Photo courtesy of Trona

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).

Photo courtesy of Uncle Nicky's Italian Specialties

Imbibe these 7 Austin summer specials for National Tequila Day

enjoy responsibly

Austinites go crazy over liquor-centric holidays like National Margarita Day and Cinco de Mayo, so why not throw National Tequila Day into the mix? From cocktails to tequila-infused dishes, there are many local restaurants and bars who are putting their best effort into making July 24 a special day for everyone. Just remember to enjoy responsibly – National Tequila Day does fall on a Monday, after all.

South Austin seafood restaurant Keepers is partnering with Tres Agaves Tequila for a mouthwatering three-course dinner on National Tequila Day at 6:30 pm. Guests will be provided several cocktails along with a grilled ribeye sope and red snapper, before closing out the evening with a tangerine choco flan alongside a chili chocolate old fashioned. Tickets ($75 per person) can be purchased on Eventbrite.

The Roosevelt Room
Austin's favorite sophisticated bar is offering several specials just for National Tequila Day. All tequila pours will be half-off all night, their award-winning margarita will be available for $9, and their specialty mezcal margarita will be $10. The Roosevelt Room's new hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 3 pm to 12 am, and Thursday through Saturday from 3 pm to 2 am. Reserve on OpenTable.


If you're looking to try local spirits, look no further than Aba's Oaxacan A Mile Margarita made with LALO Blanco tequila and Dos Hombres mezcal. LALO is an Austin-based, Jalisco-made tequila made with only agave, deep well water, and champagne yeast to bring out the best flavor profile, which is spotlighted in Aba's delicious margarita. Reserve on OpenTable.

This Tex-Mex eatery is hopping on the National Tequlia Day train with a premium tequila flight from July 22-23. Diners can try four different tequilas – Maestro Dobel Silver, Reposado, Anejo, and 50 Cristalino – and discover the different aspects that make each one so unique. Pair the flight with the tequila-infused Cochinita Pibil or the pineapple tequila bacon-wrapped jalapeños, and you've got yourself a tasty meal. Reserve on OpenTable.

Uncle Nicky's Italian Specialities
Stop by this local Austin Italian casual cafe during happy hour between 2-5 pm to enjoy their fan-favorite Frozen Italian 'Rita for $5. This frozen delicacy is made up of Tequila 512, Luxardo Triplum Triple Sec, and Sangue Morlacco, and a cherry floater. Plus, guests can enjoy complimentary aperitivo snacks during happy hour with the purchase of a cocktail.

Lucky Rabbit
A six-course dinner can bring nearly anyone out to Jonestown's favorite restaurant, but adding a locally-made tequila makes the idea much more enticing. Lucky Rabbit is teaming up with Cedar Park's 1824 Tequila for a fun day full of games, giveaways, prizes, and of course drinks. The first two courses of the dinner include a skinny margarita, a "Hare of the Tiger" shot, and a red fish ceviche. Course three involves a paloma, everything bagel with ground beef stuffed jalapeño, and fried chicken with a 1824 reposado tequila infused raspberry jam. The fourth course brings a Mexican martini and char grilled quail, while the final two courses will close the dinner with a tequila-based old fashioned, chocolate peanut butter pie, and ice cream. Tickets are $100 for the first 30 people, RSVP at info@luckyrabbitbar.com.

El Naranjo
James Beard Award-winning chef Iliana de la Vega and her partner Ernesto Torrealba have added to their seasonal summer menu for their traditional Mexican cuisine. Their July drink of the month is La Tunita – a blend of Dulce Vida silver tequila, red prickly pear puree, citrus, and a house-made hibiscus blossom salt rim. This vibrant summer cocktail can be ordered alongside their chayote relleno or their mole of the month: Pipián Yucateo. No dinner is complete without desert, so consider their summer panna cotta de tuna roja y cítricos. Reserve on OpenTable.

Photo courtesy of Double Trouble

8 things to know in Austin food right now: Venerated vegan tacos and cult coffee shop have a "love child"

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.


One of Austin's favorite vegan restaurants, the Vegan Nom, is bringing even more noms to the North Loop neighborhood with Double Trouble, a "love child" with Barrett’s Coffee. The vegan taco joint and bar (103 E. North Loop Blvd.) is in its soft launch stage, officially opening on June 30. But until then, there will be Friday parties. From 3 pm to midnight, these weekly welcome wagons will include $5 tacos, drink specials all night, frozen palomas, and free IPAs by The Brewtorium while they last. Visitors can also enjoy music and hula hooping on the patio — good vibes, only. Right now, it's open every day from 7 am to midnight.

