Four days in, the amount of hype is palpable at Top Chef winner Kristen Kish’s new restaurant at the trendy Line Austin Hotel. The space has been crowded, full of hungry people looking to partake in Kish’s highly lauded fare. Buzz doesn’t always equate with the most heartfelt hotel restaurant projects, but if this is a rule, then Kish’s Arlo Grey is the exception. In this two-part Eater Austin series, the chef shares a rundown of the personal meaning that’s ever-present in Arlo, from the bathroom walls to the components of her take on fried chicken. First up, a look around the inside of the restaurant:
“It’s the story of my life,” said Kristen Kish, describing the restaurant. To wit, Arlo Grey is the top name from a potential baby name list she has filed away for some day in the future.
The chef , who hosted a travel show, adds that “The one thing I did miss during all of those travels was a sense of team and ownership of holding myself accountable for something as opposed to just random projects.” Now, her fully realized first restaurant is proof positive that she’s completely committed to just one thing.
Kish was born in South Korea, adopted, and raised in Michigan. She attended culinary school in Chicago and then moved to Boston. It was there that she began working under successful restaurateur and chef Barbara Lynch, who became her mentor. Kish started out at demonstration kitchen and cookbook shop Stir, competed and won Top Chef during season 10 in Seattle, and then became the chef de cuisine at fine dining destination and Relais & Chateaux restaurant Menton, where she concocted the acclaimed menus at what became known as Lynch’s crown jewel in Boston.
Kish moved to Austin because of Instagram, really. Jeremy Behmoaras, the vice president of food and beverage for the Sydell Group (the parent company of the hotel), reached out to Kish via Instagram direct message. She opened the message on a whim, and it led to the Texas opportunity.
The Line Austin Hotel, which took over what had been the Radisson Hotel in 2016, is as stylish as its Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. counterparts. There are no walls separating Arlo Grey from the hotel lobby. The openness flows into a bright, airy space with lush greenery hanging from gold planters and olive trees scattered throughout the room.
Throughout the restaurant, illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Colorado River, are light details (white marble, pale pink plaster walls, beige drapes, light gray cushioned sofas), balanced out with darker elements (walnut woods, black metals like the bar top).
The seating arrangements were inspired by borne settee, a design style that focuses on circular seating that faces outward. This ranges from high-tops, large round tables, booths, and banquettes.
For a personal touch, proudly displayed along one wall are framed boxes of notebook pages and childhood mementos from Kish.
Her upbringing is even on display in the bathrooms. Playing over the speakers is a Korean-language reading of the Korean version of Cinderella, which Kish said her mother read to her when she was young “to introduce me to my culture.” The English translation of the fairy tale is spray-painted along the walls and stalls.
Arlo’s icon is a dainty floral design based on the Texas bloom the Dayflower, worked up by Austin artist Xavier Schipani. It’s featured on the menus and cocktail stirrers.
Arlo’s aesthetic was put together by noted local architect Michael Hsu, along with designer Sean Knibb, both of whom worked on the entire Austin hotel. The restaurant also features work from Michael Wilson Woodworking.