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Photo courtesy of Geraldine's

There aren’t so many winter wonderlands in Austin during the holiday season, but things get colder at higher elevations. The Hotel Van Zandt fourth-floor rooftop may not be high enough to change the weather, but visitors throughout December are invited to hang out in its self-proclaimed "famous" all-weather igloos, snacking on bites from inside and themed cocktails after the sun goes down.

Each private, six-seat igloo at the “South Pole” contains a Christmas tree, board and card games, festive records, and other cozy holiday decorations. It’s as private as Austin dining gets without completely breaking the bank, but the poolside mini-village of transparent igloos creates a warm feeling of togetherness. And in case it actually does get cold (a Christmas miracle!), the vinyl globes are heated.

It's not just a fun gimmick — as cute as the igloos are, Geraldine's is a great foodie destination. Visitors can expect (strong) drinks like the “Dandy Andes,” a minty chocolate mix of Grey Goose vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and matcha tea. “Santa on a Beach” combines tropical flavors with cinnamon, and other drinks include unusual ingredients like Chartreuse whipped cream, pistachio, and chocolate mole bitters.

Geraldine’s menu focuses on classic Southern cuisine without getting weighed down by tradition; that means a roster of semi-adventurous gourmet comfort foods, like mole birria short ribs, smoked carrots, and salty Brussels sprouts with serranos and mint. Shareables are a good idea, since the igloos are intimate (read: not especially convenient unless you like balancing a dinner plate on the couch).

Two rounds of two-hour seating will be available every night, and reservations will go very fast. As of December 5, there are only a few dates left. Reservations ($100 upfront) entail a $200 minimum on food and beverage, plus a 20 percent service charge. Book on Eventbrite.

Photo by the Velox Standard

5 hot Austin restaurant openings to know right now — from all-star pizza to fancy fries

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: In this special edition of our weekly food news roundup, we highlight five exciting restaurant openings — and reopenings — in the Austin food scene.

Dovetail Pizza
This all-star collaboration from the teams behind Rosen’s Bagels, Salt & Time, Swedish Hill, and Lenoir — officially opened on November 30 at 1816 S. First St. The pizza project is all about delivering quality ingredients and getting out of their way. That means classic pizzas like cheese, pepperoni, and meat (with pepperoni, sausage, mortadella, and copa), as well as more adventurous ones with corn and hot peppers. Visitors are invited to create their own pizzas, and can select a gluten-free crust, or veer away from pizza entirely for some comfort-food pasta dishes. Dovetail is open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 pm to midnight.

Homie Fries
The owners of grilled cheese project Burro Cheese Kitchen have committed to another perfect comfort food. Homie Fries, which some Austinites may recognize from a soft-launch at Austin City Limits Festival, will start serving up piles of browned potatoes smothered in cheese and other toppings on December 2 at its grand opening party from 4-7 pm. Anyone who brings “a homie” gets a buy-one-get-one deal, while everyone enjoys drinks by Ranch Rider and live music by Hunter Walkup. RSVP for free on Eventbrite. Homie Fries is located at 75 Rainey St. and is open four days a week: Thursday and Friday from 6 pm to 2:30 am, and weekends from noon to 2:30 am.

Daydreamer Coffee
If you’re not daydreaming in the coffee shop, it’s time to look at priorities. Honoring this worthy pastime, Daydreamer Coffee has opened a second Austin location on the corner of West 24th Street and Seton Avenue, with appropriately dreamy decor. The blue tiles, pink bar, and wicker seating brings beach resort vibes to the landlocked capital city. Visitors can look forward to a simple, but inclusive menu and bites from TacoDeli and Quacks, two local foodie spots with cult followings. It’s still just a daytime affair, open weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm, and weekends from 9 am to 3 pm.

Dog Haus Biergarten
Spending a weekend in the dog house is sounding pretty good right now. Dog Haus Biergarten, the California-based restaurant known for its gourmet hot dogs, is reopening its only brick-and-mortar Austin location in Four Points Centre at 7710 N FM 620, Suite 750. (There is also a ghost kitchen in town.) Daily specials from December 1-4 will kick off the new era with new owners, new daily specials, and a new happy hour menu featuring $5 pints, half-price wings, and family bundles among other deals. To celebrate, 15 percent of sales on December 1 and 2 will go to Keep Austin Fed, which works on alleviating food insecurity. Dog Haus is open every day from 11 am to 9 pm.

