It’s been a transformative year for Apis Restaurant and Apiary since it opened a year ago in February. Owner and executive chef Taylor Hall and chef de cuisine Adam Brick created a fine dining destination out in Spicewood, and aren’t ready to settle just yet.
Hall and Brick spoke about the year so far, from learning how to adjust to different crowds, to dreaming big. Future plans for the duo include ramping up bar program with food and snacks, the casual pizzeria (ideally opening by late spring or early summer), second location, and even building out an entire Apis ecosystem complete with crops and animals.
What was the original idea of Apis?
You could feel the vibration and the hum of the bees Taylor Hall: I read an article about the colony collapse disorder with bees and became fascinated as well a duty to support nature, the role of the honeybee, and what it means to the food cycle. All that stuff started making sense as far as a restaurant concept. I took a beekeeping class. When they opened the hive up and the bees were flying all around, you could feel the vibration and the hum of the bees inside the hive. It was really the most amazing feeling and I fell in love with it.
What has your experience with Apis been like so far?
Adam Brick: Because we were under the radar, we were able to experiment, get our footing, and identify who we wanted to be as a restaurant.
What’s been the most surprising moment?
Hall: How quickly we got a really positive review from the Statesman. I knew how special it was compared to other places that I’ve been that were very special places, but I didn’t think it would get noticed that quickly.
Brick: That people from Austin would be willing to drive 45 minutes to eat dinner.
Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Brick: Open the restaurant in Austin. The biggest challenge we have is how far we are away. There are some Wednesdays and some Thursdays, it’s a little humbling to look at a half-empty dining room. You know that you could be in Austin and be filled. We believe we’re fighting the good fight.
Looking back, what would you have done differently now?
Hall: It’s a challenge to pack the house. We’ve made leaps and bounds with that. Would i change it? No, but it’s certainly a big challenge. As we evolve, we’re getting better and better at figuring out that part.
How did you try to get more people out to Apis?
Hall: We’re really trying to accommodate as many people as we can from the small community that we’re in, while also being very attractive and special to the really food-minded people that are seeking us from Austin or traveling from out of town to come to the restaurant. We have this very elaborate multi-course changing all-the-time tasting menu. That scratches an itch for a certain type of foodie that’s out there. You also have retired affluent people that live out in the Hill Country that are more into coming in and having that expensive bottle of wine and some straightforward meal. Now we have our patio for a more casual section of our menu. Then we’re opening a pizza restaurant.
Tell me about the pizzeria.
Hall: It’s going to be very classic Neapolitan pizzeria with a sourdough-fermented dough. We’re going to make our own mozzarella, salumi. We’re walking the tightrope, wanting to maintain quality and show the passion that we have for Italian traditions, and as well as for great food, but also not scaring off the locals in Spicewood. We’re trying to accommodate both types and palates.
Tell me about the farm you have planned for the grounds.
Hall: With the concept of Apis, with the honey bee as the mascot, we wanted to have a microcosm of what the honey bee represents. I actually went out and built a token garden out there right as we were opening and just never did anything with it. [A couple] showed us some drawings of a design of how he would build the first garden on Apis campus. We’re working on having produce, fruit trees, and all these different things, while also being mindful of what the bees would like and so we’re really excited about the next phase of the business.
Brick: Hopefully, one day, we’ll have essentially what Blue Hill Stone Barns has in New York: have a fully sustainable restaurant and farm coalesce on the same property.
What would you grow?
Hall: We’re looking at more special things that you don’t see commercial farms growing because it’s not lucrative for them to do it, like different little flowers and garnishes. That’s what will be our focus to start, as well as trees that are a little bit conventional, like peaches, maybe some olive trees, and then just see where that takes us. We’re looking at possibly goats and pigs.
How will this concept differ from the Spicewood Apis?
Hall: Apis is very very refined, polished, and the service is very particular. We want to have a more casual, bustling, energetic place, larger, founded on the same fundamental techniques and type of food, price point a little lower, as well as having a larger bar scene. Just a little bit of a more targeted towards youthful groups.
Brick: It’s a seven day restaurant, open for lunch, dinner, and maybe even breakfast. It’s got a big bar program, maybe a secret cocktail bar that we’re looking at as well. The food is done in the same ethos that we have, just simpler, faster, and solely focused on the producer. We want to label the menu how a wine list is written. We want it to be very transparent.
One day, we’ll have what Blue Hill Stone Barns hasWhat do you think about the current Austin dining scene and its future?
Hall: Just like Austin, it's exploding with growth. You’re getting some really quality places, and I think you’re also getting growth that’s going too fast which isn’t going to be able to be sustained.
Brick: It’s very shaky right now. Closing of LaV and Congress definitely struck a chord. The Austin food scene grew a little bit faster than it should. In the end, people that do things the right way, make delicious food the right way, and care about their staff and their customers, are going to last. That’s the benchmark for Austin at this point: what Bryce has done. If Austin does more things like Bryce, if we’re more like Bryce, I think we’ll be okay.
Where do you want Apis to be a year from now?
Hall: I want Apis’ farming program and pizza concept really moving along, having a lot more families on the property. Just becoming more of a community place that’s got something to offer for everyone around, from the very special focused foodie type all the way down to the families that are getting home from work and want a place to go and relax and have a glass of wine while letting the kids run around and play and have some good food.
Brick: Hopefully alive. I would like to look back and see phase 2 of the farm developing, maybe our diary is online. Pizzeria’s obviously fully operational and humming, and we’re starting to make the owners a living here and make them happy and make them proud.