New Restaurant Check-up
Checking in with Austin's top new restaurants after a long, hot summer
Last spring, we spotlighted a few of the most anticipated restaurants to open during the summer. Now that they’ve got a couple of months of service under their belts, we thought we’d check in for a quick update on how things are going.
Andrew Curren, co-owner and chef
On opening a third restaurant:
New restaurants are loaded with surprises — daily! As I always tell my staff, 'It’s not if, it’s when. And when that surprise greets you, how you respond is key.' The team has done a great job with not only reacting to, but also anticipating, out-of-the-ordinary things.
Too often, when I am being pulled in the direction of three different restaurants, operating with little to no sleep and trying to balance that other things, I get too wrapped up in the “challenges” and forget to look at the positive. It is so important to take a step and look at the jobs we’ve created, the hungry customers we feed, and all the occasions that we are able to make more special through hospitality. That is what we are all about!
On the best advice he’s received in opening Arro:
On changes to menu/service/etc.:
The glory of having a month under your belt is that you are no longer guessing. We know what the customers want, from price point to food choices. Now that our staff has been trained, we look forward to changing the menu up more frequently in order to give our already passionate regulars as well as first-time diners an evolving and exciting menu as we change with the seasons.
Larry McGuire, owner
On redefining an Austin classic:
It was delicate for everyone involved. I wanted to return it to its old glory, but at the same time be competitive and relevant in the new scene. People like Ron Weiss and Jeffrey Weinberger were doing in the ’70s what we’re doing now, and we’re trying to stay true to that spirit of operating.
On day-to-day operations:
We’re in the trenches right now with day-to-day operations and putting out good food every day. Even though everyone sees this as a re-opening, we’re really a baby restaurant. I think it’s a constant work in progress, and we’re developing.
On challenges with completely remodeling the old Jeffrey’s:
The build-out was more than we bargained for. The old building had never been touched or modernized, and the whole concept got more and more detailed and complex.
On the best surprise to come out of the process:
The Josephine House was always supposed to be an accessory to Jeffrey’s as an event space. But then we finished it first and wanted to get something going. So it became a small lunch spot with 100 percent local and farm-driven, simple food.
The two restaurants work separately, but also together. We wanted it to be the best use for our customers with natural flow patterns between the two. You can grab drinks at Josephine’s before you go to Jeffrey’s, or stop in there afterward.
Andrew Francisco, executive chef
On the challenge of opening a first restaurant:
Opening the restaurant has been wonderfully challenging experience. Achieving consistency in all areas of a restaurant was our first goal — from consistent flavors to consistent presentation, service, organization, food cost and labor cost. It has have been evolving since day one, but I feel we are making great progress.
On working through opening kinks:
Now that things have been running for a few months, braising the beef tongue the exact same way or knowing that the pickled vegetables always live in the same spot in the walk-in, for example. That allows pastry chef Finney Walter and [me] to look toward new menu items. We both approach our profession as a constant progression.
On refining the menu:
Whether it is an extra drop of sherry vinegar in our red wine veal reduction, an extra half teaspoon of cayenne pepper in our fried chicken batter, or the amount of coconut flour to be used in a sponge cake, there is always room for improvement. We are humble students of cuisine trying to create our own identity and, most important, bring happiness to our lovely guests.
Paul Qui, chef and proprietor
On what this year is about for Qui:
This whole year is about us working as a team to finesse our repertoire of dishes and stacking our recipe book. I’m looking forward to having our staff gel from the kitchen all the way through the front of the house.
On a fast-changing menu:
We’ll keep a few staples items on the menu, like the rabbit seven ways, the cotes de bouef and the salmon butter. Those are technique-driven dishes that are fun for my guys to learn and master. But for everything else, we’re learning how to best work with our local purveyors so we can best work on a menu that changes every day.
We try to map out our ingredients before they come in so we can always get the peak of the season with the different items we receive. The problem is, a lot of things phase out so quickly. Corn was out before we really had a chance to work with it. Tomatoes phased out fast too. It’s just how the seasons work here, and we’re learning how to be ready for that.
On taking more time to open:
The best advice I got in the industry was to take our time in opening and to make sure to move when we felt like we were ready. I’m so glad we took the time to open when we did. But we’re really still a long way away from where the potential of this place can be.
On the most interesting hurdle to overcome:
Well, we’re really still defining our identity as a staff. A lot of our guys have worked in regimented kitchens, but that’s not how we are modeling this kitchen to be. That’s been an adjustment for out guys to take on. It’s like it’s a new restaurant every day. But we’re starting to see the benefit to it.