With the annual infusion of student dollars into the local economy, the fall always seems like a good time for dining debuts. This fall, a handful of new dining options could provide some new ethnic flavors for curious Austin palates. Take a look at the Fresh Planet Cafe
(601 N. Lamar, 476-0902), the new concept from partners David Garrido, Ron Weiss, Saul Meyer, and Neil Francois. Fresh Planet's economical menu offers dishes with a Mexican and Asian influence such as mushroom/eggplant or chicken/spinach quesadillas on homemade tortillas with chipotle chile salsa, or crispy spring rolls filled with vegetables and tofu or duck with a peppery sweet dipping sauce for appetizers, noodle bowls, and chilequiles or tortilla wraps filled with crispy tuna or asian pork barbecue for entrées... Recently, I noticed someone remodeling a long-time restaurant space across from the state cemetery. Rafael Funes reports that Sabor
(1411 E. Seventh, 236-1180) celebrates its grand opening in mid-September. The very reasonably priced menu looks interesting with a few Mexican items and many hearty Salvadoran dishes, such as pupusas (thick handmade corn tortillas stuffed with pork, cheese, or beans), pasteles (deep fried corn puffs filled with meat and/or vegetables), and platanos fritos (fried plantains), plus plenty of seafood... One rumor that made the rounds this summer was that someone was serving Ethiopian food at a downtown church. A few phone calls put me in touch with Ruth Skevofilax, who served an Ethiopian buffet meal every Friday in the church hall of the St. Elias Eastern Orthodox Church hall (408 E. 11th, 476-2314) from March through August. Ruth has suspended the regular buffet, but her Ethiopean cuisine will be available at upcoming Bob Marley Festivals in Austin and Houston, and at St. Elias' annual Mediterranean Food Festival, set for October 10 & 11 in Waterloo Park... Cafe Armageddon
(2015 Manor Rd.,
478-4857) has changed both ownership and direction. The four new owners, who are from Trinidad, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Kitts, plan to introduce dishes with a Caribbean flair and flavor to the menu... After our review touting the roast beef sandwich at Little Deli, a Round Rock deli owner took up the gauntlet for her roast beef sandwich. Former New Yorker Mary DeBellis faxed in the menu from The New York Deli (712 Round Rock Ave., 246-1108) with an inviting mixture of Italian and kosher-style items, and we trekked up I-35 for a visit. DeBellis makes her own Italian sausage, serves latkes, cannoli, a wonderful meatball sub with fresh marinara sauce, and a delicious reuben in a cozy eatery decorated for homesick Yankees. While DeBellis' "Mad Cow" roast beef sandwich is just fine, I must admit I prefer the meatier Little Deli version made with leaf lettuce rather than shredded iceberg. Readers are encouraged to kibbitz on this topic.
Local chili chefs and homebrew meisters will want to enter the First Annual Chili Cookoff & HomeBrew Fest at the Texas Chili Parlour (1409 Lavaca, 472-2828) on Sunday, September 7, noon-7pm, benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. Entry fees are $10 each for chili or homebrew; blanks are available from the Chili Parlour or from Austin HomeBrew Supply (306 E. 53rd, 467-8427). Chili entries will be evaluated on taste, aroma, color, texture, and spiciness. Expect lots of beer, live music, and activities for the kids. Admission is a cash donation or a non-perishable food item to the food bank.