Rendering courtesy of Truluck's

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.


Whether it's luck or just a natural result of serving great, reliable seafood in Texas since 1992, the downtown Truluck's is getting an upgrade at 300 Colorado St. The relocation occurs only a block from its current space, but it comes with big updates like a two-level dining space with skyline views, a more technologically advanced kitchen, and a more modern atmosphere overall. A rendering shows a new corner exterior that's hard to miss, with a flat roof with a big gap to let in more light, an outdoor patio on the second floor, large windows, high ceilings, and a bar. The new restaurant plans to open in May 2023.

Circle Brewing, a North Austin beer spot near Q2 Stadium known for its friendly atmosphere, is bringing that attitude east to Elgin. The charming Texas town will house the brewery's second location at 816 Lexington Rd., about a 40 minute drive from the original. Photos of the location on Instagram show a long beer hall in its own clearing with outdoor seating and plenty of shade. It will be ready to visit on April 28, and an opening ceremony on May 6 will include live music, family activities, and of course, freshly brewed beer. Operating hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 4-10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 10 pm; and Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm.

Chef Stephan Pyles, often credited with single-handedly establishing a Southwestern culinary style, has broken another culinary boundary by turning his sought-after attention toward senior living. His new restaurant, Alma, is opening with the brand-new Hacienda at Georgetown on April 15 with a ticketed tasting experience ($35). The 12-time James Beard nominee is donating $25 from each ticket purchase to No Kid Hungry, a profit addressing food insecurity for youth in the United States. Even though it's in an unusual venue, Alma is just a regular restaurant that anyone can — and will likely want to — visit. Reserve on OpenTable.

Other news and notes

Devil May Care, one of 6th Street's more glamorous and jazzy destinations, is adding non-alcoholic and low-alcohol menu options for visitors who just want to enjoy the vibes without the buzz. Some new cocktails include the "Red Light District," like a Shirley Temple with a rosemary twist, and a "Blue Devil" with pineapple, Coco Lopez, blue spirulina powder, and more flavors. It's also hosting a new event every Thursday called "The Groove," with R&B DJ sets half-price espresso martinis. Reserve on OpenTable.

Those who celebrate the Thai New Year or friends who want to start have some great foodie options this year. Thai restaurant Sway hosts a long Songkran celebration from April 13-20, with some special menu items including pork belly khao soi (noodles), a prawn stir fry, and a mango sorbet, plus creative cocktails. Fierce Whiskers Distillery offers a night market on April 15 with authentic food vendors, Thai dancing, Laotian musical performances, and a water balloon fight (an actual Songkran tradition).

The much-anticipated Umlauf Garden Party is just around the corner on April 20. The annual event is in its 24th iteration, using that long-established influence to bring together some of Austin's top restaurants for eats in the unique setting. Participants include Uchi, Uchiba, Intero, Barley Swine, Juliet, True Foods, and others not often seen at similar events. There will also be wines to taste and live performances by local artists. Proceeds benefit the sculpture garden's community outreach initiatives. Tickets available at umlaufsculpture.org.

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

Austin retires into 19th best spot in the country to put away your work boots


If 2023 is your year to relocate for a new life in retirement, or you’re a future retiree looking for that next move, Texas should be on your search list. Rental marketplace Zumper analyzed data from 100 cities nationwide to find the best American cities to retire, ranking Austin at No. 19.

In their latest report, Zumper looked at housing affordability, transportation, satisfaction of renters aged 45 and older, and other metrics to determine the cities in which current and prospective retirees would find the best benefits.

Texas was great overall for retirees based on the lack of state income tax and state-level taxes on Social Security. Good news for those who'd like to stay in Central Texas: San Antonio ranked No. 6 on the list, making it the best Texas city, thanks especially to its high healthcare rating due to its numerous healthcare providers.

Austin also received high rankings in the healthcare category and favorable marks for its good weather. It also ranked No. 1 for having the most satisfaction for outdoor recreation. Another study in 2022 placed emphasis on Hill Country towns like Fredericksburg — a great retirement community in its own right, although this outdoorsy angle may position it more as the bigger Central Texas cities' rustic getaway.

Also on the list is El Paso at No. 8, after ranking high in overall satisfaction and median rent. Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston are just past the halfway mark on Zumper’s list at No. 54, No. 56, and No. 57, respectively. Other Texas cities further down the list are Arlington (No. 77), Plano (No. 85), and Irving near the bottom (No. 96).

Zumper’s best overall city to retire, thanks to its housing and healthcare availability, is Columbus, Ohio. The second best city to retire is Louisville, Kentucky – most notably known for its bourbon distilleries, affordable rent, and access to outdoor spaces.

Spokane, Washington takes the No. 3 spot for its favorable weather, an abundance of outdoor recreational activities, and high satisfaction for residents aged 45 and older. Detroit, Michigan (No. 4), and Albuquerque, New Mexico (No. 5), both beat San Antonio, and were notable for their affordable median rent.

