Modern Mexican ATX Cocina and brunch-loving Holy Roller open downtown

12:00 a.m. Thursday, July 20, 2017 Restaurants
ATX Cocina is a new modern Mexican restaurant from the ownership team that founded Hopdoddy and Eddie V’s. Contributed by Bethany McCullough Ross

The founders of Eddie V’s and Hopdoddy and co-owners of Red Ash, Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso, are entering the world of Mexican cuisine. The longtime restaurateurs open ATX Cocina Monday at 110 San Antonio St. in the Northshore residence tower.

ATX Cocina , helmed by executive chef Kevin Taylor, looks to ride the trend of upscale modern Mexican restaurants that combine fresh ingredients with responsible sourcing and chef-driven creativity. The menu will feature masa made in house using non-GMO heirloom corn varietals from villages and farms in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The menu will include items like sopes with cochinita pibil, bean puree and habanero-onion salsa; chili-roasted chicken with white mole, braised cabbage and scallion; and shrimp al carbon with Valentina-brown butter, charred lemon and garlic-pequin crumb corn tortilla.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Taylor, whose parents owned a Mexican restaurant for decades, worked at the Inn at Little Washington and the Mansion on Turtle Creek before serving as executive chef of modern Mexican restaurant El Vez in New York City.

“Everybody wants a cleaner way of eating — not so many processed foods or additives,” Taylor said. “We are going to be as clean and natural as possible. That’s the way we like to eat.”

The urban space, which is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, was designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and can be spotted from Cesar Chavez Street. The restaurant also features an outdoor dining space, a crudo bar, a wine counter and two bar spaces.

ATX Cocina will initially be open only for dinner and will expand to include lunch and brunch hours in the coming weeks.

Now open

She may be known by many Austin diners as one of the city’s exciting and playful pastry chefs, but former Geraldine’s and Swift’s Attic executive pastry chef Callie Speer started her career on the savory side of the kitchen.

With the opening of Holy Roller , the longtime chef is getting back in touch with her roots. Speer, who has also worked at Mars and Jeffrey’s, is opening her first restaurant, Holy Roller, which is an all-day brunch concept that promises food, drink and a little bit of attitude.

The restaurant located in downtown’s West End, at 509 Rio Grande St. in the former Wahoo’s Taco space, serves breakfast, such as pastries and coffee, beginning at 8 a.m. daily and brunch-inspired dishes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with bar service until late on weekends. A special “Sunday School” brunch menu is served on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The unapologetically aggressive main menu includes stick-to-your-ribs handhelds like fried chicken and egg on a honey biscuit, and shaved ham, apple butter and thyme streusel on an apple bun; and the roster of larger dishes features tea-brined chicken, and a burger with a fried egg and hashbrowns.

Speer leads an all-female roster of top line talent that includes beverage director Jen Keyser, pastry chef Britt Castro, and general manager Sarah Bevil, each of whom Speer has worked with in the past. Keyser’s bar menu includes some colorful cocktails with subversive names, a bubble-heavy wine list, Bloody Mary pitchers and more. Drink selections also include a variety of non-alcoholic shrubs.

Driving home the restaurant’s devil-may-care theme, the rock-and-roll space is colored with vintage furniture, velvet curtains, graffiti and neon signage, including the iconic Club Deville crown.

“Together, we’re doing something we really like in the most creative way we knew how,” Speer said. “It was important to us that we had something for everybody —from families to partiers, and it was equally important to me to serve a menu of dishes that we really wanted to eat. It plays on the nostalgia with new takes on food you probably ate growing up, but with a little more.”

Keep Austin weird

Some clever jokesters twisted up a good number of Austinites with outrage and confusion last week while amusing others with their satiric lampooning of gentrification. The artists wrapped the old home of the Uptown Sports Club at 1200 E. Sixth St. with professional looking banners that proclaimed a new Chili’s Bar & Grill was coming to the long-coveted and long-dormant space in East Austin.

Of course, that was about as likely as Greg Abbott running for mayor of Austin. But the prank, which seemed designed to both troll hipsters and gentrifiers while making a commentary about the changing face of Austin, definitely sparked conversation and rampant speculation about the veracity of the claim along with the identity of the street artists responsible.

The new owners of the property, a group that includes Mohawk and Hot Luck food and music festival co-owner James Moody, put the controversy (somewhat) to rest later in the day, saying they do have plans for a concept there in the future.

“But it certainly won’t be a Chili’s,” Moody said.

