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Photo by Jeff Solomon

Aaron Lyons, founder of Houston-based Dish Society, is heading back to Austin. His popular restaurant, which has grown to four locations in the Greater Houston area and two locations of an elevated sister brand, Daily Gather, is slated to open to Austin's Mueller development this fall.

Lyons has the full Austin resume, not only growing up here but attending the University of Texas at Austin for undergrad and returning to earn his MBA at the McCombs School of Business. There, he developed a business plan for his ultimate all-day café. The result was Dish Society, opened in Houston in 2014 with a goal to make fresh, locally-sourced dining more accessible.

Nine years later, he'll open his Austin restaurant located at 1900 Aldrich Blvd., #130 in fall 2023. True to the group's signature farm-to-table menus, the new location will serve brunch all day, lunch, social hour, and dinner; all are offered seven days a week via counter service or full-service at the bar.

Celebrated Houston chef Brandi Key leads the menu, which will shift seasonally while focusing on modern American favorites made from locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, 75 percent of the menu will come from Texas purveyors, with signature dishes like a smoked brisket-stuffed sweet potato, Brussels sprouts super salad, fried chicken and biscuits, shrimp and grits, and Nutella French toast. Vibrant seasonal grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, and signature sides round out the menu, along with the customizable farmer’s plate in a protein-and-two-sides format.

Local firm Chioco Design will design the space to echo the airy, modern atmosphere of the brand's Houston counterparts while incorporating custom local details. Features will include elements of exposed concrete, natural light, warm wood tones, mixed tilework, and lush greenery, plus a refresh of the brand's canary yellow for a more buttery hue and complementary dusty blue and white accents. Garage and street parking will be available with designated spots for curbside pickup, plus a walkup window for coffee and breakfast tacos.

"Austin is a natural second market for us,” says Lyons in a release. “It’s my hometown and that of my business partner Trent Patterson, who I met at UT. My family still lives in Austin, so I’m in town all the time. I also have a ton of friends who’ve been asking me to open here, so it’s really cool to come home.”

According to the release, Lyons intended to open in Austin a decade ago, and his restaurant group, Five 12 Restaurant Concepts, was named in tribute to Austin’s 512 area code. The Austin expansion marks a new era of growth for the brand, which plans to enter more Texas markets in the coming years, as well as a new location at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport in 2025.

“Ultimately, the demand for what we do, coupled with Austin’s amazing food scene and its growth and proximity to our existing infrastructure, all make sense for our next move. Our ability to successfully operate all day while providing chef-driven, locally sourced food, a thoughtfully crafted beverage program, and a level of hospitality and service not commonly found at our price point make us unique in many ways.”

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Houston’s oldest craft brewery taps new chef for its buzzy beer garden and restaurant

Saint Arnold's new chef

Houston’s oldest craft brewery has found a new chef to lead its popular restaurant. Chase Reid is now the executive chef at Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s beer garden and restaurant.

Hired a couple of months ago, Reid replaces chef Ryan Savoie, who had been with the brewery since 2013. A French-trained chef, Reid came to Saint Arnold’s attention after well-regarded stints at Hop Scholar Ale House in Spring and the Historic Hill House and Farm in Willis.

“I’m thrilled to join the talented team at Saint Arnold and build on the legacy they’ve created in Texas,” Reid said in a statement. “I love the creativity that comes with cooking and have always been passionate about craft beer. I’m very much looking forward to combining the two.”

Recent visitors to Saint Arnold have gotten a first taste of the chef’s work with pizza specials and new additions such as a house made bratwurst burger. He’s also the culinary mind behind Saint Arnold’s recent Doughnut Saturday offerings that pair freshly fried treats with different beers from the company’s portfolio. Overall, he’s focused on maintaining the quality and consistency that has been the restaurant’s hallmark since it opened in 2018.

Reid will more formally introduce himself to the brewery’s fans at the upcoming Great Pumpkin Beer Dinner. Held on Halloween night, the meal will feature a five-course menu paired with seasonal and limited release beers, including 2013 Pumpkinator, 2023 Pumpkinator, and 2020 bourbon barrel-aged Pumpkinator with cocoa nibs. See the full menu and purchase tickets ($125) on the Saint Arnold website.

