Counter Culture Is Closing and Rents Are Rising, Brunch Is Opening at Asti and Maie Day and Side Eye and Pretty Much Everywhere In Town, Gift Guides Are Clamoring For Your Hard-Earned Spondulics, and OMG What Is This Armadillo Rangoon?

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.

Tso Chinese Delivery x Pinthouse Pizza = The Armadillo Rangoon

Yes, citizen, it’s your “Food News Buffet” for the second week of December in this ever-more-difficult-to-afford hub of humanity …

Aw, no, Counter Culture (2337 E. Cesar Chavez) is closing. As Chronicle food reporter A. Richmond reveals online, “The thoughtful, colorful, comfort-food cafe run by Sue Davis will close at the end of December. The vegan spot originated in 2009 as a beautiful blue food truck, then moved into a location on North Loop, and finally touched down on East Cesar Chavez, serving customers craveable meals for the last 11 years.” It’s not the vegan position that’s shutting Counter Culture down; plant-based cuisine is often a success story lately. It’s because there’s, oh, a variety of obstacles, sure. But you can guess the main problem, reader: The price of rent. This damned city, tell you what …

And Skull & Cakebones, the popular vegan confectionary that moved out to Dripping Springs a while back, is also closing up shop for similar reasons. Yeah. Such a happy little dystopia we’re busy creating in these here parts, y’think?

How about some good news? Please? Look: Asti Trattoria (408 E 43rd), that stylish Hyde Park mainstay of fine Italian dining, is doing brunches now. Mmmm, we’ve been jonesing for a wake-up mimosa on that porch. But there’s brunch available from Side Eye Pie at Meanwhile Brewing Co. (3901 Promontory Point), too – and chef Tony Curet’s wielding a fiiiiine Texas Skillet Pancake to entice us all. And Maie Day in the South Congress Hotel (1603 S. Congress) is also opening for brunch. So: This news sure seems like a happiness, right? And, as we’ve been reporting for weeks, a lot of places have expanded their service into the brunch sector. And it doesn’t seem to be one of those moves of desperation that restaurants do when they’re circling the drain, as Anthony Bourdain noted in his Kitchen Confidential; no, it’s more like a move from power, from the perspective of Okay, we’ve got this, let’s see what more we can do? Right? Now if everybody can just keep affording the rent increases …

P. Terry’s Burger Stand announced the Austin beneficiary of its next Giving Back Day: Statesman Season for Caring, which provides financial aid to Austin nonprofits that support families in need. All Austin and San Marcos locations of P. Terry’s will donate all profits from the day’s sales on Saturday, Dec. 10 – from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You already love the burgers; now you can nom your way to kindness …

As part of their ongoing 40th anniversary celebration, Hyde Park Bar & Grill is partnering with the Central Texas Food Bank to raise money for the organization and spread the word about CTFB’s mission to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger. Hyde Park owner Bick Brown is encouraging fellow Austinites to make a contribution to further the Food Bank’s efforts – via the restaurant’s donation page on the Just Giving website. Can they reach their goal of $5000 this year? Depends on you and me and the rest of us well-fed foodies, n’est-ce pas?

Speaking of eating and kindness, we’ll mention again the excellent community service of Chris Cubas & Maris Clegg’s Red Beans & Ricely Yours, which can probably use a few more volunteers at this time of year …

In vino veritas! Our peripatetic wine correspondent Rowan Halliday had little other than raves for Lost Draw Cellars a while back, so we’re stoked to report that the brand, one of those acclaimed William Chris operations, is opening a new tasting room in Johnson City this Thursday, Dec. 8. Celebrity bonus: Lost Draw founder and winemaker Andrew Sides will be pouring onsite at the new venue every weekend through the end of the holidays. Structural bonus: This tasting room is just phase one of a much bigger expansion still in the works, the whole thing designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

Ah, that "To All A Good Bite" holiday menu at Central Market

Of course we’re busy wrangling up a bunch of Christmas Dining options for you, reader – why the hell would we waste any time sleeping, right? – and those are coming soon. But, right now, viddy this announcement from the good folks of H-E-B: Central Market is ready to take the stress of cooking off your plate with their “To All A Good Bite” Christmas Menu, featuring seven different chef-prepared meals (including a vegetarian meal and a complete holiday feast that’ll serve up to 16 guests) and cooking up all-time favorites for à la carte ordering: sides, main dishes, fresh baked goods, six types of tamales to choose from, and five different types of Brie en croute

Okay, we don’t usually cover Fredericksburg or beyond in this column (we ain’t no Cap’n Day Trips), but we do have to shout about Chase’s Place Cocktails out thataway – because they’ve just inaugurated their 100-Whiskey Club, and Chase’s new head chef Christopher “Arubkle” Authier is conjuring two farm-to-table dinners for pairing with the spirited expressions of Milam & Greene (on Tue., Dec. 13) and Garrison Brothers (on Fri., Feb. 17). That second one may seem like, what, too much advance notice? Nah – if you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting that Garrison distillery out in Hye, you’ll understand how these tickets sell out so quickly …

But, since we’ve already pushed the geographical envelope, let’s also note that our favorite German restaurant that’s not in Fredericksburg (where it would be Otto's German Bistro) or Austin (where it would be Koko’s Bavarian) – ah, we mean: Krause’s Cafe & Biergarten out in New Braunfels is throwing its annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party & Contest on Thursday, Dec. 15, 6-9pm, and we reckon it’s well worth driving to …

Let’s see – what else, what else? We’ve got several culinary wranglings among our newly released Gift Guide section this year, of course … and your current reporter is still slightly embarrassed to admit how his beloved Horse Leg fared against Männkitchen’s Pepper Cannon … and Christina Garcia gives us the tasty 411 on wintertime tamale tradition … and The Peached Tortilla is celebrating their eighth anniversary this Friday … and Zucchini Kill’s Cece Moon is releasing her new cookbook on Saturday … and chef Mia Li is taking over Fierce Whiskers Distillery for a “Matriarch” dinner on Sunday

And we’ll suggest that this is the Best Foodie Mash-Up of the Year: Tso Chinese Delivery is collaborating with Pinthouse Pizza to make what they call the Armadillo Rangoon. It’s a typical deep-fried rangoon, but it’s stuffed with smoky artisan sausage, ricotta cheese, poblano peppers, and cream cheese(!) They’re telling us this special item’s available through Dec. 31. Yeah, okay, but do they freeze well? And can we order several hundred at a time?

WUXTRY! That Tex-Mexilicious Tacodeli is bringing back their famous December specials, the Chile en Nogada and Spiked Horchata, for the holidays. Yes! We realize that other regions of the country may be more about the Bailey’s and the eggnog at this time of year; but this here is Tejas, pilgrim, and mmmmmm, spiked horchata …

BONUS WUXTRY! It has nothing to do with food, but since we’ve got your eyes right now? Do yourself a favor and read our Luv Doc’s latest advice column. The man should be sainted, just for writing “the scientific method nonetheless continues to get problems solved without the help of Jesus or that other dude we can't draw pictures of.” Oh, Dan Hardick, we can’t even with you …

*bows humbly*

Now eat as well as you can, tip like it’s going out of style, and maybe add another Dead Kennedys classic to your next playlist.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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