Quantcast
Photo by Malcolm Mayhew

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 and expansions

Salsa Limón, the favorite Fort Worth-born taqueria, will enter the Austin market on April 27. Owned by Oaxacan sisters, Salsa Limón offers harder-to-find taco meats like lengua (beef tongue) and tripa (beef stomach), and four salsas from completely mild to comes-with-a-warning. The new Austin location, at 3001 Guadalupe St., sits just two blocks from Hemphill Park in Central Austin, perfect for a Mexican picnic. This is the small chain’s seventh location, and its first venture outside of the metroplex.

Central Texas barbecue chain Smokey Mo’s has announced a bold franchising expansion, tripling the prominence of its 16 existing locations with 32 additions rolling out from Austin; first, Austin and San Antonio, then Houston, DFW and the Waco-Temple-Bryan area. The new locations come with a new look, led by New York branding and design firm Love & War. Renderings show rustic wood paneling and oxidized metal, for a modern no-nonsense country look. This roll-out is slated through 2025, with the first additions coming this summer and fall.

Other news and notes

As if this spring weren’t refreshing enough, Blenders and Bowls is partnering with Austin CBD store Restart CBD for a relaxing new treat. The Springtime bowl includes an islandy flavor profile of vanilla, banana, and pineapple, with some spinach to get you going and 10 milligrams of Restart’s isolate CBD oil. That means there’s no THC (i.e. it won’t make you high), and the low dosage means you probably won’t even notice it until you wonder where all your stress went. This bowl is available at all locations into early July.

Pershing, a social club in East Austin that would be secret were it not so renowned, has introduced Chef Chris Galluccio and a new menu for members-only dining. Galluccio’s eye-popping résumé includes Michelin-starred restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, plus Austin’s own Juniper. Some international menu additions include ribeye with Japanese sweet potato and scallion ash puree, and grill brick chicken with polenta. Non-members can stop by for 150 live music events in 2022.

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, family-owned grain-free brand Siete Foods is teaming up with Asian-Texan barbecue fusion restaurant Loro for a twist on a Tex-Mex classic. The Collaborative Queso plate pairs Siete’s cashew queso with Loro’s brisket and wonton chips, adding spice with Thai green salsa and chili oil. This unusual pairing caters to meat eaters, while introducing a vegan option they can buy at the grocery store as a regular home routine. This special collaboration will be available at all Loro locations for dine-in and takeout on May 5.

Photo courtesy of Texas Original

Celebrate 4/20 with the state's first Texas-owned medical marijuana dispensary

4/20 Vibes

There’s a budding medical marijuana industry in the Lone Star State, and Texas Original — the first Texas-owned medical marijuana dispensary in the state — has witnessed the power of this medicine firsthand.

Since opening its doors in 2018, Texas Original has seen the life-changing results that cannabis medicine has had on patients across the state. Medical marijuana has allowed patients to achieve a life without seizures, enabled patients to walk again, and has even helped many patients discontinue heavy doses of pharmaceuticals and opioid medications.

In 2021, the Texas Compassionate Use Program expanded once again, allowing for more Texans than ever to access medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.

In celebration of 4/20, here’s what you need to know about medical marijuana in Texas and how to get a prescription.

Medical marijuana is legal in Texas
Over 100 conditions are currently eligible to receive medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Program in Texas. Thousands of Texans are now finding relief with medical marijuana for symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Night terrors
  • Seizures

In 2023, Texas will enter the 88th legislative session and Texas Original is advocating for increased accessibility for Texans. Texas Original is proud to have their roots in the Lone Star State and has made it their mission to transform Texas through the power and truth of medical cannabis.

How to get a medical marijuana prescription
Receiving a medical marijuana prescription in Texas is easier than you think. Celebrate 4/20 by beginning your journey to relief with these three simple steps:

  • First, fill out the Get a Prescription form on the Texas Original website. Texas Original will send you a text and email confirming your submission.
  • You will then be contacted within 24 hours by a partnering cannabis clinic. Each cannabis clinic offers telemedicine visits so that you can meet with a physician from the comfort of your home, no matter where you live in Texas. During your visit, the physician will go over what symptoms you are experiencing and discuss treatment options.
  • Once you receive your medical marijuana prescription, you’re ready to place an order for pick up or delivery. Simply call the Texas Original dispensary, start a chat on their website, or sign up on the Patient Portal. Texas Original offers several prescription pick-up locations throughout Texas and statewide delivery so Texans in all four corners of the state can access relief.

