Photo credit Jessica Attie Photography & Case Daniel

Krystal Craig and Ian Thurwachter, the local, award-winning chef duo behind downtown restaurant Intero, are further refining the art of hospitable dining with their newest concept, Poeta. The all-day Italian café is located within The Frances Modern Inn and opens to the public on Friday, November 24.

Poeta, meaning ‘poet’ in Italian, leans heavily into the romance and warmth of the dining experience, sourcing inspiration from both classic Italian hospitality and the country’s quintessentially charming café aesthetic to deliver a meal worthy of a sonnet.

It’s also (according to a press release) the only Italian restaurant in Austin that will provide dining service from breakfast to dinner and beyond, to nightcaps and indulgent evening desserts.

“Although East Austin is home to a few Italian spots presently, there are no all-day options in the area, and we look forward to providing this,” Krystal Craig, general manager, and pastry chef tells CultureMap. “Plus, there's a particularly special feeling associated with dining at a restaurant within a hotel. That familiar feeling seems possible here, which adds to the whole experience.”

The new restaurant’s all-day service is made possible with the help of its crop of menus from Executive Chef Ian Thurwachter and Chef de Cuisine Kevin Donovan.

Guests who prefer morning mealtimes can expect fresh takes on breakfast and brunch dishes like eggs benedict and crab cakes. Lighter fare, like specialty salads and fried chicken picatta, is available on the midday menu for patrons who prefer a late start. Poeta’s dinner options include gnocchi, grilled octopus, polenta, and more. A seasonal rotating gelato menu and antipasti service of housemade mozzarella, giardiniera (pickled vegetables), and marinated olives is also available.

Other menu offerings include specialty coffee, bespoke cocktails, an extensive wine list and amaro collection, and pastries. Most notably, Poeta offers a “Waffogato”: a waffle served with gelato and espresso, for a playful and poetic take on some of Italian cuisine’s most precious staples. Aside from the inviting cuisine itself, guests can also expect private dinners, monthly musical guest performances, and other special events served up on Poeta’s social calendar.

“A weekly “flight night” is planned to feature tastes in wine, amari, or spirits,” Craig says. “The hotel offers various event spaces as well, which we plan to use for friendly neighborhood happenings such as a summer gelato social, and collaborative chef-inspired experiences.”

In true Italian-inspired decadence, Poeta’s interior evokes an intimate lounge ambiance designed to encourage patrons to linger and even dine solo.

“Personally, I love to dine solo and appreciate places that feel comfortable to do so,” Craig tells CultureMap. “We aim to provide that built-in sense of community so everyone feels comfortable coming back again and again, whether dining on your own or as a group.”

Vintage decor, modern design touches, and traditional café elements provide an elevated dining experience from the first cup of coffee to the last glass of dessert wine. The cozy space by Kim Lewis Designs seats 100 guests both indoors and outdoors, and includes a full bar. Private dining areas are also available for extra-special occasions.

Poeta is located in The Frances Modern Inn at 1123 East 11th St. Restaurant hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 am to 9 pm; Friday from 8 am to 10 pm; Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm; and Sunday from 10 am to 9 pm. Happy hour and antipasti specials are available daily from 3-5 pm. Brunch is served on weekends from 10 am to 3 pm.

Poeta Austin interior

Chase Daniel in association with Kim Lewis Designs

Poeta is located in The Frances Modern Inn at 1132 East 11th St. and opens on Friday, November 25.

Photo by Jane Yun

Iconic Mexican restaurant hatches new West Austin spot for more grilled goodies

A Fresh New Fresa's

Beloved Austin restaurant Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon, known for its fresh Mexican fare and poultry-forward, wood-grilled menu, is expanding its coop with a new location in West Austin. The latest location is at 3600 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. and is open to the public as of October 3.

Patrons can expect Fresca’s signature al fresco ambiance, interior design, and expansive menu of grilled dishes and more at this Loop 360 eatery. Familiar design, like the vibrant aesthetics crafted by Austin architect and designer LEVY DYKEMA, are paired with new features like its new 6,000-square-foot space and breathtaking views of the West Lake Hills. The restaurant includes indoor dining space for 160 guests, seating for 38 guests on the patio, and some additional bar seating.

