Food news

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Classic Clarksville restaurant permanently closes

7 things to know in Austin food now: Clarksville restaurant closes

Cafe Josie Austin restaurant exterior front 2016
Cafe Josie is closed. Photo by Ashley Treat, Treat Photography

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Openings and closings

Cafe Josie, the Clarksville farm-to-table, American-style restaurant opened in 1997 by chef-owner Charles Mayes, announced last week it is shutting permanently. Austin 360 reports the restaurant’s closing came about due to several factors, including the financial hit levied against the local restaurant industry by COVID-19. Cody Taylor, the former Cafe Josie server who worked his way up the ranks to ultimately purchase the operation in 2012, told the publication that although the restaurant was making a profit over the past four years, its landlord — Larry McGuire of McGuire Moorman Hospitality — was “not amenable” to such expansions as Saturday brunch and a catering operation, which the owner believes may have allowed the Cafe Josie to stay afloat as its rent increased exponentially. Taylor’s time and energy will now go towards his San Marcos comfort food restaurant, Industry, which opened in 2018.

Meanwhile, Pitchfork Pretty, an east side farm-to-table restaurant that opened in 2017, has stopped operations. In a letter, the team said they were pausing operations and temporarily closing the doors. They also added that while they were "heartbroken" at the decision, this "isn't a goodbye, it's see you in a bit."

Austin-based dessert company Tiny Pies is asking the local community for help opening its upcoming Westlake sweet shop, which was originally scheduled to launch around Easter. Via its recently announced Pie-O-Neer initiative, the company hopes to raise the $25,000 needed to offset costs of the final build-out. “We are determined to open the shop regardless of the amount of money that we raise,” said co-owner Amanda Wadsworth in a June 8 press release. “We’ve taken out a bank loan to offset the expenses for now, but are hoping with community contributions we can pay off that loan quickly.” According to the release, donations of any amount can be made to the Pie-O-Neer GoFundMe or by purchasing a limited-edition Pie-O-Neer Pack, which includes some of the company’s most popular items, as well as cheese straws, pecan bits, and an exclusive Pie-O-Neer T-shirt. The $100 packs are available now through June 30 and can be purchased on Tiny Pie’s website for pick up at either the South Lamar or Burnet location. The forthcoming Westlake brick-and-mortar, located at 3736 Bee Caves Rd., is set to open later this month and will share a currently existing location with Blenders & Bowls to “offer a more food-court-like experience.”

Popular lakeside Tex-Mex restaurant Hula Hut closed briefly on June 1 after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and then again on the evening of June 3 when a second employee was positively diagnosed. “In a span of 48 hours, we were notified that 2 of our employees had tested positive for COVID-19,” read a statement on Hula Hut’s Facebook page. “We have determined it is prudent, proactive, and responsible to close our restaurant temporarily. During this time period, we will monitor all employee health together with properly mitigating any risk in our facility through an appropriate level of cleaning.”

Dallas-based Bishop Cider Co.’s forthcoming Austin arcade/bar space is set to open as soon as its legally able to do so. The highly anticipated Bishop Cidercade was set to open in the former location of Joe’s Crab Shack on Riverside Drive before SXSW, but, much like the festival itself, the company’s plans were shelved in the face of the global pandemic. Though the space is reportedly ready to begin operations, the company has made it clear its complying with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s current restrictions on arcades. Unlike restaurants and bars, there’s no set re-opening plan currently laid out for arcades by the Texas government. Once open, the Cidercade will offer 150 arcade games as well as pizza, wine, and specialty ciders including such unique options as Sour Passionfruit, Texas Tea, and Imperial Blood Orange.

Other News and Notes

St. Elmo Brewing Co. was among several Austin brewing operations last week to announce their participation in Black is Beautiful, a nationwide beer collaboration conceived by Black-owned craft brewery Weathered Souls Brewing Co. The collaboration, announced on the San Antonio-based operation’s Instagram page on June 2, invites participating brewing companies to put their own spin on Weathered Souls’ new imperial oatmeal stout recipe and donate the resulting proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defense. “As soon as we heard about the project, [co-founder Tim Bullock] and I were in," St. Elmo co-founder, Brian Winslow tells CultureMap. In addition to the charitable donations the collaboration will spur (St. Elmo will be donating 50 percent of proceeds to Measure), the duo says they look forward to the project bringing publicity to San Antonio’s brewing scene, which was set to host the 2020 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America in April until the event was rescheduled due to nationwide health concerns. Craft fans committed enough to drink an 8-plus percent stout in the Austin summer heat can expect St. Elmo’s Black is Beautiful release on tap and in cans sometime July or August.

Amidst ongoing high-profile Austin protests decrying systemic racism and the use of excessive force by the APD, the Greater Austin Black Chamber has called upon Austinites to support Black-owned businesses by posting a list of such operations to the group’s Facebook page. Currently, the list features over 100 book stores, tattoo parlors, and, of course, restaurants including Aster’s Ethiopian cafe, Sam’s BBQ, and Emoji’s Grilled Cheese food truck. Parties interested in adding a business to the ever-expanding list can do so by emailing membership@austinbcc.org