ZenFish Poké Bar, Small Restaurant with Big Heart

I met Janet, the owner of ZenFish Poké Bar the same way I met most my new North Carolina friends, on Instagram. We had our first friend date eating noodles and I knew instantly I found a kindred spirit. Shortly after our first friend date, I visited her restaurant!

I always get a little nervous when I try my friends' restaurants. I want to wholeheartedly love and support their endeavors. So I ordered my first sushi burrito at ZenFish Poké Bar during my initial visit, and felt simultaneously relieved and silly for my apprehension because it was fantastic! I've since come back to try their rice bowls and decided I needed more people to know about this small restaurant with a big heart.

ZenFish Poké Bar is a tiny restaurant with so many careful details.

For instance, there are compost and recycle bins on site, which I've grown accustomed to in Austin, but haven't seen much of in restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham area.  Also, Janet cares about supporting other local business, so ZenFish sources its produce from local farms, decorates with plants from Zen Succulent, a Durham business, and rotates out local beers and kombucha on tap. Even the uniforms are chosen with love, with a rainbow uniform option to offer support to the LGBTQ community. I can go on listing out other thoughtful details, but I'll end with the signature bowls and how their names reflect Janet's core values, Compassion, Gratitude, Courage, and Kindness.

If you don't want to order one of their signature bowls, you can always engineer your own bowl, which is what I did. I opted for a rice bowl, but other bowl options are quinoa, zoodles, and salad bowls.  To design your own bowl is quite simple.  First, you pick what kind of bowl you'd like (salad, rice, quinoa, or zoodles). Then, your proteins, toppings, sauces, and crunch. I went for spicy tuna and imitation crab for my proteins and topped with mango, edamame,  seaweed salad, and finally, crispy shallots for crunch! I love that I can feel good about every meal I eat here. The flavors leave me satisfied, the ingredients make me feel like I'm taking care of my body, and the values manifested in every sourcing decision make me feel socially responsible. Win, win, win!

Janet is a petite woman with a big heart and personality. It's not surprising that she is the woman behind a petite restaurant with a big impact on the Durham community! I very much recommend ZenFish Poké Bar!


ZenFish Poké Bar

810 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

Follow my eating adventures and happenings on Instagram. You can also see what is catching my attention in the food world on Twitter and Facebook.

The post ZenFish Poké Bar, Small Restaurant with Big Heart appeared first on Girl Eats World.

Austin Mural Artists Reveal Origins and Inspiration, Part 1

Dazed and Confused Mural in Austin

Artist Mez Data painted this scene from the iconic "Dazed and Confused" film with Austin's sweetheart, Matthew McConaughey, aka Wooderson

Austin's colorful, painted walls, with their murals, signatures, and sayings, can't be missed during any exploration of our city. You can see these large pieces downtown, on the east side and south side, and even at The Domain. Whether with beautiful murals, cheerful street art, or classic graffiti, Austin treats the casual spectator to the urban art of their dreams.

Roshi Mural in Austin

Roshi adds finishing touches to a large mural

This is the first part in a series about Austin's prolific artists working within this massive medium. I'm excited to go behind the scenes with some of my favorite artists in town. For years, I've sought out their art around Austin, both in person and on Instagram. H.O.P.E. Outdoor Gallery on Castle Hill reigned for a few years as the place giant walls came to life and aerosol cans went to die.

I confused graffiti art with street art with murals for years. I reasonably thought anything I saw on the street was "street art." I wasn't way off, but I wasn't quite right either. Like the art they describe, these terms are nuanced and complex. Graffiti art spawned street art. Murals are simply large art pieces painted on walls.

Sloke One Mural in Austin

Racing-inspired mural by Sloke One together with a Mez Data piece

I'll attempt to write as accurately as possible in this series, though I'll go back and forth when speaking big picture. Big picture, get it?

I asked each artist the same questions:

  1. How did you get started painting in such a large medium, and what is the advantage/reward of painting such large pieces?
  2. Why do you believe Austin is a good/supportive city for street art/murals?
  3. Could you describe one of your favorite experiences painting a piece?
  4. What inspires you to paint?
  5. What/who in Austin do you admire or gain inspiration from?

The answers are so interesting that I'm going to leave much of this in the artist's own words.*

Nathan "Sloke One" Nordstrom

Sloke One Mural at Castle Hill HOPE Gallery

When Sloke One hits the walls at Castle Hill, those in the know stop to admire his work

You can't delve far into the urban art scene in Austin without discovering Nathan "Sloke One"Nordstrom. Other artists revere his graffiti art and he's well known for his distinct, yet versatile, lettering style. I've witnessed other talented artists drop what they were doing to watch Sloke One paint.

The native Austinite and near legendary local aerosol hero started nearly 30 years ago, practicing tags and moving through the hierarchy of the street crews. Now he paints sanctioned and paid pieces on walls (and other surfaces) for brands as popular as Nike, Red Bull, and Google.

