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Photo by Merrick Ales

A South Austin restaurant hopes to flush the competition in the pursuit of the 2022 title of the best restroom in the U.S.

Eberly, which serves contemporary American cuisine, is one of 10 finalists vying for this year’s America’s Best Restroom crown, which will be bestowed by Cintas Corp. Cincinnati-based Cintas supplies corporate uniforms, along with related products and services.

Eberly, which opened in 2016 at 615 S. Lamar Blvd., is the only Texas finalist. Voting in the contest ends August 31.

In a news release announcing the finalists, Cintas emphasizes Eberly’s centerpiece — the Cedar Tavern bar, rescued from New York City’s Greenwich Village — and notes the restroom’s “nod to the bygone era when those bars were in vogue.”

“Each stall has an illuminated old-school New York tavern vacancy light outside the door that turns off when you lock it. The restroom includes images from Grammy-winning music photographer Alan Messer,” Cintas says.

The winner of the 2022 edition of the America’s Best Restroom contest will receive a Cintas UltraClean deep-cleaning service for its award-winning restroom, along with $2,500 worth of facility services or restroom cleaning.

“The public holds higher standards for the cleanliness and technology used in public restrooms, which is why we’re proud to recognize these businesses that maintain clean and exceptional facilities,” says Julia Messinger, marketing manager at Cintas.

If Eberly slams the stall door on its competition, it won’t be eatery’s only claim to fame this year. The restaurant’s former executive chef, Jo Chan, competed in the Houston-set 19th season of Top Chef but was eliminated in the seventh episode. That episode aired in April, the same month that Chan left Eberly.

In 2016, CultureMap anointed the bar at Eberly as one of the year’s 14 best new bars in Austin. The business is named after Angelina Eberly, an Austin innkeeper who stood up to Texas President Sam Houston and his Texas Rangers by firing a cannon in 1846 to hold off a rebellion and preserve Austin as the state capital.

Photo by Johanesen Photography

South Austin neighborhood bistro boasts all-new look, name, chef, and menu

Bistro my heart

One of South Austin’s newest neighborhood staples has refreshed, rebranded, and revealed both new leadership and new menus. Goodbye, 1417 Bistro; hello, 1417 French Bistro — because who doesn’t love a bit of added French flare?

Opened by Allison Welsh in July 2021, the Bouldin Creek bistro is an exploration of French-inspired cuisine. Launching the rebranded concept and new menu items on August 1, Welsh welcomes new executive chef Kyle Mulligan (formerly of Salty Sow, Trio at Four Seasons Hotel, Cipollina, and Kemuri Tatsu hya) to the team.

While refocusing to reflect traditional French bistro fare, Mulligan’s new menu will still feature 1417 favorites like the duck confit crepes, with added items such as a hearty jambon sandwich, escargot, French onion soup, and many more starting on August 1. He is particularly excited about the chilled scallop salad, where preserved lemon vinaigrette pairs with the sweetness of the scallops and carrot while bright and slightly bitter greens add a delightful crunch.

The restaurant works with local urban farms Hausbar and Joe’s Organics for microgreens and edible flowers.

Also refreshed on the menu are the pastries, with new items by Amy Moore and a bread program led by Maggie Fleuger. Classic French cocktails also join the already well-curated beverage menu, which will now include a French 75, Sidecar, and Vieux Carre.

But the bistro’s glow-up is not confined to the kitchen: Welsh also updated the interior décor, curating an equal parts elevated and inviting feel for diners with modern artwork, midcentury furniture, and plenty of greenery.

Open weekdays from 4 pm to 10 pm, happy hour is available Monday through Thursday from 4 pm to 6:30 pm. On weekends, the bistro serves brunch between 10 am and 3 pm and reopens for dinner from 5 pm to 11 pm (Saturdays) or 10 pm (Sundays).

