Project Pollo/Facebook

Buzzy vegan chicken fast-food chicken chain Project Pollo has been acquired. According to founder/owner Lucas Bradbury, the San Antonio-based chain was approached by a national group who will acquire their infrastructure, team, leadership, and locations.

Bradbury did not identify who the chain was, but described it as being similar to Zoes Kitchen and CAVA, and said that the transition from Project Pollo to new concept would begin in mid April.

The acquisition affects all locations except for the Rosewood location in Austin, which will continue to operate as a vegan fast-food spot, although possibly under a different name.

Bradbury called it "bittersweet."

"This is a bittersweet moment as a founder," he said. "On one hand, a huge win, and on the other, falling short of the mission we set out to accomplish. Nonetheless, we are moving forward and locations will turnover operation due to the terms of the deal between April 16 and April 30."

Bradbury founded Project Pollo in 2020 to be just like a fast-food chicken restaurant in every way except the food was entirely vegan, combining plant-based affordability, convenience, and sustainability.

The menu featured vegan chicken sandwiches, wraps, and strips, plus loaded French fries, mac & cheese, available plain or topped with chicken nuggets, burgers, and milkshakes.

The company appeared on Shark Tank and expanded quickly, some might say too quickly, opening locations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas. The food was well received, but the chain experienced some of the usual mid-pandemic issues in service and consistency.

In February, Bradbury ruffled some vegan feathers when he debuted a new concept called Side Chicks at 303 San Pedro Ave. in San Antonio, which served Project Pollo's menu of plant-based sandwiches, salads, and oat milkshakes, side-by-side with real chicken options including a Nashville hot sandwich, nuggets, wings, and a Caesar wrap.

At the time, he said he expanded the menu to keep the business afloat.

The acquisition schedule so far is as follows, including one Austin location:

  • Project Pollo, 9390 Huebner Rd. (San Antonio), April 7
  • Project Pollo, 9519 San Pedro Ave. (San Antonio), April 30
  • Project Pollo, 4814 Greenville Ave (Dallas), April 30
  • Project Pollo, 2438 W Anderson (Austin), TBD

The acquisition will also include Side Chicks, which will transition on April 16.

Bradbury said that the status on the remainder of their locations will be announced at a later date.

"Our team will remain available for 60-90 days post closure to ensure we have all loose ends buttoned up including shipping all pre-orders for Chikn Nuggets, redeeming gift cards, and being available if any W2-C are needed.

"Our Rosewood location will remain in operation and focus on innovation and curating menus that fit what we are passionate about," he said. "It has been nothing short of an exceptional ride and we are thankful to the community that has been such a huge part of our success."

Photo curtesty of Fogo de Chao

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.

Plow Burger

Vegan burger truck from Austin parks the plow and goes digital

Vegan News

Plow Burger, one of Austin's top spots for vegan burgers in three locations across the city, plus one in Denton, has closed most of its physical doors, opting instead to operate as a ghost kitchen. The last physical location closes on January 15. Plow Burger's sister brand, Brunch Bird, has also closed.

An Instagram post says, "We will be launching a digital kitchen soon after, but our physical location will be no longer after January 15. We will give more updates soon." A spokesperson told CultureMap Dallas that the closure was predicated on a variety of factors that included the pandemic and an unsustainable increase in the cost of goods.

Plow Burger was founded in 2018 by Isaac Mogannam and partner Jason Sabala, founder of Buzz Mill Coffee in Austin, where they set up their first food truck location. It's been called "a vegan and meat-eater's food truck heaven," with burgers so flavorful that meat-lovers might fail to notice the difference, and won an award in 2018 for "Plant-Based Burger Supremacy" from the Austin Chronicle. (We even named it in our top 10 meals of 2022.)

The menu includes burgers, wings, and fries that are all plant-based, such as the Campfire burger, with vegan American cheese, pickles, mayo, shoestring onions, and barbecue sauce.

