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Torchy's Tacos. Courtesy of Sarah Boyum.

The Denver-Austin Restaurant Exchange Program

These days, you can hardly eat or drink in Colorado without running into an Austin, Texas import. Here's the lowdown on a half-dozen marquee members of the Austin-Denver coalition.

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Texans used to simply be people worth avoiding on the chairlift. But these days, you can hardly eat or drink in Colorado without running into an Austin import (see: Chuy’s, Alamo Drafthouse, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar). In return, Denver has helped “Keep Austin Weird” by introducing local faves such as Mad Greens, Snarf’s, and Punch Bowl Social. (Now all Texas needs is legal weed!) Here’s the lowdown on a half-dozen marquee members of the Austin-Denver coalition.


Austin to Denver 

Torchy’s Tacos
The Backstory: 
With four Denver locations, plus one in Fort Collins, this fast-casual joint’s first expansion outside of Texas was into Colorado.
Claim to Fame: 
Breakfast tacos. Fried avocado tacos. Something called a Dirty Sanchez taco. And green chile queso so good Torchy’s could open in New Mexico.
Local Cred: 
Negligible—the menu here is exactly the same as it is in Austin (or Amarillo).
The Upshot:
Expect many more locations, all over the country: In April, Torchy’s took on a significant private-equity minority investor and added a former Chili’s president to its board.

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Uchi
Uchi. Courtesy of Erika Wilkins

Uchi
The Backstory: 
The fourth Uchi location (after Austin, Dallas, and Houston) comes to Curtis Park in spring 2018.
Claim to Fame: 
Upscale, wildly creative sushi and modern Japanese fare from James Beard award winner Tyson Cole.
Local Cred: 
Cole plans to source nonfish ingredients from local farms and gardens whenever possible for the restaurant’s seasonal “omakase” (chef’s choice) menu.
The Upshot: 
If you’re Zen about waiting in line or making reservations a week (or more) in advance, scoring a prized table will be worth the trouble.

Lustre Pearl
The Backstory:
 This transplant from Rainey Street—a formerly residential area of Austin that owner Bridget Dunlap helped revitalize into a nightlife hub—joined the Texpat RiNo parade in August. 
Claim to Fame: 
Cocktails such as the Lustre Lemonade (made with strawberry-infused moonshine), tallboys, and an old-timey saloon atmosphere with present-day yard games.
Local Cred: Expect a mix of Texas and Colorado beers, live music (which Lustre Austin seldom has), and weekend-only house-smoked barbecue.
The Upshot: 
Does Denver need another bar? Probably not, but Austin didn’t either, and Dunlap now has six different establishments there.

Denver to Austin

Infinite-Monkey-Theorem
Courtesy of Infinite Monkey Theorem.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem
The Backstory: 
Co-owners Aaron and Meredith Berman didn’t choose south Austin just for their second urban winery location—they also moved there. 
Claim to Fame: 
Wine without pretension, available in cans, kegs, or on tap (and also boring ol’ bottles).
Local Cred: 
The Infinite Monkey Theorem will be making new Texas wines from Texas grapes, although as in Colorado, the fruit won’t be grown near the winery.
The Upshot: 
The Colorado wines have already been a hit, and with eight American Viticulture Areas, Texas provides plenty to work with (drought and climate change permitting).

Snooze
The Backstory: 
Eleven years after its Ballpark debut, the self- described “A.M. Eatery” is on its way to hatching just shy of 20 locations in Colorado, California, Arizona, and Texas. Two Austin locations opened in 2016. 
Claim to Fame: 
Breakfast all day and breakfast-related preciousness: Employees are “Snoozers” and have nicknames like “Brett-fast Burrito.”
Local Cred:
 Menus are basically the same, but sometimes ingredients aren’t: The Austin location sources from purveyors in Colorado (Polidori Sausage, the Real Dill) and Texas (Mill-King Market & Creamery, El Milagro Tortillas).
The Upshot:
 Like Snooze’s Colorado disciples, Texans apparently have appetites for both breakfast and waiting in lines that are as ridiculous as Snooze’s OMG! French Toast (stuffed and topped with sweet, rich things like mascarpone and salted caramel).

Dales-Pale-Ale
Dales Pale Ale. Courtesy of Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues Brewery
The Backstory: 
This Longmont brewery—now majority-owned by a private-equity firm in Waltham, Massachusetts—produced the first Austin-brewed can of Dale’s Pale Ale in 2016.
Claim to Fame:
Canning craft beer and inventing the 32-ounce Crowler (which Texas banned, strangely, from 2015 until this past March).
Local Cred: Capable of producing more than 100,000 barrels a year, the Austin location brews only 12 yards away from its taproom (which is a big deal these days; see “The Upshot” below).
The Upshot: 
It’s a bit skunky: In June, the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring breweries producing over 225,000 barrels a year (across all locations) to give a portion of taproom sales to distributors they aren’t using. Oskar Blues is the only brewery affected.

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