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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.


From a food truck to a culinarily adventurous neighborhood restaurant, The Peached Tortilla has become something of a staple in the Austin food scene. A blend of Asian and Southern American comfort foods 13 years in the making, the menu is available at three locations across Austin, with a fourth coming to Cedar Park in late 2023 at 1915 East Whitestone Boulevard. The new location will seat 82 inside and 38 outside on the patio, will look similar to the locations Austinites are already familiar with, and will feature the same menu items before adding more that are specific to the new location.

Michelin starred chef Curtis Stone, who operates the restaurant Georgie in Dallas, is working to democratize the private chefexperience. A platform he co-created, Gathar, launched into Austin’s gig economy during South by Southwest (SXSW) at a secret house party, and plans to expand to Houston and Dallas later, as well as Florida. Instead of organizing around specific chefs, the website offers menus with small customizations like choosing between one appetizer or another. The most visible meals without filters are event-based and charge per person (as low as $35), but there are also options available for at-home meal prep (starting at $610, but coming out to about $25 per serving). Book at gathar.com.

Austinites who love a free group workout are likely familiar with Swift Fit Events, which offers yoga, cardio, and even fireside tarot at easily accessible downtown locations. The group is opening a new "wellness oasis" at 918 Congress Avenue, which includes a nonalcoholic cocktail bar, Sans Bar. One Sans Bar location already exists on East 12th, where it offers cocktails, tours, events, and even classes for aspiring nonalcoholic mixologists. The space will be open to the public on Fridays starting at 5 pm, from March 31 on.

Other news and notes

James Beard Award-winning chefIliana de la Vega is hosting Mexico City chef Billy Maldonado of Fónico at El Naranjo, one of Austin’s most acclaimed Mexican restaurants. On March 23, Chef Maldonado takes charge of five of six courses including a ceviche, a local fish with beans and habañero ash, a pork chop with spicy broccoli puree, and vegetarian alternatives. The 8:30 seating still has space. Reserve ($110) at elnaranjorestaurant.com.

The always-anticipatedButcher’s Ball is back in Round Top on March 24 and 25. All the ingredients have been sourced from within 100 miles of the Central Texas town, so Austinites can enjoy some foods local to them, plus some in farther reaches east at just half the drive. In addition to cocktails and bites by celebrated Houston chefs, there will be live music and a fun barn atmosphere. A few tickets (starting at $175) remain available on Eventbrite.

It's pretty easy to get a beer with dinner, but The Driskill is escalating things to a multi-course affair as it is wont to do. It's rebooting its Beer Dinner Series on March 28 with help kicking it off from (512) Brewing Company, later leading to a four-part summer series in June. This installation will pair four beers (half IPAs) with salmon tartare, burrata and citrus salad, osso buco, and chocolate and peanut butter semifreddo. Tickets ($80) are available on Tock.

Photo courtesy of Rick's Near Beer

Non-alcoholic beer company brews up rustic bar in East Austin

no-buzz bar

Many sober Austinites are lucky to have friends with different going-out habits, but it never hurts to find a new neighborhood hang that keeps others on the wagon. And who says a "beer run" actually has to include alcohol?

Rick’s Near Beer, an Austin brand, is answering that very question with the launch of Rick’s Place, a pick-up and to-go hub in East Austin where non-alcoholic options will never be hard to find, on February 17.

The Rick’s product line was launched in December of 2022, with two types of low-strength beer (less than half a percent): a Pilsner called Rick’s Original, and a brew with a stronger hops and fruit flavor called Rick’s Hazy. Both are brewed with malted barley and Rocky Mountain water, but use hops from different parts of the country, and Rick’s Hazy adds flaked wheat.

Already available online, those beers will now also be served in a cool industrial space befitting East Austin with corrugated metal siding, rustic decor, and presumably thrifted furniture. It’s a far cry from most bars around town serving stylish mocktails — which, to some Austinites, is a big relief.

The brand was started by Josh Hare, whose past projects include Hops & Grain Brewing and Pint & Plow Brewing, two craft breweries in Austin and the Hill Country, respectively. “Rick,” the brand and bar’s namesake, mostly remains a mystery, although the website introduces visitors to Rick as an archetype and perhaps a mission statement — an unpretentious friend who is accommodating and adventurous.

Rick’s Place will be located at 501 Pedernales, Unit 1-B, and will be open from Wednesday to Saturday, from 2-6 pm. Customers may visit to pick up online orders, while single cans and six-packs can stay at the bar. More information is available at drinkricks.com.

Courtesy Meanwhile Brewing

10 ways to stick to your Dry January goals in Austin this month

Dry January

The first month of the year is about halfway over and some resolutioners who committed to Dry January may find some of their creative workarounds, well, running dry. Not doing something sounds pretty easy, but we’d still like to spend time with friends, feel less awkward at a blues club with empty hands, and get around town to break up the winter monotony.

These 10 ideas should make it a little easier to get through the month, and you may even enter February with a few new useful habits. Be it a new workout routine, an obsession with the calming magic of CBD, or an unorthodox cleaning ritual, make dry January work for you long after not doing things is over.

