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).