The team behind one of Austin's top restaurants wants to play with fire.
Emmer & Rye chef Kevin Fink and his partners, chefs Page Pressley and Tavel Bristol-Joseph and general manager Rand Egbert, plan to open Hestia, a new downtown restaurant named after the Greek goddess of the hearth, next spring at 208 Nueces St.
While Emmer & Rye has earned praise for its often-pristine presentation and an intellectualism that drives its fermentation projects and use of heritage grains, Hestia will center around the more primal live-fire cooking. The restaurant, in the forthcoming Facebook building in the footprint of the old Austin Music Hall, will feature a 20-foot grill that will be responsible for the majority of the kitchen’s output.
Guests can expect grilled Texas beef, lamb and seafood, an area about which the chefs are specifically excited. Fink, who was in Food & Wine’s 2016 class of Best New Chefs in America, said the team will continue to source locally and regionally, with about 80 percent of ingredients coming from Texas. The menu will feature about 15 to 18 items, and while there will be an appetizer section designed for sharing, the menu will differ from Emmer & Rye's small-plate focus and be better suited for diners who want to order their own entree.
The menu and centerpiece cooking style are not the only differences diners will notice between the new restaurant and the 3-year-old Emmer & Rye. The chefs and cooks will help deliver food to tables, spending time with guests and explaining the thought process behind the dishes and their execution. The format, somewhat akin to a chef’s table and not often seen in restaurants of Hestia’s size, will eliminate the barrier between chefs and guests and also empower the chefs, helping them hone tools beyond cooking.
“Our cooks and our servers are the lifeblood of what we do. We’re taking it a step further and making the model totally comprehensive,” Fink said. “The focus of this restaurant was always about moving forward the relationship between restaurant employee and diner and making it something more of a career.”
RELATED: The 10 best things to eat at Fareground
The team, which opened the fast-casual Henbit in downtown's Fareground food hall earlier this year, had been looking for a new space for about a year and said they were not willing to compromise on location. Fink said downtown makes for an ideal option for people looking to meet up with friends for a night on the town or to hit before moving to nearby areas like South Congress. Of course, the biggest concern downtown is often parking, which Fink said the restaurant will temper with 250 validated garage spots as well as valet parking.
Hestia will be Fink’s third restaurant in the four years since he moved to Austin, a city he said he and his wife relocated to from Arizona in hopes of pushing themselves creatively and raising a family. With Bristol-Josephand Pressley, Fink said he has found partners who challenge and complement one another. And the father to a 1-year-old boy said he has discovered Austin to be a special place, buoyed by a community of hospitality industry professionals who support rather than threaten one another.
“We are always a city that has more intrigue and excitement around it because there is something special about this town,” Fink said.
He hopes Hestia will add another element to that sense of excitement.