1417 French Bistro features both refreshed interiors and menus.

Photo by Johanesen Photography
1417 French Bistro features both refreshed interiors and menus.
Rendering courtesy of Clayton Korte

Austin-themed mini golf experience putts into The Domain with star chef

Putt Putt Cocktails

Get your putters ready, Austin. A new mini golf experience is coming to The Domain later this year, with fantastic food from one of the city's favorite culinary teams to flavor the deal.

Scheduled to open in fall 2022, Dirdie Birdie will be Austin's first indoor course and feature 12 one-of-a-kind Austin themed mini golf holes. A restaurant and full bar directed by Chef Nicholas Yanes and his Excelsior management group (the team behind Juniper, Uncle Nicky's, and Verbena) will be on hand to keep you refreshed between rounds.

Situated in 9,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, the concept is the brainchild of Austin couple Vik and Lina Khasat.

“We are so thrilled to bring this concept to Austin,” said Vik and Lina. “The Dirdie Birdie combines all of our favorite things, elevated food and drink mixed with an amazing interactive experience. We are creating the ideal gathering place for families, date night, friends and everything in between.”

Award-winning local architects Clayton Korte are designing the colorful space, incorporating new age design with vintage golf elements. The 12-hole course will feature several Austin-inspired holes recreated after iconic buildings and landmarks from around the city.

Chef Nicholas Yanes of Excelsior Hospitality told CultureMap that he's a long-time fan of mini golf. This new restaurant at Dirdie Birdie will offer guests a full-service restaurant and bar featuring an elevated menu with a mix of small bites and entrees.

“This is such an exciting project for us,” says Yanes in a release. “We will be creating a menu focused on local and regional ingredients that connects with the guests in a cheeky and fun way.”

Located at 10910 Domain Drive, the Dirdie Birdie is sure to be a hole-in-one for families, foodies, design aficionados, mini golf champions, and everyone in between. Head to dirdiebirdieatx.com or follow @thedirdiebirdie on Instagram for updates on the grand opening.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Queer Eye star Bobby Berk dishes on his favorite places in Austin

An eye for nice things

Queer Eye decor guru Bobby Berk has spent more time in Austin than many visitors do. Off and on, he and the rest of the Queer Eye cast stayed in Austin for a number of months to film the sixth season of the Netflix lifestyle and fashion makeover show.

Armed with his insider-like knowledge of Austin, Berk has compiled a new list of his favorite spots for eating, drinking, shopping, recreating, and resting your head. The list appears on Flipboard; Berk is guest curator of Flipboard’s travel newsletter, Wanderlust.

With this list, "I’m giving you a peek into all the things I absolutely adore about Austin,” Houston-born Berk says.

Here’s a rundown of Berk’s picks for grabbing a drink or a bite to eat in Austin, along with his commentary about each place.

El Arroyo
"
This Tex-Mex institution is most well known for its witty signs (where the Fab Five and I posed for pics). But you also need to try the amazing food — and probably loosen your belt when you’re done."

The Roosevelt Room
"
For a special cocktail, head to the Roosevelt Room. This elegant speakeasy has stylish interiors and even better drinks (and also offers options to go)."

Café No Sé
"
A bright and beautiful all-day café with something for everyone (including some mouth-watering desserts)."

Container Bar (now permanently closed)
"
One of the most unique bars I’ve ever seen, it’s constructed entirely of shipping containers. A great spot to unwind after a long day of work — or, you know, transforming the homes of heroes."

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
"
You’ll find amazing, fresh, and flavorful Mexican at Fresa’s. The Achiote and Citrus chicken is truly the stuff of food fantasies!"