Via 313 Round Rock
Many Austinites cite Via 313 as their all-around favorite pizza spot, an unusual achievement for a deep-dish pizza restaurant. After a decade of converting new fans, Via 313 is expanding to an 11th location, in Round Rock (2111 N Interstate Highway, Suite 35), and it’s looking for a massive new team: 50-70 staff for front- and back-of-house positions. The restaurant’s locations are split between Austin, San Antonio, and Salt Lake City, and the Round Rock location is set to open on December 8. It will be open every day at 9 am, closing at 9 pm on Sundays, 10 pm Mondays through Thursdays, and 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Other Austin dining news and notes

Suerte’s sister restaurant, Este, the newly opened Mexican restaurant dedicated to seafood and charcoal cooking, has launched a new happy hour for half off bottles of wine, oysters, and clams, plus 35 percent off seafood platters and towers. These deals take place from 5-6 pm every day. Reservations are available at esteatx.com.

Kitty Cohen's, the East Austin patio bar that practically carries the Jewish Austin cocktail experience, is inviting neighbors over to "Get Lit" for Hannukah. Throughout the month of December, the space will be decorated for the holiday while serving themed cocktails and bites with help from New Waterloo chef Amanda Rockman. Look out for menu items like “L’Chaim!” (Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey, Amaro Averna, and chai syrup) and shortbread cookies.

Every year, Ballet Austin invites another round of notable Austinites onstage during The Nutcracker as Mother Ginger, the matronly figure in a gigantic, rolling dress that children run out of in some of the most well-known choreography in all of ballet. This year, one such guest star is Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Cafe. The restaurant will celebrate the casting with the "Mother Ginger Swirl" pancake, made with gingerbread and cinnamon. This pancake of the month will be available through December.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

26 Austin restaurants and bars that are giving back on GivingTuesday

Tastes Good

Even Austinites who love to give time and funds on a regular basis — weekly volunteering, donating in friends' names for birthdays, participating in crowdfunding when it comes up — it’s a lot to keep track of. Especially during the holiday season, shopping for friends, family, and busy-time-of-the-year incidentals, a lot of our good intentions fade to the background.

There is a worldwide holiday to keep people on track: GivingTuesday, a recent addition to the Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday pipeline, asks people to take a step back from the consumerist shuffle and think about what they can give outside of their usual habits.

This year, it falls on November 29, and local nonprofit I Live Here, I Give Here (ILHIGH) has a long cheat sheet for Austinites looking to make a difference, including a roster of 26 food and drink businesses donating a portion of proceeds from November 26 to December 2.

GivingTuesday is split into regions, by country and then further by city. ILHIGH, the organization that founded Amplify Austin Day in 2013, is going into its sixth GivingTuesday as the official leader of the Central Texas region, offering a searchable, categorized list of Austin nonprofits that would love some help. The restaurant portion is a little different; organized in partnership with Good Work Austin, a restaurant industry support system that also works against food insecurity, the initiative gets Austinites familiar with local restaurants while knowing their tab is going to a good cause.

The 26 restaurants participating in ILHIGH’s GivingTuesday initiative are:

  • North Austin: Barrett's Coffee, Black Star Co-op, Brentwood Social House, Casey's New Orleans Snowballs, Eldorado Cafe, Epoch Coffee, Little Ola's Biscuits, West Pecan Coffee + Beer (Pflugerville)
  • Northeast Austin: L'Oca d'Oro, Southern Soul Bowl, Taterque, Tso Chinese
  • East Austin: Bento Picnic, Dai Due, Flitch Coffee, Greater Goods Coffee, Hillside Farmacy, The Cavalier
  • Downtown: Little Wu, Olamaie, Swift's Attic, Wu Chow
  • South Austin: Maie Day, Patika, Tso Chinese, House Wine
  • West Austin: Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee

Interested donors who can’t make it for a meal can use amplifyatx.org to donate to ILHIGH directly, or to donate to another organization, to which they may add an additional contribution to the ILHIGH fund before checkout.

More information about the GivingTuesday campaign is available at ilivehereigivehere.org, and on the organization’s social media.

Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chão

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Brazilian steakhouse sizzles into new downtown space

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.

Openings

More meat is the guiding principle at Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão, and despite an upcoming closure in Austin, it’s not letting up anytime soon. The restaurant is just relocating from 309 E. Third St. to a slightly more central spot blocks away at 200 Congress Ave., on the bottom floor of The Austonian, a residential tower that’s currently the second-tallest building in the city. It will include churrasco grilling in the main dining room, an outdoor patio, a full bar, and meat lockers for dry aging in-house. A portion of opening week sales will be donated to Keep Austin Fed. For now, the 3rd Street location is still accepting orders.

