New restaurant lightning round
Restaurant expansions have been the hallmark of 2014 in Austin's rapidly evolving dining scene, with both new chefs and established restaurant groups debuting concepts, and homegrown chains adding outlets and services. In keeping with the breakneck development pace, here's a lightning round of the things to look for in early 2015. And remember, opening dates are always a moving target.
MidTown: Noble Sandwich Co. (4805 Burnet Rd.; 12233 RR 620 N.) will begin daily dinner service from 5pm until close on Monday, Jan. 12, at both locations, and will also offer a weekday happy hour 2-5pm with rotating menu items. Breakfast options will only be available on weekends. The dinner menu will include sandwiches, salads, and desserts presented in a "counter plus service" format. Sala and Betty (5201 Airport) chef/owner Teresa Wilson says she's planning a three-tiered opening strategy - offering the drive-through menu to eat in or take out in mid-January, then progressing to the dine-in lunch menu after a couple of weeks, and finally the addition of dinner service after about the first month. Quang Vuong and Kim Thai are interviewing potential staff members for their new Bun Belly (5001 Airport) in anticipation of a late January or early February opening. Quang advises us they want to get the new place well established and parking issues squared away before beginning work on a possible bakery/coffee shop concept in the former Tamale House No. 3 space next door.
Downtown: Training sessions began last week at Fixe (500 W. Fifth) with owners Keith House and executive chef James Robert getting chef de cuisine Zach Hunter and the rest of their team ready for their opening Christmas Eve. Christin Rowan-Adams reports that she and business partner chef Josh Matlock are only a couple of permit inspections away from getting the final go-ahead for their long-awaited dessert lounge and cocktail bar, Nightcap (1401 W. Sixth). While they await their early 2015 opening, Rowan-Adams is waiting tables at Ranch 616 and Matlock is working the line at Mulberry.
West: The restaurateurs behind Houston's Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar is coming to a space at 507 Pressler in West Austin, next door to Tacos and Tequila. Partner Lee Ellis advises us they'll have a full bar with an extensive craft beer program and a seafood menu that will include a variety of roasted proteins, in addition to a raw bar. Farther west, Jack Gilmore advises us that city permitting issues will probably delay the opening of the third Jack Allen's Kitchen (3600-D Capital of Texas Hwy. N.) until April 2015, fully a year after he made the deal to take over the former Trento spot. Even farther west, several eateries at the Trails II at 620 (8300 RR 620 N.) in the Four Points area will be joined by RedFin Seafood Kitchen, a joint venture between some Steiner Ranch residents, chef Mario Rodriguez, formerly of the W Hotel, and Cameron Kalka, who has managed at both Shady Grove and Güero's Taco Bar. Look for the full-service seafood restaurant and raw oyster bar to open in early 2015.