Berk’s shopping selections are:

  • Four Hands Home, a home furnishings retailer
  • Nannie Inez (now online-only), a home goods store
  • Room Service Vintage, a retailer of vintage furniture, lamps, jewelry, clothing, and home décor
  • Stag Provisions, a men’s clothing shop
  • Daughters, a women’s clothing shop

Berk’s recreation picks are:

  • B Cycle, a bike rental service
  • Icosa Collective, an artist-run nonprofit gallery
  • Zilker Park
  • Barton Springs Pool

Berk’s lodging choices are:

  • The Proper Austin
  • Hotel Magdalena
  • Hotel San José
  • AC Hotel
  • The Carpenter Hotel
Photo by Paul Bardagy

Iconic Austin restaurant Fonda San Miguel unveils innovative chef duo

Fonda News

Today may mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, but Austin’s iconic interior Mexican restaurant Fonda San Miguel is celebrating more than Cinco de Mayo. Ahead of its 47th anniversary, the legendary staple of authentic Mexican cuisine has announced two co-chefs now at the helm of the historic restaurant.

Co-founded in 1975 by Tom Gilliland and late chef Miguel Ravago, Fonda San Miguel was the first Austin restaurant to focus on authentic cuisine from interior Mexico. Ravago’s recipes were inspired by his grandmother’s kitchen, and he was known as a master of authentic Mexican food and a giant in the Texas culinary industry. He passed away in June 2017 following a battle with lung cancer, and the two new co-chefs will be the first to fill his post at Fonda San Miguel.

“No one could ever replace Miguel,” says Gilliland in a release. “He wore many hats and filled multiple kitchen roles in a way only he was capable of. It felt right to hire not one, but two skilled chefs to carry on his legacy.”

The two new chefs are Mexico City native Carlos Monroy and sourcing expert Blanca Zesati. Formally trained at the Colegio Superior de Gastronomia, Monroy boasts a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts with a specialization in regional Mexican cuisine. He most recently served as executive chef of Servido, a Mexico City catering company known for servicing celebrity clients such as Shakira, Dua Lipa, and Paul McCartney.

“I want to continue showing the world that Mexican food is more than tacos, burritos, and quesadillas,” Monroy says. “Fonda San Miguel is the perfect place to do that. What Tom and Miguel built almost 50 years ago has stood the test of time and will continue to live on. Our customers are already familiar with the beauty of Mexican cooking, and I am humbled to carry on the tradition.”

Although born and raised in Chicago, Zesati likewise boasts Mexican roots. Her most recent post was as executive sous chef at Austin’s renowned Miraval Resort & Spa, where she spent eight years creating inventive menus for guests with dietary restrictions. Zesati spearheaded a fully organic menu program that changed nightly and provided complete nutritional information to guests. Her extensive experience with procuring unique ingredients has made her an expert ingredient curator and a frequent partner of niche producers throughout the city.

“I’m excited to learn more about my own culture through food,” Zesati says. “My dad is from Mexico, so we visited often growing up. I want to see how I can incorporate what I’ve learned over the course of my career with what I know about my family’s heritage, and hopefully bring Austin some healthier, plant-based Mexican food along the way.”

Gilliland attributes Fonda San Miguel’s longevity to its ability to adapt and evolve while staying true to its core identity, which is part of the motivation behind hiring these two innovative new chefs. He is equally excited about Monroy’s mastery of Mexican breads such as pan dulce as he is about Zesati’s experience crafting creative, organic menus.

“Over the last decade, I’ve noticed a marked increase in guests with dietary restrictions,” says Gilliland, “Vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free — and what those people might not know is that those options already exist. Authentic Mexican cooking is largely plant-based, so that’s what Blanca’s focus will be; researching, sourcing, and incorporating those dishes into Fonda San Miguel’s menu.”

Ultimately, Gilliland tasked both Zesati and Monroy with expanding the existing Fonda San Miguel menu while retaining the restaurant’s core offerings.

“The new items aren’t replacing anything,” he says. “But I’m confident adding them will help us be more approachable to more people. I’ve been around long enough to know that the best way to create an enduring legacy is to continue evolving, continue pushing the envelope and consistently make everyone feel welcome, seen and loved.”

