The Quesoff Wants You, Garbo’s Grabs Another Brick-and-Mortar, Local Foods Debuts Downtown, Lazarus Revamps the Former Coldtowne Theatre, and Ooooh, That Bourbon Brawl

All the news that’s fit to get your taste buds quivering

Here's some of what's happening in Austin's culinary scene, as wrangled from numerous PR releases, words on the digital street, and even the occasional (verified) IRL eavesdroppings.

Will YOU, cheese-loving citizen, enter this year's Quesoff at the Mohawk?

Yes, it’s the Austin Chronicle's Food News Buffet for the final week of June, as compiled by your gadabout food reporter embedded deep in the wildly palpitating heart of Texas.

Enter the Quesoff! The annual celebration of Austin’s favorite tortilla chip enhancement returns to queso up the Mohawk (912 Red River) on Saturday, October 8 – and your own variation on the classic dish could take top honors, as restaurants, top chefs, home cooks, neighbors, brothers, and sisters battle it out in four categories: Meaty, Spicy, Veggie, and Wild Card. (Note: Olamaie/Little Ola’s Biscuits reigned supreme in last year’s Champions League iteration.) So, turophile, you think you’ve got what it takes to be a big cheese this year? That’s why we’re telling you in advance: Email now to sign up (and include which category you’d like to participate in)…

Ross Mason, owner of Hyde Park’s longtime Avenue B Grocery (4403 Avenue B), tells us that reports of his venue’s reopening have been greatly exaggerated. Due to COVID precautions and staffing issues, Mason is selling only certain premade sandwichesMon.-Sat., from 11:30am-1:30pm – although he does take custom orders from from 1:30-7pm. Additionally, some menu items aren’t always available. He may cut things to order, but you’ve got to cut him some slack, see? Mason’s working philosophy right now is “Easing back into it – all things with time.”

Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster is on a roll, with their second permanent location on the way

And you know the shuttered Counter Café venue near Sixth + Lamar, right? Former home of great diner grub and much loving abuse? Well, it won’t be empty for long, and its new incarnation will be a beacon of hospitality: Garbo’s Fresh Maine Lobster owner, Heidi Garbo, has secured the space and will open the second Garbo’s brick and mortar location there this fall. But, while we’re all waiting for Garbo’s On Lamar to open its permanent doors, the Garbo’s food trailer will be parked right nearby (626 N. Lamar) and open for service. Yes, you’ll be able to order a fine array of seafood to-go from that truck, Thu.-Sat., 11am-8pm, until the restaurant’s renovations are ready for dine-in service in September. September? Well, unless there’s some logjam in the permitting process, we reckon; but, gosh, that never happens in Austin. *wink*

Meanwhile, the tasty shards of lobster sometimes served atop hunks of beef at Dean’s Italian Steakhouse, that lobster is almost irrelevant when you consider the goodness of the ribeyes and filets themselves. Because the cuts of meat in that new fine-dining emporium at 110 E. Second are already of such high quality (even before you opt for that A5 Wagyu of theirs) that you’ll likely be experiencing a sort of steak-induced maxillofacial orgasm and won’t have the wherewithal to think of anything else. Still, when you do recover, sitting there in the well-appointed dinner palace that opened on June 16 within the JW Marriott complex Downtown, you can rest assured that the other menu items (those Oysters Rockefeller, for instance), and the bar program (that Smoky Manhattan, omg!), and the attentive service, and the whole posh and polished-to-a-welcoming-glow shebang, all of it will make you think, “Yeah, I must be doing something right, to be able to dine in a place like this.”

Speaking of superlative food & beverage experiences, when Esquire magazine is speaking of such things, they’re naming Austin’s own Tiki Tatsu-ya as one of 2022’s Best Bars in America. We’ve been naming the place that same thing since it opened, of course, and, from all reports (thanks, L. Bartholomee), Tatsu Aikawa’s islander paradise (1300 S. Lamar) remains ever stellar, and the visiting ghost of Don the Beachcomber is a very happy phantom indeed…

Local Foods will sandwich and salad their way right to your hungry Downtown heart. Or, um, stomach.

Local Foods – we were real happy about these guys last year, and were so looking forward to the place’s opening; but then it seems they got stymied by the usual City of Austin/Permits bullshit that sucks start-up vigor from a business the way leeches suck blood from a hapless swimmer – well, anyway, listen: Local Foods is finally opening (on Saturday, June 25) in the Second Street District, as a two-story, Michael Hsu-designed emporium. The restaurant, dedicated to supporting farmers, ranchers, fishmongers, artisans, and vendors local to Texas, will be open daily from 11am-8:30pm with expanded brunch hours on the weekends still to come. That’s at 454 W. Second, to be precise, and note: Menu highlights include the Crunchy Chicken Sandwich made with oven-roasted chicken breast, nut-seed crumble, crushed chips, tomato, house pickles, romaine lettuce, provolone, and buttermilk ranch, stacked high on a Slow Dough pretzel bun; the Seasonal Harvest Salad, currently featuring leafy greens, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas, Pure Luck goat cheese, roasted corn, watermelon radish, sunflower seeds, Texas watermelon, and fresh herb vinaigrette; and – yeah, you get the idea…

And, oh! Naomi Seifter’s Picnik, that all-day powerhouse of healthy dining, has opened a third location – at 1600 S. First. The new 3,500-square-foot restaurant with its colorful and airy interiors and expansive seasonal menu also features a full-service bar and lounge where you just know the cocktails are gonna be delicious and creative af. Mind you, for these first couple of weeks, the restaurant will offer dinner only – Sunday-Thursday, 5-10pm; and Friday-Saturday, 5-11pm – but, after July 5, their coffee bar, lunch, and weekend brunch service will be rockin’ the tasty vittles as well…

And chef Mashama Bailey (who just won Outstanding Chef at the 2022 James Beard Awards) and her Grey Spaces team are debuting their own weekend brunch at Diner Bar in Downtown’s gorgeous Thompson Hotel (506 San Jacinto) – Saturdays & Sundays, 10am-2pm – featuring Bailey’s signature style of Port City Southern fare with dishes like biscuits & gravy, French toast with thick-cut Pullman bread, a truly glorious Croque Madame, and more… and, leveraging the ol’ corporate synergy, Wax Myrtle’s on the fourth floor of the Thompson, they’re fixing to debut a new summer menu and spin Wednesday nights into a series of tuneful soiree with live DJs…

Let’s see, what else? Did you notice how Lazarus Brewing is preparing to open the second iteration of their excellent beermongering business, right there at 4803 Airport, where I LUV VIDEO and ColdTowne Theatre used to be? And did you see how our Food editor Melanie Haupt was delighted by that JewBoy Sub Shop (the little sibling of Mo Pittle’s JewBoy Burgers) a while back? Also: Banger’s is having a little Renaissance Festival of their own this weekend, and the Crown & Anchor’s celebrating its 35th birthday, and Still Austin is partying up for Pride in the Yard, and those Supper Friends are already doing their wine-paired fine-dining thing again, and the Garrison Brothers’ annual Bourbon Brawl is taking off the kid gloves at Fair Market on the last day of June

Now eat as well as you can, tip like it’s going out of style, and – because you have better things to do – just don’t engage with idiots.

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