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.
Austin’s favorite little devil continues his reign in the Capital City. Torchy’s Tacos, the “damn good” Tex-Mex concept that now boasts 19 locations in the Central Texas region, has reached a significant milestone with the opening of its new eatery. The new Torchy’s eatery at 8601 S. Congress Ave. (just north of Southpark Meadows), which officially opened on Monday, December 20, marks the 100th restaurant for the company. The growing brand has restaurants in 10 states and another location set to roll out in Indiana, also a first for the Austin-based chain. A grand opening celebration that was planned at the new South Congress Avenue restaurant for Wednesday, January 12 has been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Check out Torchy’s on Instagram for more details about the store and any plans for a rescheduled grand opening celebration.
An iconic NBA great is coming to Moody Center — in the form of a big chicken. Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal will bring his crispy chicken sandwich concept, aptly dubbed Big Chicken, to Austin’s new world-class venue, Moody Center. According to industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News, the Las Vegas brand, which first opened in 2018 and is backed by majority partner Shaq creatively and financially, is targeting (among other franchise spots) sports arenas, “including the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Wash., UBS Arena in New York, and the Moody Center in Austin, Texas.” The company is in search of existing restaurant owner and operator groups to help grow the franchise. The Big Chicken menu features several crispy chicken sandwiches — including the Shaq Attack, with pepper jack cheese, jalapeño slaw, and spicy chipotle barbecue sauce; and the Charles Barkley, with mac and cheese, crispy fried onions, roasted garlic barbecue aioli — as well as chicken tenders, chicken sliders, chicken-topped salads, and Southern-style sides.
Austin is about to get a new squeeze, that is if one fast-growing juice and smoothie bar concept’s plans bear fruit. New Orleans-based Main Squeeze Juice Co. is expanding its franchises across the Southern U.S., aiming to squeeze its way into Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee with multi-unit franchisees. “Eyeing the metro areas of Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, and Orlando, Main Squeeze Juice Co. hopes to bring up to 10 locations to each territory,” says QSR. Main Squeeze currently has 13 locations throughout Texas, though none in the Central Texas area. The brand features a menu of smoothies, cleanses, juices, bowls, lattes, and toasts.
Other news and notes
For Austinites anxious to get on the other side of the holidays, here’s something to raise a toast to: In honor of National Bloody Mary Day on January 1, Loro is bringing back its dreamy burnt ends Bloody Mary. Only available on New Year’s Day, the cocktail ($5), which will be served up at Loro’s Austin and Dallas locations, is made with Ilegal Joven Mezcal, drippings from the restaurant’s smoked brisket, tomato juice, Worcestershire, Sriracha, Korean chile, and pickle brine, and is served with pickled veggies and Szechuan salt. It’s the smokiest hair of the dog delight to kick of the new year.
Speaking of cool January events, if you’ve ever wanted to meet the actual brothers behind fantastic Garrison Brothers Bourbon, made in the first bourbon distillery outside of Kentucky (in the Hill Country town of Hye), shoot on over to III Forks at 111 Lavaca St. on the evening of Tuesday, January 11 for an exclusive pairing dinner hosted by brothers Dan and Charlie Garrison and Garrison Brothers master distiller Donnis Todd. The five-course chef-prepared meal ($250 per person, with $75 from each ticket going to Garrison Brothers’ philanthropic organization, Good Bourbon for a Good Cause) will be paired with “a bourbon tasting of expressions,” which will include cocktails or neat pours of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Following the dinner, Dan Garrison will host an auction to raise additional funds for Good Bourbon for a Good Cause. Get your tickets via OpenTable here.
Austin-based dairy-free frozen treat NadaMoo! has just scored a sweet investment. The plant-based ice cream brand has closed its Series B funding round with a total raise of nearly $10 million, which was led by existing capital partners District Ventures Capital and InvestEco, and new partner Killam Investments, based in South Texas. The brand launched in Whole Foods in 2005 and later expanded nationally. NadaMoo! now offers more than 20 flavors and nationwide distribution, in addition to running its local scoop shop on South Lamar Boulevard. With the new funding, the company plans to further build on its mission, expand distribution, and help bring about a more sustainable planet. We’ll raise a spoon to that!