“Having served fellow Austinites for over a decade, we’re grateful to bring our concept not only to a new neighborhood but to my neighborhood,” said Fresa’s co-owner Margaret Vera in a press release. “We can’t wait to share the new space with the community. We really tried to create a space that captures the spirit of Westlake and the Hill Country.”

As a resident of the West Lake Hills herself, Vera is excited to bring the Fresa’s experience and its well-known patio vibes to the neighborhood, which is full of loyal customers, who often had to venture to other locations.

“The Hill Country backdrop is an added bonus,” Vera tells CultureMap. “We actually built a new patio into the previous space to make eating wood-grilled meals and sipping margaritas over the sunset possible.”

There will be select programming similar to the South First location on the patio, such as the annual New Year's Eve party with a DJ, drink specials, and more. Seasonal menu items such as wood-grilled wings and a ceviche tostada are available to order through October. Fresa’s 360 will also offer other typical items from the concept’s rotating holiday menu, like Thanksgiving dinners and tamales, throughout the year.

Since opening its first and most famous location on North Lamar Boulevard in 2012, Fresa’s has continued to elevate the dining experience for guests, solidifying itself among a list of must-eat places in Austin. Plans for more locations, including a fourth sit-down spot in Mueller, are on the horizon for 2024.

Fresa’s 360 is open seven days a week. Dine-in hours are 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday, and 10 am to 10 pm on Saturday and Sunday. To-go window hours are 8 am to 10 pm daily. The happy hour menu is available from 3 to 6 pm Monday through Friday.

Fresa's 360 interior

Photo by Jane Yun

Fresa's 360 location is open now at 3600 N. Capital of Texas Highway.

Photo by Jody Horton

Longhorns watch parties, robot bartenders, and all-you-can-eat seafood top Austin's tastiest food news

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.


This week, the opening on Austinites' minds is that of the college football season. Sorry for the psych-out, but there's food news coming. The Longhorns' first game is on September 2, and there should be no shortage of places to drink a beer and watch the game. The following three are a little fancier than your staple neighborhood sports bar.

The newest option will be Victory Lap, which opens on the same day, unveiling its masculine vintage interior with lots of smart, upscale design snuck in. Wax Myrtle's, always ready with a theme, is joining the fray. It's showing the game on all its TVs and offering drink discounts, plus 50 percent off wings and pulled pork sandwiches. Live DJ sets will add excitement to every game this season. On East 6th Street, Lefty's Brick Bar is a great place to start the party. Enjoy themed cocktails, $2 draft beers, and lawn games, as well as free wings when you share the event on Instagram.

Other news and notes

Kinship Milk Tea, a bottled beverage company by UT Grad Caitlin Cash, was selected as a participant in Whole Foods Market's Local and Emerging Brands Accelerator Program (LEAP). That means the company will be considered for placement on Whole Foods shelves and a potential $25,000 equity investment. The participants were narrowed down to 10 from 1,000 new applicants, so even if Kinship doesn't win, this is Austinites' heads up that this brand is going places.

Yes, robots taking jobs is a little scary, but when the job is pouring beers in massive venues, not too much has been lost. TendedBararrived in Austin at Circuit of the Americas first, in June of 2022. Now it's expanding to college stadiums including those at Texas A&M and UT. These drink-making machines eliminate the need to shout an order over a crowd or carry a payment option. They also make more than 100 drinks, so don't worry — your super-customized drink order is as available as ever.

Die-hard fans of Barlata may not have made it back since El Ravaltook over, but here's a nudge: a series called "Sundays in Barcelona" brings brunch to the contemporary Spanish restaurant, with items like jamón conserva, boquerones (anchovies), eggs and paella, and cold shellfish platters. Live entertainment will lend an even more Spanish vibe, for total immersion. Reservations are recommended on OpenTable.

Upscale neighborhood restaurantLenoir offers a spin-off to its popular old-fashioned Backyard Beefsteak Dinner on September 3, this time with a coastal twist. The all-you-can-eat Backyard Beach-Steak Dinner features a raw bar with ceviche, as well as whole grilled fish, seasonal sides, desserts, and more. Beer, wine, and nonalcoholic beverages will also be available for purchase. A portion of funds from the event go to Austin Pets Alive!, a leading no-kill shelter. Tickets ($95, discounts for kids) available on Resy.

