Hopfields, the Eater 38 French-inspired gastropub near north campus, expanded with a new bar down in further South Austin. Nicolaza’s is now open at 8504 South Congress Avenue, taking over the former building of dive bar Red Shed Tavern, which closed last March.
Behind Nicolaza’s are Hopfields founders Bay Anthon and Lindsay Anthon-Zuloaga, along with Hopfields general manager Pedro Carvalho. They wanted to open something in South Austin because they believed there was a need for a great bar in the area so that residents didn’t have “to go across the river to find a nice cocktail,” explained Carvalho.
“My main goal is to really unapologetically be the best host that we can be,” Carvalho continued, “and serve this neighborhood that is so underserved with the best product that we can come up with and that we can source. They deserve it.”
Since Hopfields, which opened in 2011, was a reflection of Anthon-Zuloaga’s mother’s side of the family (French), they wanted to focus on her father’s side for the new bar, drawing on Mexican and Latin American influences. The restaurant name is her paternal great grandmother’s name.
Nicolaza’s cocktails are Latin-inspired with herbal components. One of those is The Rumpopo, as Carvalho described, is like a “Central American eggnog.” It’s made with horchata (a family recipe from one of the bartenders), rum, creme de banana, and an egg yolk. Then there are curated beer lists, both draft and canned.
Everything will be made in-house, from freshly squeezed juices to vinegars to shrubs to tonics. There’s also an emphasis on responsibly sourcing products from Central and South America, like tequila and rum. “We understand the social impact that it causes, and we’re trying to bring that to a bar scenario,” said Pedro.
The bar will serve something for everybody, so there will be non-boozy drinks, juices, and aguas frescas. There are plans to add coffee too at a later point.
In two weeks, Nicolaza’s will also become home to the food truck version of Hopfields, run by chef Joseph Gleeson. There will be familiar gastropub dishes with some variations, like the ratatouille on flatbread, more fried dishes like escabeche, desserts like doughnuts, and gluten-free fish and chips. The famous Pascal burger will be available as well. There are plans to offer nightly specials too, like steak and Old Fashioned nights, fried chicken, oysters, etc.
The physical space of Nicolaza’s is supposed to feel like the home. There’s the living room area with a sofa and fireplace, plus floral pieces abound from fake flowers adorning the barto the dramatically bold and dark floral wallpaper, a coat rack, and plants. Off to the side is the yurt-style room with a macrame installation by artist Tiffany Ramsdell and a chandelier. Elsewhere, there are bistro tables, bar seats, and even bathrooms with fun wallpaper.
The actual bar was created by former Hopfields server Jeremy Smith (the bar top and shelving) and current cook Cyrus Benedict (the shelving), made with local mesquite and epoxy.
Nicolaza’s is meant to serve as a community space, becoming “a place of support and connection,” as Anthon-Zuloaga said. Eventually, there will be live music shows (there’s a stage out in the back), and they want to host local art shows run by and benefitting the artists themselves. Then there will be a community garden, growing native herbs and plants, for people, the bar, and the food truck. They’re also thinking of creating a outdoor vendor court.
“You’re creating something that you hope connects with everybody,” Anthon explained the intention of Nicolaza’s. “And you’re trying to do it to make them feel better.”
Currently, Nicolaza’s is open from 3:00 PM to 2:00 AM. daily, and will expand its hours later once the food truck opens.