Other news and notes

The bake sale to put all others to shame, The Festive Mercantile & Chef Susan's Bake Sale, is leveraging award-winning treats by Luties’ pastry chef Susana Querejazu on November 27. The Commodore Perry Estate almost turns the sale into a festival, with lots of opportunities to hang out after snagging the most desirable pastries, including shopping at the Larder Mercantile, wreaths, coffee, whiskey, and more. The sale opens at 10 am and closes when goods sell out.

GivingTuesday, a different kind of winter holiday, happens on November 29 and encourages people to donate funds or time, partially through giving businesses a day to organize special campaigns. In Austin, nonprofit I Live Here I Give Here (ILHIGH) leads the Central Texas area, in a longer event from November 26 to December 2. In partnership with Good Work Austin (fighting food insecurity), 26 neighborhood restaurants will be donating a portion of sales, including Bento Picnic, Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee, Olamaie, The Cavalier, and many more. Full list at ilivehereigivehere.org, under “Dine out for a good cause.”

As many visit family for the holidays, it can be nice to celebrate home in Texas. On November 30, Austin institution The Driskill is putting together a four-course prix fixe of off-menu items by the hotel’s executive chef, Mark Dayanandan, with drink pairings by sotol-maker Desert Door. The four courses contain a lot more than four items, including stuffed quail, smoked gulf redfish pâté, and tomatillo berry compote. Tickets ($95) available on Tock.

Side Eye Pie, the wood-fired pizza truck at Meanwhile Brewing is offering a football special until January 2; every Monday night after 4 pm, two cheese or pepperoni pizzas will be $30. Although these pies are simple, Side Eye is known for serving up complex pies with lots of fresh and organic toppings, on dough made with local flour and yeast. The bar will be open for lots of beer selections, and other neighboring trucks serve barbecue, ice cream, and more.

As passers-by may have noticed, Japanese South Congress eatery Lucky Robot is bringing Christmas cheer to one of Austin’s busiest streets with the return of its holiday pop-up. Like the installment in 2021, this one brings a “canopy of garland,” with classic holiday decorations like giant gift boxes, Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. In 2022, the decoration gets even bigger, with more than 1,000 hanging ornaments. It’s Christmas in Tokyo, in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Hidden

Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season

Tinseltown, Texas

It feels like every week there’s a new immersive event. Even when they’re fun, they can be pretty tiring, so it’s exciting that this next one is just about playing with the Christmas spirit. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

Wanderlust Wine Co. — the organizer of darker, more chaotic immersive cocktail experiences “The Alice” and “Beauty and the Beast” — has turned its space into a winter wonderland with Christmas decor galore. From November 30 to December 30, this Southwest Pole will welcome guests into one of the most festive spaces in Austin, costumes always welcome.

Of course, there will be Christmas music and themed cocktails. Past photos of the installation in different cities (where it's always a little different) show lots of candy cane stripes, giant disco ball-like hanging ornaments, lights, foliage, and entire trees. And, obviously, a lot of tinsel. Visitors may meet elves on staff, and even Santa sitting on the tufted red furniture.

Austin’s list of Christmas pop-ups (perhaps because we don’t have much cold weather helping us celebrate naturally) is expansive, but few reach the decorative heights of “Tinseltown.” It’s fun for photos, but even more so, being around that much commitment to the holiday is sure to make the season a little brighter.

Photo courtesy of Hidden

"Tinseltown" is all about the Christmas spirit, a stark change since the last event.

Tickets ($22 per person) for the 90-minute experience are available via Hidden, and include a drink upon arrival. Wanderlust Wine Co. is located at 610 North Interstate Highway 35.

Texas French Bread

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Texas French Bread makes triumphant return

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.

Openings

Texas French Bread can’t stop making news, returning triumphantly from a large fire — with support from lots of very loyal customers — frequenting farmers markets, and finally setting up a new food trailer. The Airstream is open in the beautiful garden that the bakery previously rented at 2900 Rio Grande St., every day except Monday from 8 am to 2 pm. The kitchen opens at 10 am. All items are first-come, first-serve until the trailer runs out. Customers can get coffee, sack lunches, and the great bakes they’ve been missing. The company commented on Instagram that plans to rebuild are “still up in the air.”

