February 26th, 2018

Mediterranean Fast-Casual on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Mediterranean Cuisine Shows Continued Growth in the Fast-Casual Market


Fast-casual restaurants continue to gain steam as their popularity with multiple demographics holds strong. By focusing on quality ingredients within a limited, often chef-driven menu, combined with a lower overhead cost of standard brick-and-mortar establishments, fast-casual creates an opportunity to sell delicious, high quality food at reasonable prices.

Within this market, we are seeing Mediterranean cuisine thrive. With fresh ingredients, hearty options for both vegetarians and carnivores, and a continued nationwide interest in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the food of places like Greece, Israel, and Turkey are grasping the palates of customers nationwide and not letting go.

Restaurants like Gyroville, who have recently expanded to Ecuador, Taim, which extends from the Chipotle leadership and is set to open its 5th location, and Sajj Mediterranean opening its 8th location, exemplify the new wave of menu focused fast-casual Mediterranean restaurants. Combine these with the already existing trailblazers such as Garbanzo, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Noon Mediterranean (formerly Verts), which focus more heavily on customization, and you can see a strong pattern of flavor-first concepts taking a strong hold in an already crowded marketplace.


Drivers of these establishments include on-trend flavors like harissa, preserved lemon, and za’ataar. The common link between these items is their unique depth of flavor stemming from ingredients or procedures uncommon to the average American diner. This dissociation will not last long though, especially at the current rate of growth in the Mediterranean food market.

There’s still plenty to taste and explore in this cuisine, and hopefully it’s continued popularity will drive some of the even more ambiguous items, such as Cholent and Magiritsa, into the spotlight.

Until then, we’ll keep our eyes open and tasting spoons ready.


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January 1st, 2018

Sambal, Your New Favorite Hot Sauce

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants, Trends

Look Out, Here Comes Sambal…

The unique funky-chile-citrus flavor of sambal is starting to garner some serious attention, and for those of us who have been graced with the opportunity to try a sambal glazed chicken wing, we know why.


Hailing from Southeast Asian islands like Malaysia and Indonesia, sambal is a spicy blend of chili peppers, acids such as lime juice and/or vinegar, and funky umami flavors of shrimp paste or fish sauce. It gives the sauce a round, zesty flavor that is as intense as it is refreshing.

Perhaps this is why restaurants nationwide are beginning to adopt it on their menus for an adventurous update to familiar dishes. As Flavor & The Menu have pointed out in their recent article Field Notes: Everybody Sambal, “Sambal is a sexy hot sauce. The name alone seduces with the promise of faraway adventure.” I couldn’t agree more.

Sambal Chili

In Austin, TX, DFG Food Truck serves an incredible dish called the scholar, which consists of marinated vermicelli noodles tossed with spicy ham, pork belly, and vegetables, topped with fried egg and a generous scoop of sambal sauce to bring it home.

Hip nightlife chain Bar Louie features the chile sauce in their spicy Voodoo Pasta, complete with andouille sausage and sautéed onions and peppers. I’d buy that for a dollar!

Denver’s Linger, a mortuary turned restaurant (cleverly dubbed an “eatuary”) jumps on the train with a fried chicken bun topped with kimchi, Togarashi Ranch, and honey sambal sauce.

Sambal Sauce

It’s safe to say this is only the beginning for sambal as hot sauce sales are expected to hit a record $1.37 billion in 2017 according to the market research firm IBISWorld. This trend doesn’t look to be slowing down with forecasts of $1.65 billion within the next five years (1).

In what places or ways have you seen this chili sauce used? We’d love to hear about it in our comments section below.

Happy eating!

1. Zlati Meyer. USA Today. “Hot sauce industry sets tongues — and sales — ablaze.” July 30, 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/07/30/hot-sauce-industry-fire-supermarkets-mcdonalds/519660001/

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December 18th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Regal Ravioli

Posted in Food Trucks, Italian, Organic, Pizza, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Regal Ravioli Food Truck Review

Regal Ravioli Austin

I grew up in a middle class family with two working parents. This meant lots of solo time to be adventurous and get into some (good natured) trouble, and it meant more than one microwaved dinner fresh from a can.

My personal favorites at the age of 8 were Hormel Chili with Beans and Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli, each of which I usually finished with a bit of Cheddar cheese (don’t judge me, I was 8). The culinarians reading along are probably shuddering internally, but the truth is at the time, I loved those foods, and they were something my parents could have on hand to ensure I ate dinner.

