Photo courtesy of sweetgreen

Update: A previous version of this story said Ike's Love & Sandwiches would host a grand opening on March 3. The company has changed the date of the event to March 9. It is already open to the public.

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.


We’ll always need more love and more sandwiches, so it’s good news that Ike’s Love & Sandwiches has opened a fifth Austin-area location, this time in the Mueller neighborhood at 1201 Barbara Jordan Boulevard #1210. This sandwich chain has an unbelievably long menu, especially noted for its many vegetarian, halal, and gluten-free options. Two sandwiches will be available exclusively at this new location: the “Mueller, Mueller” with chicken fried steak, Ike's Creamy Orange Buffalo Sauce, and cheddar cheese; and the “Sunny Came Home,” a vegetarian version with vegan fried chicken. There will be a grand opening celebration starting at 10 am on March 9, with $7.97 sandwiches for rewards members.

Sweetgreen, a staple counter service restaurant for Austinites who both love and tolerate salad, is opening a fourth location in the Mueller neighborhood "soon." The business started with three college students who wanted something accessible, but healthy, and the brand is still popular among the same demographic. The menu combines leafy greens, grains, fruit, proteins, starches, and more well-balanced spreads — not that a cheeseburger can't also do it, but sometimes a bowl is best. The brand also voices a commitment to animal welfare and becoming carbon neutral by 2027. The location is part of the new development in the Mueller neighborhood, across from the park amphitheater.

Sweetgreen salad
Photo courtesy of sweetgreen

Sweetgreen's salads and bowls make a refreshing lunch fast and inexpensive.

Other news and notes

Este, known for coastal Mexican cuisine, is inviting in some Filipino influence for a “Panaderia” morning pop-up on February 24 from 8-11 am. Pastry chef Derrick Flynn and his team are serving up pan de ube, beef asado siopao, leche flan croissant, and more. This takes place in Este’s event space, Bar Toti, and an Instagram post has shown that the inaugural bake sale will be popular, so interested shoppers should arrive early.

One of Austin’s longest-running top restaurants, La Condesa, is celebrating its 14th birthday. Try Hard Coffee owner Raechel Hurd was part of the Condesa pastry team before opening the coffee and record shop, so she’s returning with a live vinyl DJ, coffee specials, and cocktails. Chef Rick Lopez contributes brunch dishes like conchas, breakfast tortas, and chilaquiles. The celebration on February 25 and 26, from 11 am to 2 pm, benefits The Perez Family Farm: El Diamante in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Reserve at lacondesa.com.

If your dream is to leave the regular 9-to-5 for a more beer-heavy lifestyle, Meanwhile Brewing is hosting a job fair in the hopes to “diversify the Texas craft brewing industry,” says a release. On March 1 from 10 am to 1 pm, meet industry professionals and members of Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the event organizer. Some of the listed opportunities include general managers, marketing professionals, data analysts, drivers, and packing technicians. RSVP at texascraftbrewersguild.org.

The historicDriskill hotel is hosting its grand Texas Independence Day festivities on March 2 from 4-7 pm. The food and drinks are just part of it (including two rescued longhorns, but we're going to stay focused): sparkling water courtesy of Rambler Sparkling Water, complementary tastings by Independence Brewing, William Chris Vineyards, and Desert Door Texas Sotol (hailing from Driftwood), brisket slides or grapefruit salad by Mark Dayanandan, lots of dessert bites by pastry chef Kristen Groth, plus specials at 1886 Cafe & Bakery like Texas chili and Texas "caviar" (bean salad).

Hank's Austin, a sunny Southern restaurant up in Northeast Austin, knows all about the Tuesday slump. It’s bringing some life back to the weekday by offering half-off deals on all bottles of wine every Tuesday going forward, recommending the Valmorena Barbera D'Asti and the Antinori Il Bruciato Super Tuscan. It’s also celebrating its fifth anniversary on April 15 from 10 am to 3 pm with a bounce house, cotton candy, and donations to the Austin Humane Society.