Mini golf and snacks are a match made in nostalgia heaven, but Dirdie Birdie is really kicking that combo up a notch. The restaurant, full bar, and indoor mini golf course is opening on November 18, thanks especially to work by Chef Nic Yanes of very chic, relatively affordable restaurants Juniper and Uncle Nicky's. The adult-focused 12-hole course contains lots of references to Austin, and is “almost like an interactive art gallery,” according to a note from a publicist. Check it out at 10910 Domain Drive. Check the website for hours over Thanksgiving, and expect regular opening hours to resume the following week.

The Toasted Yolk Café arrived in the Austin area for the first time on November 14, at 14105 Ronald Reagan Blvd. in Cedar Park. This giant breakfast and lunch spot (at 5,178 square feet) serves all the classics and, of course, a lot of eggs, but it also offers a full bar, nine TVs, online check-in, and a to-go area. The restaurant donated 10 percent of its opening day sales to The Dog Alliance. Although it’s new in Austin, the chain already has 28 restaurants, mostly in Texas, and lists 16 more coming soon including one in Lakeway. Visit at 14105 Ronald Reagan Boulevard from 7 am to 3 pm every day. Medical professionals in uniform or with ID receive half off drinks from Monday to Thursday until 10 am.

Other news and notes

Geraldine’s, the bar and restaurant at Hotel Van Zandt, is turning seven and celebrating on November 17. To celebrate, it’s relaunching Birds, Bubbles + Blues, a Thursday-night event featuring the restaurant’s spicy fried chicken, sparkling wine specials, and Austin-based blues musicians. The Geraldine’s menu is all about upscale southern foods — often with an interesting twist — so this fried chicken shouldn’t be missed, ambience aside.

On November 20, Aviary Wine & Kitchen will spin out into a series of special Sunday services: Aviary will be manning an all-day happy hour (3-9 pm), and a rotating list of guest chefs will be stepping in to take over the kitchen for pop-ups. That means $2 off glasses of wine, $10 off bottles, and $2 off beer, while chefs from around Austin regale diners with special 4-6 menu items. First Elementary ATX visits, then Che Cazzo, Chef’s Kiss, Penang Shack, and Elementary ATX once more, finishing out the series on December 18. Walk-up service only.

As if we needed any more reasons to fall in love with Camp Lucy, the Hill Country event venue is hosting its 2nd annual Christmas Chili Cook-Off on December 4. The Sacred Oaks venue is an unreasonably beautiful place to be tasting professional and amateur chilis, with whiskey, an open bar with holiday cocktails, a holiday market, a s’mores table, live music, donations for Helping Hands Pantry, and more. All this happens from 3-6 pm. Tickets ($70 over age 21, $45 under) available on Eventbrite.

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2 trailblazing Texans to be honored with history-making award at Austin museum

local history ripples

There are many conceptions of Texas around the world, but most can agree that Texans do have a knack for making history. An annual acknowledgement by the Texas State History Museum Foundation (TSHMF) will celebrate the contributions of two very different Texans who used their leadership skills to coordinate huge wins for their respective teams.

Retired Navy Admiral and former University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach will be honored with the History-Making Texan Award at the 19th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner, taking place March 2, 2023, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Bullock Museum

The History-Making Texan Award winners will be celebrated at the Bullock on March 2.

McRaven’s contributions and Staubach’s are similar by nature of leading teams — one commanded troops and the other played an integral part in the Dallas Cowboys into a wave of undeniable success — but the similarities mostly stop there.

McRaven led troops to rescue the ransomed Captain Richard Phillips, search for Osama Bin Laden, and ultimately capture Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein. The Four-Star admiral has advised U.S. presidents in his retirement and written several books, mostly imparting wisdom around changing one’s own life, and hopefully the world around them.

Staubach took a more entertainment-based path to greatness, rising to fame as a star player while lifting the rest of the Cowboys with him. The team had nine consecutive winning seasons with Staubach, of 20 total. Aside from giving Texans yet another point of state pride, Staubach spent his retirement and influence on real estate and philanthropy.

“Our recipients reached the pinnacle of accomplishments and eminence in their fields. Importantly, they were selected as honorees based on their personal character and commitment to improving the lives of others,” said dinner chair and TSHMF trustee Lisa Cooley in a press release. “They stand as role models to emulate, and we look forward to sharing their dramatic and inspiring stories with our guests.”

The dinner supports the Bullock Texas State History Museum with ticket sales and underwriting from nearly 500 attendees annually. Austin’s Jan Felts Bullock, wife of Bob Bullock and museum trustee, joins Dallas’ Cooley as honorary chair. In 2022, the award went to pianist James Dick and philanthropist Lyda Hill.