Now, here I am 25 years later, sitting at Austin’s very own Regal Ravioli, having weird Chef Boyardee flashbacks. Now, don’t misunderstand me here, these are no canned, preformed pasta squares. This is gourmet, handmade shells stuffed with things like beef brisket and winter squash. This is ravioli elevated! But it feels comfortable and reassuring.

Run by Chef/Owner Zach Adams, who hails from Washington D.C., Regal Ravioli proves to be a truly special food truck on the Austin landscape. What makes it special? You mean aside from the fresh pasta made by hand daily, the locally sourced organic ingredients, the unique ravioli twists like roasted beet, or the prevalence of hearty vegetarian options on the menu like mushroom ravioli or sweet potato gnocchi? How about the fact that Regal has been running strong since 2011 and still holds a monopoly on ravioli trucks in Austin.

Their business is so consistent, as it turns out, they’re in the process of working on a pizza truck to fill the vacant space near them in their park. You can rest assured I’ll be stopping by to try that out. But let’s talk about what really matters, the food.

Sausage Ravioli w/ Tomato Marinara and Veloute Sauce

Sausage Ravioli

An instant classic. Pasta on the ravioli is a perfect al dente, nice fennel-y sausage on the inside with touch of pepper, and a bright, fresh tomato sauce made with fresh, aromatic basil.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Bolognese Sauce

Gnocchi Austin

Good flavor on the gnocchi, however they went past cooked and into mushy, which is a shame. However, the Bolognese sauce is a real treat. Fresh and bright yet still meaty and savory, simply delicious.

Mushroom Ravioli w/ Pecan Pesto

Mushroom Ravioli

This was a real showstopper. So much flavor in such a little pillow. Fantastic mushroom and herb filling with a hint of truffle to really get the nose going. The pecan pesto is creamy and nutty while maintaining a cheesy quality that’s divine. I need more thumbs to put up for this dish.

Roasted Beet Ravioli w/ Caramelized Red Onion and Orange Zest

Italian Restaurants Austin

Let me lead with the fact that I don’t like beets, however, I love culinary risk takers. This dish was definitely a risk taker. While I thought the dish could have benefited from additional sweet/tangy flavors (i.e. Balsamic vinegar), the execution was perfect. Everything was cooked well, fit the profile, and was absolutely unique.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli w/ Caramelized Onion, Poblano Pepper, and Gouda Veloute

Italian Food Trucks Austin

There’s something decidedly wonderful about the combination of winter squash and smoky peppers. And, apparently, if you take those two items and stuff them in pasta and smother it with Gouda cheese sauce it goes from wonderful to amazing. Great combination, unique twist, all around outstanding.

Handmade Meatball

Italian Food Austin

I’ve long felt a good ruler for quality when it comes to classic Sicilian Italian fare is the meatball. If I use that rule then Regal is doing great. Flavorful meatball, not too dense, not too salty, nice herbs and garlic, and definitely more meat than binder. Cuts with a fork but doesn’t crumble. Nailed it!


Quick Italian Austin

Hey, after all that pasta I needed some fiber, and Regal’s broccolini is a complete win. Charred just enough to compliment the bitter notes, cooked nicely with a bit of crunch left, and served with roasted garlic and a wedge of lemon. I could’ve eaten 3 orders of this easy.

So there you have it friends. Another Austin food truck, another delicious meal. Thanks Regal Ravioli for being the standard bearer of what delicious, home-style Italian cooking should be. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with a pizza (don’t sleep on the broccolini).

Until next time,


Regal Ravioli
1502 S 1st St.
Austin, TX 78704

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October 2nd, 2017

Food Truck Series: Dee Dee Thai Food

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Reviews, Trailer/Street Foods

Food Trucks:
Dee Dee
Northern Thai Food

Thai Food


It’s time for a new Food Truck review and I’ve got a taste for Thai food today, lucky for me, Austin is always there to satisfy my whims. With all of the great Thai in town (seriously, there is some GREAT Thai food here), I wanted to venture somewhere new to me, but popular among the people. That’s what led me to Dee Dee.

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Justin and Lakana, Dee Dee (which translates to Good Good) focuses on serving street-style Thai food from the country’s northern region. Apparently, they’re doing a good job, because only 20 minutes after opening the line was 15 people deep and running a 45-minute wait on food.

So, let’s look at the food.

