Gordon Ramsay scouts Texas, new chains arrive, and trailers go brick and mortar

Cooking competition shows such as Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Chopped have been popular for a few years and are now being joined by programs focusing on the restaurant business itself. The newest reality competition show is NBC's America's Next Great Res­tau­rant, in which 10 contestants compete to win financing to open their own chain of three quick-casual restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. The panel of judges and investors is made up of celebrity chef/restaurateurs Bobby Flay, Lorena Garcia, and Curtis Stone, plus Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ells. Former Lady Longhorn great and WNBA pioneer Fran Harris with her Sports Wrap concept was the first contestant eliminated... Speaking of restaurant programs and TV celebrity chefs, a casting producer for chef Gordon Ramsay's Fox restaurant makeover series, Kitchen Nightmares, will be scouting struggling restaurants in the Austin/San Antonio area in the next two weeks. If your business could use an intervention from Ramsay, provide a detailed description of the restaurant and its problems to Jen App­loff: 866/226-2226 or

Now we've got a lightning round of news about local businesses, so hang on. Look for a selection of Ararat's packaged Middle Eastern delights at local neighborhood groceries Fresh Plus, Live Oak Market, Whip In, and Brodie Park Market, as well as Sarah's Texas Pantry in Hutto... The second local outlet of the up-and-coming national burger chain Elevation Burger is now open at 2525 W. Anderson... The Houston-based chain Brick House Tavern + Tap (11680 Research) brings its comfortable man-cave sports bar concept to North Austin with more than 70 beers (which can be served in beer bongs!) and a menu of upscale American classics... Another new sports bar on the scene is the Upper Decks (301 Barton Springs Rd.), now open daily in the former Ben­ni­gan's location just south of Downtown... The folks at Maudie's Tex-Mex (various locations) invite you to carbo-load before the big footrace this weekend with a Potato Rajas Taco Plate ($5.95).

Two popular trailer businesses have made the transition to brick-and-mortar outlets recently. Franklin Barbe­cue (900 E. 11th) will benefit from years of great barbecue karma in its new home just east of I-35 in the building formerly occupied by Ben's Long Branch BBQ. Franklin's is open daily from 11am until the meat runs out. Though pie maven Jaynie Buckingham will continue to operate her Cutie Pies trailer at 1603 S. Congress, be sure to check out her new location (7329 Burnet Rd.) with a full menu of pies, milk shakes, and coffee, starting April 2.

Several members of the local artisanal food community contacted me with the sad news of the untimely passing of Craig Barton on March 11. Craig and his wife, Cyndy, were the owners of the Austin Spice Company. A celebration of Craig's life will be held at Slop­py Pines in Rosanky, Texas, at 2pm on Satur­day, March 26. Memorial donations in his honor may be made to Habitat for Humanity.

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America's Next Great Restaurant, Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay, Ararat, Franklin Barbecue, Cutie Pies, Upper Decks

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