Fil N' Viet/ Facebook

8 can't-miss spots to visit during Austin Restaurant Weeks


Though social media is currently beckoning users to take a cashmere-clad stroll through a pumpkin patch, the conditions on the ground are far less autumnal. Central Texans looking to get out of the house can either cozy up to a friend with a swimming pool or book dinner reservations stat.

While it can't help with social skills, the Central Texas Food Bank is doing a solid for those who want to spend the waning summer days languidly nibbling Austin's best cuisine in blissfully robust air-conditioning. The food insecurity nonprofit's annual Austin Restaurant Weeks is back on the calendar from September 1-17 with prix-fixe menus and other deals until the city gets its first breath of cooler weather.

During the fundraiser, dozens of area eateries will offer $20 lunches and $40-$60 dinners to help fight hunger in the community. Several spots have added $12 cocktail deals or beer and wine specials to help sweeten the pot. Funds will go to the Central Texas Food Bank.

Of course, that leaves the eternal question of where to eat. While some sure bets have yet to upload their menus, plenty of popular spots are eager to get guests' mouths watering in the opening week. Start filling up the datebook with these prime picks, then check the website frequently for new temptations.

The Dirdie Birdie
The proverbial angel on the shoulder entreats Austinites to grab a Bavarian pretzel and pork shoulder tacos during Restaurant Weeks. The devil tempts them to take a ditch day to enjoy a round of mini golf accompanied by a couple of Berry Heatwave cocktails.

Fil N' Viet
Decisions can be tough during Restaurant Weeks, but this Filipino-Vietnamese spot takes out all the guesswork. Pay $20 any time during operating hours, give a good tip, and then dine on a crispy adobo bowl paired with sweet iced coffee and a freeze pop. Leave happy.

Heavy pasta may not be everyone's top choice for hot-weather dining, but this East Austin Italian spot offers lighter dishes in its $60 dinner. The signature puffy potatoes will start the party, followed by summery fare like a Baby Gem salad, roasted Savoy cabbage, or grilled branzino with salsa verde.

L'Oca d'Oro
This Mueller neighborhood favorite offers one of the promotion's biggest bargains in its $40 prix fixe. Warm up the tastebuds with mozzarella and Texas peaches before diving into a bowl of risotto with summer berry agrodolce. A rum-soaked tiramisu will hit the spot for dessert.

Save the San Antonio trip for October. The city's most celebrated chef — Steve McHugh — is dishing out one of Restaurant Week's most intriguing menus downtown. The entrees for the $60 feast are particularly enticing. Choose from two Spanish-inspired options: gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) or a carrillada of pork served with whipped hominy.

St. Elmo Brewing Co.
This South Austin go-to has more than a dozen brews on tap, but guests only need to be interested in one this month. A dollar from every $8 pour of Smalls benefits the cause. Luckily, it's a snappy pale ale with summery stone fruit notes. And at only five percent ABV, one can make a night of it.

Summer House on Music Lane
Lingering heatwaves beg for staycations, so book a last-minute stay at the Hotel Magdalena. After a dip, head to the in-house restaurant for a $60 dinner featuring options like strip steak, scallops, and chicken. Opt for the $15 wine pairing too. It's not a break without a little torpor.

Wu Chow North
The Rosedale location of the Chinese standard-bearer is offering a $20 power lunch with main options like scallions hugging beef, shrimp with preserved greens, and a local vegetable and tofu stir fry. Pair it with a mocktail like the citrusy Johnny's Jungle Juice or the spicy Lil' Pepino to add an extra dollar to the food bank's pot.

Fil N' Viet

Grab a quick lunch at Fil N' Viet.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Esquire's praise for top Austin Mexican restaurant leads this week's top 5 most-read headlines

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From our best chefs to our neighbors' strong tourist pulls, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin's new favorite Mexican restaurant scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list. Este was the only Texas restaurant on the main list.

2. 'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands. Those warm fuzzies aren't always easy to find amongst Austin's seasonal glitz — they're a mall-town affair.

3. Austin sparkles and shines as the No. 1 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023. Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, but Austinites can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays.

