With the recent string of high-profile openings, spring has shaped up to be one of the busiest seasons in recent memory for the local bar and restaurant scene. In fact, it’s been so busy that five restaurants have announced April openings in the last two weeks alone. (Not to mention the Brewer's Table, which recently announced its opening date, too.) From a new location of an Austin classic to a charming grab-and-go spot in Oak Hill, check out this month’s freshman class.
Lotus + Cleaver
Domain Northside fusion sandwich shop General Tso’Boy shuttered in December 2017, but owners Jessica Wu and Gary Wu decided to keep the space and retool. The result of their efforts, the first Austin location of Miami hot spot Lotus + Cleaver, opens April 18 at 11501 Rock Rose Ave. with a focus on Cantonese cooking.
To help execute the overall vision, the Wus got a little help from their friends Erika Chou and Doron Wong, formerly of New York City’s acclaimed Yunnan Kitchen. Together, they have transformed the intimate space from a casual counter spot into a full-service restaurant (lunch service is still counter) complete with a bar.
The menu includes Chinese barbecue dishes like black pepper roasted prime rib, wildflower honey glazed char siu pork ribs, and fire roasted Peking duck. Shareable plates include wok greens with light soy and garlic and chicken wings with ultra spicy dragon sauce.
For the beverage program, the team concentrated on affordable, low ABV cocktails like a sake milk punch made with Chinese herbals, toasted sesame, lemon, and orange and a new take on horchata with cinnamon and lime. The bar also offers beer; wine; and soju and tea service from Taiwanese purveyor Fong Puu Tea Company, which includes rare jasmine, high mountain oolong, and green varieties.
The decor of the 40-seat restaurant (there is also a small patio overlooking the bustling Rock Rose nightlife scene) was inspired by 1960s Hong Kong. Melissa Lee of New York design firm Bespoke Only created a calming space with large wicker light fixtures, tile work on the floors and walls, and simple bistro seating.
In early April, local institution Polvos opened a third location in the Austin 360 building space that formerly housed Prelog’s and Garrido’s.
Like the Wells Branch and South First shops, Polvos downtown serves a variety of classic Tex-Mex fare like enchiladas, fajitas, chiles rellenos, and burritos, as well as interior Mexican specialties like fish Veracruzano. Breakfast is currently only served on Sundays, and guests can order migas; breakfast tacos; and the ever-popular Trash Can Plate: eggs scrambled with a kitchen sink’s worth of ingredients including mushrooms, bacon, potatoes, machacado, and chorizo.
And, of course, the restaurant at 310 Nueces St. would not be Polvos if it didn’t have a full menu of margaritas and the famous salsa bar.
Domain Northside is getting a twofer this month with the debut of the second location of New Waterloo’s popular Thai eatery Sway on April 30. Taking inspiration from the Thai phrase meaning “same same but different,” the restaurant at 11501 Rock Rose Ave., Suite 100 will duplicate the original’s menu for North Austin guests with the edition of Moo Sway, an exclusive pork shoulder dish that is meant to be shared by two or three guests. Chef de cuisine Stacey Jones, who started with the restaurant as a pastry line cook in 2014, will run the kitchen under the wing of corporate executive chef Charles Schlienger.
The recently launched Sway cocktail program will also be available at the new restaurant, along with a beer, wine, and sake list and nonalcoholic drinks like shrubs and sodas. All can be enjoyed in a plant-filled outdoor space alongside Rock Rose Avenue.
Inside, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture riffs off the South First Street flagship, incorporating its signature blocky communal tables and oversized basket fixtures. According to New Waterloo, the larger space allows a reinterpretation of the decor in a grander fashion. The knitted bean looming over the south location, for example, was expanded into an 18-foot piece of textile art for the North Austin space.
For now, the new Sway will only be open for daily dinner service. The restaurant plans to add lunch and brunch by summer.
Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q
The popular barbecue chain opens its first Central Austin outpost on April 19 in the former home of nostalgia peddlers EZ’s Brick Oven & Grill.
Like the other locations, the Rudy’s at 3914 North Lamar Blvd. will serve traditional smoked meats like brisket, turkey breast, pork loin, ribs, sausage, and chicken with classic sides like potato salad, cream corn, and spicy beans. Made-to-order and grab-and-go breakfast tacos will be available daily. For rush or large orders, purchase online for quick curbside delivery.
To help celebrate the grand opening, Rudy’s will be giving out $20 BBQ Bucks cards to the first 100 guests, limited to one individual or family.
Winner Winner Rotisserie and Fine Foods
Owner Sarah Lindsey has converted a railroad dining car into a casual grab-and-go restaurant located just a few miles off the Oak Hill Y at 9300 E. Hwy 290. The Royal Blue Grocery alum’s menu features family favorites like roast lamb, porchetta, and chicken sourced from sustainable providers like Tender Belly and Texas suppliers like Cobb Creek Farm and Capra Foods.
Rotating seasonal sides currently include farro and leafy salads, roasted carrots with honey and pistachios, braised broccoli rabe, shaved Brussels sprouts with Pecorino and pecans, and white beans with leeks and crème fraîche. Affordable desserts include salted caramel pots de creme and pear almond clafoutis. Diners can also select from sandwiches like roast chicken with curried aioli and arugula or chicken salad with crisp green apple.
Although on-the-go meals are the main focus, there are a few seats inside and a patio where guests can enjoy wine and beer. The restaurant, which welcomed its first customers on April 2, is open for dinner and lunch.