Over time, Plow Burger branched out to include other trucks outside Nadamoo! and Hyde Park Market, and a brick-and-mortar on East 7th Street. The expansion to Denton was initiated in July 2021 by Ed Soto, a veteran chef and manager who'd worked with Mogannam and was also a Plow Burger regular in Austin.

The Nadamoo! location closed in March of 2020, with a short announcement attributing the closure to "recent news," but redirecting customers to the other two existing trucks. In August of 2022, the Hyde Park truck closed, but the company softened the news with the opening of the East 7th Street location less than two weeks later. However, on October 1, 2022, Plow Burger announced that the same brick-and-mortar was broken into, but it did not go into detail about the damages. The Denton location closed in December.

This news comes close on the heels of the closure of one of Austin's most unique and established vegan restaurants, Counter Culture. Owner Susan Davis told KVUE that she had been looking for new building for three years, and eventually ceded to unsustainably high prices.

The most recent update from Plow Burger has the Riverside (Buzz Mill) truck closing January 15. The company confirmed in one comment that by "digital," it means it will operate as a ghost kitchen. It mentioned in another that its menu will continue to be available in Austin through Uber.

Dai Due/Instagram

10 niche, local treats for celebrating National Dessert Day in Austin

Cherry On Top

Read this out loud: I do not need to earn dessert. No one needs an excuse to enjoy a delicious dessert, but we do need one to write about them, and that excuse is National Dessert Day on Friday, October 14. This day of celebration offers a chance to reflect on our relationship with sweets while supporting local businesses.

Austinites know where to find a chocolate chip cookie, and likely already have a favorite. For National Dessert Day, the CultureMap Austin editors compiled a list of our favorite unique, niche, or hard-to-find treats around town. We’ve got frozen fruit, a cocktail, come-back cookies, and much more.

Enjoy with a friend or enjoy alone; either way, enjoy the sweet taste of doing whatever you want while supporting local happy-makers.

Bananarchy: Frozen Bananas
Austinites know something many do not, and it’s that frozen bananas are elite, even if a little mid-century. A frozen banana is mostly a vehicle for frozen chocolate and toppings that loses its fruity flavor at lower temperatures. It’s creamy and mild. Bananarchy, singularly responsible for frozen banana awareness in Austin, makes vegan and non-vegan treats like the Afternoon Delight with chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter dips, topped with nuts and graham crackers.

Dai Due: Seasonal Donuts
The ingredients-obsessed butcher shop and restaurant Dai Due has a special treat every brunch service: unique, always-changing donuts. Every week brings new glaze flavors — chasing seasonal ingredients or using what’s already in the fridge — but the donuts are always made with yeast and lard, then fried in beef tallow. The weekend of October 15, pastry chef Amanda Harold is going for depth with a malt glaze and a cajeta drizzle, essentially a Mexican caramel sauce.

El Alma: Piñarita
What makes something a dessert? If it’s a maraschino cherry, we’ve got one. El Alma, one of Austin’s most popular Mexican restaurants, keeps some on hand at the bar for their piñarita, the beautiful love child of a piña colada and a frozen margarita. This lime-and-coconut slush with tequila in place of rum and a crunchy sugar rim is really more than the sum of its progenitors. Just watch out — like many delicious sweet cocktails, the ABV sneaks up on you.

Épicerie Café & Grocery: Saturday Bake Sales
Épicerie Café & Grocery is one of the most lauded pastry makers in Austin, so it’s hard to choose just one dessert. (Although anything with layers is a great bet.) Thankfully, the café bakes more pastries than usual on Saturdays and runs an all-day bake sale until stock runs out. People who need certainty in their dessert lives should try the very popular beignets, about the size of eclairs and blanketed, not dusted, with powdered sugar.

