Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood describes the amusing history behind discovering the new Roy Henry's Famous Waffles & Chicken and updates readers on changes in Austin's restaurant scene.
Who's Your Food Critic?
We hear about new restaurants in many ways. Sometimes we get press kits and sometimes menus are faxed to us; other times a phone call or an e-mail from a helpful reader tips us about a new joint we need to try. But this story is too good not to share. A couple of weeks ago, Chronicle Arts editor Robert Faires returned to the office after hours to finish some work, and he noticed a police car leaving the parking lot. By the time he had parked and got out, the police car had pulled in beside him. The policeman rolled down his window and asked, "Do you work here?" Faires responded in the affirmative, assuming the officer had responded to the building's alarm system. He was floored by the policeman's next question. "Who's your food critic?" the officer wanted to know. "We have several people who write about food," Robert told him, "but Virginia Wood is our food editor." Proferring his business card, the officer said, "Well, my name is Roy Henry and I've just opened a restaurant. I'd like to invite her to come down and try it out." We don't do reviews by invitation, but who could refuse an invitation, like that? Look for the lowdown on Roy Henry's Famous Waffles & Chicken (1815 W. Ben White, 443-4476) in this week's feature on Southern Comfort Food.
Cutlery & Chefware
The staff at the Central Market Cooking School reported the opening of a new business in their neighborhood. Mark Good has relocated Chef's Toolbox (4004 N. Lamar, 467-1994) to a new, very convenient spot. Now store chefs and everyone else can pop in to purchase chef's clothing, peruse the new Japanese cutlery, and get necessary kitchen equipment and culinary textbooks. The store is open to the public but because so many of his customers are culinary students, Good says that competitive prices are one of his main goals. Next time you take a class at Central Market, ask sous-chef Tim Graham to show you his new Global knives.
After a big splash in West Lake, the much-ballyhooed Chipotle Mexican Grill (4400 N. Lamar, 419-9898) has opened a second Austin location. This Denver-based operation is the brainchild of a CIA-trained chef who wanted to do Mexican food fresh, fast, and healthy, with no microwaves or can openers. Last year, he sold his growing chain to McDonald's, and now Chipotles are popping up all over. It's basically a burrito shop with giant homemade flour tortillas filled with one of several meats (steak, chicken, pork carnitas, or beef barbacoa), a good lime-cilantro rice, flavorful vegetarian black or pinto beans, plus choices of one of three sauces, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and lettuce. The burritos are gargantuan and bien sabroso. Loathe as I am to recommend national fast food chain outlets, Chipotle has the freshest, tastiest, least fast-food-like fast food I've ever tasted.
The kitchen at one of Austin's highly regarded upscale dinner houses is in new and very capable hands. In November, Zoot (509 Hearn, 477-6536) welcomed Washington, D.C., transplant John Maxwell as the new executive chef and just recently hired former Bostonian Kerry Johnson as pastry chef. Welcome to Austin.