A bittersweet weekend for Taco Xpress

The folks at Hill Country Pasta House (3519 RR 620 N., 266-9445; are pleased to announce their new full bar service. Check their Web site for info about the different happy-hour promotions and drink specials, plus new menu items. Meanwhile, down the road at their quick-casual eatery, Pronto Italiano (3620 RR 620 S., 263-7404;, check out the new beer and wine offerings while enjoying a meal in the dining room or grabbing food to take home... We hear changes are in the works at Star Seeds Cafe (3101 N. I-35, 478-7101). General manager Sean Roberts, newly relocated from Walla Walla, Wash., e-mailed me about the enhancements he hopes to implement over the coming months, such as sprucing the restaurant up a bit, upgrading the quality of the menu offerings, and adding a more diverse selection of beers and wines. He was quick to add that they'll still be open 24/7, with breakfast all the time... And speaking of restaurants along the inner-city I-35 corridor, the newest eatery in our immediate Chronicle neighborhood is Hornitos Tex-Mex Cafe (3704 N. I-35, 524-4195) in the newly renovated former Jade Restaurant location. We'll be stopping in soon to sample their cooking and let you know what's up... Tom Pedersen is pleased to announce that his Kakawa Cocoa Beans are now available at the Whole Foods Market flagship store (Fifth & Lamar, 476-1206). He hopes to expand to other stores in their chain with growing demand. Also look for his distinctive chocolates along with coffee at Fonda San Miguel (2330 North Loop, 459-4121), in all the guest rooms at the Four Seasons (99 San Jacinto, 478-4500), and at fine specialty markets around the city... Saddened customers of Marakesh Cafe and Grill (906 Congress, 476-7735) wrote to let us know that owner Samir Saadeh died of a massive coronary last week. Folks who would like to honor his memory with a contribution to the endowment fund set up for his children can send checks to: Abir Saadeh Children's Endowment Fund c/o Prosperity Bank, 900 Congress, Austin, 78701.

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on my weekly column, in came an excited call from taco queen Maria Corbalan announcing the demolition party for her beloved Taco Xpress (2529 S. Lamar, 444-0261). As most Austin taco lovers know, the definitively funky South Austin eatery has been scheduled to move into a new building on the same property for quite some time. The construction is finally complete, and the move is scheduled for Sunday night, right after the big "Last Day at Taco Xpress" party from 9am to 3pm on Aug. 13. Maria is inviting her longtime customers and friends, as well as musicians who've played at her joint over the years, to party together on that last bittersweet day. Then, she says, "moving should take us one day, and then all we'll need is the final inspections and the certificate of occupancy from the city, and we'll be ready to serve tacos in the new place." Corbalan is hopeful the newly built, but definitely still funky, version of her beloved restaurant will be open for business in the coming week.

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Taco Xpress, Abir Saadeh, Tom Pedersen, Hill Country Pasta House, Prontoi Italiano, Hornitos Tex-Mex Cafe

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