Mi Tradición: Tres Leches
Anyone craving Mexican pastries will find them in great supply at panadería Mi Tradición, stacked high in display cases. The bakery is known for its conchas, of course, but also woos visitors with three kinds of tres leches: strawberry, peach, and mocha. There are too many other selections to list, but suffice to say you could shop for every meal, plus snacks throughout the day. And unlike many bakeries, this one is open early and late, from 7 am to 9:30 pm.

Peace Bakery & Deli: Baklava
The Mediterranean is thriving in North Austin at Peace Bakery & Deli, a cafeteria split in halves, run by a Palestinian couple, Nuha and Jihad Hammad. One half serves savory food in platters, wraps, and family style bundles, while the other sells pastries by the pound. The baklava comes with walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and coconut, in dainty little rolls rather than square slices. Peace Bakery also serves kunafa, a sweet layered pastry with swoon-worthy cheese pulls.

Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery: Eat Your Feelings Box
Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery saves ingredients and hearts with the Eat Your Feelings Box, a trifle, basically, in a to-go container. Trimming cakes for evenness leaves bakeries with lots of scraps. Quack’s fills half a container with these, topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles. It’s like any cake, but there’s quite a lot of it, and it’s less expensive than one with neater layers. They’re only available when scraps are, so call ahead or prepare to buy a cupcake instead.

Texas French Bread: Farmers Market Finds
Cookies by Texas French Bread have been in short supply while the business worked back up from a devastating fire. Rejoice in the return of the beloved bakery and stop by the booth at the Texas Farmers Markets at Lakeline and in the Mueller neighorhood. They might even have some seasonal treats, as they’ve done in the past, especially around holidays. Shoppers through Farmhouse Delivery can now add checkerboard and butter cookies to their hauls, too.

Uchi: Chocolate Candy Bar
Name a better pair than upscale sushi restaurant Uchi and best-of lists. The “chocolate candy bar” combines classic flavors: a bar of house-made cookies and cream ice cream is draped in dark chocolate, then embellished with a salted caramel and peanut topping. Think fancy Snicker's bar, but way better. Alongside the ice cream, Uchi serves seasonal sorbet samplers in groups of three flavors.

Zucchini Kill: Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free Bakes
Sometimes people just want a simple cupcake, but dietary restrictions keep getting in the way. Along with having a hilarious name, Zucchini Kill has perfected the vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free baking formula, applying it to the whole menu. We’re talking Swiss rolls, maple candy corn cupcakes, and more, but anyone who wants to break free from the menu can order custom bakes with at least a week’s notice.


Hannah J. Frías contributed to this story.

Photo courtesy of JuiceLand

Austin-born JuiceLand beefs up protein selection with new animal-free whey

Whey Better

JuiceLand, the popular Austin-based blended health drinks chain, is known for a mission in sustainability, veering away from non-vegan proteins four years ago. It turns out, there is another whey. Now in all 32 Texas locations, JuiceLand is offering vegan whey protein, made in partnership with food and biotech company Perfect Day.

This ingredient is a “nature-identical milk protein,” derived through precision fermentation. In short, Perfect Day downloaded a protein-making DNA sequence from an online database. It was obtained from a cow in 2009, just by drawing blood. The biotech company added it to some microflora (a wide range of microorganisms), which naturally processed whey like yeast makes beer or kombucha. The microflora do the work, and presumably, the cow hasn’t lifted a hoof since then.

Along with offering a cushier life to cows, Perfect Day is reducing the ecological footprint of making whey, because microflora are a lot cheaper, environmentally, to board and care for. A press release asserts that this protein-making process “reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 97 percent, water use up to 99 percent, and energy use up to 60 percent.”

“When we first met the JuiceLand team, we immediately recognized the values alignment between our two companies and our opportunity to help them answer their ongoing customer requests, without compromising their mission,” said Perfect Day chief marketing officer Allison Fowler in the release.

Why did customers create such a clamor for this protein? Because whey tastes great. It’s wonderful to have a vegan smoothie that tastes of sweet macadamia, but whey gives it that milkshake luxury. It also delivers tons of amino acids and is considered a super-effective way to build muscle.