Moo Ping

Thai Food Austin

These expertly grilled pork skewers were tender, fatty, and full of flavor. As great Thai food does, this dish balances sweet, salty, spicy, and fishy umami flavors wonderfully. Fresh citrus and cilantro cut through all these flavors for a clean finish.

Pad Ka Pow

Thai Food Trucks Austin

Aside from being fun to say, the Pad Ka Pow packs a fragrant punch with ground pork stir fried with Thai basil and homemade chili paste. The perfect flavor comes with a combination of the fishy pik nam pla sauce and the runny fried egg for a bit of rich fattiness in with the pork and rice. This is my kind of comfort food.


Best Thai Restaurant Austin

I truly love complex flavors, especially when you’re not expecting them. The somtom fits that bill perfectly. What looks like a simple vegetable dish is actually packed with sweet, sour, citrusy goodness that’s balanced perfectly with crunchy blanched peanuts. Super fresh and irresistible.

Om Gai

Food Trucks Austin

Ok, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed when I saw this dish. At first glance, this one is a little bland, but once again, Dee Dee proves to be all about the flavor. The dill and lemongrass bring fragrance and elegance to a hearty, fatty bone broth garnished with zucchini and thinly sliced chicken. The side of sticky rice for dipping in the broth is a great touch.

Mango Sticky Rice

Great Food in Austin

This is a very simple dish, but executed very well. Sweet but not too sweet sticky rice cooked perfectly topped with bright, ripe mango, and finished with a drizzle of sweetened coconut milk. This didn’t disappoint, but I also thought it could use something to make it more unique. A fun spice, a crispy garnish? Maybe both? Room to improve here.

Dee Dee Thai Food: Conclusion

Dee Dee performs even better than its name describes, more like Great Great. Fresh, vibrant ingredients, complex yet well-balanced flavors, and expertly prepared sticky rice make Dee Dee my new go to restaurant for comfort food (don’t worry Ramen Tatsuya, you’re still up there too).

Feel free to comment below on your favorite Thai foods or places in Austin you think I should visit. I’m always looking for my next favorite meal.



Dee Dee
Northern Street Thai Food
1906 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78702

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August 21st, 2017

Food Truck Series: Via 313

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Via 313 Pizza

Pizza Trends

Pizza is a staple food of life, I think we can all agree on that. No matter your preference or dietary restrictions, someone out there has made a pretty darn good pizza just for you.

One of the true beauties of pizza is its different adaptations. Thin crust, thick crust, white pizza, flatbread, Mexican style, Korean BBQ, New York, Chicago, deconstructed; the list can go on and on.

After seeing a rise in the popularity of Detroit style pizza, we here at Culinary Culture decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what it’s all about. And what better place to find out then the rapidly expanding pizza truck turned brick and mortar restaurant here in Austin, Via 313.

Detroit Style Pizza

The first question to answer was, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Via 313 owner Brandon Hunt was kind enough to answer that question in an interview with Austin Eater. In his description, Detroit style pizza refers to a square pie, cooked in pans that are actually used in automotive plants for spare parts, caramelized cheese crusts, and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

The second question is, “is it any good?” After tasting the Detroiter, a pie made with smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni atop, the Smokey, made with Black’s brisket and tangy BBQ sauce, and the Rocket (my favorite), stacked with hot Sopressatta, arugula, and shaved Parmesan, I can emphatically say yes. Very good.

The caramelized cheese around the crust stands out with both great texture and flavor. The crust is thick and crispy on the outside, but chewy in the middle. It’s very filling but a little oily for my preference. Via 313’s red sauce was a standout though. Vibrant red, fresh tasting, and filled with herbs. It complimented the pies well and something about having it on top cleans the palate between bites.

I’m officially on board with Detroit style pizza.

Detroit Pizza

If your splitting hairs, the location I visited technically isn’t a food truck. But since it began as a food truck, and this location is much closer to me then where the truck resides, I hope you’ll overlook this.

Thanks for reading along, now get out there and eat!

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August 7th, 2017

Flavor Blasts: Jamaican Food

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

foods of Jamaica

Bold, Bright, Beautiful: Jamaican Flavors

When you think of Jamaican flavors you reflexively think of jerk, stews,

Jamaican Cuisine

Courtesy of Island Spice Grill

and curries. What do these dishes have in common? Rich, complex flavors.