Sloke One Graffiti Art and Lettering

Other artists look up to Sloke One for his graffiti art and lettering

Austinot: How did you get started painting in such a large medium, and what is the advantage/reward of painting such large pieces?

Sloke One: I started painting Graffiti here in Austin back in 1990….through Hip Hop culture and Skateboarding. I started on the streets with tags, throwups, then moved onto piecing…The goal was to get up as large and as much as I could. Painting on walls and trains, I wasn't limited to the confines of a traditional canvas.

Austinot: Why do you believe Austin is a good/supportive city for street art/murals?

Sloke One: I feel that Austin is slowly changing their attitude toward murals. The city seems more open to street art murals than graffiti though…If the mural is 'cute and friendly' it tends to be more accepted here in Austin.

Austinot: Could you describe one of your favorite experiences painting a piece?

Sloke One: My favorite experiences painting in Austin have been when I get together with friends and create a nice production with no crowds around and cameras, just artists doing their thing.

Sloke One Urban Art in Austin

Sloke One's urban art

Austinot: What inspires you to paint?

Sloke One: What inspires me to paint is the endless drive to progress with the art form I love.

Austinot: What/who in Austin do you admire or gain inspiration from?

Sloke One: I am a native Austinite. I have been here since 1972. I can't seem to move. What gives me inspiration is the foundation I have built here and the endless possibilities that lay ahead.

Website – Instagram

Mez Data

Mez Data Mural in Austin

Mez Data's pieces are mez-merizing, like Red Girl, riding alongside graffiti by Sloke One and Slie

When one thinks of Sloke One, can Mez Data be far behind? Their work is often found together. The local graffiti artist and muralist has risen through the ranks over the past few decades, working side by side with Sloke One and crew.

Mez Data Lemmy Motorhead Mural in Austin

Mez Data painted this tribute to Lemmy after the Motorhead singer's death

Mez Data's style feels like Vermeer meets Hunter S. Thompson meets an aerosol can. He's adept at creating achingly realistic portraits, such as the one of Willie Nelson below. But he often adds a bit of caricature-like exaggeration, like an oversized forehead, gigantic lips, or a third eye. His color palette is uniquely his own, such is his expert use of shading and blending.

Austinot: How did you get started painting in such a large medium, and what is the advantage/reward of painting such large pieces?

Mez Data: I got my start in the mid-nineties writing graffiti. Some…advantages to painting graffiti/murals would be the fact that I'm not just stuck at a desk or easel. I get to be active and see new places…that's not always great in Texas in July and August though. Another reward would be all the awesome people and places I've gotten to know over the years through this art form.

Willie Nelson Mural in Austin by Mez Data

I can practically hear Willie playing his guitar in Mez Data's realistic mural

Austinot: Why do you believe Austin is a good/supportive city for street art/murals?

Mez Data: Austin is a good city for murals/street art because there is a young and open-minded population, with both the residents and businesses. Austin understands that art contributes to a better quality of life.

Austinot: Could you describe one of your favorite experiences painting a piece?

Mez Data: It's always great to paint with my crew and friends at graffiti jams…One of my most pleasurable experiences was my recent painting of [Alamo survivor] Susanna Dickinson and child in Gonzales, Texas. I really enjoyed the tranquility of being in a small town where there wasn't a lot of hustle and bustle, I was able to pop in my headphones and work-it was almost like a mini-vacation. It was also nice to paint something that meant something to the town and it's history as well. Everyone was so nice and loved the positive addition to the town.

Austinot: What inspires you to paint?

Mez Data: Inspired? I'm not sure I'm as inspired as it's more of something I have to do. Art and music are all I've ever done.

Austinot: What/who in Austin do you admire or gain inspiration from?

Mez Data: Sloke, hands down. He has always been a great inspiration and motivator for me; he's got ill style and can control, a true writer…a machine. I'm lucky to call him a friend and honored to rep our city and crews with him."

Website – Instagram

Roshi K

Roshi Mural in Austin

Roshi's women often appear in dreamlike settings

Aw, Roshi! One of Austin's urban art scene queens, Roshi paints her elegant, graceful ladies all over town. It's difficult not to smile upon seeing one of her images adorning a wall. Roshi paints with clean, simple lines, yet manages to imbue each woman she paints with attitude, charm, ferocity, warmth, and sometimes all four. I simply adore her work and the artist herself.

Austinot: How did you get started painting in such a large medium, and what is the advantage/reward of painting such large pieces?

Roshi K: I was the first intern for sprATX and while we were doing events, I would hang around guys like Oblucka, Briks, Jason E, Cask, and Mouf who were doing amazing large scale pieces. I also grew up on the East Coast where graffiti was a natural part of the scenery. Creating large scale pieces myself allows me to amplify the message that I have…

Roshi K Street Artist in Austin

Roshi takes a quick break from painting to rest (Credit: Katie Cowden)

Austinot: Why do you believe Austin is a good/supportive city for street art/murals?

