I stopped by the newly opened outlet of Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (117 San Jacinto) a couple weeks back and found it packed. Longtime local hospitality pro Brian O'Neill is the general manager of the first Texas outlet for the popular Tennessee-based chain and he reports that Gus's has received a very enthusiastic reception in the opening weeks. The signature spicy fried chicken (pickled jalapeno juice in the brining liquid, maybe?) offers moist, juicy meat under a thin, crackling crust paired with slices of white bread and homey sides such as beans, potato salad, cole slaw, mac and cheese, and mashed or fried potatoes. It's not the best fried chicken I've ever had, but it's pretty tasty.
Henri's Cheese and Wine (2026 S. Lamar) co-owner Will Angst tells us he and business partner Andy Means are expanding their young eatery to include a walk-up counter offering a full-service coffee operation. Convenient coffee service should be a welcome addition for their Barton Hills and Zilker neighbors and a fitting enhancement to the small center that includes El Mesón, the Horseshoe Lounge, Lick Ice Creams, and Barley Swine. Look for Henri's to begin serving coffee from Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee sometime in March.
Suzi's China Grill & Sushi Bar (7858 Shoal Creek Blvd.) closed this week for a major remodel and expansion, according to restaurant contractor Frank Seely. The existing one-story building will be expanded to make space for an as-yet-unnamed retailer and a second floor, as well as an added area for patio seating. Seely's projected completion date for the project is in May. He also said that once the Shoal Creek location is up and running again, restaurateur Suzi Yi's long-term plans call for finding another space to service her loyal South Austin fan base.
More on the openings, reopenings, and renovations front: Though Texas French Bread (2900 Rio Grande) has reopened for business, elements of the remodel and renovation are still being completed. Can't wait to see the new take on that old building once it's finished... In that same area, Austin's Pizza honcho JD Torian purchased Tom's Tabooley (2928 Guadalupe) from founders Tom and Brigid Abdenour a few months back and has recently begun a transition toward a menu with fewer vegetarian and more pan-Mediterranean options... South Austin's newest neighborhood watering hole is the Porter Ale House Gastropub (3715-A S. First), offering a hearty, chef-driven bar food menu paired with 30 beers on tap and craft cocktails. The owners are three Hyatt Lost Pines alums, chefs Neil Joiner and Joe Bixel and general manager Trevor Lane... Fans of great pork ribs with a side of bluegrass music will be pleased to know the pitmaster and music lover Art Blondin is back in business! Art's Ribs & BBQ (212 E. Main, Florence, Texas) is now open five days a week in an historic building in the Williamson County hamlet of Florence. Read more about it online at austinchronicle.com/daily/food.