The sabor of South Texas will soon be rolling up to Austin. Beloved Laredo-based Taco Palenque , which has locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley and north to Houston, San Antonio and New Braunfels, plans to open a food truck in Austin this summer.
Owner Juan Francisco Ochoa (known as Don Pancho) opened the first Taco Palenque in Laredo in 1987, several years after selling the American rights to El Pollo Loco, which he also founded. The fast-casual restaurant specializes in grilled beef and chicken plates and tacos and is well known for its massive pirata, a taco slathered with refried beans and draped with juicy grilled fajita meat and melted cheddar cheese.
The restaurants make their own excellent corn and flour tortillas, the latter soft, chewy and spotted with marks from the grill, and feature fresh salsa bars, with several salsa offerings, grilled jalapenos, pickled and raw onions, cilantro, pico de gallo and more. A visit to Taco Palenque will make you totally rethink the idea of fast-casual Mexican food.
Ochoa and his team told me earlier this month in Laredo that the truck will feature several of the restaurant’s most popular items on a smaller menu than that found in their 20-plus locations throughout Texas. They are not sure where the truck will be located and say there is a strong possibility the truck could lead to multiple Austin brick-and-mortar locations of the massively popular family-owned chain of restaurants, which expanded to New Braunfels four years ago.
Food for flight
Flights started taking off last week from the new South Terminal at Austin Bergstrom-International Airport. You can access the small building, which services Allegiant Airlines, off Burleson Road. The little retro-designed building doesn’t have all of the amenities of the main terminal, but you can get food and drink. In addition to the indoor concession area featuring grab-and-go sandwiches, snacks and beverages, there is an outdoor patio that will be serviced by a selection of food trucks. The first truck in the secured dining area (gotta have a plane ticket for this meal) was Stacked Sliders . A representative for the airport said that operators are still considering which local food trucks to select for the space but are hoping to create a “dynamic food truck scene,” with trucks rotating out regularly. The airport’s concessionaire also intends to bring some of the food truck operators into the terminal.
The New Waterloo team has shown itself adept with Mexican (La Condesa), Thai (Sway), Japanese (Otoko) and American (Cafe No Se, Central Standard) and soon will flex its French muscle. The hospitality group will open French brasserie Le Politique on the first floor of the Northshore high-rise (110 San Antonio St.) this summer.
The restaurant will serve a menu that includes brasserie staples like trout amandine, escargot, and tarte flambée. Le Politique will also feature an extensive raw bar and a separate patisserie and coffee shop.
The husband-and-wife team of Derek Salkin and Alyssa Hurlstone will serve as the restaurant’s executive chef and executive pastry chef, respectively. Salkin comes to Austin from Pao, New Waterloo and chef Paul Qui’s collaboration with the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach. He has previously worked at Jean Georges, the Modern, Thomas Keller’s Per Se and the French Laundry, and Joël Robuchon Restaurant at the Mansion in Las Vegas.
“My inspiration for the Le Politique menu is a quote from Julia Child’s memoir: ‘The kind of food I fell in love with was not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat,’” Salkin says. “Our menu will feature French classics that people crave simply because they are satisfying, generous and familiar. That’s what people want to eat, and that’s what I love to cook.”
Hurlstone also comes to Le Politique from Faena and previously served as pastry chef de partie at French Laundry.
Le Politique, its name a nod to Austin’s role as the state capital, will serve lunch, brunch and dinner in a 9,000-square-foot space that also includes a 2,400-square-foot patio. For more information, visit lepolitiqueaustin.com.
New Waterloo also recently announced it will open Italian restaurant and sandwich shop Il Brutto in East Austin this summer.
If you can’t beat ’em, stare em down. Last year, Burro Cheese Kitchen tried to get El Burro Tex-Mex to change its name. That didn’t pan out the way the grilled cheese specialists hoped. Now, they can keep their eye on the restaurant that once trolled them with a person dressed as a donkey.
The grilled cheese truck has opened at 1105 S. Lamar Blvd. next to the Gibson Bar and the new Stonehouse Coffee + Bar, across the street from El Burro. The truck has expanded operations and is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, opening daily at 7 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Burro customers can take their food to the patio area or inside Stonehouse, the all-day shop from operator Matt Luckie and FBR Management. The sleek shop built in a 117-year-old stone house serves a nice selection of wine and beer, along with pastries from Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery, gelato from Austin Gelato Company and more.
Dine at the Radisson will close May 15. The shutter comes about a year after the Radisson was sold to a group that has plans to spend $75 million to transform the property into one of their signature Line hotels.
New ownership said last year it had no immediate plans for the Starbucks and Dine, but it seems change is now afoot. The Line has plans for two restaurants at the property at Congress Avenue and East Cesar Chavez Street. While the concepts have not been announced, I’d expect notable names to set up shop, as celebrity chef Roy Choi is behind a restaurant at the Line in Los Angeles and James Beard winner Spike Gjerde is the executive chef of the restaurant at the forthcoming Line hotel in Washington.
Dine was the second restaurant at the Radisson following its renovation in 2014. Parkside Projects owner Shawn Cirkiel initially ran the restaurant as Chavez, and longtime Austin chef David Garrido took over in June 2015, following a brief stint by chef Josh Watkins. Before the sale was announced, Garrido said he had planned a name and concept change for the lakefront restaurant.
In the weeks leading up to its closure, Dine has shifted to buffet-only service for breakfast .