Opening a restaurant in Austin is very different right now during the novel coronavirus pandemic — and that will be for the norm for a while. Though a few places (Dear Diary Coffeehouse, Steamie’s Dumplings, Hold Out Brewing) were forced by financial necessity to open during the severe restrictions of Austin’s “stay home, work safe” order, others are now starting to re-evaluate as restaurants and bars reopen their dining rooms and patios for dine-in service.
Eater Austin checked in with highly anticipated restaurants that were set to open this year, to see if the COVID-19 pandemic caused any delays. Though construction was considered an essential service and thus allowed to continue during the ‘stay home work safe’ order, many forthcoming restaurants still experienced delays with finishing touches like patios. Others have placed plans on hold indefinitely as funds were redirected elsewhere. Here are the updates:
Simi Estiatorio: The Greek seafood restaurant heading to downtown “is progressing as planned,” according to managing partner George Theodosiou. However, the restaurant does not have plans to open until it can “safely operate at full capacity.” The restaurant has not changed its plans to fly in fresh fish from the Mediterranean daily. (601 Congress Avenue, Downtown)
Qi: The fancier modern Chinese restaurant downtown from lauded dim sum chef Ling Qi Wu (who also owns Clarksville’s Lin Asian Bar) has now been pushed to July. Partner Jimmy Ng shared that construction has just restarted but progress is slow. The new restaurant will make use of more upscale ingredients like uni. (835 West 6th Street, Downtown)
Tiki Tatsu-ya: The tiki bar of the Tatsu-ya family (Ramen Tatsu-ya, Kemuri Tatsu-ya, Dipdipdip Tatsu-ya, and Domo Alley Gato) is still on track for a summer opening. Announced in 2018 and originally scheduled to open that, Tiki is taking over the former location of Backbeat on South Lamar, and was already been named one of the best bars in Austin by Austin Monthly before it even opened. (1300 South Lamar Boulevard, South Lamar)
Abby Jane Bakeshop: Abby Love, the former pastry chef at Dai Due who has made quite a name for herself with her baked goods sometimes available at Confituras, is on track for a mid-summer opening for her bakeshop within the new Barton Springs Mill facility. However, she noted that COVID-19 still makes timelines “unclear.” (16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs)
Two Hands: The Australian-based cafe is planning to move into the Music Lane development on South Congress in mid- to late September, though owner/operator Henry Giles shares that it’s “a little difficult to predict at this time.” Two Hands does have a chef lined up — Barney Hannagan, an Australian now living in Austin, who is known for his work at the Portland location of fellow Australian cafe Proud Mary’s, which is also opening in the Texas city (see below). The new location will be its largest to date and will have items unique to Austin. The restaurant was originally planning to open by the now-canceled South by Southwest — “What a distant dream that seems like,” said Giles. (1011 South Congress Avenue, South Congress)
Lutie’s Garden Restaurant: The restaurant at the Commodore Perry Estate from Barley Swine alums Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu (Eater Young Gun ’16) is getting pushed to late summer. When it opens, it will serve New American fare in fancy country club digs. (4100 Red River Street, Hancock)
St. Elmo Public Market: The future home of Mignette (bakery and diner from Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie) has not experienced construction delays and is on track to open this year. The infrastructure for the 40,000 square-foot market is almost done, and then each tenant — which includes a restaurant, wine bar, and grocery from Salt & Time, an outpost of Supernatural co-star Jensen Ackles’s Family Business Beer Co.; and a new project from local mini-chain Lick Honest Ice Creams — will complete their individual buildouts.
High Noon: Expect an opening any day now from the East Austin bar taking over the former Craftsman space. High Noon, from the teams behind Kitty Cohen’s and White Horse, was preparing to open when the “stay home work safe” order was issued in March, according to co-owner Nathan Hill. There have been delays with finishing the patio space, so Hill plans to host a grand opening party once that is finished. (2000 East Cesar Chavez Street, Holly)
Le Vacher: The French restaurant in Dripping Springs has not experienced construction delays. However, the owners have pushed the opening slightly to summer 2020. Chef Jacob Euler, who previously worked at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will serve dishes like frites and meats that are cooked sous-vide and then grilled. (136 Drifting Wind Run, Dripping Springs)
LeRoy & Lewis: Though the barbecue trailer had been raising funds and zeroing in on a spot for a new restaurant for over a year, that attention has been shifted to securing a Paycheck Protection Plan loan, according to Austin 360. Even when the restaurant finally comes to fruition, LeRoy plans to continue to operate the truck, which has been serving food to-go and recently celebrated its third anniversary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proud Mary: Although the Australian-based cafe still has Austin as its top expansion priority, the funds that the restaurant would have used on a new location have been redirected towards keeping existing locations in Portland and Australia open, according to Matt Lounsbury, the brand’s senior vice president. There is no timeline for when an expansion could happen.