The knowledgeable team at Texas Original is equipped to help you along the way and answer any questions you may have. Visit the website at texasoriginal.com for more information.

Texas Original offers a variety of products and doses for patients, including a 20 mg THC-only gummy with fast-acting nanoemulsion technology to give patients quicker onset times.

Photo courtesy of Texas Original
Texas Original offers a variety of products and doses for patients, including a 20 mg THC-only gummy with fast-acting nanoemulsion technology to give patients quicker onset times.
Courtesy of Restart CBD

Austin’s No. 1 CBD seller demystifies the cannabis landscape in Texas

Texas goes greener

Panel voting for South By Southwest 2021 just closed, with 64 proposed results relating to cannabis. Days ago, Travis County’s Judge Lora Livingston penned a letter declaring the smokable hemp ban in Texas unconstitutional. The cannabis landscape in Texas is changing, behind but not separately from the rest of the United States. Texans have questions.

This year, Austin Chronicle readers voted Restart CBD the city’s “Best CBD Purveyor.” The family-owned company, which just celebrated its third anniversary, is well-known for its approachability, especially for new CBD users. The North Austin storefront is bright and simple, without gimmicks.

“I come from cannabis culture. I love that experience,” says founder Shayda Torabi of the more traditional shopping aesthetics. “But I think when you’re presenting something to a new consumer, like here in Texas, we saw an opportunity to make it a little bit more accessible to people who were not familiar with that type of environment. I always highlight with my team and staff: There’s obviously no dumb question.”

It’s more than welcoming interior décor that draws people to Restart. Each of the company’s three sisters has a distinct role in running the store and keeping customers up to speed. Shayda is responsible for marketing, managing the brand’s reach both in the store and online. She founded the company after the traumatic experience of being hit by a car and looking for alternative pain solutions to opiates. Her advocacy for CBD comes from personal experience and a willingness to take her care into her own hands.

Similarly, Restart customers find relief for pain, anxiety, and poor sleep, among many other more individual needs. The store’s website guides their experience with extensive resources, references, and testimonials.

Sydney Torabi, a former college athlete, represents a very health-conscious user, guiding the sisters in choosing products based on ingredients and dosage. Her nutrition degree and background as a personal trainer reinforce the brand’s commitment to simplicity.

Bringing that expertise directly to the customer is Nika Torabi’s job as the store’s professional interpener (a position widely described as a “cannabis sommelier”). Nika picks up on consumer requests, making sure Restart stays ready as trends change.

Shayda sees the recently legal market and the consumers who fuel it pushing each other to new heights, bit by bit. Consumers getting more educated through popular media outside the industry are starting to ask for previously little-known products. Meanwhile, the growing ubiquity of CBD is drawing more curious shoppers in for the first time. Shifting state legislation further slows growth for the industry, but just because it’s less than explosive doesn’t mean it’s stuck.

“Yes, Texas is slower [than much of the U.S.], but we are up to some really great things. We lost some stuff and we’re winning in some areas, and that’s okay,” says Shayda. “How do you stay positive and keep moving forward in an industry that is very fast-paced but very slow ... to see changes being implemented?”

Right now what Texas has lost and gained is benchmarks. Its current maximum for trace amounts of Delta-9 THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) is 0.3 percent. It’s not enough to make users feel high, but athletes like Sydney could fail a drug test.

During the last legislative session in Texas, Shayda helped advocate on a proposition to raise medical marijuana from its 0.5 percent Delta-9 THC limit to 5 percent. It would also have opened up treatment options for those suffering with the likes of epilepsy, incurable diseases, cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain. The bill made partial progress, moving Delta-9 THC limits to 1 percent and adopting cancer and PTSD as acceptable ailments to treat with medical marijuana.

The compound in any amount over .3 percent Delta-9 THC is still illegal in Texas for those without a medical use card.

