Photo courtesy of Uchibā

The newest Uchi group restaurant has been looking stately at the base of the Google Tower on 2nd Street, with signs up that it's opening soon. Now Austinites can save the date for the much-anticipated opening of Uchibā: October 6.

From the outside, it looks very similar to North Austin's Uchiko, with plenty of casual outdoor seating and shade that will welcome visitors who are just stopping by or are waiting for tables. The downtown location — much more in the thick of things than Uchiko or even the original Uchi location on South Lamar — will likely get significantly more foot traffic, so the welcoming patios look like they'll be in use often.

Inside, key words are "relaxed hideaway" and "intimate," despite the 117 seats across the 5600 square feet. This will be achieved, according to the release, by warm "furniture, fabric, art, accessories, [and] lighting."

Uchibā will serve up some of its sister restaurants' popular dishes, but the main concept is the bar, which is right there in the name (loosely translating to Uchi Bar). The new restaurant features a full bar, and sushi bar with a yakitori grill — those skewered meats and occasional veggies that bring the charred flavor to Japanese cuisine.

Unique to Uchibā are:

  • Two menu categories: Izakaya-inspired Buns, and Bao and Dumplings
  • Uchibā Salad
  • Crispy Tofu
  • Hot Rock
  • Karaage
  • Fried Green Tomato
  • Sake Maki
  • Spicy Tuna Roll
  • Every dessert on the menu

Although Uchi is one of the most famous sushi restaurants in the country, drawing notable visitors, these newer arrivals expand the brand to something a little more accessible to casual visitors who may not want to order (or spend on) an entire omakase meal. The option is certainly there to splurge, but a quick stop at the bar will likely lure new visitors in.

"The core of Uchibā is inspired by the Izakayas that our team visited when traveling through Japan," said Chef and Owner Tyson Cole in a release. "Like Uchi and Uchiko, we have a sushi bar; cool and hot tastings, but we really lean into items like Bao, Buns, Skewers and Dumplings as a part of the intimate bar experience and we are pushing the boundaries of cocktails beyond their role as a complement to food."

By "beyond," Cole is talking about an expansive menu of wines, beers, and more than 30 Japanese whiskies, including one that'll run visitors $300 a pour: a Yamazaki 18-year old Mizunara 100th Anniversary Edition. Most interesting, this new restaurant isn't leaving the omakase spirit behind; It's applying it to drinks, making "perfect bites" of food and spirit pairings, and designing well thought-out journeys through specific categories, like agave spirits.

Uchibā is located at 601 West 2nd Street, near the bridge to Austin Public Library's central location. Operating hours will be Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-11 pm. Happy Hour at Uchibā will be from 4-5:30 pm on weekdays. Reserve at uchirestaurants.com or call 512-916-4808.

\u200bUchib\u0101 Austin plates

Photo courtesy of Uchibā

Uchibā announced it will open on October 6.

Photo courtesy of UnderTow

4 tiki bars from across the country throw down at Austin's Roosevelt Room

Tiki Tumble

Some may be ready for fall foliage, comfy sweaters, and PSLs, but summer isn’t over yet! If you want to cling to the season a bit longer, what better way to keep it on your mind than with a tropical drink in your hand? Texas Tiki Week returns to Austin and it’s kicking off with one epic tropical cocktail experience.

The multi-venue cocktail festival was held in 2012 for the first time, founded by the Austin chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild to celebrate Tiki drinks and culture. In 2023, the schedule promises fun, on-theme events like happy hour at Tiki Tasyu-ya, live surf rock by 3 Balls Of Fire, a tiki marketplace at Cavalier, and even a boat tour.

To kick off the week's festivities, leading Austin bar the Roosevelt Room and its sister event space, The Eleanor, have offered up their space to other mixologists for a one-night-only, rum-filled adventure featuring four of the best tiki bars in the nation. The Roosevelt Room has been hosting the kickoff event for the past four years, but this is the first time this many bars are taking over. The visiting bars, which are well-known within the industry, were selected by the hosts for their geographical diversity and varying cocktail styles.