The source of these flavors is Jamaica’s abundant use of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, a variety of chili peppers and citrus fruits, coconut, and soy sauce. You’ll also come across plenty of legumes, sugar cane, plantains, onion, and tamarind offering a plethora of flavor diversity.

This variety is what defines Jamaican cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese ancestries, and supported by rich volcanic soil and a damp climate, it’s easy to see how Jamaican cuisine has evolved into such a complex and desirable cuisine. In the U.S., Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines have boomed spanning the market from fast food (Pollo Tropical) to fine dining (Glady’s).


Jamaican foodsWith such progress comes culinary innovation. One example of this comes with Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in New York, who uses pimento wood chips to slow smoke chicken before seasoning it with jerk. This reaches back to the traditional essence of jerk, where pimento wood was used in fires to grill meats over high heat. Another is the roaming Island Spice Grill food cart in New York. They have combined traditional Jamaican jerk flavors with a masterful social media platform to create a cult following of diners who anxiously await daily posts to find out where they will be positioning their cart.

Time will tell what will come with the future of Jamaican cuisine as it intertwines with American culture and a fusion of other cuisines. Personally, I’m excited to see. But until then, get out there and explore what Jamaican food your city has to offer.


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April 24th, 2017

Restaurant Review: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

Posted in Fire, Food Trends, Restaurants, Reviews, Smoke

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Reviews

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Review

IRASSHAIMASE! Or, “Welcome to our place,” (roughly translated at best) is how every diner is enthusiastically greeted at Chefs Aikawa and Matsumoto’s new restaurant, Kemuri Tatsu-YA. Originated from the Japanese word for smoke, Kemuri is a thoughtful blend of Texas fare and traditional Japanese izakaya plates.

I was particularly excited to dine here, not only because I expected the food to be top notch, but also because it combines two national trends I recently wrote about: Fire/smoke flavors and the explosion of Japanese izakayas.

The restaurant itself lies on East 2nd St. in the Holly neighborhood, in what used to be the home of Live Oak Barbecue. The interior combines the street art loving design and flair of the Ramen Tatsu-Ya locations with a hodgepodge of Texas based pictures and knickknacks.

Enough of that though, you came here for the food, and there’s LOTS to cover. So, let’s get to it.

First Wave

Izakayas Austin

Marinated Jellyfish and Octopus

Marinated Jellyfish

Starting off strong! The raw jellyfish marinated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce had an awesome crunchy texture and great flavor balance. Perfectly simple, this turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Marinated Octopus

This raw octopus bowl was salty, spicy, slimy, and chewy all in the rights ways. Wonderfully unique and a textually bizarre.

Second Wave

Fries with Eyes

These fried whole smelt were served with a nice vinegary dipping sauce in which you are instructed to let the fish soak in for about 30 seconds. While this diminishes the crispy texture, it helps balance the robust fishy flavor of the smelt, leaving a tender, tasty snack. Not bad, not bad at all.

Chicken Liver Skewer

I won’t lie, while I like offal, I don’t love liver. What I do love is courage, especially the courage to put not one, but two liver dishes on a menu. While low on my list of favorites, the chicken livers were smoky and well-balanced with the sweetness from a caramelized onion garnish. This demonstrated a great use of binchotan.

Monkfish Liver

This one surprised me. Made into a pate coin, the monkfish liver was mild and smooth. The flavor profile was very subdued, which is saying something for such a pungent ingredient. Definitely worth a try.

Third Wave

Pickle Plate

A creative assortment of Japanese and Southern vegetables adorned this take on a pickle plate. Standouts were the mushrooms and collard greens, as well as the amazingly complex smoked daikon radish.

Green Tomato and Avocado Skewer

Absolutely nailed this one! Perfect texture, great flavors, and all around fun dish. The kewpie mayonnaise and sweet and sour sauce were excellent compliments to the tartness of the green tomato and fattiness of the avocado.

Fourth Wave (Getting Full Yet?)

Chicken Karaage

Pronounced KAH-rah-AH-gay (and yes we did triple check), these Japanese fried chicken thighs were a fastball down the middle. Crunchy, salty, fatty, and delicious. A can’t miss crowd-pleaser.

Crispy Onigiri

I won’t lie, this one disappointed me. I love onigiri, but this version was oily to the point of greasy, and absolutely required the pickled vegetable to be eaten along with it to balance out the unctuous flavor of the smoked fish stuffing.