Roshi K: Austin is a good/supportive city for street art/murals because it's still growing. At this point, compared to cities like Philly, Houston, L.A., N.Y., etc., Austin is like a teenager hitting puberty and finally starting to realize what it needs to make itself beautiful. It needs more color and it needs more vibrancy. It strives to be like other large cities all across the US that have already integrated the culture of graffiti and street art into the fabric of the metropolis. The culture and the color has always been here, especially on the East Side but now the rest of the city finally 'gets it'.

Austinot: Could you describe one of your favorite experiences painting a piece?

Roshi K:  I have had quite a few heartwarming experiences, but this recent one takes the cake for being embarrassing. I was painting an interior for a restaurant that is downtown off second street. I had been painting late by myself for a few nights in a row. Every night, I would get up in a scissor lift and sing garbage pop music at the top of my lungs. I'm talking about shower style singing of sugary-sweet pop music, circa 2004…One night, I hear someone yelling hello at me. I look down to find a security guard…It was a little alarming at first because I had locked myself in this unfinished restaurant. He said he'd been listening to me for a few nights in a row and finally decided that he HAD to come say hello…The walls weren't completely sealed on one side of the restaurant. So, next door in the lobby…they could hear EVERY SINGLE NOTE I was singing…I apologized profusely, but he said it was the most entertainment they'd ever gotten…He said he admired my passion and my art…It was silly but it felt nice that my terrible singing turned the night around for a bunch of bored security guards. I would have appreciated it had the tables been turned. I still sang every night after that out of a duty to entertain the security guards.

Roshi K Mural

Another one of Roshi K's striking local ladies

Austinot: What inspires you to paint?

Roshi K: This is a hard one to answer. I paint because I love expressing myself, silently, by painting loudly with the colors on the page. I talked a lot as a kid and I think I gradually learned that it got me in trouble so I started drawing more. I never stopped getting in trouble for my quick, sassy mouth but I did get better at expressing myself on the page. I am inspired by my need to express myself on the page. I have worked through a lot of emotions and hardships by doodling…My sketchbooks are more like diaries than anything else.

Austinot: What/who in Austin do you admire or gain inspiration from?

Roshi K: Man, this…list that could go on forever, but at the top is an artist named Qi Dada of Riders Against the Storm. She is a musician, stylist/jewelry maker, and 1/3 of BodyRockATX. I admire her because she speaks her mind without reservations and she wears the most amazing ensembles as though they were her own skin. She enters the room with a radiance that turns every single head. She doesn't seem to shy away from anyone and she is so graceful. Qi 's presence is heavenly and she reminds me to expand and be myself.

Website – Instagram


Art in the Wild

Austin gives us the goods every day. We are so lucky to have all manner of urban art visible and accessible, to local Austinites and tourists. For people like me, this is one of the reasons I love Austin so fiercely.

My series on Austin muralists is just getting started. Stay tuned for more insight from our amazing local talent.

*I've retained the bulk of each artist's answers, but deleted some text for space. I've also made minor punctuation or spelling edits to keep style consistent.


@jojoaustin wants to know: 

Who is your favorite Austin muralist? 

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post Austin Mural Artists Reveal Origins and Inspiration, Part 1 appeared first on The Austinot

The Austinot Weekend Concert Picks: Jan. 19-20, 2018

Austinot Weekend Concert Picks Jan 19

Welcome to this weekend's concert picks, frozen show-goers! While it feels like we're in a new Ice Age now, this weekend promises warmer temperatures and–as always–incredible live music. We recommend old school ATX punk, trippy '60s-era rock, and a singer/songwriter with an uber-famous collaborator. Stay warm, stay awesome, and stay local!

Friday, Jan. 19

Eastside Suicides Band in Austin

Credit: Eastside Suicides

Eastside Suicides, Terminal Mind, The Ugly Beats, AKAW

@ Beerland (711 Red River St.) – 9 p.m.

If you're into old school Austin punk, this coming Friday at Beerland is your home away from home. Eastside Suicides' 2003 record, "s/t" is a rollicking, driving buzzsaw of post punk. But they haven't released anything since. On the other side of the bill, Terminal Mind was a mainstay of the late '70s/early '80s punk scene. The band's EP, simply titled "No," is classic CBGB-era rock-and-roll, full of hook-heavy harmonies layered atop crunchy punk guitars. Seeing these two legends in person will be a rare treat for ATX music geeks. Backing them up are melodic post-punk act The Ugly Beats and surf rocking AKAW.

Annabelle Chairlegs Band Austin

Annabelle Chairlegs (Credit: David Brendan Hall)

Annabelle Chairlegs, Crypt Trip, more

@ Hotel Vegas (1502 E. 6th St.) – 9 p.m.