Photo courtesy of Songbird

South Austin brewery adds new fried chicken concept to its food truck family

Sing us a song

It’s not quite the same old song and dance at Songbird, one of Austin’s many peddlers of fried chicken sandwiches, opening as a food truck on February 3 at Meanwhile Brewing Co. In this case, these homestyle sandwiches on sliced bread are made by someone who hasn’t been associated with casual dining concepts in quite a while, Chef Joshua van den Berg.

Despite an unassuming appearance, these sandwiches pack a lot of flavor, from beef tallow frying and a long list of fresh seasonal ingredients. The classic chicken sandwich comes with iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing, pickles, and “squishy milk bread”, while a chicken-free option does the unexpected by combining Lebanon bologna with mustard, beer cheese (made in collaboration with Meanwhile), and maple syrup.

On top of winning a 2016 episode of the Food Network’s Chopped (Season 27, “Love Bites”), van den Berg has experience at some of the top restaurants in the United States: Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant Aldea; Bern’s Steak House, in Tampa; and Suzume, in Brooklyn. Here in Austin, his name is associated with one of the city’s finest dining experiences, Sushi | Bar ATX, which made our list of favorite meals of 2022.

“Songbird is such an exciting concept because it’s approachable and casual, which is perfect for the families and young couples who frequent Meanwhile Brewing,” said Chef van den Berg in a release, “but we’re providing menu items at a higher level of execution and attention to detail that may not typically be applied to this echelon of food.”

On the chef’s impressive resume, cuisines range from Portuguese to American to Japanese, reflecting an interest in other cultural cooking styles. These experiences combined with a period of study in Thailand likely led to his adventurous use of ingredients like pickled chilis, Tso sauce, and fried dough (for malasadas; commonly Hawaiian or Portuguese) on the Songbird menu.

“I want to bring my training and experience within fine dining to create nostalgic flavor combinations inspired by my cooking abroad and throughout the United States,” van den Berg added.

The concept has technically been operating since a soft opening in January, joining Meanwhile’s fleet of existing food trucks that match the newcomer’s elevation: Side Eye Pie (pizza), Bésame (ice cream), Pueblo Viejo (tacos), and Distant Relatives (barbecue) — which recently earned a 2023 James Beard Award nomination.

Songbird, at 3901 Promontory Point Drive, will be open 4-9 pm on Thursdays; 2-9 pm on Fridays, 12-9 pm on Saturdays, and 12-8 pm on Sundays. More information is available on Instagram.

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Willie Nelson receives prestigious honor and inaugural endowment at UT Austin

Willie forever

Willie Nelson has earned countless awards for his seven-decade music career, but the legend is also well known for his activism — particularly in the areas of farming and food security. In recognition of his longtime advocacy work, the LBJ Foundation will present its most prestigious honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award to Nelson this spring.

The award will be presented at a special gala tribute dinner on Friday, May 12, 2023, which in turn will benefit the newly established Willie Nelson Endowment for Uplifting Rural Communities at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a part of The University of Texas at Austin.

According to a release, the endowment will fund research and student fellowships focused on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water, and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural and farm communities.

Along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, Nelson organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise funds for struggling farmers, which has since raised over $70 million for those who own and operate family farms throughout the United States. He has also helped raise millions around disaster relief, for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and for veterans, as well as working toward environmental and animal advocacy, and voting rights. His Luck Family Foundation provides financial grant assistance and other resources to artists, organizations, and programs in need, donating proceeds from Luck Reunion events to Farm Aid and other longtime charity partners like the Texas Food & Wine Alliance.

“Willie Nelson is a national treasure who gained fame through his sheer musical talent and won hearts as someone who truly cares about the lives of his fellow Americans," says Larry Temple, Chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, via release. "A product of rural Texas, Willie has never forgotten where he comes from. His longtime efforts to raise money and awareness for family farmers through Farm Aid and numerous other endeavors to help those in need throughout his career make him a true inspiration.”