Holy game-changer! Tender, smoky, flavorful, and extremely unique. This one-of-a-kind preparation personifies the overall theme of the restaurant in a single, delightful bite. Personally, I’d recommend pushing off some of that herb salad to make way for more of that tender meat.

Fifth Wave (Starting to feel it…)

Ramen Austin

BBQ Tsukemen

BBQ Tsukemen

A thousand times YES! Even with our rapidly filling bellies we were fighting over the next bite. No surprise here, but the broth was amazingly rich and flavorful with all the body of Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s fame and the flair of smoky mesquite and spice.

(Seriously!?) 6th Wave

What can we say? We’re gluttons…

Chili Cheese Takoyaki

Another slight miss. The takoyaki themselves were crunchy, gooey, and full of savory octopus flavor, but the chili sauce was just far too sweet. Points for a superb presentation though.

Smoked Edamame

Great flavor and seasoning, robust smoky flavor, and generous portion size, but the pods themselves were soft and uninspiring. I missed the familiar crisp of wok fired edamame.

Hot Pocketz

Brisket and Gouda stuffed between two pieces of fried cheese covered tofu… Nothing else to say. Eat this. Always.

7th Wave (Bring it on)


Sorry for the bad picture, we couldn’t wait.

Yuzu Pecan Pie

A great twist of a classic southern pecan pie. The citrusy yuzu played great with the crunchy pecans and Azuki bean whip. I especially enjoyed the mild sweetness here, making it a joy to eat while finishing my shochu flight.

Roasted Banana Pudding

Loved the miso caramel paired with the smoky roasted bananas. Great texture from the kokuto crunch, again not too sweet, and an all around great finish.

Final Thoughts

I know this has been a long one, so thanks for sticking it out. In the end, Kemuri set out a unique, courageous, and overall delicious spread. While I didn’t love every dish I certainly appreciated the risks they were taking. This is an exciting, satisfying dining experience that I would call a can’t miss. These kinds of bold leaps are what makes dining fun.

Rating: 9/10.

2713 E 2nd St.
Austin, TX 78702

P.S. I didn’t cover the drink menu, but to summarize: We drank much, all of it was good.



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March 13th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Kebabalicious

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Austin Food Truck Consultants


Modeled after the European style Doner Kebab carts, common street food through the U.K. and greater Europe, Kebabalicious successfully brings that savory flavor to Austin.

Listed on Eater as a one of the “20 Essential Food Trucks in Austin,” Kebabalicious maintains similar accolades on Do512 also. For this reason, and the fact that I ate kebab at least twice a week while I lived in London, I knew I had to give this truck a try. 


Restaurant consultants

With a smart, concise menu, ordering was made easy for me. With the “Spoiled Brat” plate, the K-Fries, and a side order of the Ka-baam sauce I was able to taste almost all of the menu items.

Commercial food consultants

The Spoiled Brat plate consists of beef and lamb shawarma, seasoned chicken, crispy falafel, humus, feta, tzatziki, and red sauce on a bed of greens with tomatoes and onion.

The chicken was delicious. Moist and tender with and excellent seasoning. The beef and lamb was underwhelming. The flavor was fairly standard with nothing to denote fine quality or uniqueness. It was also cut so small it was closer to ground sausage than traditional flanks of shawarma. The falafel, however, made up for that fully. Perfect balance of crispy exterior with a soft, rustic center. Great color, aromatics, and seasoning.

Corporate chefs

The K-Fries were a fun addition, but also let me down. While the sauce was excellent and the salty feta worked very well with the fries, the fact that they were soft undercut the dish. I will say though, the zatar spice is the perfect complement to fries. With hot, crisp potatoes this would likely have been a real winner.


Let’s focus on sauce for a minute, particularly the chile sauces. The Ka-baam sauce is a smoky blend of jalapeno and poblano peppers in cool cream cheese with lots of aromatics. Delightful against the strong seasonings and charred meats.

Their spicy red sauce, on the other hand, is closer to a harissa chile blended with red curry sauce. Balance this with some powerful aromatics like coriander and cumin, ramp up with coarsely crushed black pepper, and then tone back down with creamy mayonnaise and you may have something close to this delicious sauce.


To finish out the humus was wonderful, rustic, and delicate. The tzatziki was overly sweet and missed the crucial cucumber flavor, but the pita was wonderfully thin and chewy, a refreshing change from the usually puffy, dense pitas served at many kebab shops.

