Restaurant closings dot the Austin landscape, while Zax and the Belmont expand their hours and menus
In the off-with-my-head department, my sincerest apologies to the gracious gentleman who owns Delicato Creamery & Cafe (4300 Quinlan Park Rd., 266-2590). Filinto Duran is from Venezuela, rather than Argentina, as are the arepas on his international menu. I regret the error... My excursion to the lake area to check out Delicato seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop in at Expressions Fine Chocolates in the Lakeway Commons shopping center and treat myself to some of Valerie Meyer's delicious Florentines. I was very disappointed to find Meyer's retail shop out of business, and I noticed the Paradise Ice Cream shop in the same center was gone as well. I chatted with Meyer a couple of days later, and she assured me her company is alive and well. However, she has moved her production to Metairie, La., and will no longer operate a retail outlet. "I met the owner of the Gambino's Bakery chain at a Sysco gourmet food show in Houston earlier this year, and he made me a very attractive offer," she explained. "Closing the retail store and moving my production to Louisiana really lowered my overhead. Now I'm creating private-label chocolates for Gambino's stores and their big mail-order business, and I'll continue selling my own product line through our website [www.expressionsfinechocolates.com] and at Whole Foods Markets." That's great news for Meyer. I'm glad to know her marvelous Florentines are available at stores here in Austin... There are several other restaurant closings of note in our area. True barbecue aficionados are saddened about the demise of Crosstown Bar-B-Que in Elgin, for years a can't-miss stop on any credible Central Texas barbecue tour. Our source at the Elgin Chamber of Commerce says the building has been sold to the operators of Cartwright's Bar-B-Q from Bastrop. We'll keep you posted about developments... Upscale gourmet grocery and cafe Oakville Grocery in the Domain went out of business recently, much to the dismay of several area artisan-food producers... The reliable Chinese buffet spot Marco Polo disappeared from the restaurant space attached to the Clarion Inn & Suites (2200 S. I-35) this spring. The space is undergoing renovations at the moment, with the second local outlet of the popular Southwestern-themed Mesa Ranch (8108 Mesa Dr. Ste. C-100, 853-9460, www.mesaranchaustin.com) set to debut there some time this summer... And fans of the legendary salt-and-pepper shrimp and countless other wonderful Chinese dishes have two more months to enjoy meals at Tien Hong (8301 Burnet Rd., 458-2263, www.tienhong.net). July 28 is the date owner Tom Swiss has chosen to close his respected restaurant and begin a well-deserved retirement. Stop in to eat, and wish him well... On a happier note, Zax Pints & Plates (312 Barton Springs Rd., 481-0100, www.zaxaustin.com) celebrates five years in Austin by expanding its Saturday hours to include brunch from 11am to 3pm, happy hour from 3 to 6pm, and dinner from 6 to 10:30pm... Swing on into the Belmont (305 W. Sixth, 457-0300, www.thebelmontaustin.com) to try out some of the new items on Executive Chef Ben Nathan's eclectic menu. There are new appetizers, sandwiches, entrées (including Niman Ranch steaks), and desserts.