In June, plans in Texas to ban Delta-8 THC, a less potent chemical derived from hemp, fell through, and it remains legal.

According to Shayda, Austin’s unique position on the de facto legality of cannabis is simply that Travis County District Attorney José Garza does not wish to prosecute on minor possession charges. In turn, the Austin City Council declared to the Austin Police Department that its funding was contingent on easing up on this. The APD cemented this decriminalization in a memo in 2020. Small moves like this in progressive cities, Shayda hopes, will demonstrate to lawmakers that restrictions can be loosened with positive results.

“[Dropping the smokable ban] was a huge win for us and I think that being moved to the side now gives us a runway to continue to educate and advocate on behalf of cannabis,” Shayda says.

When asked about next steps, she says: “I wouldn’t say there’s a major goal because there’s not anything really major coming up that is going to move the needle further, faster.”

Texans can help by becoming part of that demonstration of success, getting educated through trusted retailers and incrementally trying what feels safe for them.

“[Restart] is a business for us to continue to educate consumers and make them feel as comfortable as they can with cannabis and advocating on behalf of Texas at a national level,” says Shayda, “which is really important to me as a born-and-raised Texan: reflecting in national conversation.”

Restart is eager to walk customers through their options in-store at the corner of Rutland Drive and Burnet Road. It also ships products, but be careful ordering in the heat; some of them might melt! Check out the catalog online at restartcbd.com.

Restart CBD's Torabi sisters.

Courtesy of Restart CBD
Restart CBD's Torabi sisters.
Photo courtesy of TOCC

Texas is expanding access to medical marijuana. Do you qualify?

Check It Out

On September 1, 2021, patients suffering from any stage of cancer and battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be able to access physician-prescribed medical cannabis in Texas.

What’s happening?
The much-anticipated House Bill 1535 is going into effect on that date, expanding access to medical cannabis to even more patients under the Compassionate Use Program (CUP). Likewise, the bill will increase the THC limit in medical cannabis products from 0.5 percent to 1 percent by weight.

Cancer and PTSD join other conditions eligible for medical cannabis including peripheral neuropathy, epilepsy, seizure disorders, autism, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and more.

How did we achieve expansion?
Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation (TOCC), the leading medical cannabis provider in Texas, advocated for House Bill 1535 alongside its author, House Public Health Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Klick. Patients, caregivers and advocates from across Texas contributed their efforts to ensure the bill would become a reality.

What’s next?
TOCC is introducing the first fast-acting gummies in the state of Texas on September 1, and has a full line of products available to existing and new patients.

Additionally, TOCC has made the process of obtaining a medical cannabis prescription easy, with free online consultations, fast statewide delivery, prescription pick-up locations throughout Texas, and convenient online refills.

Millions of Texans are currently eligible to benefit from medical cannabis. Schedule a free consultation to find out if you or a loved one qualify for a prescription.

Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife

Austin fires up cannabis, hemp, and CBD expo as industry grows

IS TEXAS TURNING A NEW LEAF?

A cannabis, hemp, and CBD expo is rolling into Austin next month, and will feature some mind-blowing speakers and exhibitors.

The traveling Lucky Leaf Expo will hit the Austin Convention Center May 14 and 15, and will include more than 120 exhibitors, 40 speakers, a variety of panels and hemp product demos, and a pre-show Cannabis Crash Course, a comprehensive cannabis business and entrepreneur training session.

Displaying her line of CBD products at the expo will be Angela Simmons, the daughter of Joseph Simmons, aka the great Rev Run of legendary hip-hop group Run DMC. And in the strange-bedfellows realm, Simmons will be spotlighted at the same event as Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who will speak about the evolution of the Texas hemp law. Though a Texas Republican, Miller has long been an advocate for the business of hemp.

“Here in Texas, we’ve been in the hemp business for almost a year and we’re busy building the Texas ‘hempire.’ We’ve issued over 1,150 producer licenses, permitted over 5,000 acres of hemp in the ground, and over 15 million square feet of hemp in greenhouses,” Miller said in a January 19 statement referencing the 2019 passing of House Bill 1325, which made legal the cultivation, possession, and sale of industrial hemp in Texas.