Spacey, trippy, and soaked in '60s psychedelia, Annabelle Chairlegs is more than a retro act. Lead vocalist Lindsey Mackin's expressive soprano pierces Matt Schweinberg's trippy guitar and drummer Billy Wong's laid-back rhythm. The result: Joplin melodies with a Black Angels head-swimming soundscape. One of my favorite discoveries from last year's ACL Fest! Backing them up are San Marcos prog rockers Crypt Trip and others.

Saturday, Jan. 20

Shawnee Kilgore Austin Musician

Shawnee Kilgore (Credit: Alex Tinsman)

Shawnee Kilgore, Anna Tivel

@ Cactus Café (2247 Guadalupe St.) – 8 p.m. – Tickets

Austin created, Joss Whedon approved, Shawnee Kilgore's sweet, introspective singer/songwriter sound has garnered fans in high places. And Whedon isn't just a fan who discovered her during a Kickstarted campaign for her first full-length record, "A Long and Precious Road." Her latest EP, "Back to Eden," was co-written by the famous director. Her music more than backs up the celebrity kudos. Touching and bursting with honest emotion, songs like "Back to Eden" and "Love Song" speak of love, dreams, and the harsh reality of unmet expectations. An artist of introspection and beauty.


@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:

Where are you going for live, local music this weekend in Austin?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post The Austinot Weekend Concert Picks: Jan. 19-20, 2018 appeared first on The Austinot

Get Fit and Fearless With Krav Maga Classes in Austin

Self Defense Classes in Austin at Krav Maga

Krav Maga students learned how to defend against real-world scenarios at an edged weapons seminar

When I moved out of my parents' home to the Live Music Capital of the World, my dad insisted I take a few Krav Maga classes to learn self-defense. I conceded it was a good skill to have and began the search, despite my intense desire to avoid anything involving physical activity. I stumbled upon Fit and Fearless, signed up for my one free class, and had the experience of a lifetime.

What Is Fit and Fearless?

Women Only Krav Maga in Austin

There is a Womens Only Krav Maga session every Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. The first Wednesday of the month is free and open to anyone who identifies as female.

Fit and Fearless opened in 2002 to provide self-defense and fighting classes to the Austin public. The local business offers programs that inspire and instill self-confidence in students of all ages, while giving them knowledge on how to defend against real-world threats. With over 60 classes a week, the facility allows students to take classes that match their current skill level and go at their own pace.

Beyond weekly classes, Fit and Fearless hosts seminars every quarter to address scenarios such as active shooters or attackers with weapons. Once a year, when possible, the venue invites world-renowned Darren Levine to a seminar, to teach the latest and greatest Krav Maga methods law enforcement officers are using.

Fit and Fearless focuses on creating a safe and welcoming environment for all who walk through the doors, from those new to Austin or military personnel.

Krav Maga Self-defense

Krav Maga Self Defense for Kids in Austin

Children as young as 4 years old can participate in Krav Maga classes

Fit and Fearless is well-known for its Krav Maga program. Krav Maga is the official self-defense system for the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as some of the elite military and law enforcement agencies in the United States. Krav Maga students learn strikes, how to defend against common threats, and physical conditioning. And, boy, it is a total body workout! You may be a little sore the next day (I was!), but the end result is great.

Krav Maga also provides a sense of empowerment you wouldn't get by just going to the gym. Hopefully you will never face someone trying to choke you or attack you with a knife taped to their hand. But Jessica Phillips, co-owner and Krav Maga instructor, says taking these courses helps people realize they have a switch inside that can be pushed at any time, allowing them to defend themselves as necessary.

Classes are split between youth sessions, where children as young as four can participate, and adults. Fit and Fearless also provides a Women Only class every Wednesday.The first Wednesday of the month is a special free session open to the public, for anyone who identifies as female.

Group Fitness

Fit and Fearless Yoga in Austin

Fit and Fearless provides a number of group fitness classes, including yoga sessions to improve flexibility and core stability

If you're not ready to take on Krav Maga yet, there are other options for you. Fit and Fearless offers a variety of group fitness classes that are just as much of a workout, including combative conditioning, kickboxing, and KravFit training (Crossfit without Olympic Lifting).

The facility also provides a Yoga and Mobility & Meditation class, that focuses on improving flexibility of the muscles and core stability.

Mixed Martial Arts

If you want to learn fighting skills outside of Krav Maga, then you should check out the mixed martial arts classes (MMA) on site. Classes range from ground fighting (Jiu Jitsu), to sparring, to kickboxing. These MMA classes really help build your body strength.

With its recent move to an 8,000-square-foot facility, Fit and Fearless offers plenty of room to fit all of these different programs into your schedule. The grand re-opening is Jan. 27, 2018, with free children and adult classes.

If you can't make the party, don't worry. Fit and Fearless lets you test the waters of the program you're interested in with one free class.

