Modern Mexican moving into old Dario’s space in East Austin

June 08, 2017
Chef Sam Hellman-Mass is bringing his brand of artisanal Mexican food to East Austin. Contributed

People have long wondered what would become of the old Dario’s space at 1800 E. Sixth St. We now have our answer.

Chef Sam Hellman-Mass, a founding partner of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, has purchased the space and will convert it into Suerte , a Mexican restaurant centered on house-made masa dishes using heirloom Central Texas corn. As with the two restaurants he helped build, Hellman-Mass will source locally, using seasonal ingredients from local farmers. The chef also intends to renovate the existing structure.

“We are so excited to join the East Austin community. Over the past few years I have really fallen in love with Mexican flavors and the quest for perfect masa. So far the search has led me to New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Oaxaca, the Yucatan and more,” Hellman-Mass said. “I’m not sure only one perfect tortilla exists, but I am certain that our team is going to make some delicious food inspired by our travels. We can’t wait to share a bit of our journey and welcome everyone into our place.”

Longtime East Austin Tex-Mex staple Dario’s closed in 2014. Founder Dario Gonzalez and his sons still operate Don Dario’s Cantina at 8801 S. Interstate 35 near Southpark Meadows.

Looking ahead

The team behind a popular sushi restaurant in Northwest Austin is expanding its reach south. The family that owns Soto has taken over the former Cantine space in the Lamar Union complex that is home to the Alamo Drafthouse (1100 S. Lamar Blvd.) and plans to open their second restaurant in the next three months or so.

The team is led by chef Andy Okamoto, whose resume includes time at Morimoto in Philadelphia. Management says it has not decided on a name for the restaurant and that diners can expect some major menu changes at the new location. When the proximity of South Austin stalwart Uchi was mentioned, the general manager for Soto said Okamoto was excited by the chance to go head-to-head with the powerhouse. The Okamoto family opened Soto on Pecan Boulevard in Cedar Park in 2013.

Cantine, the Italian restaurant from Emmett and Lisa Fox ( Asti ), closed in May after two years in business.

Now open

California-based restaurant the Pizza Press opened earlier this month at 404 W. 26th St. The West Campus location of the build-your-own pizza spot is the first outside of California. The restaurant features a print-media theme (oddly enough), and includes pizzas with names like the Tribune, the Herald and the Gazette, and its dessert section is titled the Daily Scoop.

The restaurant has already played an active role in supporting the University of Texas community, raising money for the Harrison Brown Memorial Fund after the UT student was killed in a stabbing attack.

New address

The face of the Drag changed recently when Madam Mam’s shuttered at 2514 Guadalupe St. after more than 15 years in business. The restaurant opened by Chatfuang “Mam” Apisaksiri upgraded its digs, moving into mixed-use complex the Grand Marc Austin at 510 W. 26th St.

Madam Mam’s in West Campus is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (closing at 9:30 p.m. during summer break) and features the same menu as the original location. There are also locations of Madam Mam’s on Brodie and Anderson lanes and at the Hill Country Galleria.

Closed (for now)

The beautiful Italian restaurant Juliet Ristorante closed last weekend and will undergo several weeks of revamping. The restaurant intends to reopen in late June as Juliet Italian Kitchen, with more of an emphasis on family-style service and Italian-American classics, or “red-sauce dishes” as the style of cooking is often described. There will be changes to the space as well as the menu.

The high design of Juliet, its most noteworthy feature, will apparently give way to a more approachable atmosphere, as the restaurant appears desirous to attract a different audience.

“It will feature menu, service and atmosphere developments that better serve both families and our neighborhood,” owner Dan Wilkins said in a news release.

Executive chef Jacob Weaver will stay on board with Juliet, which is bringing in Austin-based Design Hound (Dai Due, L’Oca d’Oro) to reimagine the space.

“We will maintain a strong emphasis on quality and handmade products including our own pastas, cheeses, breads and desserts while delivering a more comfortable, predictable and nostalgic menu that we hope Austin will soon fall in love with,” Weaver said.

The restaurant opened about two years ago in a space that has seen several Italian restaurants pass through in the past decade, including Romeo’s and Umami Mia Pizzeria.