“I still believe hemp offers Texas farmers a great opportunity and I look forward to continuing to improve our program here in the Lone Star State. And with the legislative session underway, I look forward to updating legislators on how this program has been successful despite some very difficult times.”

With cannabis advocates also hoping the Lone Star State will join the growing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana, the Lucky Leaf organizers say the demand for info about how to grow and sustain a canna-business is higher than ever before.

“We have a diverse array of exhibitors in every channel of the CBD hemp industry that specialize in the sale of seeds, CPAs, attorneys, accountants, processors, manufacturers, soft gel companies, to help get you started for your business,” says Chad Sloan of Lucky Leaf Expo.

Indeed, the expo, which will also make stops in Dallas and Houston, visits Austin at a time when Central Texas has experienced some major growth in the CBD landscape — and in the world of cannabis cultivation.

On the heels of the release of local CBD brands like Restart, which sisters Shayda and Sydney Torabi launched in 2018, a wave of CBD products has flooded the market. Even popular Dripping Springs brewery Jester King recently released a hemp balm, made with hemp planted and cultivated on the brewery’s farm.

With multi-state cannabis operator Parallel’s recent announcement it would invest $25 million into a new 63,000-square-foot, state-of-the art cannabis cultivation, production, and retail facility in San Marcos, the likelihood of the industry continuing to mushroom locally — even without Texas legalizing recreational marijuana — is extremely likely.

To learn more about Texas’ venture into the cannabis space and to get tickets to the upcoming expo in Austin, visit Lucky Leaf’s website.

Photo courtesy of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation

3 things you need to know about medical marijuana in Texas

Get the Facts

That’s right, medical marijuana is legal in Texas. Although the state’s program pales in comparison to the full medical programs of its neighbors, qualified Texans can access low-THC medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition.

Here’s what you need to know about what is legal, who qualifies, and how to get a prescription for medical marijuana in Texas.

What is legal in Texas?
While recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state, medical marijuana with up to 0.5 percent THC by weight is legal for Texans who qualify under the Compassionate Use Program. This year, the program could see some expansions as Texas lawmakers meet for the 2021 legislative session.

Legislation such as Texas House Bill 1535, if passed, could allow more Texans to find relief with medical marijuana and increase the allowable percentage of THC to 5 percent by weight.

Who qualifies for medical marijuana in Texas?
The Compassionate Use Program allows Texans who have qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana. Approved conditions include:

How do I become a patient?
Texans who qualify for medical marijuana can get a prescription in just a few simple steps. To be eligible, you must:

  • be a Texas resident
  • have a qualifying condition
  • receive a prescription from a doctor who is registered to prescribe medical marijuana in the state

Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, the leading medical marijuana company in Texas, makes the process easy for new patients.

Just fill out the form to find a doctor who can prescribe in your area. The TOCC team will send you an email with local and telemedicine options. Please be sure to check your spam or promotions folder.

After your appointment, contact TOCC’s friendly dispensary team and they will schedule you for a pick-up at one of their four locations across Texas, or arrange a delivery right to your home. Plus, take advantage of their first-time patient discount and get 20 percent off your first order and buy one, get one 50 percent off your second order.

No matter what you choose, you can rest easy knowing that their medicine is made by Texans, for Texans, with a commitment to quality, consistency, and purity.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center launch $31 pet adoptions for the holidays

New home for the holidays

Two Austin organizations are looking to get local pets into their "furever" homes this holiday season. In a special December promotion, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) and Austin Animal Center are working to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, by making all adoption fees a flat $31.

The promotion runs December 1-31. According to a release, APA's director of lifesaving operations, Stephanie Bilbro, sees this as a great opportunity to clear out the shelters and make a great impact heading into 2023.

“The holidays are a great time for the Austin community to come together and add to their families. We have so many precious kittens, puppies, cats, and dogs just waiting for their turn to find a family,” said Bilbro. “We hope this is a chance for any family who’s been looking to add a pet to theirs to do so right in the middle of the holiday season. We know Austin is in the upper echelon when it comes to animal welfare. We hope this promo sets us and AAC up for a successful end to 2022 and a fast start going into 2023.”