The dinner will honor Nelson's lifelong support for rural communities, embodying President Lyndon Baines Johnson's commitment to public service, particularly in the areas of farming and food security. With their similar backgrounds as rural Texans, both President Johnson and Nelson shared a keen awareness of the struggles of those who work in the agricultural industry.

“The bounty of the earth is the foundation of our economy," President Johnson shared in a 1965 Special Message to Congress on Agriculture. "Programs in every aspect of our nation’s life depend on the abundant harvests of our farms.”

Bluegrass trio Nickel Creek celebrates new tour + album with fall Austin date

Welcome Back

The Grammy Award-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek — mandolinist Chris Thile, violinist Sara Watkins, and guitarist Sean Watkins — is extending their 2023 tour into the fall with a stop in Austin at the Moody Amphitheatre at Waterloo Park on October 21.

This is the first tour that the folk group has headlined since 2014, and it kicks off in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 15. The Austin stop is the tour's last, preceded by a night at Dallas' Majestic Theatre on October 20.

Nickel Creek is also releasing a new 18-track studio album for the occasion, titled Celebrants. It's their first new album in nine years and is available beginning March 24, which is also when tickets for the Texas tour stops go on sale.

Ahead of the release, Nickel Creek has unveiled three album tracks: “Where The Long Line Leads,” “Holding Pattern,” and “Strangers."

Nickel Creek revolutionized bluegrass and folk in the early 2000s and ushered in a new era of what we now recognize as Americana music. After meeting as young children and subsequently earning the respect of the bluegrass circuit for a decade, the trio signed with venerable label Sugar Hill Records in 2000 and quickly broke through with their Grammy-nominated, Alison Krauss-produced, self-titled LP.

Each member has also kept busy with individual projects over the years. Thile is a 2012 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and served as the host of the American radio variety show Live from Here (formerly A Prairie Home Companion) from 2016 to 2020.

Sean Watkins is a co-founder of Watkins Family Hour alongside his sister Sara, who has released four albums and maintains a long-running collaborative show in Los Angeles. Sean has also released a string of solo albums, while Sara’s extracurricular projects include the Grammy-winning roots trio I’m With Her, which she co-founded alongside Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz.

Sara has also contributed fiddle to recordings by artists like Phoebe Bridgers, the Killers, and John Mayer.

Pre-sale tickets are on sale now, with general sale beginning March 24 at 10 am here.

There is also the option to join the VIP Celebrants Club, which in addition to a premium reserved or GA ticket includes a private pre-show performance and Q&A with Nickel Creek plus early access to the venue, an enamel pin, and a limited edition poster signed by the band. Membership starts at $169 plus taxes and fees. More info can be found here.

Homegrown vodka brand invites Austinites on a VIP Dell Match Play experience and giveaway

Bogey Boat

We may still be recovering from SXSW, but it's time to gear up for our next big local event. WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (a.k.a., Dell Match Play) returns this weekend, and our favorite local vodka brand is getting in on the fun.

As the official vodka sponsor of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, Tito's Handmade Vodka is bringing back its famousTito’s Bogey Boat, setting sail on Lake Austin. Stationed by the Austin 360 bridge overlooking the 13th hole, the Tito’s Bogey Boat offers fans a VIP experience during Dell Match Play and features a live DJ, photo booth, tasty bites, and more.

And best news of all: Austinites who visit the Love, Tito's Retail Store can win a chance to experience the Tito’s Bogey Boat for themselves: The first 10 fans that stop by the store when it opens on Thursday, March 23, and Friday, March 24, will receive passes.

For fans who win a spot on the boat, the brand will provide water taxi transportation between 12 pm and 6 pm to convenient pick-up and drop-up locations, one of which will be specifically for winners who already have tickets to Dell Match Play.