The news comes just in time for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and Fonda San Miguel invites patrons old and new to sample the expanded menu with a ‘Numero Uno’ margarita (or two) on May 5 as part of the festivities. Fonda San Miguel is located at 2330 W. North Loop Blvd. Guests can visit fondasanmiguel.com to make reservations.

The legendary Mexican restaurant announced new co-chefs and an expanded menu.

Photo by Paul Bardagy
The legendary Mexican restaurant announced new co-chefs and an expanded menu.
Photo courtesy of Bakery Lorraine

The best Austin restaurants for Easter feasts, treats, and more holiday fun

Easter News

Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or the Easter Bunny, signs of spring are sprouting up at restaurants all over the city. We’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate the holiday, from egg hunts to brunch and baked goods for your at-home feasts.

Easter brunch
South Congress Hotel staple Café No Sé will have Easter specials on Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17, with Parmesan chive scones and beet pickled deviled eggs at each meal. Other brunch specials will include an Easter Sando (lamb merguez, farm egg, green harissa schmear, pickled onions, watercress, sesame seed bagel) and Turkish eggs (63 Degree eggs, aleppo brown butter, grilled sourdough).

Try something out of the ordinary for Easter this year at Old Thousand, which is serving $7 cocktails and $5 mimosas at both locations. Brunch offerings will include mala fried chicken and cuck fat waffles and a limited-time dumpling menu, plus the return of famous chili wontons for Easter along with shumai, crab rangoons, gyoza, and more. Make reservations for both the Burnet Road and 11th Street locations by calling 737-222-6637.

Elevate your Easter experience at the Hotel Granduca Austin, which hosts its Easter brunch buffet on Sunday, April, 17, from 11 am-3 pm. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Visconti Ristorante, will serve classic Easter entrees, delicious starters, and delectable desserts such as carrot cake, a Rice Krispie eggs nest, and assorted cheesecakes. Adult tickets are $89 per person for the buffet including beverages, or $65 for the buffet only. Kids 12 and under can join the brunch for $20, while kids five and under eat free. Guests can make reservations at Visconti Ristorante through OpenTable.

40 North is celebrating the season with spring sips ($9 frozen peach belllinis and $5 mimosas) and a special brunch omelet pizza made with mozzarella, fontina, garlic, parmesan, fried fingerling potatoes, charred shishitos, farm egg, fried rosemary, and pancetta.

Bring the whole family to TLC for Easter brunch in a spacious group dining atmosphere and dog-friendly patio. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 am-3 pm, with highlights including French toast bread pudding, chicken fried steak and eggs, or shrimp and grits.

Baked goods
Bakery Lorraine will begin offering special Easter-themed pastries and baked goods, including lemon cake, bunny and chick tarts, easter moon pies, carrot cake, and more. The last day for pre-order is Wednesday, April 13 at noon, and orders can be picked up at its Rock Rose location in the Domain on April 16 or 17 during business hours.

Jam Sanitchat’s east side gluten-free bakery and vegan ice cream shop, Gati, is offering a full Easter menu, available for pre-order through Sunday, April 10. Items include assorted cupcakes, vegan lemon meringue pie, bird nest cake, carrot cake, and more.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for all your Easter needs, head to Walton’s Fancy & Staple for florals, limited-time colorful golden Easter eggs, seasonal macarons, and pastries.

Easter events
Downtown food hall Fareground is hosting an Egg-stravaganza of family fun on Saturday, April 16. The free event will include an Easter egg hunt, brunch specials, cotton candy and popcorn, and a special appearance by the Easter Bunny at 11:30 am. RSVP here.

Further afield, William Chris Vineyards will host an Easter egg roll on Saturday, April 16 from 10 am-noon. The family-friendly event will feature free activities for kids, including egg coloring, photos with the Easter bunny, an Easter egg hunt at 11 am, and the roll at 11:30 am. Kids are welcome to the event for free, while $20 tickets for adults include wine tastings, food pairings, and grab-and-go charcuterie cones.