From Phoenix, Arizona, the renowned UnderTow will be serving modern tiki vibes with a nautical twist. Navy Strength from Seattle, Washington, is bringing its laid-back and modern tropical cocktail menu. New York City’s Sunken Harbor Club will be showing off its new take on classic tropical cocktails. And Strong Water Anaheim from, you guessed it, Anaheim, California, is bringing its nautical cocktails inspired by legendary sea tales.

The ticketed event welcomes guests for two hours per reservation, which includes four libations — one at each bar — plus tropical-inspired bites. Guests can also buy more drinks and extend their reservation by an hour if they want to keep exploring what each bar has to offer.

At the end of their visit, every attendee will vote for the bar that brings the best and most delectable cocktail experience. The winning bar will receive a $2,500 donation to support a charity of their choice. These charities cover needs in the hospitality issues or in Maui, after the devastating wildfires.

UnderTow and Navy Strength will take over the Roosevelt Room, in the main-level bar and the mezzanine bar, respectively. Sunken Harbor and Strong Water will be over at The Eleanor's main-level bar and mezzanine bar, respectively.

Tickets ($95 - $125) are available via Eventbrite. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door. Texas Tiki Week runs from September 21-24. A full schedule of events is available at texastikiweek.com.

Photo by Tara O'Quinn

Austin beverage experts summon fall with these 3 captivating cocktail recipes

time to chill out

Summer is winding down (even if the heat isn't), and everyone is praying for the fall weather to come in. For September's batch of recipes, we've chosen drinks that are best enjoyed outdoors during your next Texas getaway for Labor Day and beyond.

The following cocktails feature some of our favorite ingredients or mixers we’re loving at the moment. And if you prefer to drink them rather than make them, these brilliant beverages can be found at their respective restaurant or distillery.

Milam & Greene Port Rye Blackberry Bramble

This Blanco-based whiskey distillery has kindly shared the perfect cocktail to close down the summer months. Make sure to stop by their distillery while traveling through the Hill Country.

1.5 oz of Milam & Greene Port Cask Finished Rye
6 or 7 ripe blackberries
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz ginger beer or sparkling water
1 cup of ice (preferably pebble)
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish


  • Muddle at least 5 blackberries and simple syrup gently in a serving glass.
  • Pour in the rye whiskey and add a half cup of ice. Stir for 20 seconds until some ice has melted.
  • Add additional blackberries and ice, top with ginger beer (or sparkling water for a less sweet preference)
  • Garnish with the fresh mint and enjoy.

Swift's Attic, cocktails, cocktail menu, recipes Photo courtesy of Swift's Attic

Respect Your Elders bySwift's Attic
This recipe was developed by General Manager and Beverage Director Curtis Hansford. Respect Your Elders is tart yet refreshing, with the perfect amount of bitterness to curb any sweetness.

¾ oz Tanqueray Gin
¾ oz St. Germaine
¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz fresh lime juice
Lime wheel, for garnish


  • Combine all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake rigorously.
  • Strain the cocktail over a glass full of ice or into a martini glass.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel and enjoy!

Aba Golden City Pi\u00f1a Colada cocktailPhoto by Jane Yun

Aba's Golden City Piña Colada
This recipe was created by Senior Beverage Manager Thomas Mizuno-Moore and is one of his guilty pleasures. If you're anything like us and can't get enough piña coladas, try making your own Junior Colada from the July collection of recipes.

½ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz Liquid Alchemist Coconut Cocktail Syrup
1 oz Bacardí Reserva Ocho Rum
1 oz El Dorado 12 Year Rum
Mint bouquet and dehydrated pineapple wheel, for garnish


  • Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker full of crushed ice. Shake briefly, 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Pour the cocktail into a pineapple glass (or any available glass) and top off with more crushed ice.
  • Garnish with the mint bouquet and dehydrated pineapple wheel. Enjoy.
Photo by Richard Casteel

Stylish new sports bar kicks off tailgate season near UT Austin's West Campus

Victory Tastes Like Beer

College football season is around the corner, and with it, the beloved tradition of gathering at sports bars to cheer for your hometown or alma mater. And Austinites will have a new spot to add to the roster when Victory Lap, an elevated sports bar, opens on September 2 — right on time for the University of Texas Longhorns' opening game.

