O'penings

Irish gastropub and beer garden barrels into Austin suburb this fall

Irish gastropub and beer garden barrels into Austin suburb this fall

Cork and Barrel craft kitchen and microbrewery
The restaurant will also house a microbrewery. Cork & Barrel/Facebook

A little slice of Belfast is coming to Round Rock this fall — along with some serious eats and drinks. Just down the road from both the Dell Diamond and Kalahari Resorts Texas, Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery positions itself at the intersection of Irish flair and Texan hospitality, featuring a chef-driven craft kitchen, microbrewery, and beer garden. It is set to open in late November.

Pivotal to the new concept is its authenticity, owed to founder and co-owner Sam Darlington’s upbringing in Ireland. Within C&B, guests can expect elements like hand-built Irish snugs — traditionally intimate, enclosed booth-seating with inlaid wood and stained glass — as well as floating fireplaces, 200-plus-year-old Irish stained glass, and such decorative artifacts as rivets from the RMS Titanic. (Darlington’s ancestors worked as riveters on the ill-fated cruise liner back in Belfast.)

"This really is Sam’s Mona Lisa, an homage to his home,” explains C&B co-owner Jay Kudla. “We wanted to get away from the overuse of things, like kelly green and the shamrocks, and incorporate things that are more about what a true pub in Dublin or Belfast looks like."

As for that Texan hospitality, Cork & Barrel’s takes the form of an upscale gastropub. Executive chef Josh Watkins’ menu includes such signature plates like white wine-steamed mussels, pistachio-crusted scallops, and a sandwich menu featuring signature burgers and Monte Cristos. From C&B’s chef counter, guests will have the chance to view Watkins prepare heartier entrees like a dry-aged prime rib with a blackberry-vinegar reduction.

Rounding out the pub’s offerings is a beverage program featuring an assortment of whiskeys, wines, housemade cocktails, and 24 local craft beers on tap — including house brews from Cork & Barrel’s onsite microbrewery. Helmed by master brewer and general manager Austin Markman, along with assistant general manager Paul Gomez, Cork & Barrel’s brewery program is also set to debut in November with a juicy summer IPA, a Dublin Irish red, and a vanilla forward stout, plus others yet to be announced.

Customers can enjoy such libations within the pub’s indoor space as well as a 4-acre outdoor beer garden featuring a gazebo-like pavilion, four outdoor televisions, and stages hosting both singer/songwriter acts and larger musical outfits.

To bolster what Kudla envisions as a Cheers-esque atmosphere, the business is offering a limited number of VIP memberships. Starting at $520, the various benefit packages, available until October 1, will include such perks as discounts, daily pints or glasses of wine, and a personalized engraved paver stone in the beer garden. 

Regardless of VIP status, interested parties will have a chance to visit Cork & Barrels’s property, which is currently in the sheetrock stage of construction, for a special hard hat tour Friday, September 4, from 4-9 pm. On what's been dubbed the “dirty boots tour,” guests will be guided through stations where they’ll see C&B’s facilities and beverage programs, as well as select drinks and bites from the pub’s forthcoming menu.

Depending on the volume of tour reservations, a second date may be added Saturday, September 5. To RSVP for the dirty boots tour, email concierge@corkandbarrelpub.com or call (512) 528-0155. Tours must be reserved by Tuesday, September 1.