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Chef Rene Ortiz and partners to form new restaurant group

Matthew Odam

Former Sway and La Condesa executive chef Rene Ortiz and executive pastry chef Laura Sawicki are partnering with Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon owners Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath to form a new restaurant group that will open neighborhood grocery and cafe Launderette in the summer of 2014.

Launderette will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering “real food … not defined by exotic pairings and gastronomical acrobatics.”

Ortiz says the menu will change as they see fit, and he will cook what he calls “one-two-three food,” meaning a protein plus accoutrement plus sauce. There will be something for everybody, he says, on a menu that will include grilled foods, pasta, a vegetable section, oysters and more. Launderette will also include a full bar.

“It’s an all-day café geared to who we are as people,” Ortiz said. “We just want to be able to cook and have fun … We’re not going to be cooking with lasers.”

Ortiz’s friend and culinary kindred spirit Sawicki will offer ice creams by the scoop at Launderette, along with items like pie crusts and cookie dough from the grocery.

Ortiz is coy on the location but says it will be in East Austin and will “complement the neighborhood.”

“I want people hanging out. I want to have fun there,” Ortiz said.

The building will also feature a Chinese take-out operation called Angry Bear. Ortiz talks about the Bear with a sense of whimsy and mystery, saying the concept started out as an art project. But the Bear got hungry. Ortiz said Angry Bear will have a Szechuan bent and be “crazy and full of fluorescent lighting.” Don’t expect any “orange sticky sauces” or high-fructose corn syrup.

“I love chilies and love fermentation,” Ortiz said.

Vera and Overath recently became managing partners of Fresa’s. Ortiz and Sawicki will oversee the culinary operations at Fresa’s, as well, which is actively looking to open more locations.

“I’m excited about Fresa’s,” Ortiz said. “It allows me to stay in touch with my heritage, for sure. And it’s a part that I do very well.”