Our long national nightmare is over.

Pao’s Mandarin House in Lakeway reopened yesterday.

At least, that’s the word on the street. I’ve been a little busy and didn’t get a chance to make it over there last night. Plus, judging from the reaction on NextDoor, I figure it was probably packed to the rafters.

In other news, the HouChron is reporting that Romano’s Macaroni Grill has filed for bankruptcy protection.

I used to go to Romano’s semi-regularly, but now I can’t remember the last time I set foot in one. (I do vaguely remember the last time I set foot in an Olive Garden, but only because I got so annoyed, I left before they even asked for my drink order.)

And I would have sworn Romano’s was a Brinker International restaurant. I was wrong: according to Wikipedia, Brinker has a minority interest, but:

  • the majority of shares were sold to “Mac Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital” in 2008.
  • Ignite Restaurant Group (the parent company of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brickhouse Tavern, which also filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and was bought up by Landry’s) bought the majority stake for $55 million in 2013.
  • And then sold it to Redrock Partners LLC for $8 million in 2015.
Posted in Chinese, Italian, Meta, Opening | Leave a comment

Rebel Pizza Bar Closes

This news came out last month, but I just saw it recently Rebel Pizza bar has closed and being replaced with a Filipino Restaurant.

We had an SDC at Rebel Pizza Bar once, and thought the pizza was pretty good (and the place seemed quite crowded).

The second time we tried going there for lunch on Friday, only to find that, while they delivered, they didn’t serve pizza in their restaurant during the lunch hour.

We never went back.

Hopefully the new restaurant will adopt more reasonable business hours…

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Franklin Barbecue Burns

We take you away from Hurricane Harvey footage to bring you important Austin food news: Franklin’s Barbecue has suffered a fire.

One of the state’s most popular barbecue joints suffered a massive fire early Saturday morning, according to reports.

Franklin Barbecue, located in downtown Austin, has been a barbecue staple in Texas for years now and the destination for smoked meat lovers across the country.

Austin fire officials tweeted just before 6 a.m. Saturday that they had officials on the scene fighting a blaze at the location in the 900 block of East 11th. Within half an hour they reported that the situation at the two-story building had been controlled.

Here’s footage of the fire and firetrucks arriving:

Franklin is currently closed:

No reopening date estimate yet…

(Cross posted to Futuramen.)

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Joe’s Crab Shack Files for Bankruptcy

“Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., the operator of the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern & Tap chains, has filed for bankruptcy.”

I like seafood, and I have no problem patronizing a moderately-priced seafood chain. In fact, there’s a crying need for solid seafood offerings between Long John Silver’s and Truluck’s. (There are some, but not nearly enough.)

Despite all that, I haven’t eaten at a Joe’s Crab Shack in more than a decade. By way of context, here’s my review of Joe’s Crab Shack from way back in February of 2003:


OK, we finally bit the bullet and tried Joe’s Crab Shack. It was as loud, noisy, and crowded as I expect, with just about every cliche from Making It’s classic “Good Taste: You Can’t Afford” cartoon on how to make a killing in the restaurant business, including decor from BMTCRSC.

Service was a mixed bag: While attentive and prompt, I have fundamentally philosophical objections to a restaurant where the servers are encouraged to sing and dance their way through The Village People’s “YMCA.” (To callow Generation Y-ers, Disco is instant kitsch. For those of us who lived through it, it’s a war crime.)

And the food? The gumbo was on the thin side, and the salad unexceptional. Calamari was OK, but nothing to write home about. I went for the steak, crab, and shrimp combo. Tasty enough. but it’s hard to screw up crab legs. My biggest complaint is about the size of the portions. The crab portions were OK, and the side of shrimp, though skimpy for scampi, was still in the acceptable range. But the steak was tiny, as were the portions of crab claws appetizers. (I note that you used to be able to get two-three times as many crab claws from Landry’s, but guess what? It’s not there anymore! Yes the Landry’s that used to be on Lake Austin Boulevard has been replaced with (wait for it) another Joe’s Crab Shack! Converting a Landry’s into a Joe’s Crab Shack is like converting a Bennigan’s into a Planet Hollywood. Yeah, there’s a difference, but not one that’s going to stir any real food lover to the battlements. As to what this says about the taste of the average Austin diner I leave as an exercise for the reader.)

I know such a judgment may not be popular with the Trendoids, but I think Red Lobster offers better food at a better price, and even for loud, noisy seafood barns, the fare at Pappadeaux blows this place away.


There’s a Brick House Tavern a couple of miles from my house and I’ve never eaten there, either. I wouldn’t mind giving it a try if the atmosphere isn’t as loud and obnoxious.

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Random observation.

When we first started doing the SDC (and when we first started doing the logs), there was no such thing as an automatic paper towel dispenser.

When we first started seeing them around town, it was worthy of note, though perhaps in a hip post-ironic way. “Ooooooooh, this is a fancy joint. They have  an automatic paper towel dispenser!”