4. Austin is among the 20 most 'house rich' cities in U.S., report says. The study found that 44.70 percent of all housing in Austin is owner-occupied. The median home value of a home in the city was $593,000.

5. This Texas city is among the 50 best places to travel in 2024, says Travel + Leisure. Fort Worth was the only Texas city to make Travel + Leisure's prestigious list, and one of just a handful of U.S. cities.

A new daiquiri bar and authentic spicy ramen top Austin's 11 tastiest bites of food news

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.

Openings and closings

Despite Austin's proximity to the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Bayou, we don't have too many restaurants replicating the area's cuisine. A new bar and grill called Austin's Very Own Saltt is adding to the growing niche, highlighting seafood and daiquiris — popular in New Orleans for how easy they are to make and dispense to loaded, novelty-seeking tourists on a hot day. Along with seven or more variations on the sugary frozen drinks, expect classics like Cajun butterfly shrimp, fried catfish, and shrimp fried rice as a side. Surprisingly, this bar won't entertain downtown day drinkers, but a milder crowd up north (2525 W. Anderson Ln.). It opens December 2 at 5 pm.

Austinites likely need no introduction to Shake Shack, the fast food burger joint with surprisingly upscale culinary initiatives. A new location in Cedar Park (1905 E. Whitestone Blvd.) is the first in the area, and it's wooing new customers with several opening day offers. On December 5, guests will receive branded holiday ornaments, and Shake Shack will donate $1 for every sandwich sold to Texas Humane Heroes, a pet shelter with an adoption center in Leander. Hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 11 pm Friday through Saturday.

ICYMI: One of the most famous barbecue joints near Austin, the Salt Lick BBQ, offered big news this week: It's opening its third full-scale location. This one will be in Fredericksburg, opening sometime in 2025 if everything goes according to plan. Another famous restaurant with more upscale international credentials, Quince, also shared photos of its beautiful plates and views after a very quiet soft opening of its Lake Austin location. If you've been reading for a while, you may recognize a few other restaurants that opened this week: Mutts Canine Cantina,El Alma Cafe y Cantina, and a Milk Bar pop-up.

Other news and notes

Many Austinites swear by Jinya Ramen, which originated in Tokyo and now commands a cult following here, in Austin. On December 1, it brings back its "fan-favorite" Red Garnet bowl, featuring "thick noodles," vegan broth, a spicy garlic sauce, pork chasu, green onion, kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), onion, and spinach. It'll be on menus until February 29, 2024. New to the United States locations is also the Curry Nikuman bun with pork soboro (ground pork) and a curry dipping sauce.

Speaking of local favorites, Home Slice is also bringing back a special menu item: a vodka pie (not sold by the slice), featuring a cream sauce made with Tito's Handmade Vodka and fresh mozzarella. The pies, two new natural wines, and a prize drawing will all raise funds for Southern Smoke in Houston, and Foundation Communities in Austin. One lucky winner will win free pizza for a year; Tickets ($10, or 3 for $25) are available for purchase in-store until December 24.

Widely recognized as one of Austin's best new-ish restaurants, Canje charms guests with Caribbean flavors — especially as Austinites crave a little tropical feeling during winter months. On December 3, the restaurant is inviting anyone to stop by for a free Trinidadian dance party with a DJ and Trinidadian street food. Details are sparse, but we don't need much else to be convinced it'll be worth a visit. The party goes from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Aspiring architects who don't have the budget to experiment on Austin land can try on gingerbread houses first, at beautiful South Lamar restaurant Eberly. Pastry chef Raven Breitfeller will guide visitors through the delicate process, but things won't be too serious as the seasonal cocktails and passed apps start rolling in. Tickets ($90) include all materials, one cocktail, and snacks, and are available via Resy.

Photos with Santa, holiday hotel deals, and 8 more Texas travel tidbits for December


It's the most wonderful time of year for Texans to travel and spend quality time with family. Need help deciding where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in December.

In the Hill Country

Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special event December 8-10. Throughout the weekend, the winery will offer an anniversary bundle featuring three special wines for $99 plus tax. On Saturday, December 9, visitors can stop by to enjoy wine and cake while supplies last. Reservations are required for tastings, and can be made online via Tock or by emailing tasting@pedernalescellars.com.

