In spite of the sad circumstances, Bill Clinton at El Chile made Carlos Rivero's week

After Carlos Rivero and his partners opened El Chile Cafe & Cantina (1809 Manor Rd., 457-9900), he confided one of his very personal goals: Rivero hoped the restaurant would become such a happening place that their good customer local PR mogul Roy Spence would someday bring his good friend Bill Clinton to eat there. Rivero and company got their wish on Sept. 16 when the former president was in town to pay his respects at Ann Richards' memorial. More than one reader e-mailed to let us know they'd seen the affable Clinton and his party enjoying a long evening at El Chile... The young entrepreneurs behind the Galaxy Cafe (9911 Brodie, 233-6000; 1000 West Lynn, 478-3434) have turned a former Clarksville laundromat into their newest location. Kelly Chappell, Chris Courtney, and Jay Bunda invite folks to drop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the casual new spot, which features a very appealing, affordable menu. The addition of this newest eatery increases the already impressive culinary quotient along the main street of the historic inner-city neighborhood: There is the classic Jeffrey's (1204 West Lynn), the retro comfort of the authentic soda fountain at Nau's Enfield Drug (1115 West Lynn), one of the city's best neighborhood grocery stores in Fresh Plus (1221 West Lynn), with the Italian uptown chic of Cippolina right next door, plus the reliable ethnic vegetarian options at Cosmic Cafe (1110 West Lynn) and the charming new coffee shop Caffe Medici (1101 West Lynn) all within three blocks. Wow, talk about never having to leave home!... After months of hearing disgruntled local restaurateurs grumble about the "South Dallas" development in the Second Street District around the new City Hall, we were relieved to finally hear about a local independent business getting the opportunity to flourish in Austin's revitalized urban core. The ground floor of the Amli building at Lavaca and West Second is home to the brand new Royal Blue Grocery (247 W. Third, 499-3993;, a cozy shop modeled after the corner stores and bodegas popular with urban dwellers in big cities. The proprietors are Craig Staley and George Scariano, who developed their food and customer-service chops during years of working for homegrown powerhouse Comida Deluxe (Chuy's, Shady Grove, etc). The new store features a product mix that includes necessary household items, bread, eggs and dairy, organic produce, beer and wine, and a selection of locally prepared foods. "While we were still doing the finish-out on the space, one of the women who lives in the building brought us a list of 30 items she hoped we would carry, so she'd never have to shop anywhere else," Staley says. "That's the kind of service we hope to provide." George Scariano is the managing partner of the store and will be behind the counter responding to requests... Be sure to check out this month's issue of Gourmet: In addition to a list of the nation's Top 50 restaurants, the annual "Restaurant Issue" is packed with very good stories, especially David Halberstam's food memoir of the Diamond restaurant in Saigon and the humor piece about a marauding ground hog.

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