“Chase’s enthusiasm for both food and beer got all of us excited to have him joining our team,” Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner added. “Our Beer Garden & Restaurant is a welcoming place to enjoy our world class beers. We have the same standards for our food as we do for our beer and are always working to elevate and create an experience that will keep our guests coming back again and again.”

Massive new restaurant and wine bar uncorks bustling Barcelona vibes in Montrose

las ramblas on westheimer

A massive new wine bar and restaurant has opened in Montrose. Barcelona Wine Bar is now open daily for dinner, happy hour, and late-night dining.

Barcelona Wine Bar food spread

Courtesy of Barcelona Wine Bar

Barcelona Wine Bar serves more than two dozen tapas.

Located at 1731 Westheimer Rd., Barcelona occupies 5,000-square-feet in the former Hollyfield Laundry building. Taking design inspiration from Barcelona’s Las Ramblas pedestrian area, the 200-plus seat restaurant features a U-shaped bar.

“We fell in love with the Hollyfield Laundry building and jumped at the chance to be on Westheimer,” general manager Corey Scranton tells CultureMap. “We became obsessed with the history that’s survived through the stone facade carvings and the original vaulted ceilings — so much so that we designed the entire restaurant to melt around what’s been here for nearly 100 years.”

To bring Barcelona to Houston, the Connecticut-based establishment recruited chef Thomas Laczynski to lead its kitchen. Best known to Houstonians as the former executive chef of Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, Laczynski oversees a menu of more than two dozen different tapas, a range of cheese and charcuterie, and four different paellas available in half, full, and double portions. As with his previous post, the chef plans to source locally when possible, including from supplies such as Hope Farms.

“Something you’ll also see throughout my menu are dishes that take Spanish preparations or concepts and center them around local ingredients,” Laczynski added. “The Iberico Pluma we have on the menu right now is a great example. It’s a traditional Spanish cut, but we’re sourcing locally from Acornseekers Farm right here in Texas. As is our Gulf red snapper, sourced from Blue Horizon.”

The wide-ranging menu gets paired with over 400 wines by-the-bottle — more than 40 of which are available by-the-glass. Spanish wines are obviously well-represented on the list, as are France, California, and South America. Wine lovers will also find an extensive selection of sherry and port. Cocktails include Spanish-inspired GinTonics as well as sangria, non-alcoholic sips, and beer.

“The great thing about a tapas restaurant with such a diverse beverage program is that each experience can be whatever the day’s set out for someone,” Scranton said. “With so many things to choose from, you may join us on Tuesday for after-work drinks and fall in love with the scallops, and then come in Thursday with your family for a big meal and have an entirely new experience”

Prominent Hill Country winery cracks open new tasting room in Fredericksburg

Winery news

One of the most prominent names in Hill Country wines has uncorked a new tasting room in Fredericksburg. On September 22, Grape Creek Vineyard’s owners, Brian and Jennifer Heath, cut the ribbon to their latest property, Invention Vineyards, at 4222 S. State Hwy. 16.

Heath Family Brands has used the name for some time, first as a vintage from the Grape Creek portfolio. A 2022 purchase of Slate Mill Wine Collective cleared the way for Invention to be born as its own estate label.

Under longtime winemaker Jason Eglert, Invention crafts mostly Texas blends. The line also includes several single-varietal wines, focusing on Old World grapes like Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, and Viognier.

The property echoes that approach. The tasting room is on the former 35-acre site of Pioneer Flour Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther’s original mill. The entrepreneur did business in Fredericksburg for eight years before volatile weather conditions prompted a move to San Antonio.

A handful of Guenther’s original stone buildings still stand near the entry to Invention, but new construction houses the brand’s tasting room and state-of-the-art production facility. Nodding to the original structures, the rustic-industrial facility utilizes weathered brick and a corrugated roof.

Though the business has been open during the build-out, the grand opening marked the first opportunity for guests to see the completed compound.

For hours, memberships, tastings, and more, visit the website.