February 26 | 2014
It seems that the weather (the kind I left the Northeast many years ago to escape) continues to – how shall I put this? Bite? I’m trying to think of something nice to say here, but my teeth are chattering too much for any nice stuff to come out.
Oh, I know. Tonight’s menu has lots of cold weather love. Mike’s running his winter squash soup which has been a huge hit. Rumor has it that the Salad Lyonnaise will be making a special guest appearance (featuring warm poached egg from Milagro and our very own in-house cured super thick cut BACON). And then we’ve got Mark S on Ravioli, spinach pasta, and backing vocals…
Hope ya’ll can join us this week.
February 5 | 2014
OMG! Valetine’s Day is NEXT FRIDAY – REALLY?!? I need to make plans and fast.
I know – I’ll book a table at TFB. They’re offering a delightful 4 course Prix Fixe menu, I can bring my own wine, and I can even reserve my table on-line. What could be possibly easier? Thanks Texas French Bread – You saved my Valentine’s Day.
Click the tabs to your left for Menu and/or reservations. And by the way – Ben says “this espresso is the incredible!” (Mr. Hall will be drawing hearts on your macchiato all week…)
February 1 | 2014
This is Mr. Hall.
Mr. Hall is going to make you a fabulous cappuccino on the very fancy new La Marzocco GB5 Itallian espresso machine we recently installed at Texas French Bread. This machine spent about 6 months at the downtown Frost Bank location of Houndstooth Coffee until they acquired a newer larger unit. It’s pristine, gorgeous, and it looks great in its new home here at 2900 Rio. And we’ve practically doubled coffee sales overnight.
Mr. Hall is getting pretty good at this – check out his burgeoning skill as a latte artiste.
Here’s another shot of Mr. Hall with his friend Josh freezing me out of the barista area. (Mr. Hall and Josh don’t want me to actually use the new machine – they say I’m too messy. Going to have to sneak back there and make one for myself when they’re not looking.)
In all seriousness. We’re stepping our game up when it comes to coffee. In addition to the state of the art brewing equipment, we’re now using top notch roasts from Tweed (the roasting wing of Houndstooth Coffee) for our espresso drinks. Currently we’re using Finca Mirador – a single origin coffee from a farm in Guatemala. Jonathon Aldridge, Tweed’s head roaster, consistently hits an almost perfect roast point with a lot of what he calls “caramelly, nugatty” flavors, while stopping short of even a hint of smoke – this is really good coffee.
Anyway – we may not compete against the Houndstooth kids in the barista championships anytime soon, but Daniel Read from their shop has been diligently training us, and we’re getting pretty good. If you come for brunch this weekend, order an espresso drink and check it out. Mr. Hall will be on the La Marzocco all weekend.
We also continue to offer our special TFB Blend from Anderson’s Coffees for drip brew, only now we’re using a top notch Fetco brewer and a very high end German MAHLKÖNIG grinder. Your Anderson’s drip cup has never tasted this good.
And finally – Valentine’s Day is around the corner. We’ll have heart cookies galore on the front counter for your sweetie, and we’re starting to take dinner reservations.
Much like New Years Eve, we’ll be using this special occasion to stretch out and make some dishes that we don’t normally have a chance to bring to our menu – Broken Arrow Venison loin wrapped with capicola is one of the planned entrees. We’ll have the menu posted on-line shortly – 4 courses, $65 per person, corkage inclusive.
The new kitchen should be open that week (we’re still one hold for city inspections and a new gas meter from the gas company) and with any luck, we’ll be able to use the Friday Valentine’s dinner as a chance to really put the new kitchen through it’s paces.
In the meantime, we’re open this weekend. The calves liver with white beans has been getting rave reviews at dinner this week. Last night I had short ribs that continue to impress – roasted new, potatoes, broccoli, wilted kale – went really well with a young beaujolais. Hope to see you in the shop soon.
January 24 | 2014
We’ve knocked out some of the biggest pieces of our planned improvements while we were closed over the past couple of weeks and we all want to thank you for your patience. A number of people have asked me about the nature and scope of those improvements – what we’re seeking to accomplish – how are we looking to change, etc.
Well – as some of you will know, 2900 Rio Grande was never built to be a restaurant. My mother, against a heap of professional advice (“rents are cheap, why would you ever BUY real estate? You’re not in the real estate business.) elected in 1986 to purchase the property.
2900 served first as the Shipwash grocery store – the first supermarket style grocer with attached parking, grocery carts, etc. in the Austin area. Then in the 1960′s it became the home of the infamous Italian food restaurant, the Rome Inn – later to serve (1970s) as the venue where Stevie Ray, Miss Lou Ann, the Thunderbirds, etc. honed their skills, and where in 1975 I’m reliably told that both Joni and Bob Dylan shared the stage when the Rolling Thunder came through town and were looking for a suitable bywater where they might spend the evening.