Housework with Martha Stewart and Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Austin’s home vodka brand teamed up with homemaker extraordinaire Martha Stewart for a tongue-in-cheek, but useful video on other ways to use vodka at home besides sending it down the hatch. Stewart covers some of it in a video, and Tito’s sent a few more by email: spray it on glass for wipedowns, add a quarter cup to your favorite pie dough to make it flaky, pour it over a windshield to de-ice, and infuse vanilla in it for extract. The brand also donated merch from the partnership and donated proceeds to a number of charities.

Picnik's gluten-, refined sugar-, and peanut-free menu has long been a staple for Austinites looking to eliminate various toxins from their diet, so it's no surprise to find five different zero-proof beverages available on their menu. One new addition is the Golden Hour (pineapple juice, mint, jalapeño, and "spirit dust"). Picnik proves that dietary restrictions don't have to be — well, limiting: Their focus on high-quality ingredients means that everyone can enjoy the meal, whether they're trying to eat healthier or not.

Free Community Fitness and Wellness Classes by Swift Fit Events
Instead of brunch and Bloody Marys, Swift Fit has replaced your weekend routine at no cost. It’s not a studio promotion; Swift Fit is always free, and caters to all levels. These classes could keep someone busy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, at Republic Square Park, Boggy Creek, and more. In the spirit of Dry January, consider stopping by for yoga at Fareground on Tuesdays, where you can stick around for lunch by one of several food hall-style vendors.

Roosevelt Room
You don't have to stop frequenting your favorite cocktail bars just because you're alcohol-free this month. One of downtown Austin's best cocktail joints is keeping step with your resolutions by offering not one, but three different liquor-free libations, each one designed to replicate the classic cocktail you may or may not be missing. The Na'groni features Monday zero proof gin, Giffard bitter aperitif sirop, Verjus Rouge, gentian tea, caramel, glycerin, salt tincture, and orange oils. The Castaway is a more tropical option, with mint, cucumber, lime juice, cream of coconut, ginger beer, and a sweetgrass tincture. Finally, the fruitier Glitter and Marigold features orange juice, orange flower water, pistachio extract, vanilla bean, cream, and cinnamon powder.

Stephen F's Bar and Terrace
Why not sip your mocktail from one of the most scenic patios in town: Stephen F's Bar and Terrace boasts views along Congress Avenue, located in the historic Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel. And while the views are certainly zero-proof, the menu also features several innovative and delectable alcohol-free concoctions. The Miss Scarlet is a spin on the iconic 'Clue' character, featuring grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, prickly pear syrup, egg white foam, and tonic water. Also refreshing is the The Sandcastle, served with coco reàl, half & half, honey syrup, orange juice, club soda, and garnished with fresh ground black pepper.

True Food Kitchen
Mocktails can be fun, but they can also be overly sweet, expensive stand-ins. True Food Kitchen is working against this type of menu with “house-made refreshers” that aren’t trying too hard in the middle of the day. That includes “Kale Aid”, prickly pear tisane, and apple lemonade until the end of the month. There’s also a permanent tea bar that prepares you to say things like “well, I really like a floral green above a nutty black,” and know you’ve actually prepared for this.

Hopefully, someone has already reminded you that you can go alcohol-free at any time of year, for any length of time — not just 30 days in January. Enter Hank's, where the Glow Juice is a menu mainstay year round. We're not exactly sure what's in the Glow Juice that makes it so delicious: The menu says ginger and turmeric, but there must be a special, secret ingredient that refreshes the soul as well as the body. This drink is the perfect option whenever you just need a break from the boozier (and delicious) options at Hank's, like the frozen palomas, margaritas, and negronis. Jury's out on whether Glow Juice does, in fact, make you glow, but your internal organs will thank you.

Electric Shuffle
Whether you’re looking for mocktails or something to do besides nurse a drink, a new bar on Rainey Street offers both. Electric Shuffle takes shuffleboard to a new, very chic level, with digitized tournaments and an impressive menu regardless of your shuffle prowess. The two cocktails the bar is serving are the Hibiscus No-Jito ($8) with hibiscus ginger beer, simple syrup, lime, and mint; and the Texas Sunset ($8) with pineapple, orange, and lime juice, grenadine, and Topo Chico. Reserve at electricshuffleusa.com.

Meanwhile Brewing
Even breweries are getting in on the low and non alcoholic offerings, and Meanwhile Brewing Co. has a selection of mocktails for almost every taste. The Gin and Tonic and Rosemary Jam Cordial is made with rosemary and orange marmalade syrup, orange zest infused tonic, zero proof orange bitters, and sparkling Richard’s Rainwater, while the Apple Mulled Nonny is made with cardamom, clove, and all spice syrup, apple peel oleo saccharum, and lightly steeped earl grey tea. But the Hugo (mint and elderflower syrup, lemon soda, and Richard’s Rainwater) seems to be a staff favorite, with Meanwhile’s general manager Trenten Relles describing it as a “bright and citrusy croatian classic come stateside with floral, crisp, and crushables flavors.”

