In the years I’ve been living in Austin change has been the only constant. I know every transplant to town says this, but for those of you living elsewhere it really is true: the city continues to grow up before the eyes of her residents. Fifteen years ago fine dining options were limited basically to the excellent kitchen of the Driskill Hotel and Clarksville mainstay Jeffery’s; now the city has upwards of three dozen world-class chefs turning out food as diverse as barbecue, sushi, and ramen with very few gaps in coverage. Paul Qui gets a lot of coverage on The Food Buzz and today will be no different because tomorrow is Paul Qui Day in Austin.
Image courtesy of starchefs.com.
The competition in town is a good thing for everyone: delicious for the diners, great business for the entrepreneurs making a killing from food trailers to giant dining rooms, and good for the city, which is getting more and more positive press coverage for its eclectic and delicious options. I even saw Anthony Bourdain’s rerun visiting John Mueller earlier this week.
Date night on Monday took me back to the place where The Food Buzz was born: Swift’s Attic. Formerly a terrible sushi place (the food poisoning my three-man apartment had to endure remains a sore subject years later), proprietor C.K. Chin carved a reservation out of thin air for Poppy, my soon-to-be bosses here at Modern Skillet, and myself. Though our meal really only had one highlight – edamame with pop rocks – it set me off on our journey here in this space.
My return visit yielded much of the same: Swift’s Attic is an excellent restaurant, but its high prices and small plates make it tough to stand out from the crowd when a chef the caliber of Paul Qui is serving ramen-based fine dining out of trailers around town while he prepares to open a new signature restaurant.
Tomorrow is an opportunity for even the tightest wallets to try out the food of the Top Chef champion: the first 50 guests at each East Side King location who say “Happy Paul Qui Day!” will receive free goodies and all locations are giving away gift cards. If that’s not first class, I don’t know what is.
That’s not the only thing that has me excited about the onwards-and-upwards nature of dining in this booming city. Drew Curren – the supervisor of the kitchens at bakery-cum-beerhall Easy Tiger and late-night Americana spot 24 Diner – is getting ready to open a new venture called Arro. Located in the space formerly occupied by Food Buzz favorite Haddington’s, Arro promises “country-style French” cuisine, which has the Food Buzz working at a fever pitch. Just the thought of a croque monsieur from a wood-fired grill has me ready for their opening (oddly enough, it will located across the street from the best croque monsieur in town, served at Sandra Bullock’s Bess Bistro). With Arro opening in about a month and another Top Chef alum behind it, readers can bet that I will be there the moment it opens.
What is already an exciting dining scene is only getting better as time goes on. Though Austin doesn’t qualify for Michelin stars, there are at least six restaurants in town that would earn one if they were in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. What has me buzzing is that by this time next year we might have another half dozen. For now, it’s Friday afternoon and time for a margarita. Knowing this small town, I might even run into Paul Qui.
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