Seafood restaurant Truluck's, now at a swanky new space at 300 Colorado St, is just about ready for its first visitors. On June 16, the new location welcomes guests old and new to witness the upgrades: a two-level dining space with skyline views, a more technologically advanced kitchen, and a more modern atmosphere overall. Even the light and sound system is technologically elevated, according to a release. Reserve on OpenTable.

Other news and notes

I had as little an inkling as you did that this column would one day include a victory over raw milk, but here we are with the Texas Farmers' Market (TFM). After much lobbying, TFM convinced lawmakers to allow preorders for raw milk at markets, and now it's actually available from Ash Acres Dairy Farm. Some other vendors are also joining the fray at the Mueller and Lakeline markets with unrelated but exciting additions: "'New York-ish' bagels from David Doughies, chai from Open Eye Beverage Co., and artisanal ice cream from Lotus Creamery," "vegan cheese from Peace Cheese, [vegetables from] Southern Star Farms & Events Center," a release lists.

La Condesa is not the kind of place where you'd expect to see $3 tacos, but thank goodness for happy hour. The new weekday special from 5-6 pm also offers cocktails half off, and the restaurant claims "one of the largest mezcal and tequila offerings in town." The four discounted tacos to choose from are cachete (beef cheek) with avocado and cucumber; carnitas with avocado and tomatillo salsa; pollo with salsa verde, onion, and cilantro; and hongos (mushrooms) with black beans and chimichurri. They're available exclusively at the bar, and on a walk-up basis.

Going out for African food could mean any number of cuisines and styles, but this Juneteenth weekend, a big handful of them are all going to be in one place. On June 18, Armadillo Den is hosting the Diaspora Food Festival, highlighting dishes with African American, Afro-Latin, Afro-Colombian, Jamaican, and Haitian influence, among others. Fans of the Latin Food Festival are likely to enjoy this event by the same organizers. RSVP for the free event at ourlatincity.com.

Move over, beer flights; vegan affogato flights are spreading their wings at Gati, the vegan ice cream and coffee shop. The "sister bakery" to Thai Fresh, this ice cream shop offers some of the city's most unique flavors, but with subtlety and seriousness — only when the situation calls for it. (Try the refreshing pandan with the coconut ash.) A summer solstice party on June 21 celebrates the launch of these matches made in vegan heaven with a pop-up market, live music, and savory snacks like spicy fried chicken sandwiches and pad Thai. Check Instagram for more details.

We already briefly mentioned a new menu for Geraldine's, the rooftop restaurant at Hotel Van Zandt, but there are more exciting goings-on up there as the summer progresses. A new four-part guest chef series invites lauded chefs from around the world to collaborate with the Geraldine's team on eight-course meals, kicking off on June 21. First up is Chef Atzin Santos formerly of El Bulli in Spain, who now specializes in Mexican haute cuisine. Reserve ($125) on OpenTable.

If an upscale THC-dosed dinner sounds like it'll get you through the week, look no further than Store House Market + Eatery, about half an hour from Austin in Bastrop. Chef Sonya Cote, also known for her work at Hillside Farmacy and Eden East is teaming up with Calibrate Wellness (created in part by Nic Yanes of Juniper and Uncle Nicky’s) for a multi-course delta-8-infused meal including blue crab claws and Gulf Coast redfish. The whole meal will deliver 20 grams of delta-8 — that's a lot, if you don't take it regularly, so pace yourself. Reserve ($135) on Tock.

Double Trouble vegan tacos

Photo courtesy of Double Trouble

The Vegan Nom and Barrett’s Coffee teamed up to create Double Trouble, now in a soft-open stage.

Photo courtesy of MUTTS Canine Cantina® Austin

11 things to know in Austin food right now: Combo bar, grill, and dog park is off-leash soon

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.


Austin is a great place to live if you like to bring your dog to lunch, but our furry friends are sometimes still more tolerated than invited. Things are different at MUTTS Canine Cantina. The dog park, bar, and grill franchise expands into Austin at 9825 N. Lake Creek Pkwy. in mid-June. Anyone can sit down for a meal or a drink — common outdoor grill selections like burgers, chicken tenders, and margaritas — but only members have access to the 1.6-acre dog park. There dogs enjoy a splash pad and being off-leash, while humans benefit from fire pits, bottle service, and staff to clean up after the dogs and make sure they're playing nice.

