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.
Good news for fans of cold-pressed juice and plant-based snacks: Austin recently welcomed the second location of Pressed Juicery, a plant-based beverage brand dedicated to making high nutrition a realistic option for all people. Located in the Rosedale neighborhood, the new Pressed operation is celebrating its new arrival with an offer of $2 juices, smoothies, freezes, and acai bowls when customers sign up for Pressed Points, the company’s rewards program, through Wednesday, May 19. What’s more, the new outpost introduces delivery to the Austin area, which Pressed is celebrating by offering a special delivery promotion of $2 for any product, with free local delivery through June 12. Austin’s newest Pressed is located at 4800 Burnet Rd., suite 410, and is open from 8 am-8 pm every day.
Other news and notes
In other juicy news, an employee strike at Austin’s homegrown juice and smoothie spot, JuiceLand, took over social media late last weekend, leading at least eight of the company’s storefronts to shutter early or entirely in solidarity on Sunday, May 16. Led by the group United Front of Juice Crew (@juicelandworkersrights), the strike was organized principally to benefit JuiceLand production facility workers, who, according to a post on the group’s social media page “endured unsanitary, rough working conditions, and no hazard pay during the pandemic.” The group raised concerns of racism and sexism issues among production facility and shop workers, outlining anonymous accounts of such experiences in an Instagram post. JuiceLand’s official social media pages have so far remained largely silent on the matter, save for announcing a companywide guaranteed minimum pay rate of $15 an hour in response to the strike. “JuiceLand stands firmly by our core values of treating all employees justly, regardless of age, gender identification, or race,” says part of the email sent to employees from JuiceLand’s leadership team. “We will address the concerns expressed directly with the employees and are always open to listen to any concerns any team member may have.” The company’s $15 base rate offer was apparently rejected by the employees, and negotiations are ongoing between JuiceLand and the striking workers, who’ve since published a comprehensive list of demands, including increased wages for both production facility and shop employees. “As of right now the only need that has been met is our 17/hr wage. Steps towards proper physical conditions of the work environment have yet to be ... addressed or rectified,” read an anonymous post from a production facility worker made late Sunday evening. To follow the ongoing story, visit the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram page. There’s also a GoFundMe campaign to aid striking workers via financial support.
One Austin-based hard seltzer operation is racking up some serious clout. Father-and-son-owned Blue Norther Hard Seltzer recently won not one but three medals at the renowned San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The only Texas-based hard seltzer to win among the 28 entrants in the hard seltzer category, Blue Norther took home the gold medal for its wild blackberry beverage, while it’s prickly pear flavor received silver and the agave lime won bronze. Blue Norther’s products are currently available at retailers throughout Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas/Fort Worth, and through delivery services such as Gopuff.
Elsewhere in local spirits news, Texas’ premier and currently only producer of the agave-based sotol spirit, Desert Door, is hosting an indulgent night of food and drink that’s not to be missed. To commemorate the launch of its second limited-release sotol spirit — the Toasted Barrel Texas Sotol (released as part of the operation’s environment-preservation-focused Explorer Series) — the distillery has teamed up with Dallas-based Italian favorite Cane Rosso. The collaboration’s four-course meal will include signature Cane Russo dishes like the caprese chop, meatball sliders, and truffle mac ’n’ cheese, each of which will be paired with an accompanying Desert Door beverage. (Hello, Toasted Sotol Desert float!) The event will take place Thursday, May 27 from 6-8 pm at the Desert Door Distillery, at 211 Darden Hill Rd. Tickets to the socially distanced event (which are sold by the table) can be purchased via Eventbrite.
Get ready for one of the state’s favorite burrito peddlers to look a heck of a lot different. (But don’t worry, the food’s still just as good.) Beloved burrito joint Freebirds World Burrito recently unveiled an interior and exterior design refresh that’s set to roll out at all 55 of its locations across Texas. The new interior elements include murals and colors inspired by Freebirds’ “deep-rooted state pride and heritage.” Guests are now greeted by a large “It’s Your World” sign against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds that “represent the infinite possibilities and free spirit that is Texas.” A second focal point of the design refresh is a “Welcome to Freebirds” mural, inspired by Texas’ famous graffiti murals. Each letter contains an image of a well-known Texas icon, reinforcing Freebirds’ proud Texas roots. “In addition to opening new locations, updating our tech stack, and innovating our menu, Freebirds continues to soar this year with a fresh look,” says Alex Eagle, CEO of Freebirds World Burrito, in a release. “The design refresh was thoughtfully planned to create an even more warm, welcoming, and uniquely Texan experience at Freebirds.”
After more than a year of creative pivots, BBQ-Asian fusion operation Kemuri Tatsu-Ya has announced a return to its popular a la carte izakaya service. The new service replaces the operation’s previous Omakase “TV dinner” club format, although guests looking to leave their selections to the chef can still select the option to do so. Highlights of the revamped menu include a focus on thoughtful presentation paired with in-house creation of koji products, misos, ferments, and even bonito flakes made from scratch. In addition to craveable dishes like brisket-and-smoked-gouda-stuffed tofu Hot Pocketz and a Guaca Poke item with tuna sashimi and guacamole, the new izakaya service includes such vegetarian delights as yuki green beans served with yogurt-cashew dare, and hana skewered with grilled cauliflower. The Tatsu-Ya beverage team has curated a new menu of cocktails to complement the meals, including the Matcha Painkiller 2.0 and the Yaupon-Ki. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 6-10 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 6-11 pm. Reservations are available online or by calling 512-803-2224.
Just in time for summer staycation season, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa is bringing on some serious talent. The 405-acre resort, located just outside of Austin and near the city of Bastrop, recently appointed chef Chris Cummer to the position of executive chef. Joining the resort from Hyatt’s Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort in Maryland, Cummer brings with him 28 years of culinary experience. He began career working in hotels as a banquet chef at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and was quickly promoted to the resort’s chef tournant, where he oversaw the banquet kitchen. Cummer’s other previous positions include chef de cuisine at Hyatt Regency Dallas, executive sous chef at Hyatt Regency Jersey City, and executive chef at Andaz Wall Street in New York City. Cummer says he looks forward “to utilizing the property’s 405 acres to enhance our sustainable offerings and to build relationships with local purveyors that provide sustainable and quality products.” Get more info about the property and its offerings online or call 512-308-1234.