The Chocolate Whey, containing 26-44 grams of protein depending on the size of the smoothie, is the first recipe using the new protein and JuiceLand’s most successful new product debut. With almond milk, banana, cacao, vanilla, and whey, it’s as close to a chocolate milkshake as you’ll get without a cow. It is introduced as a seasonal special, meaning half of net proceeds benefit the SIMS Foundation in Austin, The Katy Trail in Dallas, and The Bellaire Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire.

“JuiceLand has always encouraged our community to embrace a delicious diet that positively impacts humankind and the sustainability of our planet,” said JuiceLand CEO Matt Shook in the release. “Perfect Day’s incredible animal-free whey protein perfectly fits into that mission.”

The Chocolate Whey is available at any JuiceLand location, and can also be ordered online at juiceland.com.

Photo by Jane Yun

Austin's top ramen spills out new locations for far north and south Austin

Extra Noodles

Of all the things Austin is miraculously lucky to have, two more Ramen Tatsu-ya locations just popped up at the top of the list. The first location is planned for South Austin, way down South Congress near Slaughter Lane, and expected to open in late summer. The second, set to open later in 2022, is in Lakeline.

The Tatsu-ya restaurant group has been busy in the past few years, opening a hot pot restaurant called DipDipDip Tatsu-ya in 2019 and one of Austin’s most extravagantly fun bars, Tiki Tatsu-ya, in 2021; in March, it even promised an unnamed barbecue restaurant similar to Kemuri Tatsu-ya in the space formerly occupied by Contigo.

Two more of the flagship ramen restaurants, nearly doubling and flanking the existing three Austin locations, were a response to many requests from Austinites to expand. Owner Tatsu Aikawa says the team had “always” wanted to expand north and south. The only other Ramen Tatsu-ya is in Houston.

The news hit as the restaurant was drafting a press release, when eager Austinites spotted the new sign at the South Congress storefront and quickly had it trending on Reddit. “The sign went up and the cat’s out of the bag,” started a statement on behalf of VP of brand and development Tristan Pearman.

“Over the last 10 years, the Tatsu-Ya team has been inundated with requests for restaurants in growing areas of Austin, especially further south and further north,” it reads. “Tatsu-Ya will celebrate 10 years in business this September, so timing felt right for this expansion.”

Ramen Tatsu-ya restaurants always use same straightforward menu, which essentially contains the classics, sometimes in hot and not variations: rich tonkotsu with miso or shoyu, assari-style chicken broth, tsukemen for dipping, and vegan with almond milk tonkotsu.

Pearman also assures eaters that the “BBQ ramen project” is still in the works, and will be accessible online “soon.”

“We love Ramen and want more people to love it. We just want to spread the Ramen love,” writes Aikawa in an email. “The main goal is to serve food that we love to eat and are proud of. The fan base that has grown over the past 10 years is incredible and we couldn't keep growing without everyone. We are just excited to feed new ramen heads.”

The new locations will open at 8601 S. Congress Ave., Suite 200 and the Lakeline Market at 14028 N 183, Building G, Suite 310.

Ramen Tatsu-ya confirmed two locations that are the farthest North and South of the Austin restaurants so far.

A bowl of ramen and mix-ins by Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin
Photo by Jane Yun
Ramen Tatsu-ya confirmed two locations that are the farthest North and South of the Austin restaurants so far.
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4 Austin-inspired cocktail recipes to whisk you away from the Texas heat this summer


Now that summer weather has arrived in Austin, we can tell you’re thirsting for some new drinks to try. And with World Gin Day coming up on June 10, we’re sharing a few recipes from local Austin restaurants (and Austin’s favorite Topo Chico!) we hope you’ll enjoy.

The following recipes feature some of our favorite ingredients or mixers we’re loving at the moment. Whether your drink of choice is a cocktail or mocktail, we’ve gathered four bright and bubbly beverages to help whisk you away from the Texas heat. And if you prefer to drink them rather than make them, three of these lovely libations can be found on the seasonal summer menus at their respective restaurant.