Freebirds World Burrito has been working through a huge expansion since 2021 and hasn't showed any signs of stopping. The newest location, opening May 30, will be in Kyle's Dry River District at 19220 IH 35 Frontage Rd., Suite 100. Although it's a little far from Austin, this halfway point to San Antonio means road trips will be a breeze. The counter service restaurant aims to get food to customers quickly without sacrificing "natural" ingredients. As usual, the first 25 guests in line for the opening day party (starting at 10:30 am) will receive a free burrito every week for a year.

Other news and notes

In the past few weeks, Austin restaurants have been in a flurry of new menus and leaders. TenTen, a sushi restaurant on West 6th announced new plant-based options with star ingredients like beet, eggplant, and asparagus. Geraldine's, at Hotel Van Zandt, is debuting a new menu that sticks to its Texas roots with strong Latin and Asian influences. It also announced a new guest chef series. The Roosevelt Room, one of Austin's top cocktail bars, welcomes Kyle Mulligan as its new executive chef, and shows off a new menu with small and large plates, plus desserts. Punch Bowl Social celebrates a new menu, while Z'Tejas introduces a new chef and directors, and The Carillon sips on a new wine program.

There's a new tequila coming out of Austin that can be enjoyed in 39 states in-store and online. Although La Caza, the company, is based in Austin, the tequila — in the three expected varieties of blanco, reposado, and añejo — is made in Jalisco by fifth-generation farmers. This spirit can't get much fancier after it is played Mozart during the distillation process and poured into hand-blown glass bottles. Guess you'll have to see if you can taste the difference.

The downside, if there is one, of Antonelli's Cheese Shop being so wildly popular is that the tasting events are often sold out. One on May 25 at The Driskill hotel still has plenty of spots left — for now. The guided tasting will introduce 75 guests to seven cheeses from around the world, all "responsibly sourced" according to the shop. They will be paired with charcuterie, pickles, chocolate, and wine, for two hours of interesting, varied bites from 7-9 pm. Reserve ($100) on Tock.

Gin Bar, a downtown cocktail bar featuring one spirit in particular, wants to get Austinites more acquainted with that juniper-based drink. It is kicking off a free gin education and tasting series starting on June 1 at 7 pm. Sipsmith Gin will join in to help celebrate National Olive Day. The rooftop gin bar on 6th Street is quietly tucked away, but features weekly events with neighbor restaurants, like Industry Night and a "Next Door B.O.G.O.," plus a daily happy hour. RSVP via Eventbrite.

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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.

'90s country icon Tim McGraw adds Austin as only Texas tour stop in 2024

Standing Room Only

In case there were any doubt that Austin is a country music destination, superstar Tim McGraw has blessed the Texas capital with his only appearance in the state during his "Standing Room Only" tour. He'll perform at Moody Center on April 11, 2024.

Austin was one of 11 cities that saw new tour dates on McGraw's touring calendar, which is good news since Texas was about to miss out entirely. McGraw will be visiting at least 40 other cities in other states.

McGraw is touring in support of his very recent album, Standing Room Only, released on August 25, 2023. Newer country singer-songwriter Carly Pearce will open the show. He has previously toured Texas with his wife, fellow country superstar Faith Hill; but it does not appear that Hill will be joining the tour this time around.

There's much more on McGraw's plate, though, than new music. The '90s trailblazer just received the ACM Icon Award at the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors, and on September 26, the Nashville Songwriters Association International will honor him with the President’s Keystone Award.

Fans know McGraw for slick, bright instrumentals and a contemporary take on country without abandoning the more traditional elements like twangy vocals, fiddle, and honky-tonk piano. A release promises a high-energy live show with a "huge production" value and plenty of old and new hits.

It's not surprising that McGraw has a strong stage presence, given his acting in films like The Blind Side and the iconic Austin-filmed TV series Friday Night Lights.

Ticket sales begin Friday, September 29, at 10 am on Ticketmaster.

