Aviary Wine & Kitchen finally completed its transformation on South Lamar from a furniture shop/wine bar into a fully blown wine restaurant, opening tomorrow on Tuesday, October 3.
Owner Marco Fiorilo and his wife, Shanna Eldridge, opened Aviary in 2006 initially as a furniture and home decor shop that happened to offer wine. As the retail sales ebbed and demand for food and drink increased, they, along with culinary director and partner John Coronado, decided to change the South Austin shop accordingly .
“What we’re doing now is something that’s hopefully cutting edge, pushing the envelope, and setting the standard for Austin,” said Fiorilo. “Very service- and wine-oriented, wine first, food second.” It’s meant to be a neighborhood restaurant, with approachable and affordable menus.
“We believe in people sitting around a table together, and passing food and glasses,” said operations manager Leslie Higgs. It’s all friendly and communal.
Wine is the main focus for Aviary, as it’s always been, but with a much larger wine list. “Everybody deserves to taste and enjoy wine,” Fiorilo explained. Of the 100+ bottles available, the team made sure there are 65 different wines that are available for under $60.
Aviary’s wine list is varied and wide — “We chose to go as far as possible,” beverage director Alex Wheatly Bell explained — with island wines, natural wines, and more, as well as the new world classics. The list is even broken down into pop culture-inspired sections, like Jayne Mansfield for rose and David Bowie for sparkling wines.
As for the food, thinking about wine first was new for executive chef Thomas Calhoun, who was previously the pastry chef for Lenoir. That resulted in what he describes as Aviary’s wine region fare, inspired by cuisines where wine is important. The sharable menu ranges from classics like oysters and cheese to lamb burgers and risotto to whole chickens and fish.
Wine and sweets go hand in hand in the desserts section as well, where cookies are paired with champagne (“They go really well together,” said Calhoun). The rest of the sweets menu will include a chocolate item, fruit, cheese (starting with a cheese ice cream sundae), and ice creams by the scoop. He preserved a bunch of summer fruit which will come in handy for the fall and winter seasons.
Because kitchen space is limited (there are no walk-ins, only lowboy refrigerators for all stations), all ingredients and produce have quick turnaround, which Calhoun appreciates. “You can’t pass produce food, and it can help you cook with more soul.” Plenty of items will be made in house, from pita bread, brioche, pates, pasta, sausages, and more.
The physical Aviary 2.0 is unrecognizable from its original form, but Fiorilo reassured that “the energy is there.” Eater photographer Robert J. Lerma took a tour of the updated vibrant space, with bright blue walls and pops of what Fiorilo calls “whimsy,” like funky wallpaper and light fixtures.
There is a lot more seating, from the expanded bar area, the long banquette, outdoor seating right along South Lamar, the ten-person “rock star booth,” and the lounge which serves as a “homage to the old Aviary,” according to Higgs.
Aviary will open with dinner service only, from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday. And then there’s the wine happy hour special where a select rotation of 12 bottles will be available at half-off prices, dubbed the Dirty Dozen from 6 to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays. Sunday brunch and lunch will be added at later dates.
- South Lamar’s Aviary Wine Lounge Adds Full Restaurant [EATX]
- Aviary Wine & Kitchen [Official]
- Aviary Wine & Kitchen [Facebook]
- Aviary Wine & Kitchen [Twitter]
- Aviary Wine & Kitchen [Instagram]