Final Thoughts

Recipe commercialization

Overall I was pleased with my visit to Kebabalicious. The chicken is well prepared and hearkens directly to the doner kebab shops of Europe. I’d like to see a stronger cut of the beef and lamb, a more balanced tzatziki, and crispy fries, but these I’ll chalk up to a simple miss. I’ll have to eat there 3 or 4 more times before I’m sure of anything. Next time though, I know to start with the falafel.

Until next time, good eating Austin!




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December 12th, 2016

Food Trends Series: Hawaiian Cuisine

Posted in Food Trends, Hawaii, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Hawaiian Food Trends

Hawaiian food trends

When you think of Hawaiian cuisine, images of roasted pork and, most importantly, Spam are likely what your brain conjures. Though these two staples are indeed important, they are not the end all be all of a culture rich in food tradition. Though more prominent on the West coast of the US, dishes and flavor profiles from Hawaiian cuisine are making their way across the mainland.

Poke, a dish that until recently was widely unknown throughout the continental United States, has seen a surge in popularity over the past year. A simple dish, traditionally made of white rice topped with diced raw tuna, green onions, chili, sesame, soy sauce and furikake, poke is a massive reason for the interest in Hawaiian flavors. Poke is simply part of living in Hawaii. Available in every grocery store and with entire restaurants dedicated to making it, poke is a staple. With poke eateries popping up heavily in both New York and Los Angeles, it is no surprise that we are seeing Hawaiian restaurants appear in major cities across the US.

Certified Research Chef

Liholiho Picture Courtesy of Eater San Francisco

Hawaiian and Hawaiian-inspired restaurants run the gamut from fast casual to fine dining. Concepts such as Pokeworks on the west coast utilize a similar setup as Chipotle, allowing customers to choose the toppings and sauces to accent their fresh fish. Higher end restaurants such as Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco take Hawaiian cuisine to a new level.

Like most major cities, Denver has seen a growth in Hawaiian restaurants in the past year. Though there has been a L&L BBQ (a Hawaiian based fast casual restaurant) located in Aurora since 2004, there has been little competition until recently. Most notably, the newly renovated Adrift Tiki Bar off Broadway St. and Ohana Island Kitchen in the Highlands.

Adrift Tiki Bar

Research chef Denver

Picture Courtesy of Westword

Adrift has taken on an enhanced menu of traditional island flavors blended with American fare whilst still producing delicious tiki drinks and bowls.

Kilauea Poke – Ahi, Albacore, Mango, Wakami, Taro Chips

Chef consultants Denver

A beautiful take on a simple dish, this poke is slightly sweet and spicy with a good depth of fresh fish flavor from the different tunas. The taro chips were very crunchy and a great addition to the tuna.

Green Papaya Salad – Jicama, Asian Pear, Peanuts, Lotus, Tamarind, Sriracha, Chicken

Chef consultants Colorado

A wonderfully balanced salad. Slightly acidic green papaya paired with sweet Asian pear and rounded out with spicy sriracha. This salad shows island flavors with the plenty of Asian flair.

Pupu Platter – Pele Wings (gochujang glazed), Guava BBQ Ribs, Onion Rings, Kalua Pork Sliders, Mofongo Chips, Edamame

Chef consultants Texas

A Hawaiian take on an Asian classic, this pupu platter allows you to try the majority of the menu offered at Adrift:

  • Pele wings are glazed with Adrift’s take on the now extremely popular gochujang sauce, slightly spicy and sweet with the addicting flavor of fermented chilies.
  • Kalua pork, no Hawaiian restaurant would be respected without it. The sliders were good but felt unnecessary, the pork could stand on its own without the addition of the bread and excess lettuce.
  • Guava BBQ ribs added another variety of pork to the platter; very tender with a fruity and sweet glaze.

Ohana Island Kitchen

Hawaiian food trends

Once literally a hole in a wall, but now a full restaurant across the street from their original location, Ohana keeps their menu wonderfully simple and true to Hawaii. With only 4-5 main menu items, Ohana is able to serve exemplary food at a reasonable cost.

Spam Musubi

Chef consultant services

Seared spam with a sweet soy glaze, wrapped in sushi rice and nori; probably the simplest Hawaiian dish and one of the most delicious. Though not seemingly exciting, especially for those adverse to the Spam name, Spam musubi is a must at Ohana.


Culinary consultants


THIS IS POKE! Large chunks of fresh tuna lightly seasoned with soy, sesame, and chilies is all you need. Ohana does poke as it should be and being in a land locked state, it’s not easy to make it this good.