Today, when I go somewhere and they don’t have an automatic paper towel dispenser, I’m a little shocked. “You mean I have to touch the handle? I have to get the paper towels out with my hands? Like an animal?!”

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Pao’s Mandarin House in Lakeway (temporarily?) closed.

You now know exactly as much as I do. I’m sure everyone knows that Pao’s (first in the old downtown location, and then out in Lakeway) was a Saturday Dining Conspiracy favorite. I’m hoping the renodeling is brief and that they reopen soon: watch this space for updates.

Posted in Chinese, Closed | 2 Comments

Other Austin Restaurant Openings and Closings

Dwight’s coverage of Hudson on the Bend’s closing reminded me that I wanted to put up a list of restaurant openings and closings of note. These are places we’ve either eaten at, thought about eating at, or plan on eating at.

Openings

  • Cannon + Belle (500 E 4th St, (512) 493-4900): “Creative farm-to-table comfort fare.” Took over Finn & Porter’s space in the Hilton Austin downtown.
  • Culinary Dropout (11721 Rock Rose #100, (512) 777-3394): Gastropub chain.
  • DeSano Pizza Bakery (8000 Burnet Rd, (512) 323-2426): Nashville chain.
  • Kemuri-Tatsuya (2713 East 2nd Street, (512) 893-5561): New restaurant by the Ramen Tatsu-ya people.
  • Kuneho (1600 East 6th Street Austin, (512) 436-9626): Paul Qui’s new restaurant.
  • Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (11617 Research Blvd., (512) 953-9283): New location of the Houston-based Cajun restaurant chain.

Closings

As for closings, this list got me started, as well as Eater, Rob Balon and Community Impact.

  • Ajishin Sushi & Noodle
  • Bacon
  • Doc’s Motor Works
  • El Arroyo (Far West)
  • El Azteca
  • El Gallo
  • EZ’s Brick and Oven
  • Finn & Porter
  • Hudson’s on the Bend
  • Margarita’s Mexican Grill
  • Olivia
  • Qui
  • Sao Paulo’s
  • Satay
  • Schmidt Family BBQ (Lakeway)
  • Zed’s

Miscellaneous

Posted in American, Barbecue, Cajun, Closed, Fine Dining, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, News, Opening, Pizza, Seafood, Steak, Sushi, Thai | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hudson’s on the Bend closed.

Hudson’s on the Bend, one of Austin’s higher-end restaurants, shut down abruptly yesterday afternoon, according to a report in the Statesman.

This is kind of a shame. We had several excellent and memorable meals at the old Hudson’s. But last year, Jeff Blank (who founded the restaurant) sold it to a new ownership group. (My recollection is that he had some health issues.) It seemed to me that the restaurant was “closed for remodeling” a lot longer than the new owners had originally expected. They eventually did re-open, but had only been open for three months before yesterday’s closure. I was kind of looking forward to trying it again at some point when everyone was flush, but they hadn’t been open long enough, the next special occasion is in April, and…well…

The new owners apparently aren’t saying a lot about what prompted the shutdown, but my guess is simply money. I think the remodeling took longer and cost more than they expected, and they probably just ran out of funds.

It will be interesting to see what goes into that space. Their next-door neighbor, The Hill Country Pasta House, was sold and re-opened as 827 Ray’s last year after what was also a long remodeling. We haven’t tried it.

Posted in Closed, Fine Dining | 2 Comments

Two Girls Eat Carolina Reaper Peppers

You know, the ones that clock in at 2.2 million Scoville units.

It does not go well for them. (Some NSFW language.)

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Man Killed Over Cutting in Line for Taco Truck

Important safety tip: Try not to kill anyone over cutting in line for a taco trick.

Just after bar-close at 2:38 a.m. on Sunday, May 8th, the Austin Police Department responded to a report of gunfire at what appears to be the Tortillas Hecha a Manos taco truck in Lanier Village, just south of Peyton Gin and North Lamar. When police arrived, they found 39-year-old Rigoberto Jose Castillo dead and three others injured, one critically.

You may be asking, what could have caused all this mayhem? As the story goes, it all began when someone allegedly cut in line for tacos.

According to witnesses, a fight started over who was in line for tacos first. Nobody appreciates the wait for a taco, but police say that Mr. Castillo took special exception to the alleged line-cutting when two men, Osiel Benitez Benitez, 44, and Juventino Benitez Carbajal, 38, allegedly attempted to order out of line.

Things escalated to fisticuffs between Rigoberto and Osiel Benitez, the police report says, leaving Benitez unconscious on the ground, before all hell broke loose. Police go on to claim that a moment later Carbajal went to his truck, pulled out a gun, and began firing into the group of patrons. In addition to Castillo’s death, three women were also injured.

It’s also a bad idea to try and cut in line for a taco trailer. Upside: You get your taco faster. Downside: Getting shot to death over tacos. Plus it’s just not polite…

(Cross-posted from Futuramen. Hat tip: Bill Crider.)

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