Both shelters are also seeking fosters and volunteers throughout the holiday season, for Austinites looking to help the shelters without making a long-term commitment.

APA has two locations, one at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., and one in Tarrytown (3118 Windsor Rd.). Both locations operate 12-6 pm daily, except Christmas Eve (12-4 pm), Christmas Day (closed), and New Year’s Eve (12-4 pm). The Austin Animal Center is located at 7201 Levander Loop and is open every day from 11 am-7 pm for adoptions. For holiday hours, AAC will be closing at 5 pm on December 23 and will be closed December 24-26.

'Famous' rooftop igloos return to Austin hot spot for the coolest experience this winter

Stay Cool

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.

Acclaimed Texas chef toasts the Italian liqueur that's perfect for the holidays

The Wine Guy

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day and covers it regularly in a column for CultureMap's Houston site. Here, he talks not about wine, but the perfect after-dinner sip.

All right, team! Listen up! I’m going to give you some very important holiday information to help you get through all of the parties, family gatherings, and large festive dinners. We are not going to talk about wine today. We’re going to talk about another love of mine — the life-saving amaro.

What is amaro, you ask? It’s an Italian herbal liqueur that’s traditionally consumed post-meal as a digestif. Think of it this way: you start your meal with an aperitif — could be a martini, Campari, or Aperol spritz — to get your palate going and your body ready to eat. After dinner, amaro will help you get through the rest of your night. This elixir will magically and quickly break down everything you just consumed.

Most amari are from Italy, but fortunately new producers with similar styles are popping up all over the world. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter. You just have to find the style you like. Producers don’t traditionally tell you what’s in their amaro, because most of them are made up of dozens of herbs and spices. It’s all about trial and error to find the one you love.

I drink it neat, but some people drink it on the rocks. More and more, you’re seeing amari in cocktails, too.

The amari selection at our house is awesome. My wife and I are firm believers in this beverage as a night cap, and it’s even become part of my regiment pre-dinner as a spritz. Kill two birds, you know?

Unfortunately, not a lot of restaurants carry multiple amari, so it’s up to you guys to get this trend moving. The more you ask for it, the more they’ll stock it.

Our No. 1 go to at home? Montenegro. It’s easy to find, and it’s easy drinking. It has flavors of vanilla and orange, but it’s not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s had the same recipe since 1885, and I hope they never change it.

My wife’s favorite is Braulio. This spirit is from the Italian Alps and aged in Slavonian casks. Using more medicinal herbs and fruits means it skews more bitter than Montenegro, but it has a nice sweetness at the end.

A newish player in the amari game is Amaro Nonino. The Nonino family is historically one of the best grappa producers in the world — they’ve been distilling grappa since 1897 — but they didn’t start to produce their namesake amaro until 1992. (By newish, you get what I mean.) It has lots of honey, vanilla, licorice, and orange flavors. It’s a tad less sweet than most, but I think it’s fantastic.

Pasubio is really different from other amari. If you’re a fan of blueberries, this is for you. It literally tastes like crushed blueberries.

The next two are really cool and unusual, because they're made here in the U.S. An all-time favorite is Southern Amaro from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston. Yaupon is one of the main characteristics, which is found all over Texas.

High Wire built its reputation on using regionally grown and foraged ingredients. If you’re ever in Charleston, you should stop into the distillery and say hi to Scott and Ann! Also, try some of their Jimmy Red Corn whiskey. Actually, everything they make is delightful.

Heirloom Pineapple Amaro is made in Minneapolis. To me, this is fantastically bitter but also tastes like roasted pineapple in a glass. One of my new favorites, for sure.

Now, here’s a helpful tidbit of info. You may have heard of fernet. That’s a general term for an amaro with very little to no sweetness. Branca is a producer that makes fernet, and it’s the most well-known. Search out others as well, because they’re all pretty cool.

Almost everything I listed can be found at most liquor stores. Don’t be afraid to try something. Yes, sometimes it tastes like taking your medicine. But I’ll bet the smell of Jägermeister penetrates your early 20s, and surprise — that’s a style of amaro as well.