Over the past five years, the East Austin neighborhood of East Cesar Chavez has been developing at a rapid pace that shows no signs of slowing. Following the recent openings of highly anticipated restaurants such as Grizzelda’s, Tillery Kitchen and Bar, and Kemuri Tatsu-ya comes Pitchfork Pretty, scheduled to open in late March 2017. The name conjures up an image of intentional juxtaposition. “Pitchfork” pays homage to the farmer, while “Pretty” represents the restaurant’s role in taking the raw, rustic elements of the farm and transforming them into refined menu offerings.
Independent owner, Seth Baas, is an experienced restauranteur and food enthusiast. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he went on to spend three years at Bay Area restaurant Roxanne’s–a collaboration between Charlie Trotter and “living food” guru Roxanne Klein–where he learned the value of sourcing quality ingredients from local farms. After making the decision in 2011 to close his acclaimed Solana Beach, Calif. restaurant, Blanca, Baas desired to return to his Texas roots. In 2014, he purchased the property at 2708 East Cesar Chavez St. and, three years later, the idea of Pitchfork Pretty is becoming reality.
On the Menu: Hill Country Cuisine
The menu at Pitchfork Pretty will explore Texas culture by melding the German influence of the region with Tex-Mex cuisine, and applying old world cooking techniques that include cooking over an open fire. To quote executive chef Max Snyder, “We’re preparing an imaginative menu using local produce, pastured meats, wild fish…and sometimes, fried chicken.”
Snyder is an Austin native who returned to his hometown after more than ten years in San Francisco and New York, working in top restaurants like Coi, Saison and Eleven Madison Park. The utilization of local, seasonal ingredients is the driving force behind his cooking approach and an integral part of the concept for Pitchfork Pretty.
The restaurant will showcase a seasonal menu that changes frequently, based on the availability of local ingredients. To that end, a plan to create a rooftop farm is in the works. The flexibility to offer customized dishes is also a priority, in an effort to accommodate those with dietary restrictions and nurture the creativity required for improvisation in the kitchen.
Seasonal renditions of German spaetzle will be featured on the menu consistently. Chef Snyder provided me with an example of what to expect from this dish during the spring season: parsley dumpling (spaetzle) with roasted mushroom, mustard seed, shallots and foraged greens.
Pitchfork Pretty’s Focus on Community
The leadership trio at Pitchfork Pretty: Baas, Snyder and general manager, Alexander Dubey, is staunchly committed to creating a sociable, community vibe that will allow Pitchfork Pretty to exist harmoniously and unobtrusively within the evolving East Austin neighborhood. “We want people to feel at home,” said Baas, regarding his decision to hire residential architecture firm, Greig-Piercy Collaborative. The A-frame design, exposed trusses and natural materials coalesce to create an ambiance that is visually striking, yet modest.
Top-notch service is Dubey’s main focus, and his ability to deliver is well-reflected in his experience. Dubey held positions in New York City restaurants Mercer Kitchen and 3-Michelin starred Jean-Georges before becoming Service Director of Apis Restaurant and Apiary in Spicewood, Texas. Most recently, he served as general manager of Austin restaurant, Otoko. “I’m eager to apply my style of service to a more casual environment, where guests can expect the same level of detail and quality in a relaxed atmosphere,” Dubey said.
Although Pitchfork Pretty will serve dinner only, there is talk of offering a casual morning cafe service in advance of the opening, where people in the neighborhood can gather and become acquainted with the space over coffee and light breakfast fare. The restaurant will also feature a full bar and a thoughtfully curated wine and cocktail list.
2708 East Cesar Chavez St. – Website
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