The top 10 best US cities to retire in, according to Zumper, are:

  • 1. Columbus, Ohio
  • 2. Louisville, Kentucky
  • 3. Spokane, Washington
  • 4. Detroit, Michigan
  • 5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • 6. San Antonio, Texas
  • 7. Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 8. El Paso, Texas
  • 9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • 10. Tallahassee, Florida

The full report can be found at zumper.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

New restaurant in Austin suburb ventures through Texan cuisine with South African and Chinese twists

Around the world in 80 dishes

Sometimes you don't have to plan a pricey trip to travel around the world — all you have to do is drive to San Marcos, thanks to the new internationally flavored cuisine at Tarbox & Brown, open now.

Located inside Kissing Tree, a 55+ community (but don't worry, anyone can dine at Tarbox & Brown), the complex's newest signature restaurant boasts a seasonal rotating menu of dishes inspired by executive chef Chanel Beattie's life growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Beijing, China.

Disy by Tarbox & Brown in San Marcos

Photo by Jane Yun

The menu at Tarbox & Brown is sometimes quaint and Texan, and sometimes a bit more international.

Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Tarbox & Brown's name is a nod to the historic Brown and Tarbox Stagecoach Line, a crucial method of delivering communications between Austin and San Antonio back in the early 1800s.

“When creating the menu for Tarbox & Brown, I wanted to share dishes people hadn't experienced yet while also including some familiar favorites," said Beattie in a news release. "We’ll have Asian and Texan dishes, and some French-influenced items, as well. I, of course, also want to add some South African flavor. My team has so many recipes and treats for you to try, and we can’t wait for you to try them all."

For example, Beattie's South African Prego rolls — a steak-centric dish with spicy peri-peri sauce, tomatoes, red onions, leafy greens, and freshly baked bread — may broaden some diners' horizons (especially with the extremely reasonable $16 price tag). There will also be more standard burgers, sandwiches, and grilled cheeses on the menu.

Some nice details that sets Tarbox & Brown's menu apart include a complimentary cup of coffee with each order off of the breakfast menu, and affordable lunch options. T&B's serves multiple meal options priced under $20.

More reasonably priced, international meals with a Texas twang include a New Zealand spring rack of lamb served with honey butter rolls ($36); a 12-ounce Maple Bourbon ribeye served up with mashed potatoes and roasted seasonal vegetables ($33); and vegetarian options like an asparagus and mushroom risotto ($20).

The drink menu also follows a merciful pricing structure, with every signature cocktail coming in at $10 or less, including a white wine-based sangria and a tequila-based cocktail called the "Texas Valley Girl" that is essentially a sweetened paloma.

Having previously served as the executive chef at the four-star Michelangelo Hotel in New York City, chef Beattie also brings extensive baking experience to her tenure as Tarbox & Brown.

Tarbox & Brown is located at 201 Kissing Tree Ln., Bldg. 5, in San Marcos. Breakfast is served daily from 7-11 am, followed by a daily lunch service at different times: Saturday through Tuesday from 11 am-6 pm, and Wednesday through Friday from 11 am-4 pm. Right now, dinner service is only Wednesday through Friday, from 5-8 pm.

More information is available at tarboxandbrown.com. Reserve by calling 512-749-1031 and selecting extension 2.

Getting into Austin's next immaculate speakeasy is actually a secret — for now


Speakeasies have an interesting reputation in Austin. Residents of this "weird" city love a secret. They want to avoid the crowds and the newcomers, but "they" includes the crowds and the newcomers. It's complicated.

There is yet another new speakeasy in Austin, and fans of mystery and exclusivity may be pleased to hear that this time, it's not just a dimly-lit bar in a nondescript building. Visitors will have to follow word of mouth (and perhaps the bar, on social media) to learn a secret phone number, which they can then text to make a reservation.

So-called Trona, after a desert town in Death Valley and the mineral that serves as the base for baking soda, is hidden in plain sight. The colorful graffiti marks the spot for people who know what to look for, making this speakeasy one of the more attention-grabbing secret locales in the city, yet obscuring it nonetheless. An alley entrance (1812 E. 12th St.) ensures that few will be spotted entering.

Although it looks small, it's not tiny: There's enough seating for 49 guests in the "former shotgun bar" renovated under the artsy gaze of Tatanka Guerrero, a Chilean Marfa transplant whose other local triumphs include El Tigre Coffee Roasters, Camp East, and Cork & Screw.

Details are (naturally) sparse, but a release describes what awaits as an "intimate multi-part mixological journey that can't be fully experienced in one visit." The journey will be made in five portions, merging modern Japanese and traditional Oaxacan styles. It seems like these are meant to be juxtaposed rather than seamlessly combined, for air or fantasy or at least a little mystique.

The full bar and cocktail menu will highlight tequilas, mezcals, rare Japanese whiskeys, and "a plethora of natural wines," which will be announced soon.