Victory Lap will be located near UT Austin’s West Campus, offering a sophisticated indoor and outdoor space with a vintage bar theme featuring colors and memorabilia from Austin’s home college team. Patrons will be able to drink, dine in, and play from tailgate until late night. The bar’s nostalgic decor highlights the rich history of the University of Texas athletic departments and aims to bring together both alumni and current students.

“We want to provide Austinites with a great experience for every stage of their life, whether they are a college student or a fan of any age,” said operating partner Anthony Gonzalez in a release. “Victory Lap will be the destination for hometown or visiting Longhorn and sports fans to celebrate their team in an elevated environment.”

This is the latest venture by NoCo Hospitality, the group responsible for some very posh Austin haunts: Higher Ground, Superstition, and Estelle's. But the group also has some sports bar experience in the form of Skinny's Off Track Bar, a cool, retro space that is a lot less flashy than its sibling bars, yet still very stylish.

Victory Lap bears a much closer resemblance to Skinny's, with similar earthy tones, leathers, and wood paneling. The most obvious difference at Victory Lap — and the boldest design choice — is a swath of photos and newspaper cuttings used all over as wallpaper.

For even more tailgate fun, the Austin-based media company, When Where What will be hosting its Longhorn tailgate events at Victory Lap prior to every UT home game with DJs, lawn games, and plenty of photo ops. The bar will also feature TVs and large screens for an optimal viewing experience during the games plus spacious outdoor and indoor seating that was transformed from a parking lot to a turf field. Misters and fans will help guests remain comfortable during heated game plays and high temperatures.

The beverage menu showcases 8 draft beers, plus rotating bottle beers and signature cocktails. During happy hour (Monday through Friday from 4-7 pm and Saturday through Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm) patrons can expect $2 off drafts, $1 cans and bottles, and $5 cocktails.

Later in the fall, Victory Lap will add staple bar-food options such as burgers, wings, and hotdogs to its menu, plus a weekly "3 Peat" special for a beer, a shot, and a snack.

Victory Lap will be located at 504 West 24th Street with operating hours from 11 am to 1 am Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 am to 2 am Thursday through Saturday. The bar will open early as needed on game days, with times announced on social media. For more information visit victorylapbar.com.

Victory Lap interior

Photo by Richard Casteel

Victory Lap aims to serve a sporty crowd, while maintaining an elevated and stylish ambiance.

Photo by The Ingalls

Kelly Wearstler dazzles Austin again with opulent new bar and salon at Proper Hotel

Proper Elegance

Summer travel takes planning and funds; Time traveling through a new cocktail bar takes an evening. The Austin Proper, known for transporting visitors to sublime, faraway realities like tea time and the Mediterranean, is opening an eclectic new spot that is perfect for people who can't decide which decade they'd travel to first.

The Quill Room Austin Proper interior

Photo by The Ingalls

The Quill Room draws inspiration from so many decades, it's practically a full century of input.

The Quill Room, a maximalist but brassy-monotone "cocktail lounge and salon" gives off a dreamy feeling of a liminal space, with herbaceous cocktails to match. The space joins the hotel's other dining concepts, the Peacock, Goldie's, and La Piscina — all helmed by Austin-based MML Hospitality.

Designed by Kelly Wearstler — famous for her work for celebrities, her books, and the other interiors at the Proper Hotels that Austinites may already know — this space could hold anything from an impressive meeting to a comfortable evening of killing time.

The decor certainly looks retro without the limitations of any one style or time period. Here, there's an oriental rug and floral armchairs. There, there's a metallic bar and floor-to-ceiling room dividers. Somewhere there's a transparent piano with what looks like indigenous American art framed on top. It's hard to beat Austin's eclectic sensibilities, and in this way, The Quill Room is right at home.

Some explanation from a press release ties the aesthetic together:

"Inspired furnishings represent a range of design through the decades — '60s to '90s — sourced from across Europe as well as from the nearby and famed Round Top Antiques Market. Stitched leather, rustic woods, blackened metals, and chunky woven fabrics connect to the Texas aesthetic.... An engaging collection of art, books, and a custom upright self-playing illuminated Edelweiss piano further complement the space and provide endless entertainment."

