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
The original Counter Cafe has shut off the griddle and lowered the bright-yellow patio umbrellas. After nearly 15 years at 626 N. Lamar Blvd., owner Debbie Davis has closed the restaurant. The news isn't that surprising, however. In a 2018 interview with CultureMap, Davis revealed the building was for sale. Counter Cafe fans can still get breakfast all day at the eatery's other two locations — 603 W. 29th St. and 914 E. Sixth St. — both of which are still open. "It’s the end of an era," says Davis, "and what a show it was. Happily the show goes on."
Island Thyme Grill, the fast-casual restaurant from brothers Michael and Patrick Butigain, highlights flavors from multiple countries throughout the Caribbean. Items from the campus-area concept, which recently opened at 2915 Guadalupe St., are now available for online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup. Dishes begin with a base of either a rice bowl, salad bowl, or wrap topped with proteins like jerk chicken, curry ground beef, or plantains. Customers can then choose from a variety of toppings and sauces such as island pico, hearts of palm, and blood orange vinaigrette. Island Thyme is open Monday through Saturday, 11 am - 8 pm; and Sunday, 11 am - 7 am.
Popular Asian comfort food chain Bao’d Up is expanding its in-house menu of boba tea drinks with a new virtual brand. Dubbed Bubble House, the new concept launched November 9 within Bao’d Up’s existing Mueller, Sunset Valley, and Burnet Road locations. Available now for takeout and delivery are a variety of new drink choices including a pumpkin spice milk tea; a toasty lassi with mango Thai tea; and build-your-own milk or fruit tea options featuring flavor add-ons like peach, lychee, and lavender. Bubble House’s menu items can be purchased using the same online ordering system as Bao’d Up at any of its three locations.
Other news and notes
The University of Texas at Austin alumni association, Texas Exes, is teaming up with a local nonprofit to bring holiday cheer to families in need this Thanksgiving. Now through Friday, November 13, the university’s Young Alumni Committee will be collecting submissions for inventive holiday recipes benefiting Caritas of Austin. Both organizations are requesting recipes utilizing ingredients that are inexpensive, easily accessible, and have a stable shelf life (such as ramen noodles, pasta, canned vegetables, rice, pinto beans, black beans, and bread). “Most of our clients have a limited income and many utilize our pantry to get free food items for their families," explains Caritas in a statement. "We'd like to pass along creative recipes they can use to feed their family in style.” Interested parties can share their creative recipes name, ingredients, and step-by-step prep instructions via a Google form here.
Upscale cocktail lounge The Roosevelt Room and its attached event space, The Eleanor, are bringing back their annual Christmas-themed pop-up bar, Miracle on 5th Street, with a socially distanced twist. Originally conceived in 2014 by Greg Boehm, owner of New York City cocktail staltwart Mace, the holiday-focused pop-up concept has since expanded to 90 different locations worldwide. This year’s socially distanced Miracle on 5th Street runs November 20 - December 27, and features a full festive cocktail menu courtesy of Joann Spiegel, director of operations for craft bar tool company Cocktail Kingdom. Spiegel’s menu introduces a number of new boozy concoctions, including the Jolly Koala with gin, vermouth, and a pine-cardamom-sage cordial, and the On Dasher, a concoction of bourbon, mezcal, sweet vermouth, spiced hibiscus, burlesque bitters, and lemon. And, for the first time Miracle cocktails can be ordered online for pickup. Grab your drinks at the “ski lodge” (located near the Roosevelt Room’s entrance) starting at 4 pm every day. A portion of all to-go cocktail sales will benefit the Safe Alliance and Austin Pets Alive! Because dine-in seating will be socially-distanced, walk-ins are welcome but reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made online here.
Local nonprofit Urban Roots announced the second installment of its “Let’s Get Cooking” video series/virtual fundraiser. Purchase event meal kits and create dishes at home alongside star Austin chefs. The three scheduled video events will take place beginning November 11 with Tiffany Derry of Roots Chicken Shak. On November 18, join executive chef Alma Alcocer of El Alma followed by Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher of Lenoir & Vixen’s Wedding on November 25. Each kit runs $65 each and is available now to order online in limited quantities.
James Beard Award-winning restaurant group Hai Hospitality announced November 9 that an affiliate of private equity firm KSL Capital Partners has made a substantial investment in the company, which will enable Hai to accelerate the growth and expansion of their restaurant brands. The decorated hospitality group is perhaps best known for their elevated Japanese concept Uchi, which opened in Austin in 2003 and earned founding chef and partner Tyson Cole recognition as one of Food & Wine's Best Chefs in 2005. Today, the brand includes Uchiko, Loro, and Uchi locations in Houston, Dallas, and Denver.