Curious shoppers who venture inside Spiceman’s FM 1410, Tom Spicer’s unassuming storefront on Fitzhugh Avenue in Old East Dallas, could emerge with any number of things: a plastic bag full of fiddlehead ferns, a paper sack bursting with morels foraged from Central Texas, or even a single goose egg. What Spicer can’t grow on his own farm or forage himself he tracks down from a network of farmers and other producers—both local and far-flung—that he’s cultivated a relationship with over his thirty years in the business.
The bar at Austin’s most hotly anticipated opening of 2013 does not disappoint. The cocktail list shows an innovative handling of complex flavors, which are showcased in photo-ready presentations. In addition to cocktails, the bar offers a menu of Filipino pub food. 1600 E. 6th. quiasutin.com
Drink to try: Fjord Fairlane
Since 2012, when he burst onto the scene with Underbelly, his celebrated snout-to-tail restaurant, Chris Shepherd has been the best-known evangelist of Houston’s food scene.
That IPA you prefer may be local, but stop calling it a “micro.” The suds formerly known as “microbrews” have officially evolved into “craft beers,” a lexical shift that reflects the exploding popularity of independent breweries (there are currently 2,500 nationwide, the most since the 1880’s). In Texas this means that more awesome beer is flowing than ever before.
Thanks to the 2011 documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, many people think of the quintessential sushi chef as a quiet purist who doles out morsels to a cadre of awestruck devotees. Not at Little Lilly, where affable Jesus Garcia, age 25, chats up customers while slicing and serving some of Fort Worth’s freshest fish.
In Texas no one has ever gone broke overestimating the public’s lust for meat, smoke, and beer. Certainly not the Rattray brothers, Alex and Tim, who have combined their talents in a wildly popular brewery, barbecue joint, and restaurant located in a historic house near downtown San Antonio. But while the enterprise’s success as a smoke shack is no surprise, visitors are amazed that the pitmaster turns into a fine-dining chef at night. Even so, smoke remains a constant.
Paul Qui’s restaurant is his playhouse—you never know what’s going to come out of his kitchen, but you can count on it being thoughtful, delicious, and a lot of fun. Having won both Top Chef’s season nine and the James Beard Foundation’s 2012 award for Best Chef: Southwest, Qui is having a blast with his first brick-and-mortar place. On a counter near the open kitchen sits a row of ceramic mugs with animal tails for handles, as well as an assortment of rubber stamps for customers to fool around with.
There are plenty of Thai restaurants in Austin where culinary purity and penny-wise prices prevail. Sway is not one of them. With a dining room defined by massive communal tables, this hip newcomer plays fast and loose with tradition. It sends forth from its busy open kitchen a stream of dishes inspired by the famously controversial modern Thai cooking of Sydney, Australia. How to sum up Sway?
The show begins when the massive steel door rolls open and you enter the stark dining room. Directly ahead, visible from floor to ceiling, is the busy, brightly lit kitchen. You sit down at a white-draped table, select either the five- or eight-course tasting menu, and wait. In a few minutes, a line cook—or maybe even one of the two chef-owners, Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan—steps forward with a platter in hand, and you’re off on a magic carpet ride.