In keeping with my curiosity about several new Mexican food spots opening up in the Downtown area, some friends joined me for happy hour at Micheladas Cafe y Cantina (333 E. Second) last week, and we made a surprising discovery: an attractive restaurant with good food and pleasant service ... and almost no customers. The place is large, with a Spanish colonial, hacienda feel to it, several bars, an expansive main dining room and a small private dining area, a downstairs dog-friendly patio, and an inviting rooftop deck that screams out for a cocktail party. The menu is a mixture of Tex-Mex and Interior Mexican dishes, and everything we tried, with the exception of some flat, tough sopapillas, was well-seasoned, well-executed, and pretty reasonably priced. (Don't miss the green chile pork in poblano sauce and their spicy signature michelada.) The problems here appear to stem from geography – not enough parking and a location, just across the street from the Convention Center, that's been bedeviled by construction. The city's project to turn Second Street into an attractive boulevard has had the street torn up since Micheladas opened in the late fall, with several completion dates already missed. At this point, there's not even space for a valet stand. If you're looking for a happy hour destination that's not already overrun, plan on using the Convention Center parking garage and give Micheladas a shot.
The Sustainable Food Center (2921 E. 17th, Building C) has finally moved into their new East Austin home, but their ongoing capital campaign is still 8% shy of the goal. Contact Campaign Director Angela Osborn (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you're interested in investing in programs that provide Austin with a healthy and sustainable food system.
Local YouTube cooking sensation Hilah Johnson's new 12-part series, Hilah's Texas Kitchen, has just debuted at www.youtube.com/tastemade. In the new series, Johnson visits a Central Texas barbecue icon, grapefruit growers in the Rio Grande Valley, shrimpers in Port Aransas, dairy goat farms, puffy tacomakers in San Antonio, and several other emblematic Texas food producers before returning to her home kitchen for cooking demos. For more info on the series, go to www.hilahcooking.com/texas.
In early May, I was part of a judging panel that picked the winner in ATX Brands' first Trailer Truck-off to choose a food trailer operator for the historic Scoot Inn. Winner Tawny Villain and her company, Sweet Heat Meat, began serving at the Scoot in mid-June and I'm planning a visit with her this week to see how things are going. Look for that story on our On the Range blog (austinchronicle.com/blogs/food), along with news about the expansion of several homegrown restaurant chains and the scoop about new summer food and drink menus.
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