Open: Freedmen’s Bar, a restaurant, beer garden and bar at 2402 San Gabriel St. from Cuatro’s owners Louis and Cuatro Kowalski and Jim Stockbauer. "We wanted a place where you could get nicer drinks in this neighborhood," says Cuatro Kowalski, who also owns Cuatro’s next door.
The building, which Kowalski has owned for a number of years, was built in 1869 and served as a general store, church and home to the first black newspaper in Austin. Because of the historical nature of the building, Kowalski says that they will only be cooking off a grill and a smokeshed but that they don’t want to be pigeonholed into "barbecue." Chef Evan LeRoy, formerly of New York’s Hill Country barbecue restaurant, is in charge of the menu, which includes housemade charcuterie, and bar manager Myria Free, formerly of Trifecta, created the cocktail menu. Kowalski says the next step is to open for brunch but he’s still debating whether or not to open for lunch. 220-0953, facebook.com/Freedmens
Open: Del Taco, the first Austin-area location of the California-based taco chain, at 1400 E. Whitestone Blvd. in Cedar Park. This location, which is the 16th location in Texas, is open 24 hours a day. A second Central Texas location will open in Round Rock in early 2013. deltaco.com
Closing Saturday: Casita Jorge, 2203 Hancock Drive, will close this weekend for a remodel from new owners, which include Chuy’s co-founder Mike Young, Will Muntz of Lucky Lounge and John Korioth of Hangar Lounge. They plan to reopen a new restaurant, La Mancha Tex-Mex Tavern, sometime next year.
Closed: Spicy Pickle, the sandwich shop at 404 W. 26th St. The location on South Lamar Boulevard remains open.
UPCOMING FOOD & WINE EVENTS
As Austin’s tequila fever continues to spread, it’s nice to see places that take pride in featuring the agave-based spirit up their game by bringing in local experts to consult on menus, lead classes and hold special events.
Tacos and Tequila is hosting a new series called Tequila Underground. Every Wednesday in December and Thursday in January, Marcelo Nascimento, who formerly worked with Ambhar Tequila, will host a tequila cocktail lab for customers.
In addition to his experience in the tequila business, Nascimento earned his chops mixing cocktails behind the bar at Warehouse District cocktail hub Peche, and also ran a cocktail catering company called Lucky 13. Now, Nascimento has his own consulting company, CIRCA Craft Consulting. For Tequila Underground, Marcelo will be behind the bar creating new cocktails that guests can sample. Cocktails also will be available for purchase (cash bar) for $6 during the Wednesday events.
— Emma Janzen