6 things to know in Austin food right now: Vegan fast-food joint flies into the ’burbs

6 things to know in Austin food: Vegan fast-food flies into the ’burbs

Project Pollo foods
Are you plant-curious? Project Pollo/Instagram

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.

Openings and closings

Round Rock vegans — and those who are “plant-curious” — are sure to be clucking about the newest plant-based fast-food concept coming to the area. Project Pollo, a San Antonio-based biz that recently flocked to the Austin market with locations on Anderson Lane and in the Rosewood neighborhood, will open its newest location (its ninth in Texas this year) at 200 University Blvd. in Round Rock. Though it was scheduled to open this week, permit delays have pushed things back a bit, but expect to see the shop hatch open any day now. The from-scratch menu includes vegan “chikn” made with a non-GMO soy patty and all-natural spices, the original chikn Project Sandwich, a chipotle chikn wrap, buffalo chikn nuggets, chikn wings, Impossible Meat burgers, and loaded papas. The brainchild of entrepreneur Lucas Bradbury, Project Pollo as a business also emphasizes fair wages, sustainability, and people over profit. Follow Project Pollo on Instagram for more info and updates.

San Francisco-based cult fave Curry Up Now is finally opening in October at Domain Northside, and will serve up Indian street food with a playful twist. Top menu items include tikka masala burritos, deconstructed samosas, Indian-style tacos, Sexy Fries, and Naughty Naan. The menu will accommodate diners with vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and halal diets, and ingredients are sourced from local vendors whenever possible. Curry Up Now will be located in the Rock Rose District at 3100 Esperanza Crossing. Follow the concept on Instagram for updates.

Longtime Austin organic produce delivery service, community garden, and farmers market staple Johnson’s Backyard Garden has permanently closed, somewhat suddenly, with rumors floating around town about owner Brenton Johnson’s departure from the local food scene without notice. The Austin Chronicle reports that JBG is no longer set up at area farmers markets and home deliveries of its CSA boxes have ceased. And one source tells CultureMap that 40 or so JBG employees were suddenly laid off at the beginning of August. Though the situation is hazy, the Chronicle reports that former JBG employees provided a statement, which reads, in part: “We, the collective ex-employees of Johnson’s Backyard Garden, regret to inform our beloved community in Austin and beyond that several of us were abruptly fired and the rest of us found it necessary to resign from our jobs at JBG due to unsafe working conditions.” We’ll let our readers know when we dig up more info.

Other news and notes

Food & Wine magazine is dishing out some culinary praise for one of Austin’s most distinguished chefs. Executive chef Fermín Nuñez of Mexican-inspired East Austin restaurant Suerte has been named among Food & Wine’s 2021 list of Best New Chefs in America, the prestigious catalog of the country’s most impressive chefs presenting the most dynamic cooking. Nuñez, who hails from Mexico and opened the masa-forward Suerte with the mission to create a new genre of Mexican food in the Austin market, was honored alongside his fellow award recipients at the recent Food & Wine Classic event in Aspen, Colorado, and will be featured as part of the complete Best New Chefs list in Food & Wine’s October issue, which is out Friday, September 17.

Austin sushi lovers won’t want to miss this perfectly curated sushi happy hour and omakase dinner pop-up. The ever popular Osome is partnering with Civil Goat Coffee for this must-have pop-up on Thursday, September 16 and Saturday, September 18 at the coffee shop’s spot at 3423 Guadalupe St. Osome chef John Gocong will kick off the pop-up events with happy hour offerings of imported sake, mixed sake cocktails, and a Japanese chirashi-style seafood platter. Next up, the 17-course dinner, which will feature bites of nigiri and crudo plates alongside Miyazaki A5 wagyu, Alaskan king crab, and other Japanese seafood specialties. Tickets are $200 for the happy hour chirashi box, which is best shared between two people, and $200 per person for the 17-course omakase. Tickets are available online now.

The buzzy Austin biz founded by Mikaila Ulmer when she was just 4 years old is getting some new support from an NBA All-Star. Ulmer’s Me & the Bees Lemonade was chosen to be part of the first group of participants for a new small-business accelerator program called Put Me On from delivery company Gopuff and the NBA’s Chris Paul. The program is designed specifically to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, giving them a path to product distribution through Gopuff, mentorship, workshops, networking events, and more. Austin-based Me & the Bees Lemonade, which is available in five flavors and is all-natural, continues to gain popularity outside of the Capital City, recently even landing on shelves at more than 800 Target stores throughout the country. “Me & the Bees Lemonade is enthusiastic about being part of Gopuff’s Put Me On program, as it will introduce us to an informed, passionate new customer set,” Ulmer says of the win. “Together with our ‘beelieving’ customers, we will make a difference in helping protect and enhance bee populations with our ‘buy a bottle, save a bee’ approach.”