When we published our annual list of the most important restaurant shutters of the year on December 18, we hoped it would be the final goodbye of 2019. We should have known better. In true 2010s fashion, the decade wasn’t quite through delivering bummer news.
After a 16-year run, Zax Restaurant & Bar is closing. Chef and owner Jeffrey Lynd confirmed the news as happening “very soon,” but was not able to give an exact date. CultureMap will update this article when the final service day is available.
The reason for the shutter is unknown, but the fate of the restaurant has been a subject of speculation since Endeavor Real Estate Group purchased the 312 Barton Springs Rd. property in June. At the time, Lynd told the Austin American-Statesman that there were no immediate plans to close.
Lynd and co-founder Mike Baldwin, both hospitality industry vets, opened what was then called Zax Pints & Plates in 2003 in the space formerly occupied by fussy red-sauce Italian joint Al Capone’s. After major renovations, and a coating of sunny yellow paint, the building was reinvented as a bistro.
Although the modest restaurant rarely gets the credit, it was among the spots that ushered in the craft beer revolution in Austin. With 20 beers on tap, the restaurant focused on local and regional brews when it was rare to find anything other than Budweiser bottles on Capital City menus.
In 2010, the restaurant changed its name to Zax Restaurant & Bar, but it kept its culinary mission of serving easygoing new American fare with a curated selection of beer. The brunches — featuring classics like migas and Benedicts —were especially popular. The simple, open space was made to be filled with groups of chattering friends.
Zax’s shutter forms a neat bookend to a year that started with Eastside Cafe owner Elaine Martin announcing her retirement. Both restaurants represented a time when Austin was fiercely local. Though the top tier of new Austin concepts — Hestia, DipDipDip Tatsu-ya, Comedor, Nixta Taqueria — continue to be operated by restaurateurs with a stake in their community, expect outside companies like Omaha’s Flagship Restaurant Group (Anthem and the upcoming Plank Seafood Provisions and Blue Sushi Sake Grill) to define the city’s restaurant scene in the years to come.