Aba’s Rhubarb Rose Gin and Tonic
This cocktail was created by Senior Beverage Manager Thomas Mizuno-Moore.

½ oz lime juice
¼ oz honey syrup
½ oz Fruitful Mixology rhubarb liqueur
¾ oz Brockmans Gin
¾ oz Hendrick’s Flora Adora
2 oz tonic water
Rosebud tea, for garnish


  • Combine lime juice, honey syrup, Fruitful Mixology rhubarb liqueur, Brockmans Gin and Hendrick’s Flora Adora in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake until cold.
  • Add tonic water to the shaker, then strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass.
  • Garnish with rosebud tea and enjoy!

Blueberry Sparkler Mocktail by Topo ChicoBecause everyone needs a good go-to mocktail recipe in their life.Photo courtesy of Topo Chico

Blueberry Sparkler Mocktail by Topo Chico
This beverage might not be gin-themed, but it does make a great refreshing mocktail. If you don’t have Topo Chico Sabores on hand, you can substitute it with sparkling water.

1 Blueberry Topo Chico Sabores
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup water
½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon slices and additional blueberries, for garnish

Blueberry Syrup Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries are soft and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the blueberry mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the blueberry mixture into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids and set the blueberry syrup aside.

Mocktail Directions:

  • In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce of the blueberry syrup, and lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well until chilled, about 15-20 seconds.
  • Fill a glass with ice and strain the mixture into the glass. Top off the glass with Blueberry Topo Chico Sabores (or sparkling water) and give it a gentle stir to mix.
  • Garnish with lemon slices and additional blueberries, if desired. Enjoy your refreshing Blueberry Sparkler!

Tillie's seasonal summer cocktailThis colorful cocktail is a lively take on a gin martini.Photo courtesy of Tillie's at Camp Lucy

Empress Gin Martini by Tillie’s at Camp Lucy
This martini recipe was developed by Paolo Lazarich, the mixologist for Abbey Row Restaurant at The Old Bell Hotel in the United Kingdom. Fun fact: Camp Lucy owners Kim and White Hanks also own The Old Bell Hotel, which is rumored to be England’s oldest hotel.

3 oz Empress 1908 Gin
1 oz dry vermouth
Splash of lemon juice
Lemon and rosemary for garnish


  • Add the Empress 1908 Gin, dry vermouth, and lemon juice to a glass and stir gently.
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of rosemary. Enjoy.

\u200bSummertime Spritz by Dean's Italian Steakhouse There's nothing like a summer spritz.Photo courtesy of Dean's Italian Steakhouse

Summertime Spritz by Dean's Italian Steakhouse
This recipe is geared toward a mixologist who enjoys the little details that make a cocktail so unique, such as making their own oleo saccharum or curating the perfect flower as a garnish.

½ oz lemon juice
½ oz strawberry oleo saccharum
¼ oz Aperol
¼ oz Giffard Abricot
1.5 oz Zephyr Gin
2 oz Brut champagne
1 each cocktail flower


  • Combine all ingredients except Brut champagne into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously, about 15-20 seconds.
  • Fill a wine glass with ice and add the Brut. Fine strain the cocktail into the glass.
  • Garnish with the cocktail flower

Extravagant estate in West Austin hits the market for $4.25 million


An imperial estate in the Lost Creek neighborhood of West Austin has become the latest addition to the city's stabilizing real estate market. The property was listed at $4.25 million.

The magnificent three-story home was originally built in 2009, making great use of Austin's Hill Country views that can be seen from every single room. The home spans 8,215 square feet on just over two acres of land, surrounded by lush trees and enclosed with a private gated entrance.

Natural light floods the inside of the home, highlighting intricate details and complimenting the high ceilings. The home boasts five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and three half-baths. The primary suite is reminiscent of an upscale resort, containing its own spa-like bathroom, walk-in closets, and access to a private balcony.

