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8 things to know in Austin food right now: Carb-loaded California fries concept pops into town

8 things to know in Austin food: Carb-loaded fries concept pops up

Man Vs Fries cheetos spicy hot burrito
Man Vs Fries has popped up at two Austin locations and a third is scheduled to open in the next few days. Man Vs Fries/Facebook

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.


Fry fans rejoice. One of California’s hottest snack food pop-ups is now in Austin. The Oakland-based Man vs Fries, a carb-loaded ghost kitchen operation from tech entrepreneur William Bonhorst, has since expanded into Portland, Seattle, and Houston. Now, Austinites too can enjoy such indulgent fare as savory carne asada fries, Flamin’ Hot Cheeto-stuffed burritos, and even deep-fried cheesecake and Oreos. The city’s two Man vs Fries pop-ups, which debuted earlier this month, are currently open daily for takeout and third-party delivery at 11444 Menchaca Rd. (from 4 pm until sold out) as well as downtown at 2714 E. Cesar Chavez St. (from 11 am until sold out). A third Man vs. Fries pop-up is set to open before the end of the year at 7814 S. First St., according to the company’s Instagram page.

For its highly anticipated new bar operation, iconic East Austin eatery Tamale House East is getting in on the natural wine craze. Named for the restaurant’s third-generation owner, Carmen Valera, Carmen’s Hideaway will feature an organic wine menu overseen by Sam Hovland, a veteran Austin sommelier whose resume includes stints for such operations as Twin Liquors and East End Wines. Valera says the bar will feature a warm, '60s-inspired atmosphere complemented by her personal collection of vintage Latin, South, and Central American vinyl records. “At the heart and soul of the bar is the music,” Valera tells CultureMap. “I’d play these records while painting the walls and staining the wood. It is a tribute to my parents [...] who built Tamale House East.“ For eats, the cozy bar space will venture offer a limited food menu of specialty tamales and world-cuisine-inspired snacks. Carmen’s Hideaway is set to open within Tamale House at 1707 E. Sixth St. in the spring 2021.

Jo's Coffee is opening its newest location in Hyde Park. According to its website, Jo's will open its first-ever drive-thru in January on the corner of Red River and 41st streets. As of press time, Bunkhouse Group, which owns the Jo's brand, is still on the hunt for full-and part-time baristas. 

Other news and notes

Austin's Stage 5 restrictions are now in effect, and include a recommendation for businesses to "to operate through contactless options (i.e. curbside, delivery). While not mandated, it has led to some restaurants closing their dining rooms, while others are choosing to remain open. In a quote to the Austin American-Statesman, Parkside Projects owner/chef Shawn Cirkiel summed up the frustration of many local restaurateurs saying: "Whichever decision we make is going to be wrong. So, if we make the decision to follow guidelines based on the city and shut down completely, then there’s layoffs, there’s no health care, there’s no income, there’s all of that damage,” Cirkiel told the Statesman. “If we stay open and follow the state guidelines, some people may perceive us as not as not following the rules. And essentially everybody is just deferring the collective responsibility, the financial responsibility, the moral responsibility, and somehow just putting it on us to make that decision.”

Taking the meaning of “food porn” in a new direction, a local South American operation has launched an OnlyFans account. Arepa Dealer’s Venezuelan-born cofounder Jose Thomas Garcia says his three-person operation turned to the adult user-generated content sharing website as a lighthearted way to raise funds after a universally difficult fiscal year. “It’s a way to promote ourselves,” Garcia tells CultureMap. “We don’t like just asking ... for money. Besides, ‘food porn’ is already a thing. We just gave it another twist.” The online profile, whose $5 monthly subscriptions grant access to cheeky, PG-rated caricatures of the team by Peruvian artist Insulyna, is just one of the many creative ways Arepa Dealers has stayed afloat in 2020. Earlier this year, the team pivoted its pop-up operation to a meal kit delivery program, and in November, launched a brick-and-mortar operation within the new downtown cafe Cuatro Gato at 310 Colorado St. For ordering info (plus a link to the teams saucy OnlyFans profile), curious foodies can consult Arepa Dealers’ Linktree page here.

2020 might have put a pin in Hopfields’ annual New Year’s dinner and dance party, but that doesn’t mean the celebration can’t continue from home. This year, the campus area gastropub’s head chef, James Flowers, is offering a 5-course dinner menu to-go, which will include such delights as a house-made charcuterie board, American paddlefish caviar, and harissa-roasted half Dewberry chicken. Hopfield’s NYE bundles also include one choice of bottled wine, beer, or cider; NYE hats; and a Hopfields-branded snifter glass for each person. Dinner for two is available for $200 with the option to upgrade to a four-person meal for an extra $120. Pre-orders must be placed before 3 pm on Tuesday, December 29, and will be available for pick up at 3110 Guadalupe St. on December 30 after 3 pm as well as on December 31 between 11 am - 2 pm.

Also getting in on the New Years' excitement is Emmer & Rye. For $150, at-home diners will receive a dinner including soft scrambled eggs and caviar, winter salad, pasta bolognese, tiramisu, and champagne. Also included are chef-hosted video instructions for finishing the meal’s prep at home. Dinner ordering will be open up until New Year’s Eve (though customers are highly encouraged to reserve their meal kits by Tuesday, December 29) and can be placed by calling 512-366-5530 or emailing⁠. To-go meal kits will be available for pick up at Emmer & Rye (51 Rainey St.) from noon - 2:45 pm on Wednesday, December 30.

Austin’s vegan charcuterie kings Rebel Cheese are hosting its final wine/cheese pairing of the year on Thursday, December 31 at 7 pm via Zoom. The event will see owners Kristin Maitland and Fred Zwar guide participants through a tasting of four house-made vegan cheeses paired with a festive bottle of sparkling wine. Also included in the ticket price are complimentary accouterment including jam, bread, and olives. Pairing kits (which can accommodate up to two people) are available for $60 and can be pre-ordered on Rebel Cheese’s website. Kits will be available for pick-up at Rebel Cheese (2200 Aldrich St.) from 11 am - 6:30 pm on the day of the event with delivery available within a 5-mile radius.