3701 Drossett Dr. #140 – Website


@theAustinot wants to know:

Have you taken a Krav Maga class before?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post Get Fit and Fearless With Krav Maga Classes in Austin appeared first on The Austinot

Austin Hip Hop Artist SaulPaul Moves From Prison to Positive Thinking

SaulPaul Live on Stage

SaulPaul in his element (Credit: SaulPaul)

When I met SaulPaul at Bennu Coffee on South Congress at Riverside, it was the tail end of a hectic day. Forty-five minutes later, a perma-smile was plastered to my face. When you spend time with genuinely positive people, that's just what happens.

Not only is this master of the mic making major waves in the music scene locally and nationally, but he's doing it with a spirit of generosity and positive thinking. A man with a fascinating story reflected beautifully in his craft, SaulPaul is an artist worth emulating.

SaulPaul: Tale of Two Lives

SaulPaul Hip Hop Artist for Good

Credit: SaulPaul

SaulPaul's story begins in a rough neighborhood in Houston. Parentless by the time he was three, SaulPaul found refuge in the arms of his grandmother. She took the reins, teaching him valuable lessons about faith, education, and living life the right way. SaulPaul's dedication and talent earned him a scholarship to The University of Texas at Austin.

But things didn't go perfectly at UT. SaulPaul fell in with the wrong crowd, partied like a rock star, and flunked out. Not soon after, he was convicted of four felonies and sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

"In prison, I had an epiphany," SaulPaul shared with me. "Life is the sum total of all the choices you make. I owned it. I made bad choices and got bad results, so I decided to make good choices to get good results."

Good choices earned him early parole and a trip back to UT, where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA. And while he spent much of his life freestyling on the streets of Houston, it wasn't until his second stint in college that he discovered his gift for music.

Neck Snapping Beats and Touching Guitar

SaulPaul With Guitar

Credit: SaulPaul

Much like his life, SaulPaul is a tale of two musical styles. On one hand, you have classic Houston hip hop demonstrated on his first full-length record, "Get Ya Mind Right." Songs like "I Remember" conjure images of lowriders, friends on front stoops, and hazy, humid Houston afternoons.

The other side of his musical personality is "acoustic hip hop." By incorporating guitar licks to his laid-back, easy-does-it flow, SaulPaul injects intimacy and authenticity into his music. The result is universally enjoyable hip hop. From small clubs, to board rooms, to folk festivals, music fans of all types and stripes can appreciate this new direction.

The narrative thread tying SaulPaul's music together is bare honesty. From the opening track of his debut full-length, he tells his story through tight rhymes and clever wordplay. The record breaks genre conventions by staying clean and tidy: no cursing, glorification of violence, or objectifying women. Just lyrics and rhymes straight from the heart.

SaulPaul's latest record, "We Dream in 3D," is a compilation of remixed tracks from 2016's wonderful "Tower to Tower 2" and new compositions. Currently number one on SirusXM's Kids Place Live charts, "Rise" is the record's standout track. Featuring the sensational vocal talents of 11-year-old Alexia Finney, "Rise" contains an empowering message kids not only need to hear, but also live.

Other must-listen tracks include the devotional "Mama," dedicated to SaulPaul's grandmother, and "Be The Change." And for those hungry for the artist's old school Houston jams, "Do That Hula Hoop" and "Texas Two Step" more than fit the bill.

➡ Keep reading: "Austin Mic Exchange Is Training Ground for Local Hip Hop Artists"

Music With a Message

A post shared by SaulPaul (@saulpaul) on

But it's not all about chart success. SaulPaul's heart leans more towards touching people, telling his story, and sharing his message.

"I don't worry about Spotify streams; I want to modify dreams," he shared. "I want to go platinum in person instead of selling a million records."

SaulPaul's heart for proclaiming his message of positivity, empowerment, and reaching for the stars has taken him to extraordinary places. He's conducted two TED Talks, performed during the SXSW conference, and has even played at the Superbowl. SaulPaul also serves as a Texas Governor for the Recording Academy and is an official Creative Ambassador for the city of Austin.

Of all his achievements and projects, the DreamIn3D Music and Arts Festival is near and dear to his heart. Essentially, it's ACL Fest for teenagers. The program goes to low income schools and presents a full festival experience for students, including sound equipment, stages, lighting, and a platform for kids to showcase their skills. And what does the school need to do? Nothing but provide a field big enough to hold the event.

SaulPaul's accolades and accomplishments go on and on. A rare blend of vocal chops and musicianship, all fueled by a passion for spreading positivity and empowerment. Come for the jams and stay for the message. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

To learn more about SaulPaul's story, message, and upcoming tour, visit saulpaul.com.


@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:

Who are your heroes of the Austin hip hop scene?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post Austin Hip Hop Artist SaulPaul Moves From Prison to Positive Thinking appeared first on The Austinot

Family and Interior Mexican Cuisine Are Heart and Soul of Licha's Cantina

Licha's Cantina Mexican in East Austin

Licha's Cantina's colorful exterior welcomes you to the heart of East Sixth Street

I tend to be drawn to people and places that radiate a positive energy. Add delicious food to that, and I'm a loyal and devoted regular.

