Locations, ownership, and staff of local restaurants get shaken up

This week brings news of several interesting changes in the local culinary scene. Mil­waukee natives Jessica Nieri and Hans Diet­rich moved to Austin more than a decade ago to fulfill their dream of restaurant ownership. The intrepid couple opened Cafe Mundi (1704 E. Fifth, 236-8634, in 1999, pioneering the casual club scene that has since grown up east of I-35. Cafe Mundi offers food, coffee, tea, beer, and wine, all embellished with local art, movie nights, acoustic music, and spoken-word performances. The quirky little garden oasis near the railroad tracks has always provided a nurturing neighborhood hangout for artists and other new residents in the area. As is often the reward for risk-taking urban pioneers, Nieri and Dietrich recently found themselves faced with a 100% rent increase or the loss of their lease. Dietrich advised us last week that Cafe Mundi will close in late March after South by Southwest and relocate to an as-yet-undetermined location later in the year. We'll keep you posted... News from a few blocks farther east is that original Hot Mama Holly Lawson is once again the owner of Hot Mama's Espresso Bar (2401 E. Sixth, 476-6262) and that Ararat catering owner Kelly Abshire is running the business as general manager and chef. The eclectic coffee shop/cafe/party venue reopened last week and is currently serving a limited menu of coffees, teas, Ararat-style specialties, and pastries from Starlet Sweets baker Jamie Teer. The Hot Mamas are throwing themselves a grand reopening party from 6 to 9pm Saturday, Jan. 30, with dinner and drink specials, live music, art, tarot readings, and dancing around the fires on the patio. Go hungry, spend some money, and check out the venue for future party bookings... Changes are also in the works at Hudson's on the Bend (3509 RR 620 N., 266-1369, Executive Chef Robert Rhoades and his wife, Vanessa, are leaving Austin for Houston, where chef Rhoades will become the executive chef at Eddie V's first Bayou City outlet. The Rhoades couple will maintain its part-ownership in the very popular Mighty Cone food trailer business, so they will still have strong ties to Austin. Hudson's owner Jeff Blank reported last week that current pastry chef/chef de cuisine Kelly Casey will step into the executive chef job and Culinary Institute of America graduate McCailey Cranna will become Hudson's new pastry chef... Look for custom sausages prepared by the Kocurek Family Artisanal Charcut­erie (291-4461, at the Austin Farm­ers' Market Down­town and the Triangle, Sunset Valley Farmers Market, and HOPE Farmers Market. The French-inspired artisan business is the brainchild of local chef couple Lee Ann and Law­rence Kocurek and offers products made from locally sourced, hormone-free pastured meats and game. Sign up for the Kocureks' weekly e-mail newsletter describing available products, and they will fulfill orders at their market stalls.

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