As for what has to be considered one of the great Austin art installations and satiric trolls of both gentrifiers and the people who loathe them, the new owners, who bought the property last year, say they had nothing to do with it and didn’t know it was happening.

“Of course we’re not behind it, but we think it’s hilarious,” Moody said. “It’s the east side being the east side. It’s why we love the east side.”

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 Geneseo, 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.”

Fans of the burgers, sandwiches and wine selection at the former Henri’s on South Lamar will be happy to know that the owners of the wine bar that closed following a fire last year have plans for a new restaurant.

The husband-and-wife team of Andy Means and Jessie Katz plan to open a restaurant, bar and coffee shop at 5811 Berkman Drive in the area some jokingly call Austin’s Upper East Side early next year. The spot in what is actually known as Windsor Village does not yet have a name, menu or online presence, but expect the sandwiches, salads and wine list that made the place a neighborhood hit in South Austin, along with a drive-thru window and ample parking.

“Closing Henri’s was a devastating loss, but rather than rebuilding in the same spot, we decided to make use of the circumstances to expand to a much-needed, larger location,” Means said. “We’re excited to develop this new concept and look forward to serving the neighborhood and welcoming the community that’s supported us during this difficult time.”

Events

The James Beard Foundation is going on its fifth annual barnstorming tour. The Taste America Culinary Tour skips around the country, giving folks in various cities a chance to dine on food prepared by some of the country’s best culinary talents.

Austin is one of 10 cities on this year’s tour, and the city will welcome the Beard Foundation for a weekend-long event that kicks off on Thursday, Nov. 2, with Smoke Session, a night of barbecue and brews, hosted by Aaron Franklin, with food from a group of participating chefs that includes Evan LeRoy (LeRoy & Lewis), and Callie Speer (Holy Roller). Friday night’s Night of Culinary Stars at the W Hotel Austin, with food from a roster that includes Illiana de la Vega (El Naranjo), multiple Beard finalist Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), and multiple Beard semifinalist Philip Speer (Bonhomie), precedes the weekend’s headline event, a seated dinner from Beard nominee Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec in Los Angeles), Beard winner Tyson Cole (Uchi) and Beard nominee Laura Sawicki (Launderette).

Other weekend events include cook by signings and demonstrations at Sur La Table at the Domain Northside. More details and ticket information on austin360.com/thefeed.

Closed

University of Texas students are going to have to find a new late-night taco-and-queso fix. The Taco Cabana at 517 W. MLK Blvd. has closed. There is a sign on the door thanking customers for their patronage and directing them to the location at 5242 N. Lamar Blvd. It is the second Taco Cabana near downtown to close in the past couple of years, with the one at Lamar Boulevard and Riverside Drive closing in 2015. That location gave way to sister restaurant Pollo Tropical, which remained in business for about a year before closing. It is now for rent. The restaurants’ parent company, Fiesta Restaurant Group, has struggled in recent years. Its stock traded around $30 at the beginning of the year, and today is trading at around $19.

There is no word on the future of the building at 517 MLK Blvd. Condos, anyone?

Staffing news

There is quite a bit of shuffling going on at Austin restaurants. Longtime Austin chef Casey Wilcox has been named the new executive chef at Central Standard, the American bar and grill inside the South Congress Hotel. Wilcox formerly served stints at Second Bar + Kitchen and Justine’s and helped open Kuneho earlier this year.

“I’m really excited about the future with Central Standard,” Wilcox said. “It’s a great space for me to explore our American culinary heritage, which is something that has excited me for a while.”

The South Congress Hotel’s sister hotel, Hotel Ella on MLK Boulevard, also changed direction in recent months, with the naming of executive chef Nick Nelson. The chef, whose resume includes the Roaring Fork in Austin, recently developed his first menu for the all-day American bistro Goodall’s Kitchen. The menu includes items such as crab Benedict, redfish ceviche and crab fritters.

Chef David Bull’s Second Bar + Kitchen has seen major change in recent weeks. The downtown location at Second Street and Congress Avenue named Peter Botcher executive chef, following the chef’s time as co-owner and executive chef at James Beard-nominated Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis. The Domain Northside location promoted five-year Second veteran Michelle Arcilla Hall to executive pastry chef; named Stephan Pyles and Dallas Museum of Art alumnus Brian Felicella as chef de cuisine and tabbed longtime Bull protégé Monica Senclair to serve as executive sous chef.

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