Passover
Passover begins on Friday, April 15, and Austinites can enjoy dinner to-go from Mediterranean restaurant Aba. Priced at $54.95 per person, the to-go menu features traditional dishes with a Mediterranean twist: classic potato and Brussels sprout latkes, matzoh ball soup, slow-braised short rib, crispy chicken thigh, and almond tart. To-go orders must be placed by Wednesday, April 13, at 9 am for carryout and delivery on April 15 and 16 from 11 am-4 pm.

Mueller neighborhood favorite L’Oca D’Oro will host a special feast celebrating Passover for the first time since the pandemic. Taking place on April 19 and 20, the family-friendly event will feature a pre-meal service hosted by Rabbi Neil Blumofe (Agudas Achim) on one night and Cantor Sarah Avner (Beth Israel) on the other. With a special menu showcasing chef Fiore Tedesco’s take on traditional Passover dishes like matzoh ball soup, brisket, tzimmes, and charoset, dinner is $100 per person, excluding beverages and service charge. Both the service and dinner will be communal and open to all, regardless of faith, and the restaurant will donate 10 percent of sales each night to the participating synagogues. Reservations available at locadoroaustin.com.

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Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center launch $31 pet adoptions for the holidays

New home for the holidays

Two Austin organizations are looking to get local pets into their "furever" homes this holiday season. In a special December promotion, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) and Austin Animal Center are working to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, by making all adoption fees a flat $31.

The promotion runs December 1-31. According to a release, APA's director of lifesaving operations, Stephanie Bilbro, sees this as a great opportunity to clear out the shelters and make a great impact heading into 2023.

“The holidays are a great time for the Austin community to come together and add to their families. We have so many precious kittens, puppies, cats, and dogs just waiting for their turn to find a family,” said Bilbro. “We hope this is a chance for any family who’s been looking to add a pet to theirs to do so right in the middle of the holiday season. We know Austin is in the upper echelon when it comes to animal welfare. We hope this promo sets us and AAC up for a successful end to 2022 and a fast start going into 2023.”

Both shelters are also seeking fosters and volunteers throughout the holiday season, for Austinites looking to help the shelters without making a long-term commitment.

APA has two locations, one at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., and one in Tarrytown (3118 Windsor Rd.). Both locations operate 12-6 pm daily, except Christmas Eve (12-4 pm), Christmas Day (closed), and New Year’s Eve (12-4 pm). The Austin Animal Center is located at 7201 Levander Loop and is open every day from 11 am-7 pm for adoptions. For holiday hours, AAC will be closing at 5 pm on December 23 and will be closed December 24-26.

'Famous' rooftop igloos return to Austin hot spot for the coolest experience this winter

Stay Cool

There aren’t so many winter wonderlands in Austin during the holiday season, but things get colder at higher elevations. The Hotel Van Zandt fourth-floor rooftop may not be high enough to change the weather, but visitors throughout December are invited to hang out in its self-proclaimed "famous" all-weather igloos, snacking on bites from inside and themed cocktails after the sun goes down.

Each private, six-seat igloo at the “South Pole” contains a Christmas tree, board and card games, festive records, and other cozy holiday decorations. It’s as private as Austin dining gets without completely breaking the bank, but the poolside mini-village of transparent igloos creates a warm feeling of togetherness. And in case it actually does get cold (a Christmas miracle!), the vinyl globes are heated.

It's not just a fun gimmick — as cute as the igloos are, Geraldine's is a great foodie destination. Visitors can expect (strong) drinks like the “Dandy Andes,” a minty chocolate mix of Grey Goose vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and matcha tea. “Santa on a Beach” combines tropical flavors with cinnamon, and other drinks include unusual ingredients like Chartreuse whipped cream, pistachio, and chocolate mole bitters.