More information about the foundation and the History-Making Texan Award is available at tshmf.org.

SXSW rolls out next round of music showcases for 2023, including 29 Austin artists

300 more

Obviously, 190 music showcases is not enough for South by Southwest. That’s 19 a day? Make it another 301. On December 7, SXSW announced the second round of 2023 showcasing artists, bringing the current total to almost 500 acts performing March 13-18, 2023, in Austin.

Of those newly announced artists, 29 are from Austin, and eight more are from Texas, keeping the local numbers relatively high compared to the whole world. This round contains almost 10 percent Austin bands, while the first round contained nearly 7 percent.

Some of the more widely recognizable Austin acts announced in the second round include:

  • Good Looks: Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Jordan cites an increasingly venerated Austin band, Spoon, as an influence. Good Looks is guitar riff-driven, wistful, and a little Southern in sound.
  • Graham Reynolds (solo), Graham Reynolds & The Golden Arm Trio: A prolific composer and bandleader, Reynolds’ name pops up all over Austin films and awards ceremonies. He appears solo and with an eclectic jazz trio.
  • Kalu & The Electric Joint: Frontman Kalu James arrived in Austin from Nigeria at 18 and has made a strong name for himself (and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt) through psychedelic, vaguely jazzy, and decidedly funky jams.
  • Pleasure Venom: One of the rawest acts in town, Pleasure Venom is well-known for punk hits (and honest takes) that don’t hold back. The band is consistently making news between lots of live shows and festival appearances.
  • Primo the Alien: Solo artist and producer Primo the Alien is bringing the 80s back with synthy electro-pop. She attaches it all to a double persona that’s both candid on social media and a delivery system for sensory overload onstage.
  • The Tiarras: A triple-threat band of sisters, The Tiarras are always thinking about family and stepping into their power. They’ve tackled topics like lesbian and Latina representation, and although they’re young, they’re seasoned pros.

The remaining Austin bands in the second round are: Andrea Magee, Big Wy's Brass Band, Billy King & The Bad Bad Bad, Caleb De Casper, Daiistar, Del Castillo, El Combo Oscuro, Font, JM Stevens, Johnny Chops, Marshall Hood, Otis Wilkins, Pink Nasty Meets El Cento, Rett Smith, Rod Gatort, Schatzi, Shooks, S.L. Houser, The Tender Things, Thor & Friends, Trouble in The Streets, and West Texas Exiles.

Showcases are the base unit of the SXSW music experience, so to speak. They may be solo or part of a multi-day affair, especially when sponsored by large entities like Rolling Stone. Attendees with music wristbands get priority, but all wristbands get access if space remains.

Even as the lineup seems to bulge at the seams, a press release states that there are more to come. A full schedule of showcasing artists, where users can select events for their customized schedule, is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

Austin's Central Library announces open call for artists for future gallery exhibits

Beyond Books

People can learn a lot at the library. Besides all the books, magazines, online resources, and in-person programming, Austinites enjoy a buffet of rotating art exhibits that populate the gallery at the Central Library downtown, publicizing local artists and teaching visitors about the culture around them.

Now the ever-changing Austin Public Library is looking for another new exhibit sometime in 2024 between January and September, and inviting artists to apply through February 28.

Good news for artists who crave freedom, and frustrating news for artists who love something to bounce off of: This engagement offers few to no parameters. There is no explicit theme, but the library does claim a mission in a press release about the call for artists.

“The mission of the Central Library Gallery is to support local artists and art communities, raise awareness of contemporary and diverse forms of art, and to provide exhibitions in which a wide variety of identities and interests are represented,” said the release.

The Central Library website lists four current exhibitions: Hannah Hannah lends some expressionist portraits, Release the Puppets tells stories in a classic and playful medium, the Austin American-Statesman explores Austin communities of color through photographs, and a traveling exhibition documents Pride parades of the past.

The call is addressed to “artists, collectives, curators and beyond,” further widening the possibilities, but still restricting them to applicants residing in Texas. Applicants should consider the size of the gallery (2,700 square feet) and a few logistical stipulations, including that pieces may not be hung from the ceiling, and that walls may be painted.

When the jury — made up of local artists and others in the industry — announces a winning proposal in March 2023, the artist will be offered a stipend to complete the work. All project costs are the exhibitor’s responsibility, so this stipend is not unlike an advance, except that the project will not continue to generate revenue at the library.

Applications are open now through 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. Applicants may make their proposals via submittable.com.