There is already a phone number on Trona's website, but it does not connect when called. Sending a text leads to an automatic reply that the number is a landline. (Hey, those are mysterious nowadays.)

Trona is the most recent effort of the newly formed Doers and Dreamers Hospitality Group, which includes Guerrero's achievements listed above, as well as Arbor Food Park, which hosts some of Austin's best food trucks including the acclaimed Cuantos Tacos. If Trona matches the tone of its sibling concepts, Austinites can expect meticulous curation behind a slightly punky facade.

Trona is set to open sometime in October. An opening party will be announced soon (and probably covered by CultureMap in that week's food news column).

Hold that beer stein all month at these 10 Austin-area Oktoberfest events


It’s that wonderful time of the year when drinking German beer, eating brats, and shouting Prost with strangers is almost mandatory. Oktoberfest is back with its annual beer-filled festivities and Austin is ready for it.

Although the festival started in Munich, Germany, around 200 years ago, it has spread throughout the world as a way to celebrate German culture. Over the next few weeks, there will be Oktoberfest celebrations with all kinds of events for adults and kids alike with fun competitions, live music, and traditional German food and drinks.

Here’s a roundup of the best festivities in town, in October and beyond.

Banger’s Oktoberfest
September 28-30
Expect all-day fun at Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden, for the famous German restaurant's Oktoberfest celebrations. There will be special Texan and German beers on tap, live music, ceremonial firkin tapping, and stein-hoisting competitions. Food specials will include Schweinebraten (pork roast), warm German potato salad, Schnitzel sausage, and German potato cake. No reservations needed.

Easy Tiger's Oktoberfest (Weekend Two)
September 29 - October 1
Easy Tiger is offering a weekend full of celebrations with Oktoberfest-themed food, and limited-edition beers from Real Ale Brewing Company, Live Oak Brewing Company, and St. Elmo Brewing Co., among others. Each location will feature special events like a pretzel-eating contest (the winner gets free pretzels for one year!) plus stein-hoisting contest, polka bands, face painting, trivia, screen printing, and live music. No reservations needed.

Oktoberfest at Celis Brewery
September 30
For folks in North Austin, Celis Brewery will be celebrating Oktoberfest with beer and food specials — including German sausages and pretzels — face-painting, and stein-holding contests. The live music lineup starts with a DJ at 1 pm, followed by Polka band, The Hot Peppers, from 4-7 pm. No reservations needed.

Meanwhile Brewing
September 29 - October 1
Meanwhile Brewing has a packed weekend schedule with fun activities for all ages. There will be live music, Oktoberfest lager on draft all weekend, and exciting limited-edition food pairings such Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Pizza, pretzel ice cream, and Koji-brined pork schnitzel, among others. On Sunday, kids can enjoy their own stein-hoisting contest with prizes. Reserve on Eventbrite.

Loro's Oktoberfest pop-up
October 1
Loro is turning things up a notch by hosting an Oktoberfest pop-up on its patio featuring local breweries such as 512 Brewing Company, Vacancy Brewing, Meanwhile Brewing Co., and Live Oak Brewing Company. Attendees can expect Oktoberfest-inspired bites in addition to Loro’s regular Asian-inspired barbecue. Reserve on Eventbrite.

Locktoberfest (Downtown Lockhart)
October 6-8
The city of Lockhart is having an exciting Oktoberfest celebration with the launch of its first annual Locktobertfest. The weekend-long events will take place in participating shops, bars, and restaurants in the downtown area with live music, authentic German cuisine, and crafted drinks among other activities for those looking to explore the town. No reservations needed.

Austin Oktoberfest 2023
October 14
The German Texan Heritage Society is back with what the Austin Chronicle calls the “most authentic Oktoberfest in town.” The family-friendly event will feature fun activities such as pumpkin painting and bounce houses, plus live music all day at the historic German Free School. Tickets ($15, free for kids under 12) are available via Eventbrite.

Scholz Garten's Old World Wednesday series
Every Wednesday, October 25 - November 15
Another historic German spot since 1866, Scholz Garten, will have its own kind of celebration with Old World Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, patrons can expect live music from polka bands starting at 5:30 pm, plus German food and drink specials. No reservation needed.

The Loren's Oktoberfest BBQ with Brad Davis of Moody Tongue
October 26
For those who want a more upscale culinary experience, The Loren at Lady Bird Lake is hosting an Oktoberfest barbecue with renowned brewer Brad Davis of Moody Tongue as part of the hotel's ongoing Chef Series. Davis will be bringing a taste of the Michelin-starred Chicago brewery to the luxe rooftop restaurant. Reserve ($85, pre-paid) on OpenTable.

Wurstfest (New Braunfels)
November 3-12
Wurstfest will be closing the festivities with a bang — or many oom-pahs. This unique festival in New Braunfels will be honoring German culture all week long with music, carnival rides, German Texan beer, and of course, all the wurst you can eat! Admission (starting at $18) and drink tickets will be sold at the gates, but can also be purchased on Etix.