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…

Demolition Begins at Waller Park Place

Demolition Begins at Waller Park Place

More signals of progress at Waller Park Place.  Demolition of the site began this morning along the west side of Red River, and into Willow Street.

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Signals of progress at Waller Park Place

Signals of progress at Waller Park Place

Small signals are often precursors of BIG news.

This past weekend, fencing was observed being erected around the site of Waller Park Place, the largest private development ever proposed in downtown Austin.  Demolition permits were issued back in August for the vacant structures along Red River Street.  The new fencing is a sure sign that site prep is about to begin.

The 3 acre site in the Rainey Street District stretches from Cesar Chavez to Davis Street, hugging the eastern bank of Waller Creek along the way.

-Jude

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The Sabine Street Promenade: Don’t Call It A Comeback

The Sabine Street Promenade: Don’t Call It A Comeback

The Sabine Street Promenade project — between Fourth St. and Seventh St. — has always been a rough jewel I’ve been waiting to see cut. The project will transform a parked-car-congested design dinosaur from the 1980s into a modern, landscaped, walk/cycle through-way.

I’ve been a strong advocate of the project from day one.  Now, there are signals of progress behind the scenes.

Not only will the Sabine Street redevelopment be a great public space, but it will also create great connectivity along the Waller Creek redevelopment.

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First approved back in 2011, the pace of urban progress is never a fast one, but we’ve finally got our first actual look at the layout between 4th and 6th Streets of the pedestrian/bikeway corridor.

It is still unclear when the redevelopment would take place, but the initial plan was sometime this year. It’s not uncommon for massive infrastructure projects to get delayed for one reason or another. Even still, those who spends time downtown, especially nearby residents at the 5 Fifty Five, Avenue Lofts, or The Sabine, should be excited to see it move from concept to an engineer’s plan.

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Based on the road redevelopment plans, submitted by the City of Austin last month, it looks like the nuts and bolts of traffic flow remains unchanged from what was announced a few years ago.

Back in 2012, city officials were quoted in the newspaper saying 60 percent of the corridor would be devoted to bikeways, sidewalks, and trees. The corridor will still have on-street parking — which is not a surprise — but drastically less than now.

The Sabine Street redevelopment runs parallel to the Waller Creek Corridor, and adjacent to a portion called “The Narrows” which will be focused on outdoor socializing, rather than transportation. (Think San Antonio Riverwalk but less campy.)

In 2013, the City Council picked Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) as the lead consultant for the Sabine Street project, which makes sense given that MVVA is the lead designer for Waller Creek.

Personally, I’m hoping the promenade has some MVVA flare, versus coming out a cookie-cutter image of other redeveloped downtown Austin streets. (Don’t get me wrong, I love cookies even if they are cookie-cut. I’m just saying, MVVA bring a lot to the table).

Waller Creek is envisioned as a chain of parks in the heart of Downtown Austin. Sabine Street will connect an envisioned year-round event park to the north (Refuge) and a reinvigorated Palm Park to the south.

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If you look at the architectural drawings below, you also notice the promenade is going to be enhanced by a good dose of trees, which are noted by the triangle symbols, and other shrub beds on the north side.

-Jude

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“Secret” Spots and Private Rooms in Downtown Austin

“Secret” Spots and Private Rooms in Downtown Austin

I handle downtown location scouting for companies setting up corporate events at SXSW and F1 (non-official), and (up until very recently) planned monthly parties all around downtown for the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, most of my friends see me as a “go to” in terms of finding a cool party and private dining spot downtown.

And it’s true, I know a lot of places that are considered a bit “off the beaten path,” in terms of private spaces for meetings or parties that are in downtown Austin.  This week, I thought I’d share some of them with you, our loyal readers!

Depending on your party size and budget, one or more of these options may be a perfect fit for your next event.

Note: I’m not including write-ups on the big guys, the traditional event venues that everyone knows about and come up all the time (Brazos Hall, Fair Market, Trinity Hall, Malverde etc), nor am I including bar and other venues that are widely known to do and be set up for buyouts (Alamo Drafthouse, hotel spaces, etc). Most of the list below is intended for smaller groups / parties. Also, this is a NON-EXHAUSTIVE list – it’s not intended to have every cool or different spot in downtown!  If you think there’s a spot that we all just HAVE to know about – just put it in the comments!

Max’s Wine Dive | The Underground (Convention Center District)

I threw a NYE party a few years back in the Black Door Wine Lounge and it was FABULOUS. The Black Door Wine Lounge is perfect for private events of around 30 people, but The Underground offers larger spaces, as well.

La Condesa | Vault Room / Flour House (2nd Street District)

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It’s gorgeous and it’s well run.  The team at La Condesa will make sure your event is as flawless as this private dining space.

Departure Lounge | The Escape Hatch (Warehouse District)

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This travel agency / coffee shop is right next to the Plaza Lofts, and honestly, I think the whole space is perfect for a special private event (and reasonably priced) – but if you need something smaller for a meeting or something like that, the private room that they have fits the bill pretty well. It can accommodate up to 12 people and only requires a $50 food / beverage spend.

No Va Private Dining Room (Rainey Street District)

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This Rainey restaurant is one of my favorites.  It’s got a great menu, great look, and it’s very close to our brokerage firm’s office on the ground floor of The Shore Condos – what’s not to love?!

No Va not only has this streamlined private dining area, but also allows other portions of the restaurant to be reserved by buyout. It’s very flexible and convenient.

Palazzio Lavaca (North Downtown)

photograph by Jake Holt photograhy

photograph by Jake Holt photograhy

Stunning.  This place is simply stunning in every way.  The pictures in their gallery are not an exaggeration – the place really looks and feels like that when you are inside.  But it ain’t cheap.  I highly recommend it for high-end corporate gatherings and especially one-of-a-kind weddings. I’ve put a client in there for an F1 product launch event and they loved it.

The Clay Pit (North Downtown)

Definitely off the beaten path and certainly not for all palates, but a compelling and different choice for sure for a private gathering. They have a small private room downstairs and a private banquet space upstairs.

Some other ideas:

Condo Common Areas

Use your building’s common area spaces!  Depending on the event, you may have to get creative, but I’m a big believer in using the common area space in your downtown Austin condo building for private functions. Different buildings have different rules and rates regarding reservations of common areas, but the reality is – you paid for the ability to use of these spaces when you moved to that building – so you should take advantage of it!

Available Commercial Space

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This takes a lot of legwork, but if the event is super special – you may scout around for some empty, finished commercial spaces that are currently being marketed for long-term leases.  Reach out to the listing agent and make a proposal.  This is what I did for my wedding and it worked out awesomely.

To that end, if you are interested, here’s the post about Jude and I’s downtown wedding, with a sample menu, pictures, and some other off-beat venues that could work for weddings.

-Amber