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Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

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.

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.

Gelateria Gemelli/Facebook

East Sixth Street's gelato and cocktail haven says ciao to Austin

A Gelato for the Road

Gelateria Gemelli, an East Sixth Street gelato shop known for its creative flavors like Fernet stracciatella and Vietnamese coffee, announced its upcoming closure in a September 28 Instagram post.

“Y’all, it’s been a long road,” owner Andrew Sabola wrote. “8 years of negronis, spritzes, teaching people how to say ‘stracciatella,’ first dates that turned into marriages, pop ups, cones on cones on cones, birthday parties, Fernet shots, laughter, and tears.”

Sabola attributes the closure to the COVID-19 pandemic, which slashed the customer base. Some loyal supporters kept the business going, but it never returned to its pre-pandemic sales. The gelateria will keep the lights on until November 1, giving the business plenty of time to say goodbye to fans and get some last cones out there.

The shop opened in 2015, after Sabola returned from a trip to Bologna with a friend — both Gemini — learning from gelato masters and getting accustomed to finishing off dessert with aperitivi like negroni. Living up to this one-two punch, the gelato shop served coffee and old fashioned cocktails. It had a broad selection of amaro sorted by provenance.

Sabola has always been outspoken, and has made news in the past talking about social issues. In 2015, he told L Style G Style that in building the shop, he shrugged off the notion of gendered bathrooms with trans customers in mind. In 2020, he told Eater that his glass door, broken in protests against police brutality, did not matter compared to the sociopolitical issue at hand.

The business stayed closed a little longer than necessary in May of 2020 after Texas businesses started opening up again, to protect its staff. It also made CultureMap’s 2021 list of eateries that were continuing to require masks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that mandates would be lifted.

On the tail end of the pandemic, trends in closures and openings are hard to predict. Some businesses have gone so far through the rollercoaster of losing and gaining business that they have returned after seemingly permanent closures. Second Bar + Kitchen, G’Raj Mahal, and Ski Shores Cafe have all performed this very contemporary song and dance since June of 2022.

“From the bottom of my cold, gay heart: thank you for making Gemelli your own,” wrote Sabola. “I wanted to build something beautiful and put it out into the world and hoped that y’all would love it. You did.”

Photo courtesy of the St. Elias Mediterranean Festival

Join an 88-year dabke line at Austin's Mediterranean Festival this fall

Weekend By The Sea

Believe it or not, the Mediterranean is not that far away. It’s quite a hike to get there, but it’s nearly identical in latitude — a great predictor of harmonious culinary styles and ingredients. Austin and Cairo are less than a quarter of a degree apart.

The 88th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival is closing that gap longitudinally on September 30 and October 4, with food, cocktails, and more. The open-air festivities are loud and certainly not as reserved as many would guess at an Orthodox church. “He’s Baptist, so he’s not supposed to be drinking,” says a festival attendee in a video from 2012, arm around the giggling rule-breaker.

Along with food vendors, who in past years have represented Lebanon, Palestine, Greece, Eritrea, Russia, Romania, and likely many more countries, other craft vendors will run their own bazaar. It’s all set to live music, with both performed and social dancing (like dabke, the Middle Eastern line dance in which participants hold hands), something incredibly rare to run into for Austinites who aren’t regularly involved in these communities.

Nothing is truly Mediterranean without wine, and the festival is known for its wide and sometimes exotic selections. Cocktails will be provided by Absolut and Aperol — the aperitivo maker most associated with the citrusy, bubbling spritz from Italy — and no one is allowed to get tired of dancing with Arabic coffee nearby.

A press release quotes a member of the family that owns and operates Twin Liquors, a current sponsor that has worked with the festival since it started in the 1930s. “Medfest is more than a tradition for our family, it’s ingrained in our culture,” said David Jabour. “We’re honored to continue to play a role in the festivities this year, and look forward to seeing friends and families celebrate with food, cocktails, music, and dancing.”

