The transformation is complete: the Barton Springs El Chile has officially reopened as El Alma Cafe, the new interior Mexican restaurant by El Chile Group executive chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas. The menu is here, but highlights include Mexico City-style food and major happy hour deals.
El Alma Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday 11-10pm, Sunday through Monday 11-9pm, with a Brunch from 11-3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Here's the press release:
El Alma Opens on Barton Springs with a Fresh New Look and a Tantalizing Menu from Chef Alma Alcocer
(July 19, 2011) Austin, TX - In a speedy night-and-day turnaround, the former El Chile on Barton Springs transforms into El Alma, a polished new locale serving homestyle Mexican cuisine. Restaurateur Carlos Rivero has brought us El Chile, El Chilito, and Red House Pizzeria. And Austin loves them. Now his restaurant team has partnered with famed Austin chef, Alma Alcocer for a fresh new concept with a bright new look from acclaimed interior designer Joel Mozersky, and a sizzling new menu.
Having influenced the esteemed kitchens of Jeffrey’s, Fonda San Miguel, Tacos N Tequila, and El Chile, Alcocer has gained a loyal following in the Austin food arena. Particularly from Rivero, who was eager to bring her on board to launch a concept that would blend her classical training with her Mexico City roots for a homespun take on authentic Mexican dishes.
“Having worked with Alma at Jeffrey’s, I have a lot of respect for her cooking,” says Rivero. “We really wanted to give her a place to showcase what she does best. The concept is a departure from the Tex-Mex focus we’ve had in the past and we’re using Alma’s talent to introduce dishes that would reflect her heritage.”
With El Alma, Rivero gave Alcocer free reign to develop a menu that would not only reflect distinct Mexican flavors but also embrace the casual and eclectic vibe on Barton Springs. Diners will still be able to find tacos al pastor, queso, and carne asada tacos, but the new menu will also have an array of small plates and sophisticated entrees using fresh ingredients and richly layered sauces including duck enchiladas with mole, relleno de camarones (shrimp-stuffed poblano served with chipotle sauce and corn pudding), and for the hearty vegetarians out there, smokey ancho relleno stuffed with seasonal vegetables will more than satisfy. Alcocer will also feature one of her childhood favorites, ‘gringas,’ a popular Mexico City snack made of flour tortillas, cheese, and savory pastor.
“I wanted to create a menu that would fit the location on Barton springs,” says Alcocer. “It’s fun, flavorful Mexican food that is very approachable. It’s a casual, authentic representation of the food I grew up eating.”
With its bright white-washed walls accented by colorful local art, a revamped inside bar and a brand new outside bar, El Alma features a new cocktail menu with specialty margaritas, tequila with sangrita, cucumber mojitos, and a fresh twist on the Michelada. The emphasis on small plates will work well for those who want to sip a refreshing beverage and share a few appetizers on the shaded rooftop bar. Regular happy hours will offer $2, $3, and $4 drinks and half-price appetizer specials.