Perdón! We didn't mean to fall off the tapas truck!

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., July 19, 2013

Wouldn't you know it? No sooner had Wes Marshall and I finished an update on restaurant happenings in the Southwest Austin and Lakeway areas when an announcement about the new Syndicate (1113 RR 620 N.) arrived in my inbox. Owner Michael O'Brien describes the Syndicate as a "1920s Prohibition-style bar and kitchen" specializing in "old jazz, big band, and Rat Pack-style music." Jazz-lover Wes is on the case.

In my enthusiastic announcement about the opening of Barlata Tapas Bar (1500 S. Lamar) a couple of weeks ago, I said that Austin had experienced a lack of "quality Iberian cuisine." Alejandro Duran, chef and co-owner of Malaga Tapas & Bar (440 W. Second), was offended by that characterization and reminded me that, although Spanish food has been in "short supply" in Austin, his restaurant has been providing quality Iberian cuisine for 14 years. I meant to cast no aspersions on either Malaga or Fino Restaurant Patio & Bar (2905 San Gabriel), where some Spanish dishes also grace the menu, but rather to celebrate the broader availability of Spanish cuisine hereabouts. And I find myself agreeing with Duran when he says "there's no such thing as too many tapas bars."

How's this for a small business predicament? After coming to Austin to help Damian Mandola open the first very successful Mandola's Italian Market in the Triangle, baker Jesus "Chuy" Guevara struck out on his own in 2009 with Panaderia Chuy (8716 Research), giving his business the familiar nickname by which he was already known to his bread customers. The new business continued selling a variety of breads to Mandola's and other restaurants, but also offering a full spectrum of Mexican breads, desserts, pastries, and sandwiches to an enthusiastic clientele. That first successful outlet was followed by a second store (801 E. William Cannon) the next year. Recognition and publicity eventually brought the little upstart to the attention of lawyers for the mighty homegrown Mexican restaurant chain Chuy's, and they filed suit to protect their established name. Without the financial resources to engage in a protracted legal battle for the use of his nickname, Guevara chose to re-brand his business, and bakery/restaurants will now be known as Mi Tradicion. We'll have to be sure to change the listing in his recent First Plates award.

I'm rarely excited about cookbooks with television tie-ins but I am eager to see Treme: Stories and Recipes From the Heart of New Orleans (Chronicle Books, $29.95), coming out next week from former Times-Picayune columnist and Treme story editor Lolis Eric Elie. The book is a collection of "heritage and contemporary" recipes from both real and fictional restaurants and chefs featured on the critically acclaimed HBO series. It should be a worthwhile kitchen companion when Treme's final five episodes air later this year.

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