Austin's culinary scene and craft beer industry continue to remain busy during the pandemic. Here is some notable food-and-drink news you might've missed this week:
Hazy IPA takeover: Admit it, during quarantine you have missed a cold, draft Electric Jellyfish, a New England-style IPA from Penthouse Pizza. The beer quickly became the brewpub's top seller after its 2015 debut—when it was initially met with some industry resistance, Austin Monthly learned. But now the beer is so big it is even available in four packs for the quaint price of $18.
Fancy fusion burgers: The same folks who brought you Lucky Robot Japanese Kitchen just opened Luck's Wagyu Burger Shoppe inside an existing Zen Japanese Food Fast location in the North Shoal Creek neighborhood. The menu includes Asian-inspired burgers and sandwiches, with the meat coming from a Texas-based farm, according to Eater.
Farm-to-your-table: Odd Duck gained a lot of recognition over the years for its farm-driven unique menu offerings, and chef Bryce Gilmore has seven James Beard nominations to his name. Gilmore told Eater Austin how the restaurant is adjusting during COVID-19, with curbside pickup available for the first time. But business is still half of what Odd Duck experienced pre-pandemic.
Stay sober in style: Mocktails, or alcohol-free mixed drinks, are all the rage right now. But who wants to do all that work without the reward of a good buzz? That's why Austin Chronicle shared three pre-made options that reach craft cocktail status.
Chic restaurant reopens dining area: After nine months of closing its South Lamar Boulevard dining area to guests, Eberly reopened this week. Austin360 points out the restaurant's popularity and "stunning" ambiance, although its parent publication once called Eberly "a shining example of how Austin's scene has lost its way" for its gaudy setup, among other reasons.
Takeout fatigue: Sick of the same-old takeout options? The Infatuation compiled this list of 16 restaurants that have great carryout options worthy of your business.
Other food/drink news in Austin:
- Did you know Jewboy Burgers dishes out El Paso-inspired burgers? Owner Mo Pittle grew up there before starting the food truck, once located on Burnet Road but now based in the North Loop neighborhood. (Austin Monthly)
- Hops & Grain Brewing, which debuted in 2012, is closing its East Austin taproom but still hopes to distribute its most popular beers. (Craft Beer Austin)
- On the other hand, Black Star Co-op just celebrated a decade in business, just three years after issuing a plea for help. More than 3,000 people and organizations have invested into the co-operative. (Austin Chronicle)
- Sazan Ramen, only open since June on Airport Boulevard, represents one of Austin's newest ramen options. Based on these food photos and the head chef's credentials, Sazan might outlast the pandemic. (Austin Food Magazine)
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Austin parents and grocery store shelves are feeling the effects of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Caused mostly by a February recall due to contamination issues, followed by the Abbott Nutrition factory closure in Michigan, the shortage has left Austin shelves barren. However, earlier this week, U.S. officials announced a plan with the facility to restart production.
In the meantime, local parents in crisis have turned toward the Mother’s Milk Bank to keep their babies fed.
HEB on East 7th has been picked clean of formula and is limiting purchases. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The milk bank—which takes donations from lactating mothers and dispenses milk to babies in the NICU—has been helping feed upwards of 30 families in need as the formula supply tightens.
According to the bank’s executive director Kim Updegrove, Mother’s Milk Bank has seen an uptick in calls from parents with healthy babies in need of help since the shortage began.
“We aren't used to hearing from families with healthy infants,” Updegrove said. “They're typically very upset, angry, frustrated, sobbing—it's scary to not be able to feed your infants. So in the past few weeks, those calls have been significantly increasing.”
Mothers are only able to donate if they are within a year postpartum, so Updegrove said they are constantly bringing on and retiring donors. While donors had been on a 30% decline leftover from 2021 when the shortage began, Updegrove said the shortage has led to mass community interest and more than 90 prospective donors in just the past few days.
“We and other milk banks are experiencing significant interest from the community—becoming milk donors and helping to turn around this crisis,” Updegrove said. “Every infant needs to be fed, every one of us can relate to that need, and we need to make sure as a community that it happens.”
Whole Foods downtown was also cleaned out of typical formula. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
While you may still be able to find formula at places like Whole Foods—which currently has goat milk, soy and plant-based formula in stock—Updegrove said it might not be what a baby needs.
Updegrove said it is best to buy types that say “infant formula,” as they are FDA approved and will provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Plant-based, homemade, non-cow's milk or diluting formula may not provide the same nutritional value.
As the community navigates the shortage, Updegrove said the most important way to help out is to not panic buy or stockpile.
“This is a crisis for families,” Updegrove said. “This is the time for the community to gather together and figure out what everyone can do to help families with young infants.”
Next time you’re sitting at a red light in Austin, you may look over and see a car without a person at the driver’s wheel.
Autonomous vehicle tech company Argo AI has brought driverless operations to Austin and Miami, starting out with only company employees using the service. Later on, tests with Lyft and Walmart will carry out ride-sharing and grocery delivery services, with the help of a human safety operator. The company has already made moves on this front in Miami Beach where some Lyft passengers have used its autonomous vehicles with a human operator.
While its platform is designed for integration with multiple vehicle types, the test fleet uses the Ford Escape Hybrid and VW's all-electric ID.Buzz.
The Pittsburgh-based company says this progress on its autonomy platform has been more than five years in the making and boasted about reaching this milestone before others.
"Argo is first to go driverless in two major American cities, safely operating amongst heavy traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists in the busiest of neighborhoods," said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI.
Expect to see the autonomous cars on the road during daytime business hours as the tech aims to learn from a diversity of road infrastructure and driving behaviors.
The company, which is testing in eight cities in the U.S. and Europe, has brought its tech to Austin as the company looks to expand in densely-populated cities. In particular, Argo is looking at ridesharing, delivery and logistics companies for integrating its autonomous vehicles into their digital services.
Argo anticipates its service availability to someday cover more than 15 million people in Austin, Miami and Washington D.C.
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