Both the cocktail and food menus are appropriately heady. The "Love Letter" blends elderflower, prosecco, sparkling water and edible flowers, while "La Vie en Rose" with spices things up with jalapeño-infused mezcal, Lillet Rosé, crème de mezcal, and rose water. Martinis abound...at least, four of them.

All that's paired with "light bites" including 24-month Prosciutto di Parma, foie gras custard, a crudité platter, and more French delicacies. There is a seafood bent to the succinct menu, which also features shrimp, salmon crudo, and tuna niçoise.

Live music will keep the energy up, starting with a residency: Rett Smith will serenade visitors with "Dark Americana" stylings from 9-11 pm. Although an artist-in-residence usually implies a multi-night stint, Smith only appears on the calendar for one night so far.

More information about The Quill Room is available at properhotel.com. Reserve a table during the residency on OpenTable.

Photo by Megan Bucknall on Unsplash

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Whiskey distillery launches floating bar at "secret" lake locale

News You Can Eat

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.


Getting to the bar just got harder — but way more fun. Fierce Whiskers Distillery is literally launching a new pop-up called the Stubborn Bar, floating off the shores of Town Lake. The location is a secret, but not one too closely kept; Join the mailing list to receive updates and sign up to snag a spot. The bar operates June 3-4, June 17-18, and June 24-25. Visitors' hard work will be rewarded with a chance to taste the new two-year Texas Straight Rye, which the distillery says was very hard to make, and "the first pour should go to those who are just as determined." They're also celebrating the new release on land with a performance by Neil Frances and Thebrosfresh on June 10. Tickets ($30-120) available on Eventbrite.

Carve American Grille (stylized CARVE) has been working on its second location for more than a year, and the date has been moved one last time — hopefully. Instead of opening on June 8, it'll be June 12. It's taking up residence at The Grove (2613 Perseverance Dr.), a mixed-use community covering 75 acres. Carve, sister restaurant to Perry's Steakhouse, is well-known for its creative twists on a classic steakhouse menu, which can often border on austere. So, postpone your visit, but keep Carve on your list.

Other news and notes

Even after Memorial Day, we're all ready for a Fri-yay celebration, and thankfully this week brings another day of observance: National Donut Day. The Salty is ready with a limited-edition mini French toast donut, available only on June 2. This creative donut is made with a 24-hour brioche base, filled with a "homemade French toast filling," and topped with maple treats and mascarpone whipped cream. The shop is also celebrating with a 25 percent merch discount and free delivery to Salty Rewards Members using the app or website.

For those who just can't get enough rosé at brunch, there's the Rosé Dinner at Lost Draw Cellars. On June 3, the winery will open up its new space for a rosé tasting featuring its four new releases, all from 2022. These sips will be paired with a live fire dinner of beef and chicken from Hill Country Beef and Cielito Lindo Farm, respectively, and fresh vegetables from Hat & Heart Farm. Tickets ($85) are available at williamchriswines.com.

Austin wouldn't be Austin without the endless markets, and two more are popping up on June 4. One at Bar Toti gives an excuse to visit the chic space behind one of the city's most talked-about restaurants, Este. This Mercado del Girasol celebrates the Este Garden's third anniversary, with goods by local artisans and creatives, drinks, DJ sets, and more. Three raffles benefit Casa Marianella, which supports displaced immigrants in Austin, and visitors can pick sunflowers and try signature cocktails by Bar Toti. The other establishes a new weekly event at the Hill Country Galleria: the Bee Cave Farmers Market. In addition to the usual farmers' fare (from 40 vendors), these markets will offer live music performances, starting aptly with The Hens.

Starting this week — "as soon as I buy the buttermilk," according to the chef — Radio Coffee & Beer's food truck, Shortwave Diner, will be offering monthly specials centered on fried chicken and burgers. The pending special is a sweet and very crispy tarragon chicken with maple syrup, and the rest is a mystery. The breakfast truck stands at the ready at the popular work site for freelancers and remote workers, serving daily chicken and waffles, smash burgers, and more. Follow Shortwave on Instagram to see when the new series launches.