Geraldine’s menu focuses on classic Southern cuisine without getting weighed down by tradition; that means a roster of semi-adventurous gourmet comfort foods, like mole birria short ribs, smoked carrots, and salty Brussels sprouts with serranos and mint. Shareables are a good idea, since the igloos are intimate (read: not especially convenient unless you like balancing a dinner plate on the couch).

Two rounds of two-hour seating will be available every night, and reservations will go very fast. As of December 5, there are only a few dates left. Reservations ($100 upfront) entail a $200 minimum on food and beverage, plus a 20 percent service charge. Book on Eventbrite.

Acclaimed Texas chef toasts the Italian liqueur that's perfect for the holidays

The Wine Guy

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day and covers it regularly in a column for CultureMap's Houston site. Here, he talks not about wine, but the perfect after-dinner sip.

All right, team! Listen up! I’m going to give you some very important holiday information to help you get through all of the parties, family gatherings, and large festive dinners. We are not going to talk about wine today. We’re going to talk about another love of mine — the life-saving amaro.

What is amaro, you ask? It’s an Italian herbal liqueur that’s traditionally consumed post-meal as a digestif. Think of it this way: you start your meal with an aperitif — could be a martini, Campari, or Aperol spritz — to get your palate going and your body ready to eat. After dinner, amaro will help you get through the rest of your night. This elixir will magically and quickly break down everything you just consumed.

Most amari are from Italy, but fortunately new producers with similar styles are popping up all over the world. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter. You just have to find the style you like. Producers don’t traditionally tell you what’s in their amaro, because most of them are made up of dozens of herbs and spices. It’s all about trial and error to find the one you love.

I drink it neat, but some people drink it on the rocks. More and more, you’re seeing amari in cocktails, too.

The amari selection at our house is awesome. My wife and I are firm believers in this beverage as a night cap, and it’s even become part of my regiment pre-dinner as a spritz. Kill two birds, you know?

Unfortunately, not a lot of restaurants carry multiple amari, so it’s up to you guys to get this trend moving. The more you ask for it, the more they’ll stock it.

Our No. 1 go to at home? Montenegro. It’s easy to find, and it’s easy drinking. It has flavors of vanilla and orange, but it’s not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s had the same recipe since 1885, and I hope they never change it.

My wife’s favorite is Braulio. This spirit is from the Italian Alps and aged in Slavonian casks. Using more medicinal herbs and fruits means it skews more bitter than Montenegro, but it has a nice sweetness at the end.

A newish player in the amari game is Amaro Nonino. The Nonino family is historically one of the best grappa producers in the world — they’ve been distilling grappa since 1897 — but they didn’t start to produce their namesake amaro until 1992. (By newish, you get what I mean.) It has lots of honey, vanilla, licorice, and orange flavors. It’s a tad less sweet than most, but I think it’s fantastic.

Pasubio is really different from other amari. If you’re a fan of blueberries, this is for you. It literally tastes like crushed blueberries.

The next two are really cool and unusual, because they're made here in the U.S. An all-time favorite is Southern Amaro from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston. Yaupon is one of the main characteristics, which is found all over Texas.

High Wire built its reputation on using regionally grown and foraged ingredients. If you’re ever in Charleston, you should stop into the distillery and say hi to Scott and Ann! Also, try some of their Jimmy Red Corn whiskey. Actually, everything they make is delightful.

Heirloom Pineapple Amaro is made in Minneapolis. To me, this is fantastically bitter but also tastes like roasted pineapple in a glass. One of my new favorites, for sure.

Now, here’s a helpful tidbit of info. You may have heard of fernet. That’s a general term for an amaro with very little to no sweetness. Branca is a producer that makes fernet, and it’s the most well-known. Search out others as well, because they’re all pretty cool.

Almost everything I listed can be found at most liquor stores. Don’t be afraid to try something. Yes, sometimes it tastes like taking your medicine. But I’ll bet the smell of Jägermeister penetrates your early 20s, and surprise — that’s a style of amaro as well.