Downtown Austin food hall Fareground — which had been closed during the pandemic — is finally reopening this hall with major changes to the restaurant lineup. The 111 Congress Avenue food hall will reopen on Tuesday, September 7 with four new restaurants and a flower and retail market.
As part of the reopening, Fareground’s owners, real estate company Cousins Properties, decided to break its partnership with local restaurant group ELM, which had been the founding food operating since it opened in January 2018. The company is now partnering with Denver, Colorado-based group Richard Sandoval Hospitality (RSH) from the celebrity chef of the same name. The global company’s Austin locations are found in the Four Seasons hotel: Latin restaurant Ciclo and lobby bar Live Oak.
Fareground’s new restaurants are:
- Little Wu: Austin hospitality company Chameleon Group is opening a food hall stall version of its downtown Chinese restaurant Wu Chow. Overseen by chef Ji Peng Chen, the menu will include a lot of dumplings, from soup dumplings to potstickers to shumai. And then there are its la mian (hand-made noodles in soup) with options like Sichuan red-braised beef or shrimp and crab cakes. The company wanted to open something new in a space with plentiful outdoor seating.
- Austin Rotisserie: The French rotisserie-focused pop-up-turned-food truck is expanding with a food hall restaurant under co-founders Eric Nathal and Sophie Allard. Its signature rotisserie chicken will be available whole or in portions, plus potatoes cooked in chicken drippings. The chicken will also be used in baguette sandwiches, salads, soups, sides, and bowls. The couple, who launched the business in 2018, will temporarily close their truck parked at the Far Out on Sunday, September 6, with plans to reopen that far South location later in mid-November.
- The Market: This is an RSH restaurant that will serve up salads, pizza, sandwiches, paninis, and wraps.
- Taco Pegaso: Another RSH with executive chef Albert Gonzalez, this time with an array of tacos and burritos with fillings such as carne asada, pescado, chicken tinga, and the vegetarian champis, plus quesadillas, Mexican ice pops, and aguas frescas. Recently Gonzalez ran upscale sports bar Provisions, which has been temporarily closed since June 2020. Before that, he had worked at Jacoby’s and Grizzelda’s.
Still remaining at the Fareground are fast-casual spot Henbit from the Emmer & Rye/Hestia team of Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol-Joseph and Israel restaurant TLV from chef Berty Richter (which is actually also under the Emmer & Rye umbrella). Both restaurants were operating during the pandemic, Henbit with national cookie shipping and TLV for pickup orders
During the pandemic, several Fareground tenants closed permanently. It’s safe to assume that Austin Rotisserie will take over the space previously belonging to Contigo Fareground (the original restaurant never officially declared it closed down the food hall location; the website still states that it is temporarily closed), Little Wu to Ni-Kome (the Kome/Daruma offshoot closed in August 2020), Taco Pegaso to Dai Due Taqueria (the Dai Due taco restaurant officially closed in November 2020 after being temporarily closed during the pandemic), and the Market to where Italic was (the sole ELM restaurant which also didn’t officially announce the food hall shutter; the original West Sixth restaurant is still temporarily closed).
The cocktail menus at Fareground’s two bars, the interior bar and the street-level Ellis, will change as well. On deck will be cocktails (such as a watermelon mezcal margarita), frozen cocktails (frosé and a mango punch), and draft cocktails (including a hibiscus margarita and Old Fashioned). Ellis will serve food from RSH such as flatbreads and brisket nachos.
The bar program is led by Mat Costello, who started in the bar industry in Louisiana; in Austin, he worked at Sixth Street spot Cheers Shot Bar and West Sixth bar the Rattle Inn.
There will also be a retail market with items from local businesses, including flowers from House of Margot Blair, Austin Jam, Tiny House Coffee Roasters, Dude, Sweet Chocolate, and others.
As part of the revamp with a mind to COVID mitigation measures, the food hall got rid of its communal tables, opting for socially distanced two- and four-person tables instead. Other policies include checking the temperatures of staffers. It will finalize a mask policy for guests two weeks before it opens, which would mean this week. Along with indoor and outdoor dining areas, the restaurants will offer takeout and delivery services which will be available online.
When it reopens, Fareground’s daily hours will be from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. with final online orders placed by 8:30 p.m. Ellis hours are from 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday with last-call 30 minutes before closing time.
- All Coverage of Fareground [EATX]