From Jingle Bell Runs to photos with Cowboy Kringle, the Christmas season is in full swing in Gruene. There are festive holiday happenings during every weekend in December, starting with the 22nd annual Gruene Pony Express Ride, the Gruene Town Lighting, and the Christmas Market Days on Saturday, December 2. And if swing dancing is on the list of resolutions for 2024, Texans can get a head start by visiting Gruene Hall on December 19 and 26 to learn easy, fun moves for beginners. Swing dancing lessons are $10 per person, but many other family-friendly events in Gruene are free to the public.

There's plenty of time to make your way down to Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk for a unique 12 Days of Christmas event that runs December 12-23. Activities include complimentary mini-massages from the Thompson Spa's expert therapists on December 13, a must-know mixology class on December 17, and a live jazz performance on December 21. These events are free, and visitors can register to participate online via the website.

Across North Texas

In its first holiday season, the new Omni PGA Frisco Resort is offering a special "Home On the Range for the Holidays" package that includes movie nights, holiday games and crafts, s'mores, and a Santa meet-and-greet. Valet parking, early check-in and check-out, and weekend breakfast are included. Nightly rates for the holiday package (offered through December 23) begin at $426. For some extra holiday wonderment, guests can unwrap up to 20 percent off their stay at the resort with the Ticket to Wonder package in partnership with Dallas chocolatier Kate Weiser.

In the Houston-Galveston area

The Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston received quite a gift for its 50th anniversary: official recognition from the United Kingdom’s Parliament. The annual event immerses visitors in the world of Charles Dickens' larger-than-life characters in 19th-century England. From December 1-3, the family-friendly festival will include fun parades, entertainment on four different stages, and costumed vendors selling Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, and more. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for children aged 7-12, and free for children aged 6 and under. Tickets can purchased via Eventbrite.

And if you're looking for a swanky place to stay during the festival weekend (or any weekend, for that matter), Gavleston's newly-opened Hotel Lucine (formerly the Treasure Isle Motel) is a brand-new contender. CultureMap's Eric Sandler shared his first impressions of the hotel and all of its luxe amenities, including its rooftop bar, lobby bar and restaurant, and The Fancy – a "fine-ish" dining restaurant currently serving dinner. The hotel’s owners aimed to transform the two-story property into a "modern experience designed to appeal to gen x’ers and millennials." Nightly rates at Hotel Lucine begin at $155 in December.

The C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston is enticing hotel guests (and any visitors who want to make merry) with 12 Days of Cocktails, featuring a rotating specialty cocktail menu available at the hotel's Lobby Bar and Rosalie Italian Soul. Seasonal offerings include Apple Cider Old Fashioned, Pumpkin Spice Martini, Winter Spritz, and more. Plus, a special holiday market in partnership with Houston's Southern Kindness Gallery will feature 30 local artisans, Saturday, December 9. More information can be found online.

At home in Austin

On Christmas Eve, families staying at Austin's Commodore Perry Estate can enjoy milk and cookies while children write their letters to Santa, then feast on a special Christmas Eve prime rib dinner and participate in holiday cookie decorating. On Christmas Day, the resort will have a breakfast display of homemade pastries and more. A special yuletide feast prepared by Chef Bradley and Chef Susana will be available all day, paired with holiday wines curated by the estate's sommelier. Rates at Commodore Perry Estate begin at $454 per night in December.

Santa is making special appearances throughout Texas to learn what children want for Christmas, and at the Barton Creek Square, families will be able to grab a photo with Mr. Claus throughout the month. On December 5 and 12, families can don their most festive holiday pajamas for a Pajama Day photo op with Santa. Visitors also can bring their furry friends for special pet photo sessions on December 10, 6:30-8:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged, and can be made via whereissanta.com.

The Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin has launched its own deluxe holiday deal for guests through January 3: the Miracle on Congress Avenue package. Guests can use the promo code "WINTER" when booking a stay at the hotel's Artist's Residence and enjoy the comforts of a beautifully decorated holiday-themed penthouse suite on the 31st floor, a $100 food and beverage credit that can be used at the famed Luminaire restaurant or Le Bis rooftop terrace bar, and a complimentary holiday mini bar. Rates for the Miracle on Congress Avenue package begin at $747 per night.