When you first walk into the old bungalow that is Licha's Cantina, you don't feel like you're in a restaurant at all. You feel as though you're in someone's home. The interior is cozy and dimly lit, and there's music playing in the background. There is heart and soul, and the energy makes you feel good.

Somehow you know you're about to sit down to a delicious and comforting meal, like you're at a family dinner.

"Make It With Soul, Make It With Love"

Licha's Cantina Chile Relleno en Nogada

Licha's offers beautiful creations like Chile Relleno en Nogada (Credit: Allison Brooks)

Family is the inspiration behind Licha's Cantina. The restaurant is named after owner Daniel Brooks' mother, Licha. The menu pays homage to interior Mexican cuisine and Mexico City street food. The dishes are simple, yet full of flavor. The eatery's operation is a labor of love, and you can taste it in any dish you try.

According to Brooks, food was always an important part of his childhood and everyday life. His paternal grandmother was a trained chef and extremely skillful in the kitchen. His maternal grandmother was able to make something out of nothing to feed 30 people. Brooks feels this confluence is represented in Licha's menu. When he speaks about cooking, he says, "Make it with soul, make it with love."

Fresh Produce and Slow-cooked Meats

If you've ever caught a glimpse of Licha's kitchen, then you'd know it's very small. But you'd never know it with the amount of food it produces. Licha's prides itself on the fact that everything is made in-house. Prep occurs during the day, with meats brined then braised slowly. All of the masa products are made on site.

On any given weekend, Friday through Sunday, approximately 3,000 tortillas are made. And when Brooks says everything is made by hand, he means it. There are no machines used in the kitchen, just dedicated kitchen staff.

Al Pastor Tacos at Licha's Cantina

Al pastor tacos are a popular menu item at Licha's Cantina (Credit: Allison Brooks)

Produce also shines on Licha's menu. Brooks says some of the best parts of Mexico are the beautiful outdoor markets. Because of this, there are several vegetarian options on the menu.

One of my favorite vegetarian dishes is camote. This dish has roasted sweet potatoes served with goat cheese, piloncillo-chipotle sauce, herb salad, pumpkin seeds, and sweet milk.

Licha's uses ingredients in unexpected ways. You can find hibiscus flowers in a quesadilla, but also in the chile relleno with quinoa. If you've never tasted a hibiscus flower, they are delicious and pair well with savory flavors.

➡ Keep reading: "Eat Your Way Down Walkable East Sixth Street With 7 Eclectic Restaurants"

Menu Highlights at Licha's Cantina

Pulpo y Camaron at Licha's Cantina

Pulpo y Camaron a la Plancha features octopus and shrimp with white beans, chorizo, and bacon (Credit: Allison Brooks)

On a recent visit to Licha's Cantina, I asked my server for recommendations. Some of the more popular items include:

  • Alambre tacos – Skirt steak with bacon, queso asadero, peppers, and onions
  • Al pastor tacos – Marinated roasted pork with pineapple and onions
  • Huachinango Tikin Xic – Red snapper served with spicy potatoes, chorizo, and Swiss chard salad

Any of the sopecitos, white corn masa cups layered with black beans and your choice of meat, are great to snack on. The Cochinita Pibil, braised pork with pickled red onion, is full of flavor. You can taste that it was seasoned just right and braised slow all day.

As far as cocktails, Licha's Cantina has an affinity for distilled agave products. While you can find your tequilas and mescales, you can also find a large selection of bacanoras and sotoles. You can find both classic cocktails and modern fusion drinks on the menu. And just like everything else at Licha's, even the juices for the margaritas and palomas are fresh, hand-squeezed daily.

Mahi Mahi at Licha's Cantina in Austin

Mahi Mahi a la Plancha, seared mahi mahi with hominy and rice in a pozole broth (Credit: Allison Brooks)

One of the best times to explore the menu is during happy hour. All items on the happy hour menu, including a number of signature cocktails, are $5. Food portions are big enough to share.

Licha's Cantina has been serving the Austin community for four years. If you have an opportunity to sit down and talk to owner Daniel Brooks, he'll tell you the restaurant has a lot of soul and a positive energy.

When asked about eventually expanding to a second location, he told me, "I don't know if I could replicate the same feeling at a second location." But that doesn't mean there won't be a second location in the near future. There's something truly special about Licha's. After one visit, you'll be planning your next appearance as soon as possible.

1306 East 6th St. – Website


@amandalgagnon wants to know:

Have you been to Licha's Cantina? What is your favorite dish there?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post Family and Interior Mexican Cuisine Are Heart and Soul of Licha's Cantina appeared first on The Austinot

9 Austin Bars With Winter Drinks to Try This Year

Geraldine's Winter Drinks in Austin

Imagine your ideal winter wonderland with a hot winter drink in hand (Credit: Sarah Jacober Spitzer for Geraldine's)

Winter weather in Texas is consistent in one aspect: its inconsistency. Regardless of the weather outdoors, here are 9 Austin bars offering winter drinks for any type of weather.