The 11 new dates on the tour are as follows:

  • March 22, 2024 – St. Louis, MO — Enterprise Center
  • March 23, 2024 – Columbus, OH — Nationwide Arena
  • April 11, 2024 – Austin, TX — Moody Center
  • April 27, 2024 – Pittsburgh, PA — PPG Paints Arena
  • May 2, 2024– Montreal, QC — Bell Centre
  • May 3, 2024 – Ottawa, ON — Canadian Tire Centre
  • May 4, 2024 – Buffalo, NY — KeyBank Center
  • May 10, 2024 – Boston, MA — TD Garden
  • June 14, 2024 – Atlanta, GA — State Farm Arena
  • June 28, 2024 – Los Angeles, CA — The Kia Forum
  • June 29, 2024 – Sacramento, CA — Golden 1 Center

Now is the best time for a sweet retreat in the Texas Hill Country

Hill Country Getaway

Right now is the sweet spot for travel. Back-to-school is finished and the holidays have yet to begin, so why not treat yourself to a Hill County getaway?

Situated among 38 acres with sweeping views of the Texas Hill Country, Hotel Viata offers luxurious and sophisticated accommodations reminiscent of an Italian villa.

The 194-room property features 38 suites, ample meeting space, a state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor pool with private cabanas, coastal Italian-inspired cuisine made with local ingredients at Laurel, and luxury spa services and first-class amenities at Spa Viata.

Even better, this oasis is only a short, 15-minute drive from the heart of downtown Austin, in the upscale West Lake Hills area. You can walk the trails of the adjacent 227-acre Wild Basic Wilderness Preserve, or go paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating on Lake Austin just seven miles away.

Here's a closer look at what this dream escape could entail:

Check in, check out
Relax and recharge with your choice of comfortable rooms:

Superior: located on upper floors and have charming views with the option of a Juliet balcony.

Robin suites: junior suites showcasing spectacular views of both the hotel grounds and the Wild Basin Nature Preserve. The master bedroom with a king bed is separated from the living room by glass-panel French doors.

Sparrow suites: spacious one-bedroom suites featuring Juliet balconies showcasing stunning views. Enjoy a combined living and dining room, a walk-in closet, and a full bathroom including a soaking tub and vanity.

Mockingbird suites: one-bedroom suites with a large living room and dining area, including a table for four.

Hummingbird Suite: a beautiful two-bedroom suite offering Juliet balconies. The master bedroom includes a king bed, a walk-in closet, and a full bathroom with dual sinks, a bathtub, and a separate shower. The guest room includes two double beds with a full bathroom. The suites also feature a large living room and dining area with a kitchenette.

Heron Suite: a two-bedroom “presidential suite” with a king bed complemented by a living and dining area and a private study. The suite features a walk-in closet, two full bathrooms with walk-in showers, and a separate bathtub. An unparalleled level of luxury.

If you're traveling with your furry best friend, they're just as welcome. Comfy dog beds are offered, along with an organic menu of pup-approved meals and snacks prepared by the hotel's executive chef.

To dine for
Upon check-in, guests are greeted with a select bottle of wine in their guest room. When it's time for a meal, Laurel showcases ingredients from the Texas Hill Country while drawing inspiration from Italian coastal cuisine and adding a modern flair.

While the aesthetic is rooted in Italian beauty, the menu is rooted in the deep bounty of the Texas Hill Country with a focus on wholesome menu items while keeping some of the classic Italian favorites so guests can truly live la dolce vita.

Let it all go
Spa Viata offers exceptional massage, body, and skin services with luxurious and high-performance products that are inspired by Italy and influenced by Austin.

Each of the treatments have been thoughtfully crafted to refresh the senses and help you feel at your best. The retail shop features Furtuna Skin products from the hills of Sicily, along with many other superior products.

Dive in
Cool off in the sparkling pool, soak up the sun in a water lounger, or relax under an umbrella in a chaise lounge. Opt for delicious healthy options that nourish body and soul, sip signature cocktails or chill out with artisanal gelato.

Searching for even more luxury? With plush sofa seating, a personal stocked mini-fridge, and a dedicated server for your time under the sun (and in the shade), Hotel Viata’s private cabanas are an indulgence you’ll want to give into. Learn more about booking a cabana here.


Hotel Viata

Photo courtesy of Hotel Viata

Feel worlds away without going too far.

Hotel Viata is operated by Pacific Hospitality Group (PHG) and is part of the Meritage Collection of independent lifestyle hotels. Explore your next vacation with Hotel Viata here.