Earlybird CBD infusions around town
If you’re comfortable exchanging one vice for another, CBD can provide a gentle, legal high (if any at all, depending on dosage and sensitivity) with lots of health benefits including reduced anxiety, better sleep, pain relief, and reduced cravings for addictive substances. Earlybird CBD’s full-spectrum infusion (containing all its natural compounds) is available in cocktails at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, Brew & Brew, Ani’s Day & Night, and Maie Day. Gummies are also available in four-packs as an alternative at Fairweather Cider Co. Check the store locator at earlybirdcbd.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states, says new report


The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 – for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 – for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita

For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

Austin's meat palace Fogo de Chao expands its menu with new plant-based options

Vegan News

Well, here's a twist: Fogo de Chão, the churrascuria-style restaurant concept from Brazil known for its dedication to meat, is expanding its menu in an unprecedented new direction: They're adding tofu.

Effective immediately, the restaurant will offer new plant-based and nutrient-dense dishes, alongside an enhanced Bar Fogo beverage list that has new non-alcoholic craft cocktails made with low-proof spirits (less than 0.5 percent alcohol).

Fogo CEO Barry McGowan says in a release that they're responding to demand from their younger, more health-conscious customers.

"Our young and dynamic guests consider themselves food explorers who seek new culinary discoveries with each visit,” McGowan says. “For nearly 45 years we’ve had nutrient-dense and plant-forward dining options for every occasion and dietary tribe throughour Market Table. With the rollout of our new dining choices and clean cocktails, we continue to offer our guests the variety and discoveries they crave while doing it in a wholesome and flavorful way.”

The Market Table is their famed salad bar, which has sated many a vegetarian diner or else those just not up for the whole skewered meat thing that is a trademark of Fogo and other churrascuria-style places.

Two new plant-based innovations will join Fogo's existing Vegetarian and Pescatarian dishes such as the Cauliflower Steak, and will be available on the main dining menu available for lunch, brunch, and dinner as an alternative to the Full Churrasco Experience, as follows:

  • Seared Tofu with Miso Black Bean Pasta - Chimichurri-marinated tofu served atop black bean pasta sautéed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing. Vegan and gluten-free.
  • Roasted Power Vegetable Bowl - Roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, roasted zucchini, asparagus, and baby peppers served with chimichurri spinach rice. Vegan and gluten-free.

togo power bowlRoasted Power Vegetable Bowl at Fogo de Chao.Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chao

They're also rolling out new dishes on the Market Table which for the past 45 years has showcased nutrient-dense and flavorful choices including seasonal salads, micro greens, natural and plant-based proteins, imported charcuterie, and more.

New items on the Market Table are as follows:

  • Spring Hummus - Fresh hummus blended with herbs, roasted garlic and citrus, topped with radish, fresh mint, edamame, and olive oil.
  • Baby Kale & Mango Salad - Fresh baby kale, Napa cabbage, red radish and mango, tossed in a lime honey dressing.
  • Miso Black Bean Pasta - Gluten-free black bean pasta tossed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing.
  • Apple Manchego Salad - Granny Smith apples and Manchego cheese tossed with honey, cracked pepper and black mission figs.
  • Power Greens - A seasonal mix of vitamin-rich greens, fresh herbs and micro-shoots

The Bar
The Bar Fogo menu now features five new cocktails, including three made with Clean Co’s non-alcoholic spirits with less than 0.5% alcohol, as follows:

  • Yellowbird - Desolas Mezcal, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Cointreau, La Marca Prosecco
  • Espresso Martini - Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Caffe Borghetti and Licor 43
  • Clean Cosmo - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cranberry, Fresh Lemon
  • CleanR Sour - CleanCo R (Rum), Passionfruit, Pineapple, Aquafaba, Bitters
  • Clean Cucumber Martini - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cucumber, Basil, Lemon Twist

Founded in southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo has seven other locations across Texas: Addison, Uptown Dallas, Plano, Friendswood, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands.

City of Austin spikes weekend parking rates at Zilker Park

pay to play

Starting May 1, one of Austin's most popular parks will be increasing parking prices and start charging for parking in lots that were previously free.

At Zilker Park, the parking lots that currently charge $5 for parking will be increased to $7 from May 1 through Labor Day.

The parking lot off of Stratford Road, just north of the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the South Barton Springs Pool parking lot, near Azie Morton Road, will start charging $7 on the weekends and holidays.

Both of these parking lots were havens for visitors and residents alike, as they were free to park. Park visitors like P.K. Luangsingotha liked that parking was free at the lot off Stratford. Luangsingotha said he is not happy that he will have to start paying to park.

"I believe people should be out enjoying the parks, the sunlight, et. cetera, and not have to [pay]. I mean, the City is already making so much money as it [is]. Now trying to tax people more on parking — I think it’s kind of unfair. Just my opinion," Luangsingotha said.

Hailey Adams, an Austin resident, also enjoys coming to Zilker and the free parking near Stratford with her dog. Come May, Adams may adjust the activities she participates in at Zilker due to the cost of parking.

“I definitely want more of a [full-day] activity, versus sometimes [coming] for 30 minutes," Adams said.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it hopes charging at the parking lots will help with traffic issues.


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