The nearly 90-year-old tradition has garnered a reputation in its hometown for its uniqueness and high spirits, and is welcoming to anyone interested in the culture. Kids are welcome, and encouraged to join with photos from past years including face painting and a bouncy house.

The 88th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival will take place on September 30 from 6 pm to 11 pm, and on October 1 from noon to 11 pm. Tickets ($5 donation) will be sold at the door at St. Elias Orthodox Church on East 11th Street, except for opening to 4pm on Oct 1, which is free.

Courtesy of Crema Bakery, Instagram

South Austin's Crema Bakery & Cafe set to close in September

Crema of the crop

KVUE — Crema Bakery & Cafe announced on Instagram that it will be closing its doors for good on September 17.

The South Austin bakery, located on 9001 Brodie Lane Suite B3, posted on Instagram to let both the community and its followers know the reasoning behind the closure. The owner cited the pandemic, rising costs of supplies, and staffing issues being the root cause.

"The final nail in the coffin was our landlord requiring a minimum five-year lease," the post explained. "We can't even pay rent right now, so I just couldn't do it."

Crema will be creating a "fill the freezer" menu, wherein the bakery will be batch-making fan favorites from the last few years for those that would like to "hold onto the magic for a little longer."

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Photo courtesy of Snap Kitchen

Austin-born healthy meal delivery company snaps back into service

In A Snap

Snap Kitchen is making a comeback. The health-conscious packaged meal service operating in partnership with Whole Foods was hit hard by the early stages of the pandemic, declaring bankruptcy in 2020 and closing more than half of its stores. Down to six stores from 33 that year, the company recently announced it is beginning to expand again, this time focusing on Texas first.

The Austin Business Journal recently reported two stores slated to open this fall in Houston and Dallas, with more planned in 2023, including potentially (but not definitely) in the Austin area.

Snap Kitchen CEO Tony Smith explained the contingencies to CultureMap, saying the company would have to hear from Austinites. The biggest factor driving growth in Texas is existing consumer demand, and Snap Kitchen is taking requests.

“It certainly helps that we have Texas roots having been founded in Austin, and we live in the communities we serve,” writes Smith in an email, discussing the store’s popularity in Austin so far, where there are nine current selling locations including at Whole Foods. “But more fundamentally, our growing assortment of delicious meals have become an integral part of our customers’ healthy lifestyles, which has created very strong customer loyalty.”

The only area with more Snap Kitchen locations than Austin is Dallas-Fort Worth, with 14 locations, but it’s a complicated comparison: Dallas-Fort Worth only has one standalone store, but Austin has four. The rest of the locations are inside different Whole Foods. Those independent locations rely on foot traffic and super-accessible placement in the city in order to promise 30-minute deliveries within 10 miles.

“Texas is unique in its size and how rapidly its major cities are growing, which is why our focus will be here,” writes Smith. “Our main advantage is having a centrally located Kitchen near DFW and a store footprint that can deliver fresh food quickly and provide a better customer experience than national shipping alternatives.”

Along with expanding locations, Snap Kitchen is expanding its menu. Smith also shared with CultureMap that a new local partnership with 44 Farms gives Snap Kitchen access to premium steaks, which claim “low-stress lives” for cows that have never been given hormones, antibiotics, or feed additives.

The shift in order fulfillment extends to packaging, which now includes a reusable cooler bag and ice pack instead of a disposable box. As they can be returned and reshipped, Smith declares the system “substantially more environmentally friendly.” In backing out of a national scale to a state scale, orders are arriving more quickly, and as such, with a larger window for consumption.

A new membership program called Snap Pass, launched in late July, connects locals with Snap Kitchen on a more regular basis with recurring weekly orders. Members receive 5percent off every order, and can continually tweak their orders, even returning new meals they didn’t like for ones they’ve tried before. There is no membership fee and no minimum.

More information on Snap Kitchen and Snap Pass are available at snapkitchen.com and on the Snap Kitchen app for iOS.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.