Guest article by Joleen Jernigan
If the one constant in life is change (to loosely paraphrase Heraclitus), then Austin is as constant as they come, changing monthly to accommodate rapid growth. So it’s a genuine pleasure to find three shiny, new South Austin hangouts that honor the laid-back feel of old Austin. At least in this case, change is good.
1/ Toss Pizzeria & Pub
Walking into Toss Pizzeria & Pub on South 1st Street, I couldn’t help but smile. The place offered a positive energy right off the bat, busy but casual. I immediately sensed the love, labor and care put into opening this already bustling hangout by owners Justin DeLaCruz, John Pennington (previously with Southside Flying Pizza and Winflo), Jace Pirtle (previously with Tiff’s Treats) and General Manager Payton McGee.
I sat at one of several wooden tables inside, each table handmade locally. Standouts from the menu included the stuffed pretzel, stuffed with bacon (bacon, y’all), duck meatballs and the Quattro Formaggi pizza with added arugula as suggested by my server. Another early favorite is the Pork Belly Carbonara pizza that hits all the right notes. A standard at pizza joints, the Margherita pie impresses with huge roasted garlic cloves that elevate it to anything but basic.
Toss serves up New York-style pizza and local libations from Hops & Grain, Live Oak, Austin Beerworks, Austin Eastciders, Deep Eddy and Tito’s. The service is casual but attentive, and the servers are eager to offer tips on their favorite cocktails and dishes. A refreshing summer drink is the Loose Goose, with fresh watermelon juice, muddled basil and Grey Goose. The tasty house margaritas are made with freshly-squeezed juice, and you can up the ante with house-infused tequila floaters in roasted pineapple and jalapeño, strawberry and basil, or cucumber and mint.
On the patio, sit at a table in the shade or play darts, washers or cornhole on the synthetic turf that is equally kind to dogs’ paws and crawling toddlers. While Toss has been open and operating since June 30, they held their official grand opening on July 28 as a fundraiser for Austin Pets Alive! They sold $3 slices of pizza all night, raising around $3,000 for the animal rescue. DeLaCruz explained that they all felt strongly about giving back to the Austin community, as they plan to be here for a long time. Welcome, Toss!
2901 S. 1st St. – Facebook
2/ The Little Darlin’
You had me at the sheer Texasness of the name. I am happy to report that The Little Darlin’ lives up to the charm and warmth of its moniker. Tucked away on a side street off South Congress and William Cannon, The Little Darlin’ feels like a cool discovery, adding a fresh element to the scene south of Ben White.
The first impression you get walking in is that of a classic dive bar prettied up with fresh paint, cool metallic trim and new tables. You walk up to the bar to order both food and drinks from the efficient and friendly bartenders. The big surprise, and the most delightful element of the place, is the expansive backyard. It has plenty of that most precious of all Austin commodities: shade, covering the picnic tables where most patrons tend to hang out, even in the middle of summer. The sunny part of the yard is set up with washers, horseshoes, porch swings, a second bar for peak times, and an—as yet—unused stage.
The underlying atmosphere is chill and dog-friendly, and the patrons and their pooches seem relaxed in the shade. The menu, rotated out regularly, provides hearty fare for carnivores and vegetarians alike. My recent favorites include the traditional roasted street corn, horseradish pork sliders with a habanero honey glaze and blue cheese sauce, and spicy meatballs made with piperade pepper and yogurt sauces.
The owners, Mike and Karinne Sanchez (Mike was previously a manager at Emo’s), Mimi Rose (also a partner at Yellowjacket Social Club), and Brian Buscemi, felt that this part of South Austin would welcome a new hangout like theirs. Judging from the crowd, I would say they made a good bet. The Little Darlin’ officially opened on April 22, inviting friends, family and community members to come check them out and spread the word. Welcome, The Little Darlin’!
6507 Circle S Road – Facebook
Editor’s Note: Delicious closed in July 2017.
This bright, cheery restaurant/gourmet grocery store/wine and beer bar is a welcome addition to the Lamar Union complex on South Lamar. Delicious flaunts its love of local fare, from the chalk board list of local farms supplying their seasonal ingredients, to a selection of Austin beer including 512, Independence and Austin Beerworks, to infused bottled water from Austin’s Sway and Eslena, and JuiceLand blends in the cooler.
Owner Raj Singh is no stranger to South Austin, as he owns a similar concept, Live Oak Market on Manchaca, and has been a resident of Austin for decades. As I spoke to manager Evan Miller (previously with Via 313) and Executive Chef Tyler Johnson (previously with Bacon), their passion for the venture, food, wine and even the groceries they offer was apparent. The team comes across as a group of like-minded service professionals who exude enthusiasm and expertise in equal measures.
My friends and I were impressed with the delicate flavors of the tune poke, beautifully wrapped in avocado, and served with housemade potato chips that were crispy and airy. For breakfast, I recommend the green chorizo and egg breakfast taco. This chorizo, typical of central Mexico, is made from scratch here, and is ground with green chilies for a good flavor and less grease than the more common red chorizo.
The queso has a show-stopping presentation. House red salsa, cheddar cheese and milk are broken down and, through the magic of a skilled hand and creativity in the kitchen, are turned into “chile con queso whiz,” served from a nitrous pump that is fun to watch. The queso does indeed come out looking like a “whiz” and then settles into a creamy mixture. Pro tip: Add the housemade pepper sauce for extra oomph. Welcome, Delicious!
1100 S. Lamar Blvd. Suite 1105 – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are your favorite South Austin hangouts, old or new?
Joleen Jernigan is a native Texan, world traveler, writer and lover of all things Austin. Food and drinks are particular passions of hers, and she is the co-founder of Taste ATX with Ketan Patel.