Thank you to backYARD at Waller Creek, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, Celis Brewery, and Uncle Billy's for inviting me to try complimentary winter drinks. All opinions are my own.

1/ backYARD at Waller Creek

backYARD Waller Creek Whisky Sour Russian Gingerbread

Introduced during the holiday season, the Cranberry Whiskey Sour and Russian Gingerbread are still available this winter

backYARD at Waller Creek boasts a bar, restaurant, and 11,500-square-feet of outdoor space. It's located within the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol and well-suited for parties of any size.

backYARD's Russian Gingerbread is a twist on the classic White Russian. It features Tito's Handmade Vodka, cafecito, and egg nog. For a fruitier drink, try the Cranberry Whiskey Sour. The cranberry-cinnamon simple syrup and housemade sours create a refreshing cocktail that tastes festive without being heavy.

The bar has a new daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Live music performances have also been announced for every Wednesday, and Friday through Sunday, during the month of January.

701 E. 11th St. – Website

2/ Boiler Nine Bar + Grill

Boiler Nine Bar Grill Secret Menu Winter Drinks

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill has a couple of secret menu winter drinks available with your choice of spirit

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill has a couple of secret winter drinks that aren't listed on the menu. The Chai Masala Hot Toddy can be suited to your taste, made with bourbon, aged rum, or cupreata mezcal.

For dessert, ask for the hot chocolate and add a spirit of your choice. My bartender recommended adding Amarula Cream. Result: a warm, boozy hot chocolate that tasted like those large candy chocolate-covered oranges. Delish!

800 W. Cesar Chavez St. – Website

3/ Celis Brewery

Celis Dubbel Coffee Porter Winter Drink

Celis Dubbel Coffee Porter is infused with coffee from Summer Moon Coffee Bar (Credit: Celis Brewery)

Known for its Belgium witbeer, Celis Brewery's Coffee Porter Dubbel diversifies the draft lineup. The winter brew is a dark caramel malt made with Belgian dubbel yeast, resulting in a robust, yet smooth, porter with a subtle chocolate flavor.

10001 Metric Blvd. – Website

4/ Freedmen's

Freedmen's Bar Dessert Cocktails

Freedmen's offers several seasonal cocktails that are perfect for dessert

In my mind, winter = whiskey, so Freedmen's seems like a natural place to go. On my latest visit, I ventured beyond my typical whiskey on the rocks. Try the Pie in the Sky (my friend's favorite) or the Bourbon Milk Punch (my dessert cocktail preference). Both are sweet without being overly syrupy or heavy.

2402 San Gabriel St. – Website

5/ Geraldine's

Geraldines Hot Toddy Special Presentation

By request only, Geraldine's makes a hot toddy fancy with a special presentation

A few weeks ago, I did a birthday staycation at Hotel Van Zandt and met some friends at Geraldine's for dessert. The Brown Sugar tastes similar to bread pudding and features a brown butter-washed Plantation Pineapple Rum, perfect for sipping when you're too full to eat.

If Asher is working at the bar and it's not terribly busy, ask him for a Hot Toddy with special presentation (pro tip: add a cinnamon stick). He'll bring out an individual make-your-own Hot Toddy bar.

605 Davis St., 4th Fl. – Website

6/ Prohibition Creamery

Prohibition Creamery Winter Cocktails and Ice Cream

Prohibition Creamery offers a variety of yummy, boozy cocktails and ice creams

Another great place for boozy dessert cocktails and ice cream is Prohibition Creamery. The Diablo Hot Chocolate is incredible. It's made with Patron Incendio and a chocolate blend, topped with homemade whipped cream and honey marshmallows. The Spiced Chocolate Old Fashioned is a twist on a classic with chocolate bitters and habanero shrub.

If you didn't get your eggnog fix during the holidays, fill it with Prohibition's Eggnog Ice Cream (alcoholic). The Mezcal Vanilla Ice Cream is a standout, as well.

My friend's Casino Nights cocktail was a refreshing drink unlike anything else I've tasted. With activated charcoal, its ingredients aren't commonly seen. It's a drink that's more crisp than sweet. Just make sure to stir it, so the charcoal isn't all at the bottom.

1407 E. 7th St. – Website

7/ Swift's Attic

Swift's Attic Creative Cocktails

Swift's Attic serves cocktails as creative as its small plates (Credit: Brittany Highland)

With an eclectic menu, it's no surprise the cocktail menu at Swift's Attic is just as creative. Winter cocktails include Fuzzy Boots, combining Old Forrester Bourbon, pumpkin pie simple, cream, and nutmeg.

The Fig Pucker is a tarter drink with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, pecan vinegar, fig jam, and cinnamon simple. Swift's Attic has a convenient location on Congress Avenue, making it a great winter hideout downtown.

315 Congress Ave. – Website

8/ Treaty Oak

Treaty Oak has a couple of new drinks to try this winter. The Pomme Cidre can be served hot or cold, and features Waterloo Antique Gin and fresh apple juice with a winter spiced syrup.