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Here are all 22 Austin acts to add to your 2023 ACL Fest playlist

homegrown sounds

We're almost there. Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL Fest) is poised to take over Zilker Park across two weekends – October 6-8 and October 13-15 – and while Austinites surely have a running list of all the bigger touring acts that they want to see, they may not be aware of the many great locals on the lineup.

So, here’s a rundown of the 22 Austin-based artists that will be playing during either weekend. Take a look, make some notes, and go show some support! Don't forget to hydrate and get a snack between sets, too!

Asleep At The Wheel (W1)
Kick off weekend one of ACL with a fest tradition: a set from country legends Asleep At TheWheel, who have performed at just about every ACL since the festival’s inception in 2002. They’ll play on Friday, October 6, at 12:55 pm on the Honda Stage.

Die Spitz (W1)
With a raucous live show and their well-received 2023 EP, Teeth, Die Spitz have been one of the most buzzed-about bands out of Austin this year. You can catch the upstart rockers on Saturday, October 7, at 11:45 am on the Tito’s Stage.

Arya (W1)
Pop and R&B fans will find a lot to like when it comes to Arya, an up-and-coming songstress who now calls Austin home after having grown up in Serbia. Her set will take place on Saturday, October 7, at 11:45 am on the T-Mobile Stage.

Shooks (W1)
Fronted by Marlon Sexton (the son of guitarist Charlie Sexton), Shooks will be taking the stage at ACL for the second time since 2021. The band’s versatile indie rock sound can be experienced on Saturday, October 7, at 12:45 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

Calder Allen (W1&2)
Since last year’s release of his debut album, The Game, singer-songwriter Calder Allen has been on a steady ascent through the ranks of local acts. You can see him at both weekends of the fest – for each one he’ll play on Saturday (October 7 & 14) at 2:45 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

Ben Kweller (W1&2)
Celebrated indie rocker Ben Kweller has spent a good bit of the summer on the road with Ed Sheeran, and that will roll into appearances at both weekends of ACL. Look for him on each Saturday (October 7 & 14) at 3 pm on the Miller Lite Stage.

Ellis Bullard (W1)
Get a “true-blue honky tonk” experience via Ellis Bullard, who will be making his ACL debut justas he’s gearing up to release a new album, Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution!. You can see himon Sunday, October 8, at noon on the Barton Springs Stage.

Wesley Bray And The Disciples of Christ (W1)
Take a break from the noise of ACL and enjoy a spiritual moment with Stubb’s Gospel Brunch regulars Wesley Bray And The Disciples of Christ. They can be experienced on – of course – Sunday, October 8, at noon on the Tito’s stage.

Jane Leo (W1)
Centered around Jane Ellen Bryant and Daniel Leopold (of Leopold And His Fiction), Jane Leo are responsible for some of the catchiest alt-pop tunes you’ll find in Austin these days. Their ACL set is on Sunday, October 8, at 1 pm, on the Tito’s Stage.

Grace Sorensen (W1)
R&B/neo-soul artist Grace Sorenson has previously been a part of ACL as support for other acts, but she’ll make her full debut at the festival during Weekend One. Her performance will happen on Sunday, October 8, at 1:30 pm on the BMI Stage.

Jimmie Vaughan (W2)
Weekend two of ACL will get underway with a performance from guitar afficionado Jimmie Vaughn. Don’t miss his blues-filled performance on Friday, October 13, at 12:55 pm on the Honda Stage.

Font (W2)
Just after wrapping a supporting run with the popular Japanese band CHAI, Font will play their first ever ACL Fest. The post-punk act puts on a dynamic show and shouldn’t be missed on Friday, October 13, at 12:55 pm on the American Express Stage.

Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Collective (W2)
If the Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Collective isn’t on your radar, they should be, as they will be putting out some of the smoothest sounds you’ll find at the fest this year. Catch the urban contemporary jazz ensemble’s set on Friday, October 13, at 1:15 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

We Don’t Ride Llamas (W2)
From a love of the game Rock Band as kids to playing ACL, it’s been a heck of a ride so far for the four siblings behind We Don’t Ride Llamas. If you like bands that offer a little bit of everything sound-wise, then don’t miss their set on Friday, October 13, at 1:40 pm on the Miller Lite Stage.