Kalua Pork Bento

Product development

As much as I love pork, I will admit that kalua pork is not my favorite. If made incorrectly, it can come out lacking flavor and tasting steamed. Ohana does a fantastic job of avoiding this by seasoning well with a light sauce and scallions. Served with seasoned white rice and house made pickles, this pork is hard to pass up.

Final Thoughts

Both Adrift and Ohana are great places to dine, each with their own charm. If you are looking for a few classic tiki drinks and some delicious bites, Adrift is the place for you. However, for the best Hawaiian food in town the answer is Ohana.

Though just a few examples, Hawaiian food influence can be seen across the country and is only continuing to grow. Island flavors are making their way into different culinary segments every day. With coconut milk added into the cheese process in KoKos gouda and passionfruit in a sour wit beer with Lilikoi Kepolo by Avery brewing, the possibilities are plenty. 2016 was definitely the breakout year for Hawaiian food and flavors and I doubt we will see them disappear anytime soon. With consumers continually seeking out new experiences trends like Hawaiian are going to continue to flourish in the future.



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November 28th, 2016

Eberly Restaurant Review

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Restaurants, Reviews

Eberly Restaurant Review

Dined 11/01/16

For months, I have been walking up and down South Lamar Blvd. wondering what was to become of the empty print shop holding prominent real estate between Paul Qui’s ever-bustling Uchi and the eventful Barton Springs cross street. With the Long Center and Zilker Park nearby whatever would come to the location was ripe with organic exposure.

You could imagine my excitement to find out a new restaurant helmed by John Scott and Eddy Patterson of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q fame would be filling the vacancy.

With a kitchen advertised as serving upscale American fare under the guidance of executive chef Jim Tripi (Spanish Oaks Golf Club) and executive pastry chef Natalie Gazaui (McGuire Moorman Hospitality), it seemed a new high-roller was looking to up the ante in South Austin.

Named after Austin’s famous heroine Angelina Eberly, the restaurant would also house the Cedar Tavern, a collection of drinking and contemplation spaces complete with a rooftop patio designed to mirror the famous New York tavern of the same name. In this space, Kelon Bryant, formerly of Justine’s Brasserie and the Continental Club, would be designing clever libations and pouring local drafts. The original Eberly served as the hub for many famous artists, including Bob Dylan and Jackson Pollock, and Austin’s Eberly hopes to serve as the hub for a new wave artists and free-thinkers.

The Interior

The interior proved elegant, spacious, and thoughtfully designed. A vast dining room with individual tables connected by large velvet lined bench seats fills the front dining area. The decor is a conscious juxtaposition of lavish furniture and ornamentation reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance and the sharp edges and reflective surfaces equated with modern architecture.

A central atrium, lined with rows of high steam punk style support braces encased with clear glass walls transects the floor connecting the dining room to the Cedar Tavern. A rectangular glass ceiling holds the steel arms at bay while allowing a flood of natural light to fill the atrium, much to the pleasure of the many plants that adorn the walls and floors.

To the right of this room runs additional table seating and to the left a walkway parallel to the mouth of the open kitchen, allowing guests to see the action as they wander to and from the tavern or dining room. The additional traffic along this threshold provides an added obstacle for the front of house staff, but they seemed to navigate with ease.

Eberly Austin

Source: Icon Design+Build

The Cedar Tavern maintained a palpable energy with busy chatter, pulsing music, and the collision of ice, glass, and steel typical of a full-service bar. The centerpiece of the Cedar Tavern is the wooden bar itself. The fifty-foot-long mahogany marvel, complete with extensive hand-carved filigree, was purchased from the original Cedar Tavern when it closed in 2006. After being shipped to its new Austin location in pieces, it has been restored to its glory and remains a sight to be seen.

Dispersed throughout the mahogany scented tavern are plush couches, over-sized leather armchairs, and poufs inviting prolonged conversation and welcomed intermingling. This intellectual lounge atmosphere is a refreshing addition in South Austin.

The Drinks

The drink menu is a smart, concise collection of local beers and select wines. Draft beers include popular selections such as Live Oak Hefeweizen and Austin Eastciders Dry Cider, along with more adventurous selections such as the Founder’s Breakfast Stout and Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA out of Bend, OR. Bottled options offer a larger variety including Sours, Tripels, and Ales.

