Photo by Jody Horton

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.

From Your Site Articles
Photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods customers can live anywhere in the country after nationwide Amazon launch

365 Days of Amazon

It's been a long time since Austin was the only city with access to Whole Foods Market. Austinites have been enjoying the grocer's high-minded products as early as 1980 when it opened its first store on North Lamar Boulevard, but now it's more people's turn.

Not only is the brand now unrecognizably gigantic, but shoppers' habits are too, especially when it comes to shopping online. August 7 marked the nationwide Amazon launch of 365 by Whole Foods Market. That means that anyone using Amazon can access "hundreds" of these products via shipping across the U.S. Prime subscribers get even more perks with free shipping.

Whole Foods is still mostly relegated to larger cities. (Very sorry to the people in Central Missouri.) Not everyone can make it into a store, so this may be the only way some can access the growing grocery giant.

The company was acquired by Amazon in 2017 for a cash transaction "valued at approximately $13.7 billion," according to a Whole Foods announcement at the time. The crunchy shoppers of Whole Foods balked at the corporate transition, but not much changed that a casual shopper would notice. In fact, the most salient shift was a very pleasant discount at checkout for Prime subscribers.

This rollout will obviously change more of the shopping experience than the original acquisition. Now, online shoppers can set up automatic restocks at a 15 percent discount via a program called "Subscribe and Save."

Some of the products hitting virtual shelves according to a release include:

  • "Spirulina superfood powder, vanilla grass fed whey protein, and adult multivitamins"
  • "Pantry staples like organic honey, French roast coffee, and roasted cashews"
  • "Customer favorites like Cape Cod trail mix, organic strawberry cereal bars, gummy stars, mini dark chocolate almond butter cups, and organic teriyaki beef jerky"

In addition to expanding overall access to the store brand and providing discounts, this rollout will also be useful for shoppers who want to send nonperishable care packages. Users with access to Amazon Fresh can even order some refrigerated items like meats and dairy products.

If loved ones in college need a healthy push, or older parents with health concerns have trouble picking up their own groceries, Whole Foods' stringent ingredient guidelines could save the day — or at least a meal. Among many other rules, products in this line contain no hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.

Browse the available 365 by Whole Foods Market goods exclusively on Amazon on in stores.

Lick Honest Ice Creams/Instagram

9 ways to satisfy your sweet tooth on National Ice Cream Day in Austin

treat yourself

How are Austinites staying cool this summer? Besides pool parties, refreshing cocktails, and staying in the AC, you can't go wrong with a delicious ice cream treat. With National Ice Cream Day coming up on July 16, we've gathered several ways to enjoy your day around Austin. Traditional ice cream lovers and vegans can all find ways to chill out with these nine different locations throughout the city.

Classic ice cream

At 7:30 pm on Thursday, July 13, Bésame is releasing three flavors for pre-sale pint orders: blueberry-miso cheesecake, cap'n banana, and oatmeal ice cream pie. Pint pre-sales are wildly popular for this establishment, so plan accordingly. If you miss out on the pre-sale, you can still enjoy their delicious ice cream in-person and grab a drink at Meanwhile Brewing Co.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
With three different locations around Austin and several mouthwatering flavors to choose from, Jeni's bright and bold ice cream can catch the attention of nearly everyone. Butterscotch popcorn, brambleberry crisp, and banana cream pudding are just a few of the exciting flavor profiles you can find, and pints are available if you crave more than just a cone.

Lick Honest Ice Creams
This Austin-based creamery's new seasonal flavor, the peach margarita, is the perfect distraction from a hot day. The new flavor features the first peaches of the summer from Austin Orchards. Other fruity options on Lick's seasonal menu include honeyed peaches with rosemary, banana nut fudge, and blueberry crumble.

Amy's Ice Creams
It isn't National Ice Cream Day in Austin without this longstanding sugary-sweet staple. Their newest flavor is the Neapolitan Cookie, a strawberry-based ice cream with crunchy chocolate and vanilla cookie pieces throughout. But you can't go wrong with their classics, like Mexican vanilla or Belgian chocolate.

Jo's South Austin
A classic Austin coffee shop, which recently opened a new location on Menchaca Road, is celebrating National Ice Cream Day with $3 affogatos all day until they run out. But you can stop by any day next time you need some caffeine.

Museum of Ice Cream
This bright pink museum at the Domain has 12 multi-sensory exhibits to explore, and unlimited ice cream for patrons. The Museum of Ice Cream recently added edible slime to their interactive entertainment line up, with guests being able to customize everything from the texture to the fillings before they take it home in a custom jar. Plus, there are a few sugary sweet cocktail options available to enhance your experience, including a watermelon margarita or bubblegum martini.

Dairy-free ways to celebrate

Gati Ice Cream
Thai Fresh's ice cream concept Gati turned leftover ingredients into a fabulous dairy-free alternative to traditional ice cream. There are over 40 rotating options, all of which are vegan and gluten free. According to their website, most flavors contain less than four ingredients total. Consider trying the thai tea, black sticky rice horchata or the golden milk flavors.

Luv Fats Ice Cream
This local Black and woman-owned ice cream parlor makes their delicious treats using coconut milk and one surprising ingredient: avocado. Among their more daring flavors is cucumber sorbet, soy sauce, and caramel rosemary.

Whole Foods
From now until July 18th, Amazon Prime members will get 35 percent off all ice cream and frozen sweets just for National Ice Cream Day. If you're a non-Prime member, you'll get 27 percent off. The upscale supermarket has many non-dairy options for those who don't prefer traditional ice cream, such as Oatly's vanilla or chocolate mini cups, which are exclusive to Whole Foods for the month of July.

Courtesy Amazon

This Central Texas Whole Foods is among the first 3 U.S. stores to roll out smart grocery carts

Smart Cart

If being more efficient with your time is one of your new year's goals, a faster way to shop is on the horizon in 2023. Amazon Dash Cart just arrived at one local San Antonio Whole Foods Market, allowing shoppers to skip the checkout line altogether.

Located at 18403 Blanco Road, the Vineyard Whole Foods Market store is one of the first three locations in the country to make Amazon Dash Carts available to customers.

The smart grocery carts lets you scan items as you go, place them directly into your grocery bags, and head straight to the car when you're done shopping. Shoppers log in through a QR code in the Whole Foods Market app, which prompts a quick sign in process before you can begin using the cart.

As you scan each item while shipping, the Amazon Dash Cart’s screen shows a real-time receipt of all items in the cart. When ready to check out, shoppers can skip the checkout line, exiting the store through the designated Amazon Dash Cart lane. Payment is then processed using the credit card associated with the shopper's Amazon account, and an automated receipt arrives at the associated email account after exiting the store.

While the carts have been in Amazon Fresh Stores across the country since 2020, they are now available in select Whole Foods Markets. Several 2022 updates included doubled capacity in the carts, new shelves for delicates and oversized items alike, weather-resistant features, and extended all-day batter life.

"As many of our customers return to their in-store grocery shopping routines, it's exciting to introduce new and unique ways for them to shop our stores," said Leandro Balbinot, chief technology officer for Whole Foods Market, in the 2022 announcement about the carts' new features.

Customers can find more detailed information on the technology here, along with a number of FAQs.

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.