SoCo explodes, again; plus, midtown movers and St. Patrick's Day

SoCo Buzz

Spent some time in South Austin last week, and I am amazed at how fast things are changing in my old neighborhood! The abandoned office-supply building at 515 S. Congress is now a swanky new shopping center where the third local outlet for Freebirds World Burrito is set to open soon. Just a couple of doors away will be La Paleteria (515 S. Congress, 326-9399), selling refreshing Mexican ice cream bars, fruit Popsicles, and fruit cups. A few blocks up the hill at the corner of South Congress and Academy, construction is under way to turn the former auto shop called Doc's Motor Works into a restaurant by the same name. The opening on this one appears to be several months down the road, based on the look of the construction site. Will Packwood at 7 (1716 S. Congress, 383-8877) was pleased to report that after several months of negotiations with the city, he and partner Sam Dickey have finally received all the variances and permits necessary to go forward with their long-delayed expansion. They are currently busy with the build-out on the new space and expect the 7 Lounge to debut in late April or early May. Word is that produce maven Mary Mehaffey's neighborhood market, planned for the same 1700 block of South Congress, is also moving forward on the fast track. Around the corner, Freddie's Place (1703 S. First, 445-9197) inaugurated the outdoor stage on their big tree-shaded, creekside deck with the first of many live music shows on Friday, March 11. David Garza, Doyle Bramhall Sr., Patricia Vonne, and Big Head Todd & the Monsters did the musical honors. Regular early shows (5-9pm) are planned, weather permitting, and will follow such themes as "blues and brisket" on Tuesdays, washer-pitching tournaments on Wednesdays, "catfish and country" on Thursdays, and "backyard barbecues" on Sunday afternoons. All the happy hour promotions will include drink deals and plenty of affordable appetizers to complement the eclectic musical lineup. This place has great potential.

Midtown Movers

Partners Craig Long and Tristan Callaway have recently set up shop as Go Go Gourmet (3505 N. I-35, 542-9860) with an enticing menu that offers prepared entrées to go, a slew of deli sandwiches made with Boar's Head meats and cheeses, homemade soups, desserts, and coffee. They are also available for catering. Stop in and welcome them to the neighborhood! Hungry for some flavorful Southwestern fare but too busy/tired/lazy to go out? The good news is Tin Star (4100 S. I-35 in Hancock Center, 377-4888) now delivers. Working at home, I've gotten hooked on their Smoked Tomato Queso and the delicious Cobb Salad. They've got party packs and catering options for groups, and there's no charge for the delivery.

Event Menu: March 17-24

• St. Patrick's Day has a tendency to get lost in Austin's SXSW madness, but the folks at Opal Divine's Freehouse (700 W. Sixth, 477-3308) invite you to their annual celebration, which will include live music, drink specials, plenty of food, and fun; 11am-2am, Thursday, March 17.

• Midtown business and restaurant owners are invited to gather at Santa Rita Cantina (1206 W. 38th, 419-7482) for a forum on forming a neighborhood business association. Greg Schnurr of the Warehouse District Business Association will speak on "The Benefits and Goals of Forming a Business Area Association." For more information, contact Paula Biehler at 328-3925 or; 9am, Thursday, March 24.

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