A selective wine list displays the right amount of options without creating the exhausting paradox of choice. The menu includes personal favorites such as the 2013 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay out of Napa as well as the Italian 2012 Giodo Rosso, “IGT” Sangiovese. A selection of sparkling and fortified wines, scotches, and whiskeys are also available upon request.

The craft cocktails, however limited, are meticulously constructed. The list includes subtly playful gems such as the Lady Bond, which balances the floral notes of a sweet Lillet against a complex gin and the brightness Ketel One Citroen, along with bolder statement drinks like the Final Ward, a fascinating blend of Bulleit Rye and Green Chatreuse balanced with maraschino and lemon.

Ideally we will see this menu grow to ten or twelve options as the restaurant matures, but for now the choices are confident and invocative.

The Food

Now we discuss the most important part. No matter how radiant the interior nor mesmerizing the libations, if the food falls flat the restaurant will decay.


We began the meal with the house sourdough bread served with citrus fennel butter. The bread arrived warm with a distinctly sweet aroma finished with the tell-tale sourness of wild yeast. The interior showed a broad, albeit uneven, crumb with a chewy golden crust. The compound butter delivered its flavors accurately without proving overwhelming.

From there we were graced with a half-dozen expertly shucked New Brunswick oysters. The flavor was fresh and texture clean, without a hint of grittiness. The mignonette was well-balanced and nicely complemented the bivalve while the overall presentation was authentic.

I was surprised by the overall rustic nature of the cheese and crudité plate presentation. Not that it displeased me, more that I found it uncommon to the current norm of hyper-fashioned visages commonly seen in upscale eateries. Truthfully I found it refreshing. The choice of fennel and baby carrots acted as excellent palate cleansers after a generous bite of smoked jalapeno pimento cheese atop crispy flatbread. I especially enjoyed the latent note of coriander found in the pimento.


As a lover of foods from the ocean I could not help but order the whole red snapper. There are few things that compare to the exquisite texture of a whole fish gently pan-fried to encrust the tender flesh in a crispy skin with a slight charring for added depth. Unfortunately, I was not presented with such a dish. Instead, I received a fish so exceedingly fried that the skin was more akin to a sarcophagus than a crust. The flesh was dry and had taken on a mealy, inconsistent flavor. I did, however, appreciate the balancing act between the smoked tomato and gremolata.

The short rib buoyed the experience with a delicate texture and bold flavor profile highlighted by a playful celeriac apple fondue. The presentation was classical and utilitarian.

The third and final selection was the venison and quail. While the flavors of this dish were, again, well thought out and pleasant, the execution disappointed. The venison was surprisingly tough and lacking in moisture, while the quail was arranged haphazardly on the plate.

Additionally, we shared orders of the asparagus and squash, Brussels and cauliflower, as well as shells and cheese which all proved to be well-prepared, nicely seasoned, and delicious.


Eberly fancies itself a dining space serving contemporary American cuisine. Generally, the dinner menu reflects this with classic dishes prepared with flavor twists fashioned rustically without pretense.

I make that statement because the dessert menu stands in contrast of that. While providing takes on classics like PB&J and Donuts, they are more elitist than Americana.

While I hold no ill will towards the creativity that science has allowed us with cuisine, I fail to see how the dessert and dinner menus coexist. Perhaps it reflects Eberly’s romance with “risk takers, creative types, and liberated thinkers” as stated on the “About” page of their website, but as a diner it feels disjointed.

That being said, the Basque cake with poached pears was delightful. The honeycomb and Marcona almonds provided a wonderful flavor and texture contrast, however the Manchego cheese ice cream was too earthy and drew away from the balance.

The sweet potato cake donuts were another solid standout. With bourbon ganache, marshmallow, and pomegranate interplay, each bite was delightful. Top marks for creativity and textural variety.

Final Thoughts

They say the devil is in the details. Eberly proves this is true. The components are in place but the execution is hindering the potential excellence of the restaurant. The contrast between the upscale, yet rustic American dinner fare and the avant-garde nature of the dessert menu creates a discernible chasm in the cuisine. Conceptually I am excited by what Eberly is undertaking. The veneer is beautiful, the menu is thoughtful and thorough, but the performance is uneven. I can confidently say the missteps seen in this meal feel more of youthful exuberance than reckless ignorance. I hope with time and experience they will overcome these obstacles to live up to their potential, but until then, I remain skeptical.

Rating: 7/10


Eberly & The Cedar Tavern
615 S Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704

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