In a classic tale of Old Austin Meets New Austin, Thai Spice on the Drag will soon change its name to Thai, How Are You? The new moniker is a play on the restaurant’s south-facing wall’s famous mural by Austin musician Daniel Johnston.
David Roberts and his wife, Noi Sukkij, purchased Thai Spice at 2100 Guadalupe St. in June. The couple has managed the restaurant since January, but with the completion of their purchase, they needed a new name to differentiate themselves from the Thai Spice restaurants in Lakeway and Westlake.
Longtime Dell employee Roberts said that economics and marketing played a role in the name change. He and Sukkij initially wanted to open a “quiet little Thai café,” but soon realized that high rent at the restaurant that suffers a dip in business during summer called for a new strategy.
After researching the history of Johnston, whose mural is constantly being photographed by passers-by, Roberts decided to capitalize on the musician’s fame in an attempt to drive traffic to the restaurant. Roberts reached a financial agreement with the Johnston family to appropriate the famous slogan as part of the restaurant’s new name.
The restaurant’s name change, including updates to signage and the menu, should take place within the next four weeks, Roberts said. The menu also will see some small changes, with Sukkij slowly introducing more traditional recipes from her native northeast Thailand.
“We don’t have any intention of commercializing the food or being a Thai McDonald’s,” Robert said.
This is not the first time the mural that went up on the exterior wall of Sound Exchange in 1993 has made news. In 2004, previous tenant Baja Fresh Mexican Grill stepped back from plans to eliminate the mural.
The Leaning Pear in Wimberley has opened a beautiful new restaurant on the same property as the original café at 111 River Road. The large, sunlit space features more than double the seating of the old Pear, with an expanded farm-to-table menu that includes Neapolitan pizzas, entrée items such as bacon-wrapped meatloaf and, a favorite of mine, an appetizer of fried Bandera quail served with poblano gravy, cabbage slaw and bacon vinaigrette.
Owners Rachel and Matthew Buchanan first opened the Leaning Pear in March 2007 in a renovated 19th-century building just steps from Wimberley’s main square. They built a solid following of weekenders and locals with their sandwiches, salads and daily specials. The new restaurant will allow Culinary Institute of America graduate and Texas native Matthew Buchanan to expand menu offerings, with the restaurant now serving dinner five nights a week. The Leaning Pear is open 11 a.m. to 8p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. (LeaningPear.com)
The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. opened last week near the train tracks at 1305 W. Oltorf St. The ABGB is a project from Uncle Billy’s veterans Amos Lowe and Brian Peters. The brewpub will keep five beers on the permanent roster, including Bavarian-style lager and a “sleek and powerful” India Pale Ale, and will have up to five rotating taps for experimental brews. The ABGB will also feature a small lineup of pizzas, including Margherita and white clam, along with salads and cheese and charcuterie boards. They plan to be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Sunday. (TheABGB.com)
Violet Crown Management has announced the promotions of two of their chefs. Rick Lopez will serve as the executive chef at La Condesa and Alexis Chong will be the executive chef at Sway.
“Both chefs have been with La Condesa and Sway for years and have been part of our long-term succession plan,” Jesse Herman, owner of Violet Crown Management, said.
Lopez and Chong move up in the ranks following the departure of La Condesa and Sway executive chef Rene Ortiz. Native Texan Lopez has worked in San Antonio and at New York City restaurants Café Boulud and Picholine. Chong, a graduate of the School of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Seattle, has worked in the restaurant industry since she was 15 years old with positions in Maine, San Francisco, Seattle and the Driskill Grill in Austin.
Z’Tejas is running its annual Chile Bash fundraiser. For each of its special green chile menu items purchased through Sept. 16, Z’Tejas will donate $1 to the Cancer Survivorship Clinic at the Children’s Blood & Cancer Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center. Special menu items include pork tenderloin sliders served with green chile pineapple chimichurri and Hatch chile-glazed mahi mahi. Z’Tejas has set a goal of $5,000 for this year’s fundraiser, which is happening at all three locations.
Peso and Buck’s has shuttered at 1003 Barton Springs Road. Owner Craig Gatewood said he plans to open another restaurant in the same location, though he has not settled on a concept. The location has proven a tough fit for restaurants, with numerous concepts coming and going over the past decade, including Vinny’s and the South Austin Bar & Grill.