I think this bootleg of Stevie captures something of the relaxed flavor of the time and place http://www.youtube.com/watch?
When the Rome Inn closed, the building briefly became home to a semi-licensed punk/new wave outpost called Studio 29. There are numerous pictures of the space sandwiched among the band shots in this archive of photos and memorabilia from the late Dixon Coulbourn’s fanzine, Idle Time http://www.wedigdixon.com/idle_time/ .
After that brief run, 2900 became a bookstore called Paperbacks Plus owned and operated by writer and professor Chuck Taylor – father of Will Taylor (of Strings Attached) – who I enjoyed meeting last weekend.
But I digress. The point is, my mother secured SBA financing to borrow the money to buy the building. But the buildout budget was not robust. The building was retrofitted in a fairly basic manner to become the dessert bakery and commissary for the company. No provisions regarding its Operating Certicate, layout, kitchen infrastructure, etc., contemplated becoming a full service restaurant.
When we began operating supper club in 2007, and made the jump to evening bistro service in 2008, we did so using a single beat up stove (which began its life down the street at the old the Granite Cafe) that sits directly between our bakers and their ovens – not egonomic. And we’ve been using a vent hood of dubious legal status that was never designed to support the kind of cooking we now do.
And so – with the Fire Marshall unhappy, and our business fundamentals leaning toward more restaurant activity rather than less, we had no choice. We needed a new kitchen. And for those of you versed in the art of CoA building and use issues – we also needed a change of “use” with a new Certificate of Occupancy defining us as “general restaurant” (rather than “limited”) in order that we might apply for license to sell beer and wine.
Over the 2 weeks we were closed, we were able to build that new kitchen.
And although it’s not quite up and running yet (we still need a few more inspections and a new gas meter), you can be on the lookout for the promised burger. We’ve also managed over the closure period to do a fairly nice update of dining room (not to mention our bathrooms – talk about overdue), with an exterior paint job and a major renovation of the garden in the wings.
As for me, I’m both excited and terrified. The resources we’ve tapped in order to take this road are an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve been able to muster in recent years.
And while we were very fortunate to have raised the necessary funds, I’m rather uniquely aware of the challenges repayment – not to mention change for the company generally – will bring. For us to succeed – we must grow beyond our current base of incredibly loyal and wonderful customers.
I’ve been telling people for the last week or so that I feel like a kid on Christmas morning after all the presents have been opened and there’s wadded up wrapping paper strewn as far as the eye can see. Is this it? We’ve planned and double planned and re-planned this remodel for so long. Now that it’s here, it doesn’t feel like much change – probably because I’ve been dreaming into those pictures for so long. In truth, it all feels very right – but also subtle and gentle. And I wonder – will it will be enough?
In the coming year, we will need to break through and generate interest among folks whose radar we’re not currently on. Not to imply that the things Texas French Bread has traditionally stood for are no longer valid or worthy – I grew up loving the company my family built. But the time when TFB “made its name” has passed, and it can be hard for folks who’ve not been in to believe that we might be doing things that are novel and interesting. And it does seem that for all the lip service we pay to Austin’s past, we are a city in love with the new.
The challenge for TFB as we complete this work and head into a new phase with new products and ways of serving you, will be to convince people who are not already customers to give us a chance.
Over the next few months, I will be trying to get the word out and I’m hoping you can help. Is there anyone you know who hasn’t tried us recently and might be interested? Let us know and we’ll be sure to do something special for them when they come in.
As we bring our new kitchen on-line, expand our menus, and begin serving food and wine in our soon to be renovated garden, we could really use any help you could offer in getting the word out and convincing folks that there is something fresh, new, and worth their time happening at TFB.
with gratitude and love to all of you – bon appetit,
January 18 | 2014
We’re far from finished – the new kitchen won’t be open for a week – but we’re back on line and we hope you can join us this weekend. (One caveat – the phone in the dining room is still not connected. Should have that remedied on Monday. Please leave us a voicemail, or for faster response, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you as quick as we can). Thanks for your patience and we hope to see you soon.
January 16 | 2014
I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is, we’ll be open tomorrow per my previous email. The bad news is, that won’t happen until dinnertime. We’ve tried absolutely as hard as we could to push through to completion but we’re just not quite there yet.
But we’ll definitely be open for dinner and over the balance of the weekend, and (with any luck) there won’t be any further extended closures related to our remodeling. We should have almost all of our menu available this weekend, though we’ll be working with a ton of new systems and layouts, not to mention outright unknowns.
I apologize that we’re not ready first thing tomorrow morning and that this adventure has taken so much longer than we expected. But we invite all of you to come in and get a look at our new look this weekend. We’re no even close to finished, but we’re very proud of the direction things are headed and we’d love for you to see it. Please join us.
