Birdie’s Is Food & Wine’s Restaurant of the Year, Aviator Is Offering Free Pizza, El Alma’s Getting a Second Location, Radio Coffee & Beer Is Giving Away Topo Chico Mocktails, There’s Meewes News at Kitty Cohen’s, and More

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.

Aviator Pizza's grand opening in Mueller

Yes, citizen, it’s your “Food News Buffet” for the fourth week of September.

Our Food Editor Melanie Haupt reviewed Birdie’s (2944-A E. 12th) soon after it opened – a favorable review, which you can see right here. Now chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel’s Eastside bastion of culinary power has been named Food & Wine’s Restaurant of the Year. (She's also one of the finalists for Best Chef in our Best of Austin: Restaurants poll; see here for voting!) Reckon a lot of smart people with discerning palates know what’s good in this town, hey? No wonder there’s a line outside the door before the place opens at 5pm. Recommendation, especially if you enjoy wine with your meals: Head on over!

True Food Kitchen (222 West Ave.) will debut a new brunch menu later this month, featuring a Brunch Tasting Tower for Two (quiche bites, smoked salmon toast, apple crumble coffee cake, and more) and other such waking-time delicacies, abetted by the liquid likes of new cocktails: a Berry Cerealtini, Cinnamon Toastini, a Clear Mary, and – yes, this isn’t in heaven, it’s an actual part of Austin…

It’s time for the grand opening of Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse in Mueller (1905 Aldrich #115), and they’ll be giving free pizza to the first 100 guests on Sat., Sept. 23, starting at noon. This recently debuted location, the fifth for the Elgin-born local chain, offers 21 specialty pizzas available on gluten-free or hand-tossed crust, with made-from-scratch pizza oil and topped with house-made sauces. Also, beveragewise? Oh, baby! How about 30 Texas craft beers on tap, Still Austin craft cocktails, and four wines on tap? They’ve got ’em – and two new murals by Mike “Truth” Johnston bringing beauty to the spacious, casual interior…

El Naranjo (2717 S. Lamar), helmed by the James Beard Award-winning chef Iliana de la Vega, introduces the acclaimed venue’s newest chef de cuisine: her daughter, Ana Torrealba. Chef Torrealba has been by De la Vega’s side since the beginning, watching her open the original El Naranjo in Oaxaca before moving to the U.S. in 2006 and opening El Naranjo in Austin. “I look forward to continuing the culinary traditions that preserve traditional family recipes and the flavors of generations,” said Torrealba, “while adding just a hint of something new at El Naranjo.”

If you’re a fan of Mighty Fine Burgers and you live kind of north? Because who can afford to live central, anymore, really? You’ll be glad to know that the beefy chain is opening its newest outpost in Hutto, at 310 Ed Schmidt Blvd., on Thu., Sept. 21… and, speaking of burgers, there’ll be a grand opening for the newest local iteration of Shake Shack, too – in Round Rock (1402 N. I-35) on Tue., Oct. 3, 11am-1pm…

National Coffee Day isn’t until Fri., Sept. 29, but we’re giving you an early heads-up because Radio Coffee & Beer (4204 Menchaca Rd.) has partnered with Topo Chico in celebration, and they’ll be offering – for free! – two coffee mocktails: the Espresso Chai Ball and the Wet Hot Italian Summer. The former is served with Black Scottie Chai concentrate syrup; the latter with Giffard, a nonalcoholic aperitif; and both of ’em are topped with refreshing Topo Chico…

The Loren at Lady Bird Lake (1211 W. Riverside) announces its inaugural guest chef series for the fall season. Starting Thu., Sept. 21, a lineup of award-winning chefs will bring unique culinary experiences, intimate dining, and Oktoberfest celebrations to Nido and Cafe at the Loren. Sept. 21: chef Jason Dady; Sept. 28: chef Justin Yu; Oct. 26: brewmaster Brad Davis; Nov. 9: chef Leah Cohen.

We told you a couple of weeks ago that Hyde Park Bar & Grill’s West Gate location was closing, and so (moment of sad silence) it has. But now, mirabile dictu, that building (4521-B West Gate Blvd.) is going to be the second location of El Alma Cafe y Cantina, a standout of contemporary Mexican dining. “We recognize the fact that we’ve built an incredible community here in Austin,” says the restaurant’s executive chef and co-founder, Alma Alcocer-Thomas. “With this location, we can expand our mission of creating memorable dining experiences that embody both our heritage and vibrant cuisine.” They’ll be opening later this fall…

Sue Beckwith, executive director of the Texas Center for Local Food in Elgin, has started a fundraiser to help their nonprofit “pay farmers to help us teach the next generation of farmers, buy locally grown food to teach and feed school-age kids, build our directory to help you find local food near you, extend our services to reach more broadly across Texas, and build our organizational capacity.”

Austin Coffee Festival, coming soon!

O splendid java jubilation! The second annual Austin Coffee Festival is coming to Fair Market (1100 E. Fifth) on Sat.-Sun., Sept. 30-Oct. 1, wherein coffee fans can enjoy specially curated exhibitors, including Austin’s top coffee roasters, as they share some of the best coffee, teas, noms, and more. Tickets and a full schedule (including all roasters, exhibitors, and live entertainment) are available right here

Let’s see – what else, what else? Chronicle reporter Hannah Uebele answers the briny question, “Is Sea Moss Austin’s Next Superfood?”… Deven Wilson takes a look at what happened to Fil N’ Viet… and, in highly spirited news, the WhiskyX is bringing more than 60 premium whiskey brands and cocktails to the old Statesman manor…

WUXTRY! There’s going to be a tiki-riffic, DJ-spiked, and tasty AF Honky-Tonk Luau at Kitty Cohen’s (2211 Webberville) on Sun., Sept. 24, 3-7pm, by way of celebrating the release of Drink Like a Local: Austin, the newest book from longtime Chron freelancer Veronica Meewes. Congratulations, girl!

Now eat as well as you can, tip like it’s going out of style, and remember how it feels when someone smiles at you.

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