L’Estelle and Rainey’s Evolution

L’Estelle and Rainey’s Evolution

As far as Rainey bars go, I really like The Drafting Room at 88 1/2 Rainey.  Located on a plot of land right behind The Shore Condos in downtown Austin‘s Rainey Street District, and owned by inveterate downtown-er and Architect Craig Nasso since 1994 (read: WAY before Rainey Street was “cool”), the lot has evolved with the neighborhood and transformed what was an already a lovely home and office into two delightful, separate but intertwined (both are owned by Craig and Holly), pursuits of food and drink.

L’Estelle’s story on it’s website is actually much more eloquently written – check it out here.

If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s my favorite excerpt:

The architect of L’Estelle, then 26 years old, drove down Rainey Street in 1994 and spotted a little piece of “half-lot” that was merely a patch of dirt.  The fact that this lot was on a street named Rainey was especially of interest since his mother’s maiden name was Estele Rainey.  He bought it, nurtured it, planted every tree and bush and designed a plan for a long life on this little lot.  Twenty years ago, he built the back house as a live work office and decided to wait to build a front house when he could design it with a wife if he got married one day.

The architect eventually got married, but during that period, Rainey Street changed from a residential historic neighborhood into a bustling night life district. So the architect changed plans but held sensitively to his dream.  He designed and built a front house with his wife which would serve as a kitchen for the people and he converted his office into a quaint beer and wine bar – now the Drafting Room.  Together, they open their yard and their hospitality to all who enter, offering a real and authentic connection to the district, its history, and the comfort casual style of gathering under the stars with good drinks, food, and folks.  L’Estelle pays respect to their mother, Estele Rainey, the best cook in the family who serves as the advisor and contributor of many homestyle recipes for the preserves and sweets offered in the kitchen.

88 1/2 Rainey, Circa late 2012

88 1/2 Rainey, Circa late 2012

There’s truly a lot to love when it comes to what Craig and his wife Holly have carefully, tenderly created.  Their story is unique and their tie to the neighborhood is genuine; the architecture (and, hence, the vibe) is elegant, modern and comfortable; but, most importantly, the wine is great and the food is TO DIE FOR.

Bottom line: Go there.  You won’t regret it. And say hi to Holly and Craig when you visit; they are almost always there making sure things are running right.

p.s. – They are open for Sunday Brunch, too! Starts at 11am…

Drafting Room Facebook | L’estelle Facebook

Want a trip down memory lane?  Check out our 2012 Mega Post on Rainey with pics of what the street looked like not but 5 years ago…

The Grove and Lola Savannah Coffee Coming to Downtown Austin

The Grove and Lola Savannah Coffee Coming to Downtown Austin

One restaurant outside of downtown Austin that I enjoy is The Grove on Bee Caves Road.  The atmosphere of the outdoor patio, sitting under the canopy of magnificent live oak trees, beset with families and ladies’ nights groups, is light, crisp, clean, and interesting for its occasional cougar spotting (remind me later to tell you about the time the clunky-jeweled, immoderately tanned, bleached-blonde, and probably about 2 bottles of rosé deep, woman stood in front of our vehicle in the parking lot, arms outstretched, intermittently punching the windshield, shouting at us “you don’t understand!” blocking our exit for over 5 minutes. Actually, no need to remind me – I just told you about it).

When I venture out that way, I generally will have wine and dinner at The Grove and then enjoy a fresh made cappuccino and a pastry at the connected coffee shop Lola Savannah, which has the same owners. I really love both places – but tend to stay in downtown more often than not to dine, so was delighted to hear that they will be coming to downtown this summer!

Both concepts are slated to go in the prime ground floor space of the Cirrus Logic building at 800 W 6th, which was most recently inhabited by Tapasitas (now closed). The location had been challenging for prior restaurant concepts, but if any concept can make it work, I believe it’s The Grove and Lola Savannah.

cirrus-logic-the-grove-austin-downtown

The partnership team behind the concepts is extremely experienced, and The Grove’s approach and brand will work extremely well in the space and in the overall arena of downtown Austin dining.  I have not been to the Lakeway location, but the patio that The Grove has on Bee Caves is one of the most enjoyable restaurant spaces, and was designed by celebrated architecture firm Dick Clark Architecture in 2008.

Here are some photographs of the Westlake spaces taken by Paul Bardagjy (these are also on the Dick Clark Architecture site):

Reports state that The Grove / Lola Savannah will eventually take over the space that Restaurant Jezebel is in, as well.

We can’t wait to visit!

The Grove / Lola Savannah
800 W 6th St, 78701

Get your Fixe for Southern Comfort Food in Downtown Austin

Get your Fixe for Southern Comfort Food in Downtown Austin

Southern style restaurants are not a new concept for downtown Austin.  With great restaurants like Olamie, Bess Bistro, and Moonshine, I would say the bar is set fairly high in this particular arena.

Fixe, the newcomer on the scene, recently opened in the very slick, very new IBC Bank Building, right across 5th street from the Federal Courthouse complex, and is a hop, skip, and a jump away from downtown Austin condo towers like Plaza Lofts and the 360 Condos.

Given the lack of historical character on the building’s exterior, I was setting my expectations low, prepping myself for an upscale, but watered-down experience – a business-lunch destination, with a general lack of gumption.

[Read more…]

Where to Watch the World Cup – Downtown Austin Sports Bars

Where to Watch the World Cup – Downtown Austin Sports Bars

I’m not real into soccer.  Matter of fact, first soccer game I ever watched was Sunday’s World Cup Match between the USA and Portugal.  What an exciting game, though!  I literally stood up and cheered when the US made that second goal, and then I moaned and beseeched the soccer gods when Portugal scored to tie.

It was enough to get me excited about the upcoming match against zee Germans, happening this Thursday at 11am (tomorrow!).  But, where to watch this epic game in downtown Austin?  I have a couple of  suggestions.

1. Liberty Tavern, in the Hilton Downtown: 500 E 4th

Liberty-Tavern-Bar

photo by Diana Nogueira

Remodeled in 2012, with 11 big screens, and an airy and spacious atmosphere. Great local beers, and ample breakfast / lunch food. Extremely convenient for those living in the 5 Fifty-Five Condos or Sabine Condos in downtown Austin.

liberty-tavern-interior

For the World Cup, they’ve also added a 16’x9′ Jumbo HD screen!

liberty-tavern-big-screen

photo by Diana Nogueira

And drink specials galore, including $2 Lonestars!

liberty-tavern-world-cup-specials

2. Takoba (downtown adjacent), 1411 E. 7th

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  • 112″ indoor projector screen
  • 75″ TV outside
  • covered outdoor seating / misters
  • $15 buckets a beer

Need I say more?

3. The Mohawk, 912 Red River

The Mohawk has multiple screens, including an indoor screen with surround sound, along with beers and bubbles, and noshes by Frank.  Nice dark and cool atmosphere for the big screen area, too!

Don’t like any of my suggestions?  Check out a more comprehensive list from Austin Culture Map, which includes my top three, plus other downtown venues like Russian House, Holy Mountain, Fado, and Bar 96, plus places in other parts of the city.

Cuban Restaurant in Downtown Austin – Pleasant Storage Room

Cuban Restaurant in Downtown Austin – Pleasant Storage Room

As far as I know, there aren’t currently any Cuban restaurant concepts in downtown Austin proper.  Well, there WASN’T before this week, anyway.  There’s a new one popping up in the warehouse district, where the now defunct Stack Burger Bar used to be (one of the restaurant concepts owned by the now infamous Yassine Enterprises).

Let me introduce you to Pleasant Storage Room, officially opening TODAY: [Read more…]