In the kitchen, the 60-inch wolf range is an aspiring chef's dream. The area has plenty of space and storage with its rich brown cabinets, a sub-zero refrigerator, a cabinet-mounted wine rack, two sinks, and more.

8105 Talbot Lane in AustinThe 60-inch wolf range is an aspiring chef's dream.Photo courtesy of JPM Real Estate Photography

A few other highlights of the home include a game room, media room, terraces, and a resort-style pool deck with an accompanying hot tub, kitchen, and fire pit. The two-car garage also includes a guest suite above it, with a single bedroom, kitchenette, and half bath.

Looking into the property's history, it was listed in June 2022 for $4.9 million, which was reduced to $3.9 million by September. The home was reported as sold in October of that year before being re-listed for its current $4.25 million price in 2023.

8105 Talbot Lane in Austin

Photo courtesy of JPM Real Estate Photography

The estate is located at 8105 Talbot Lane in West Austin.

The estate is located at 8105 Talbot Lane, which is a brief 10 minutes from downtown Austin, and is zoned for the highly-esteemed Eanes Independent School District. The listing is held by agent Wade Giles of Douglas Elliman.

Uchi spinoff to debut "whisky omakase," bar pairings, and bao in Austin

Raising the Bar

Uchibā isn't a new concept, nor is it newly promised to Austin, but it's finally getting closer to becoming a reality. The bar and restaurant spinoff from Uchi (translated as "Uchi Bar") announced today that it is set to open in late summer in the Google Tower.

Hai Hospitality, the parent group of famous omakase restaurant Uchi, more casual sushi restaurant Uchiko, and drop-in Asian barbecue restaurant Loro, announced the idea in October of 2021, setting a launch date in fall of 2022. The intent was always to open the restaurant in the Google Tower (601 West 2nd St.), so the difference now is just timing.

The original Uchibā opened in Dallas in 2019, operating upstairs from Uchi, an Austin export. This exchange is now coming back around, blurring the lines of what's from which Texas city. Similarly, the lines are blurred between what each restaurant serves, since Uchibā does include some of Uchi and Uchiko's most popular dishes: hot and cool tastings, agemono (deep fried bites), raw fish rolls, yakitori, and more, including dessert.

Of course, there will be lots of menu items that are unique to Uchibā, especially when informed by the spirits behind the bar. Some of these food and drink pairings include the Hawaiian-ish spiced ham misubi with nori, rice, and tepahe, a fermented pineapple drink; and the vodka and caviar with olive oil, burnt butter, brioche, and chives. As well as these "duos," the bar will offer omakase flights for whiskey and agave spirits.

“At Uchi we combine flavors and textures to create what we call the ‘perfect bite,’” said Chef Tyson Cole, the James Beard Award-winning chef who started the Uchi brand, in a press release. “With Uchibā, we wanted to take that a step further by unifying food with cocktails and spirits. Our 'Perfect Pairs' and the whisky omakase play off this idea with intentional combinations of food, cocktails and the the amazing array of Japanese whiskies behind the bar.”

Some menu items aren't just unique to Uchibā; They're also only available at the Austin location, thanks to its chef de cuisine, Vaidas Imsha. His menu includes categories that don't appear at the Dallas location — "Buns + Bao" and dumplings — and a long list of items that could constitute their own menu independently. Among these are a Caesar salad with Japanese twists; a Wagyu beef bulgogi with radish kimchi; two fish crudos with refreshing additions like asian pear and cucumber aguachile; and the more straightforward karaage spiced up with kimchi caramel and yuzu pear.

Uchibā will operate Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 pm; until midnight on Fridays; and until 11 pm on Saturdays. Happy Hour will be from 4-6 pm Monday through Friday.

Uchiba Austin

Photo courtesy of Uchibā

Although Uchi is from Austin, Uchiba, the upstairs bar, has only existed in Dallas until now.