Virginia B. Wood goes stream of consciousness in this week's "Food-o-File."

Gotta Lotta News

No unifying theme has emerged from this pile of notes, so this week it's just stream-of-consciousness restaurant news. The fine dining options in Southwest Travis County appreciated greatly last week with the opening of the Backstage Steakhouse & Garden Bar (21814 W. Hwy. 71, 264-2223). Owners Kent and Beth Hayner are former rock & roll caterers from Dallas who have spent the past twentysomething years on the road catering to everybody from the Who to ZZ Top to the Eagles, Garth Brooks, and Clint Black. The Hayners settled down near Lake Travis last year, where they've fulfilled the dream of opening a restaurant and letting hungry folk come to them for a change. Longtime Austin favorite Raymond Tatum is chef at the Backstage, and the meal we had there last week was a prime example of his masterfully flavored cooking. The restaurant is decorated with memorabilia from the Hayners' years on the road, and there is a full bar. It's worth a pleasant drive in the country... A friend treated me to lunch at DemiEpicurious (301 W. Sixth, 478-2200), and it turns out their "demi" portions are a restaurant critic's dream come true. It's possible to try so many different items at one sitting. Not to be missed are the divine Lobster Shooters, the tasty Togarashi Shrimp on sugarcane skewers, Rabbit Ravioli, and voluptuous lobster mashed potatoes that you'll have to resist the urge to dive into and roll around in... Hot on the heels of their review in last week's Chronicle, the entire staff of Lambert's (1716 S. Congress, 383-8877) took off for Marfa to present a Lambert's West event at Maiya's Restaurant (103 N. Highland in Marfa, 915/729-4410). Lambert's is closed Aug. 20-26... Also on summer vacation are Yoli and Michael Amr of Yoli's Jambalaya (14735Bratton Ln., 789-5942), who'll be closed Aug. 25-Sept. 4... The long-awaited and often rescheduled opening of the 1886 Bakery & Cafe on the Sixth Street side of the Driskill Hotel (Sixth & Brazos, 474-5911) was to take place Aug. 18. Speaking of the Driskill, executive sous chef Tien Ho, whom we profiled earlier this year, has left Austin to pursue jobs with some of his cooking idols in New York City... Both Kaya Blue and Rigatoni on East Sixth closed in recent weeks. Rigatoni has been replaced by Ajua (1201 E. Sixth, 472-4874) with an Interior Mexican menu and bar, while we hear that a restaurant called Sake on Sixth will replace Kaya Blue in the near future... on the other end of Sixth Street, Thai Tara (601 W. Sixth, 236-0856) has taken over the space formerly occupied by both Tocai and Ped's Lemongrass... Earlier this year, baker Gilbert Paisano purchased TapRoot Breads from Sam Dickey and has renamed and relocated the business as Against the Grain Bakery (812 W. 12th, 478-0887), offering both wholesale and retail service... Turns out the folks who just opened the casual and affordably priced Noodle-Ism, a Noodle & Tea House (107 W. Fifth, 275-9988) are Jeff and Yiwen Liu, owners of the popular Bistro 88 (2712 Bee Caves Rd., 328-8888), which bodes well for the food quality in the new spot.

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