Statesman’s Matthew Odam discovers veteran chef Jack Gilmore’s Salt Traders Coastal Cooking delivers as a crowd-pleasing seafood destination. Gilmore and the team behind suburban favorite Jack Allen’s Kitchen got into the seafood game when the Round Rock restaurant opened late last summer with its raw bar, lobster rolls, and coastal-inspired cocktails. The critic jokingly pegs the secret of Gilmore’s success with the following recipe:
Find second-generation restaurant spaces with manageable rents away on the edges of town, where there is a dearth of good locally owned restaurants. Create an affordable menu with populist appeal along with enough refined dishes and a local sourcing ethos to please the finicky and conscientious diner. Staff the restaurants with well-trained, happy faces. Execute. Watch the crowds roll in.
Although there’s some truth to the formula (see Gilmore’s takeover of the former Fork & Vine space for another JAK), it’s the food that made Salt Traders an instant success. Odam is quick to call out the restaurant’s differentiators among the ubiquitous seafood grill. Among those include the chowder, “studded with clams and fragrant with an abundance of leeks,” and a ceviche spilling with tuna, salmon, grouper, and mango pico. Additional dishes he called out included the fried fish sandwich, blackened black drum enchiladas, and a silky coconut mousse dessert.
A downfall of being the “it” restaurant in town is, of course, the crowds — especially around the holidays when Odam visited. The kitchen’s misfires were dismissed as ones that the critic doesn’t expect to see again — not from a veteran like Gilmore with his winning record.
Chronicle food critic Brandon Watson found delicious reasons to visit two plant-based food trucks with two very different approaches. First, putting on-trend ingredients like turmeric, activated charcoal, and cashew milk at the forefront is West Live Oak Street food truck Curcuma. The plant-forward menu inspired by Ayurveda, which means black lemonade, golden mylk ice cream, “superfoods drinks,” a spirulina-pesto zoodle bowl, and more.
While lightly-cooked sweet potato toasts seemed too crunchy at first, chef and owner Rachel Musquiz's gratifying toppings ultimately won Watson over. While the "shockingly drinkable" super matcha latte and seemingly indulgent rose tahini cacao truffles also earned recognition, the highlight was the beans and grain-centric Kitchari Bowl:
The intersection between Curcuma's ayurvedic principles and Musquiz's craft peaks with the kitchari bowl [...] This bowl earns its hype by avoiding extraneous ingredients and garnishes. Everything has a purpose, from the chomp of the chickpeas to the snap of the massaged (ugh) spinach, and the dabs of flavor – a ginger chutney, pickled onions, sesame seeds on the avocado – make each bite distinct, avoiding the monotony of many grain bowls.
For Watson’s second review, the Great Y'all truck on Chicon steers towards a different direction. It takes an understated approach to veganism, describing its menu as “Asian-style bar food, always 100% vegan.” It’s the brainchild of Jenna Ryan and Beth Davidson, both former cooks from Mother's Cafe & Garden. Sure, the duo serves up golden milk, but it’s the gobi wings (made with fried cauliflower), bao (with jackfruit), rangoon (with cashew tofu cream chz), and more that headline the offerings.
Notably, the menu can satiate the hungry bar-goers of the area without doling out the clinging grease that far too often accompanies similar fried fare.
[N]othing we sampled had much in the way of clinging grease. The fried spring rolls ($3) are basic in the best way (you won't notice a difference from your favorite) and the gobi wings ($6) stand up against the many versions that are popping up around town. Samosa wontons ($7) feel lighter than their non-fusion counterpoint, and a few scattered raisins add some nuance to the potato and pea mix.
THE BLOGS — ATX Eats and Treats checked out Nashville import Desano Pizzeria while Dine with Shayda also talked pizza after visiting Aviator Pizza’s Austin location, and The Austinot dished on the five most stylish bars in Austin.
- Salt Traders Coastal Cooking borrows from winning playbook [Statesman]
- Restaurant Review: Curcuma [Chronicle]
- Restaurant Review: The Great Y’all [Chronicle]