The Orxata has a housemade jasmine rice milk, warm spices with vanilla, and is served over your choice of bourbon or rum. With Treaty Oak's Ghost Hill Restaurant providing more indoor space, enjoy these drinks during any type of winter weather.

16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs – Website

9/ Uncle Billy's Brewery

Uncle Billy's Shokolad Belsnickel Limited Quantities

Shokolad Russian Imperial Stout and Belsnickel Holiday Ale are available in limited quantities this winter (Credit: Uncle Billy's)

Austin's craft beer scene has several standout brews this year and Uncle Billy's is on the list. Its Shokolad Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout returns for a second season, with cocoa nips from SRSLY Chocolate added to the brew.

For a spiced Belgian amber, try the Belsnickel Holiday Ale. With several different spices, it's a well-balanced and highly drinkable winter brew that's only available for a limited time.

1530 Barton Springs Road – Website


@theAustinot wants to know:

What are your favorite winter drinks in Austin?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post 9 Austin Bars With Winter Drinks to Try This Year appeared first on The Austinot

Terminally Ill Patients Receive Gift of Music From Nonprofit Swan Songs

Ruthie Foster at Swan Songs Serenade

Austin musician Ruthie Foster performs at 2017 Swan Song Serenade for the terminally ill
(Credit: Winker Withaneye)

Never underestimate the healing power of music, even if it only lasts for a brief moment. Songs can uplift our moods and move us through difficult times. The gift of music can be so powerful, it can transport us to a different place, entirely.

Music can also bring people together. It may also bring solace to friends and families of loved ones who are terminally ill. Swan Songs, a local nonprofit in Austin, is striving to accomplish just that, and the process is simpler than you might expect.

How Swan Songs Began

Christine Albert Swan Songs

Christine Albert, founder and president of the Austin nonprofit, at 2017 Swan Song Serenade
(Credit: Winker Withaneye)

Musician Christine Albert, founder and president of Swan Songs, has been part of the local Austin music scene for many years. When she was asked to sing for a dying friend, she realized what a moving experience it was. Not only for her, but for her friend and family members, as well.

Albert wondered whether there were others in the Austin community who would benefit from musical performances in their final days. A city like Austin, where live music and local musicians are treasured, seemed like a great place to start the initiative. In 2005, Albert took a leap of faith and Swan Songs was born.

Swan Songs was very informal, at first, but it has been steadily growing. This past year, Swan Songs received approximately 245 requests for musical performance. According to Albert, there has not been a request the organization has been unable to fill.

Specific requests have been made, including for heavy metal, Japanese music, Lithuanian accordion, and the ever popular mariachi music. When a request comes in, Swan Songs searches for a musician to fulfill it.

What to Expect

A concert through Swan Songs is an intimate experience. It's recommended that the patient is still in a comfortable state, so the event does not create added stress. The concert typically takes place at a residence or care facility that has a level of care to keep the patient comfortable. The musician or musicians, up to a quartet, will play acoustically or unplugged. Most concerts last between 30 and 45 minutes.

➡ Keep reading: "The Austin Center for Grief & Loss Marks 10 Years of Counseling and Support"

How Do I Request a Concert?

Swan Songs makes the process of requesting a concert as easy as possible for the patient and family. You can access the request form on the organization website, which is linked below. Once the form is submitted, the family will be contacted and a musician will be found to perform.

Swan Songs wants to stress how easy the process is, and that it is not at all cumbersome. Since Albert and her team realize how overwhelmed a family can be during their difficult time, Swan Songs takes the load off so they too can enjoy the gift of music.

What Can I Do to Help?

Swan Songs works with local musicians, but concerts are free of charge to patients and their families. The organization is funded by donations and there are several events throughout the year to help with fundraising. Some of the events include:

  • Swan Song Serenade – Annual event that includes live and silent auctions, seated dinner, and concert benefiting Swan Songs.
  • Remember & Reflect – Memorial gathering to remember those who participated in Swan Songs and have since passed.
  • AMP UP for Swan Songs – Swan Songs takes part in Amplify Austin, the community-wide day of online giving.

Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated. The organization has moved into an office space and is seeking administrative help. Volunteers are also needed during Swan Songs Serenade and other events. Individuals may also help by acting as a liaison at the concert, facilitating between the patient, musician, family members, and caregivers.

Future of Swan Songs

While Swan Songs has been requested to perform in other venues, such as nursing homes, the nonprofit is committed to keeping its focus as an end of life program. The organization's vision includes creating a way for other communities to start their own Swan Songs programs.

To learn more about Swan Songs, how to request a concert, and volunteer opportunities, visit its website.


@theAustinot wants to know:

If you were to design a concert for a loved one, what would it be like?

We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It's where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!

The post Terminally Ill Patients Receive Gift of Music From Nonprofit Swan Songs appeared first on The Austinot