The new year brought big changes for two of Austin's long-established restaurants. San Gabriel Restaurant Group owner Reed Clemons abruptly closed the Granite Cafe (2905 San Gabriel) last week. Founded in 1987 when Clemons returned from cooking school, the Granite was the foundation on which the entrepreneur built his local restaurant empire. The original Granite helped usher in an era of fine dining restaurants with hip, casual styles. In recent months, the central city eatery had undergone a style transformation, but the change to an Asian menu evidently didn't help the Granite regain its competitive edge. In conversation last week, Clemons acknowledged what a difficult decision it was to close his first restaurant but insisted it was the right business decision. No word yet on when or if another restaurant will debut in the Granite space.
After months on the market, the City Grill (401 Sabine, 479-0817) begins 2000 with new owners. Ted Haram's Igloo Group has added the longtime downtown restaurant to their growing portfolio. Current management and staff will remain in place. No changes are anticipated at City Grill, which should be sitting pretty when and if the proposed development of a Waller Creek "riverwalk" ever takes place.
The original Cafe Spiazzo
was a popular neighborhood spot in West Lake Hills from 1990 until 1995, when the owners closed that location and sold their Northwest Hills outlet to a three-man partnership. Brian Chishum
and his partners opened the newest Cafe Spiazzo (3663 Bee Caves Road, 328-4858) in late December in the former Madam Nadalini's
space, and longtime West Lake fans are already requesting their old favorite menu items. Chef/partner Gary Hartswell
is on the range and pastry chef Tina Haverty
is making desserts at the new Spiazzo... West Lake is also the home of Austin's first Chipotle Mexican Grill
(3300 Bee Caves Road, 329-8600). Chipotle is a small Mexican fast-food chain founded in Denver by young Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Steve Ellis
. The success of Ellis' 18-outlet venture proved so impressive to fast-food giant McDonald's that they bought into the company in 1999 with plans for major expansion. The Chipotle concept revolves around fresh, light Mexican fast food served amidst hip, urban decor. Austin's second Chipotle outlet opens in a few weeks in the 4000 block of North Lamar up the street from Central Market... Repeated customer demands encouraged wedding cake baker Janette Pfertner
to reopen the retail portion of Miss Janette's
(900 Rutland, 836-4826) where she carries all the necessary supplies and equipment for cake making and decorating... Learn about the coffee roasting process with R.C. Beall
of Texas Coffee Traders
at 10:30am this Saturday, January 22, at Sun Harvest Market
(4006 S. Lamar, 444-6313). The event includes coffee samples and a Q&A period... If New Year's resolutions have you looking for a new eating plan, check out this seminar at the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts
(1701 Toomey Road, 476-2276): Academy owner Dawn Black
and counselor Fran Moody
offer helpful information, new insights, and recipes for maintaining a healthy weight this Saturday, January 22, from 9:30am-1:30pm. Access http://www.naturalepicurean.com
for more info.