee shop pick-me-up!