Brew & Brew owners planning cafe and bar on West Fifth Street

12:00 a.m. Thursday, July 13, 2017 Restaurants
Owners (left to right) Grady and Matt Wright and Matthew Bolick have parlayed the success of their Brew & Brew into the forthcoming all-day American cafe and bar Better Half. Contributed by Chris Mumford

Having proven adept hands in the coffee and beer game, the owners of East Austin hangout the Brew & Brew will expand their focus with their latest venture, Better Half . The all-day American cafe and bar will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner from a full kitchen and feature a coffee and beer program similar to that at Brew & Brew, along with a full cocktail bar.

The restaurant and bar, located at 1203 W. Fifth Street (at Walsh Street), will reside in the space previously occupied by Ride Austin. Owners Matt and Grady Wright and Matthew Bolick, who opened Brew & Brew at East Fifth and San Marcos streets in 2013, relied on feedback they had received over the years from customers to help guide them as they created their new concept.

“Treating coffee, food, cocktails and beer as equals under one roof just seems like the move,” said Bolick, who also founded Flat Track Coffee and runs Brew & Brew’s coffee program. “To me it is a hole that needs to be filled in a town that loves each so much.”

The partners plan for Better Half to be open from 7 a.m. until late daily, and while they aren’t ready to announce their executive chef, who has experience working in some of Austin’s top restaurants, they say the menu will reflect the kind of food they love from years of eating around Texas.

The space is being designed by Chioco Design (Counter Three Five Seven), with interior design by Lilianne Steckel (Thunderbird Cafe and Tap Room).

The new location is not the only news connected to the Brew & Brew. The coffee and beer bar is about to welcome a new vendor into the fold.

One of the big, unfortunate gaps in the Austin dining scene has long been bagels. We have a couple of spots for a dependable bagel, but everyone knows we need more. Tom Rosen is ready to jump in and help fill the gap.

The graduate of the Arizona Culinary Institute has been hosting bagel pop-ups in recent months and following a series of Saturday pop-up events at Brew & Brew (500 San Marcos St.) this month, he will move his Rosen’s Bagel Co. operation into the popular coffee and beer bar at East Fifth and San Marcos streets.

Rosen serves about a half-dozen varieties of bagels, including everything, poppy seed, sesame seed and rosemary salt, and tops them with a variety of schmears, from the traditional plain and scallion to more creative offerings like maple syrup almond and lemon-basil. Rosen’s Bagel Co. will operate out of the Brew & Brew kitchen, likely starting in mid-August, with customers ordering their bagels at the same counter where they order their drinks.

Rosen, who also has history working in fine dining, earned a graduate degree in sociology studying gender and food issues, but after school, he couldn’t “ignore the creeping influence of wanting to do something creative.”

The Topeka, Kansas, native attended Vanderbilt University for his undergraduate education and frequently visited his friends’ families’ homes on the East Coast, which originally turned him onto bagels.

“It was a transcendent experience,” Rosen said.

Confounded by the lack of great bagel options in Austin and the question of whether East Coast bagels could be replicated here, Rosen started working on his bagel recipe about 18 months ago before landing on his current recipe. Recognizing that the famed water in which New York City bagels are boiled is more basic and softer, Rosen changed the pH levels of Austin tap water to arrive at his current recipe.

In addition to the regular bagel and schmear offerings, Rosen’s Bagel Co. will also serve a lox sandwich special and have a breakfast and two lunch sandwiches on the menu daily, with a vegan option at both breakfast and lunch.

You can get a taste of what’s to come at Brew & Brew with Rosen’s Bagel Co. pop-ups on July 15, 22 and 29 starting at 9 a.m.

Looking ahead

Don’t expect a carbon copy of the Home Slice Pizza flagship when the North Loop location opens later this year. In addition to the pizzas, sandwiches and salads that transformed the South Congress neighborhood restaurant into a city-wide sensation, the new location will feature a robust classic cocktail menu (think Manhattan, Boulevardier and Harvey Wallbanger), an expanded selection of local craft beers and add new food items such as Buffalo wings. The puffy, square Sicilian slices and pies currently served only as Monday and Thursday specials at the South Congress location will also be available daily at the North Loop restaurant.

The restaurant at 501 E. 53rd St. (at the corner of Duval Street) will offer take-out, patio seating and both indoor and outdoor bar seating. While the restaurant, which is being designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, will seat about the same number patrons and have the same oven space as the original, the new location will feature twice the amount of parking.

“Buffalo wings are part of almost every pizzeria experience where I grew up,” Home Slice co-founder and Genseco, New York, native Jen Scoville Strickland said. “And just like the claim we make with our NY-style pies, we are looking forward to turning Austin on to this regional delicacy done right.”

Now open

Chef Jack Gilmore’s demi empire is moving closer to Central Austin. Gilmore and partner Tom Kamm will open a fourth location of Jack Allen’s Kitchen at 3010 W. Anderson Lane in the former Fork & Vine space on Saturday. The restaurant will initially only serve dinner, with lunch and brunch being added in the coming weeks. The new restaurant will be open daily and feature a menu similar to the other locations. Reservations can be made on opening day.

The former Z’Tejas executive chef has already created a sensation in Oak Hill, Round Rock and the Davenport areas with his blend of farm-to-table and comfort cuisine.

One of Austin’s best taco trucks will soon have a companion indoor space. Pueblo Viejo, which had operated two trucks in East Austin in recent years before closing one, is moving into the North Door (502 Brushy St.). Pueblo Viejo announced on Facebook last week that they intend to open “around July 15.” The truck at 2000 E. Cesar Chavez St. will continue its normal operating hours.

Closed

Vox Table’s sister restaurant El Burro closed last week after just over six months in business. The restaurant at the Lamar Union complex had a sign on the door the last few days saying they were temporarily closed for emergency maintenance, but a rep for the restaurant today confirmed the permanent shutter.

“We stayed open as long as we could. We want to thank all our diners and friends for their patronage,” co-owner Vincent Manguino said.

Vox Table, which is also in the Lamar Union, remains open.

View full experience