Nemegata (W2)
Nemegata will be heading into ACL hot on the heels of their sophomore album, Voces, which the band describes as a “transcendent Afro-Indigenous Colombian odyssey.” You can see them on Saturday, October 14, at noon on the Barton Springs Stage.

Rattlesnake Milk (W2)
Country, punk, rock — Rattlesnake Milk is every bit of that and very much worthy of a slot on your “bands to see” list. Their set will go down on Saturday, October 14, at 1:15 pm on the BMI Stage.

Blakchyl (W2)
Just a week before she takes the stage at ACL, hip hop vet Blakchyl will release an anticipated album titled Better Than I Imagined. Hear tracks from it and more on Saturday, October 14, at11:45 am on the Tito’s Stage.

The Moriah Sisters (W2)
If you miss out on Wesley Bray And The Disciples of Christ during weekend one of ACL, you can still get your gospel fix in the next go-round with The Moriah Sisters. Their performance will take place on Sunday, October 15, at noon on the Tito’s Stage.

Kathryn Legendre (W2)
With “Cigarettes,” her brand new single in tow, “singer-songwriter, honky-tonker, and Hill Country gem” Kathryn Legendre will make her ACL debut. You can see her sure-to-be-charming set on Sunday, October 15, at noon on the Baron Springs Stage.

After years in Torino Black, Sisi has begun rolling out solo tunes, including a recent one titled “Lyin’ Cheat.” You can check out the singer-songwriter on Sunday, October 15, at 1 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

Quin NFN(W2)
The oft-buzzed-about rapper Quin NFN will swing into ACL Fest more than ready to show why he’s racked up of millions of streams and a dedicated following. Be sure to catch the spectacle on Sunday, October 15, at 2 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

Caramelo Haze (W2)
Beto Martínez & John Speice (Grupo Fantasma), Alex Chavez (Dos Santos), and Victor "El Guámbito" Cruz (Nemegata) are the minds behind the “electro neo-sōl odyssey” known as Carmelo Haze. They’ll be playing on Sunday, October 15, at 2 pm on the Tito’s Stage.

Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant

New Restaurants

Austin and the village of Bacalar in Southeastern Mexico share a similar ethos — that life revolves around the lake. Overlooking Town Lake, the new upscale Mexican restaurant Bacalar brings the tastes of one famous lake to another, with chef Gabe Erales at the helm.

The restaurant has opened at 44 East Ave. #100, after years of preparation and following controversy surrounding the chef's departure from his last role, at Comedor. A walk-up taco window called Tómalo Taquería is planned for the fall.

Food & Drink
Bacalar is all about duality, from the two lakes that inspired and accompany the food to an especially close collaboration between the chef and real estate and design firm Urbanspace on the interiors.

The menu features globally influenced dishes from the Yucatan region, including Castacan Tacos with pork belly; Squash & Chaya Tamal; and a chef's daily steak cut.

The menu balances on the concept of "comida milpera," or food system interdependence between farmers, suppliers, and chefs, according to the restaurant.

Erales explains, "'La milpa' is a twofold, parallel concept — the 'milpa' being essentially a pre-Hispanic farming system, where you planted complementary vegetables and fruit next to each other, and the byproduct of one is the input of another. [It] allowed people throughout Mexico to have a very flourished farming system with not a lot of water or rich soil. But in parallel to that, it was also thought of as a socio-cultural relationship system."

The restaurant hopes to embody that spirit on the menu, which places special emphasis on food and drink pairings. (Surely executive pastry chef Natalie Gazaui also has something up her sleeve, although the desserts were not explained in detail.)

Bar manager Dragan Milivojevic says he designed the cocktail menu to "follow the kitchen," and Erales points out that some hard-to-find flavors from the Yucatán Peninsula go great in drinks — for instance, cooking pastes called "recados." One of Milivojevic's special flavors comes in the form of a house-made Orgeat syrup derived from mamey sapote, a tropical fruit that many say tastes like sweet potato or pumpkin.