January 14 | 2014
When we started the heavy lifting portion of our remodeling adventure a week and a half ago, I thought we’d be closed for maybe a week. I was actually pretty sure we’d reopen over the second weekend and limit our down time to 4 or 5 days – ha! As any of you who’ve every remodeled anything are doubtless aware, the idea that we would do a ground up reinvention of our space and limit down time to a few days is the construction equivalent of Formula 1 racing – can’t say enough good things about our General Contractor Rick McMinn and his team for even attempting this schedule.
Still, the best laid plans and all that. Things just don’t always turn out way you think they will, and as you can see (pics below), we’re not quite ready for prime time. Rick and I talked yesterday, and we concluded that rather than reopen with the place a complete wreck, we should go ahead and push back 3 or 4 more days and try to get as much done as we can possibly can prior to reopening.
Anyway – we plan to open bright and early Friday morning for breakfast and lunch. We’ve turned on Open Table and we’re committed to dinner service Friday and Saturday nights, and we’re prepping for brunch over the weekend (yes, this is me crossing every finger and toe I have, and holding my breath, and searching for my lucky rabbit’s foot).
PS – what do ya’ll think about Josh’s new “track suit”?
January 8 | 2014
As most of you on our blog list are aware, we are closed this week for what have proven to be truly extensive renovations. So unfortunately, we won’t see you for dinner this week, and you won’t be able to get a turkey sandwich and a ginger snap for lunch.
My deepest apologies. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and we will reopen for business at the earliest possible moment – sometime this weekend, or (at the latest) early next week, subject to progress on construction and the pace of City inspections. We look forward to serving you all again as soon as we can. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a quick look at our “progress”.
all the best – murph
Here’s the new ac duct work – the old duct were beyond salvaging. You can also see the old wooden joists that are now visible after we removed the dry wall from the ceiling.
This the wall we removed between the dining room and the kitchen.
Here’s a hole in the floor revealing the WWII style bunker and tunnels under the what will be the new kitchen.
Oh, and did I mention we’re building an outdoor sculpture in the parking lot. That’s right – no matter the conditions, we’re committed to doing our part to keep art happening in public spaces.
Finally – speaking of art – when you start tearing out walls and ripping off drywall, you never know what you might find. Sometimes you get a lovely souvenir from the old days. Here’s to you, Grace.
January 3 | 2014
Dear Friends -
As I’m sure many of you have noticed, we’re under construction.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re about to knock out the biggest pieces of our improvement/renovation plan that has been years in the making. And while we had planned to be closed for a week beginning this Monday – we’ve decided to go ahead and get a jump on things and we’ll be going dark for a few days beginning this Sunday.
We apologize for any inconvenience, but we’re pretty sure that you’re going to be very favorably impressed with the place when we reopen on January 13th (everybody cross your fingers about that reopen date btw).
We’re building a new kitchen that will greatly improve our capacity that will include a new wood fired grill – you can expect a TFB cheeseburger to go with our frites soon. We’re reappointing our service area – doing a dramatic makeover on our bathrooms (yeah, that was overdue), and getting ready for some even larger changes that will include wine sales (don’t worry – you can still byob), and outdoor dining in our garden this spring.
So – please come in tonight or Saturday for dinner. We’ve got spinach ravioli with rapini on the menu and wild boar in the Pot au Feu. And come for lunch or brunch tomorrow. And remember, we’ll be closed for a week beginning this Sunday. And while we’re sure there will be a lot left to do, we look forward to seeing you all again the week of the 13th when we reopen with a shiny new bakery/restaurant.
December 27 | 2013
We’re super excited about our New Year’s Eve menu this year and we look forward to having many of you join us.
Highlights include a venison tartare with venison from Broken Arrow, fried gulf oysters w/ caviar, and braised leg of wild boar. We’re working on a few special new items and the posted menu is subject to minor changes based on market availability. Hope to raise a glass with you on Tuesday evening.
$65 per person // no corkage fee // 4 courses // choose one from each
FIRST fried gulf oysters // venison tartar // spinach ravioli
SECOND field greens salad // roasted cauliflower soup // composed market salad
MAIN leg of wild boar // tfb bouillabaisse // wild mushroom risotto
DESSERT butterscotch budino // pear almond tart // dark chocolate tart
If you can’t make it New Years Eve, we’ll be very sorry to miss you, (but even if you can make it) I wanted to let you know that we’ll be hosting an informal holiday party and staff dinner the following evening on the night of January 1st, and we’d love for you to join us.
The menu will be a bit unorthodox – for starters, I’ll be at the stove so that Mike Hamley can enjoy a well earned night off. Likewise, Josh and Hall will be your servers so that the rest of the staff and enjoy the shoes being on the other feet (can you pluralize that aphorism?)
Anyway – I plan to make homemade chili with Windy bar beef shank, dark chocolate, and stolen, er… I mean foraged chili pequins. I’ll also be making turkey spaghetti from my grandfather Virgil’s recipe, and I’ll be searching through our walk-in for interesting takes on ingredients we currently use. Hope to see you then as well – it should be fun.