One specific restaurant-bar pairing complements fried octopus aguachile with a corn-infused agave spirit martini. In this pairing, the martini stands in for the more common choice of a corn chip. This also creates another outlet for corn use, as Bacalar purchases surplus grains not grown commercially, in order to support the communities keeping those heirloom varieties alive.

Bacalar also plans to offer weekly pairings of different mezcals with dishes from the kitchen. Milivojevic hopes that the bar will one day have the biggest mezcal program in Texas, and will introduce new people to the spirit.

Bacalar's interior design also aims for a careful balance that is neither too rustic nor too modern.

The team at Urbansapce — which manages famous buildings like The Independent, Seaholm Residences, and Brazos Lofts — points out the importance of the ground-floor location for the restaurant, and aligns itself with a longterm push to make downtown a residential destination as well as a business hub.

Urbanspace principal and interior designer for Bacalar, Merrill Alley, who introduced CEO Kevin Burns to Erales for the collaboration, says the team hopes the restaurant will be an amenity for people living in the residential spaces above at 44 East Ave (both the building's name and address).

Bacalar has been a long time coming for the chef-owner. Erales, who won Top Chef in July 2021, saw his celebration cut short by a very public break with Comedor. His official statement from July of 2021 summarized the situation as follows:

"I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Top Chef; however, I must continue to acknowledge my mistakes including the termination from my former job. To clarify, unbeknownst to my wife, I had a consensual relationship with a co-worker and later reduced her work hours, which in combination was a poor judgment call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef. ... My personal growth will be a perpetual apology in seeking forgiveness."

A statement by chef Philip Speer, who still helms Comdedor, echoes the story with the addition that the termination came from “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.”

Erales had announced his plans for Bacalar after departing Comedor, but before his Top Chef win, which brought major attention to past events.

He declined to comment further for CultureMap.

Bacalar is now open 5-10 pm Sunday-Wednesday, 5-11 pm Thursday-Saturday, and weekend brunch is coming soon, according to the website.

Nebraska Furniture Mart to bring massive new store and 700 jobs to Austin suburb

Moving in

Nebraska Furniture Mart is moving into Cedar Park. The Austin suburb will be the site of NFM's fifth U.S. store, the retailer has revealed.

According to a release, Nebraska-based NFM will anchor a development that will include a 250-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot convention center, at 750 E. New Hope Dr., near U.S. Highway 183A. It's a $400 million+ complex that's being called a "once-in-a-generation" project by local officials.

The project will break ground "as early as 2024," NFM says, and be completed in late 2026.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based company says the Cedar Park store — including retail and warehouse spaces — will encompass 1.2 million square feet and will employ 700 workers. Positions will include managers, sales professionals, customer service specialists, interior designers, and warehouse personnel.

(For scale, the average Ikea is about 300,000 square feet, according to How Stuff Works.)

It will be NFM's second store in Texas behind one in The Colony, north of Dallas, which opened in 2015. (The only other NFMs around the country are in Omaha, Des Moines, and Kansas City, Kansas.)

“The city of Cedar Park and its surrounding communities have a great quality of life, and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” says Tony Boldt, NFM president and CEO, in the release.

NFM is a family-run, fifth-generation company that touts itself as "a one-stop shop for the home," offering furniture, flooring, appliances, and electronics, as well as interior design services, delivery, and installation. Nationwide, NFM employs 4,800 people.

"NFM places a priority on giving back to the community and staff are provided with 40 hours of paid volunteer time off each year," says the release. "In their 86-year history, NFM hasn’t had a single layoff, and they were named a Best Place to Work by Furniture Today in 2021 and 2022."

Cedar Park major Jim Penniman-Morin says NFM carefully researched communities across the nation before landing on the city 19 miles northwest of downtown Austin.

"I was very impressed by the thoughtful way that their existing development in north Texas blends the truly local and the truly global into a seamless retail experience," he says, "and I really look forward to seeing how NFM is able to build something just as vibrant and unique here in Cedar Park.”

It's been a big week for Austin-area furniture store news. The NFM announcement comes on the heels of the sad news that famous Austin furniture brand Louis Shanks is going out of business and closing its remaining stores after 80 years in business. A liquidation sale started Thursday, September 21.