Owner ‘tapping into the market’ of Northwest Hills
While all dogs can go to heaven, owner James Durnil said diners who want well-priced, creative takes on culinary classics can go to Austin Terrier.
The Northwest Hills restaurant celebrated its one-year anniversary Nov. 15 with cheap beer and free cupcakes. After fetching a loyal clientele and an Austin Chronicle Readers Choice Award for Best Kept Secret in its first year, Durnil said he hopes the restauraut can keep the momentum going forward.
“[Austin Terrier is] looking to fill the void of a place where people can go in this economic time where you can get a quality meal, a quality drink in a quality environment with good service at a price that people can feel justified spending,” he said.
Whether it is using pesto as a pizza sauce or having Parmesan and truffles on french fries, Austin Terrier puts its own spins on standard dishes. The restaurant also has an extensive drink list with rotating craft beers.
Durnil said he spent the first year of Austin Terrier focused on attracting people who lived or worked in the surrounding neighborhood, which includes a large number of singles, young families and community organizations. The craft beer list and drink menu are aimed at satisfying customers in their 20s or 30s, while the food menu is designed to appeal to a whole family, he said.
“The big thing is just tapping into a market that is receptive to the food and the environment you are trying to offer, and I think this neighborhood has been really receptive to it,” Durnil said.
Durnil is now looking to expand the restaurant’s reach beyond the surrounding neighborhood. Bringing in customers for the first six months is easy, but bringing in new people as the years go on is the challenge, he said.
“You hope that you seep out a little bit and reach more people on a regular basis,” he said.
Unlike most restaurant owners, Durnil had little background in working in restaurants before opening Austin Terrier. Durnil spent much of his professional career in consulting and politics.
Before opening Austin Terrier, Durnil consulted with numerous restaurant owners and chefs to get their advice. Durnil spent several years planning Austin Terrier, and despite some skepticism from the people he talked with, said he decided the concept could work.
“You have to go into it knowing yourself and knowing what you are capable of, and being resilient,” he said. “There are plenty of times when it gets tough.”
Northwest Hills resident Wayne Allen said an affordable, tasty restaurant in his neighborhood has been greatly appreciated.
“I come here at least several times a month,” he said. “I feel like I get my money’s worth here.”
Trio of Fries: The appetizer pairs three types of french fries—sweet potato, truffle and Parmesan, and paprika and mustard—with two types of dipping sauces. $5.95
Hutch sandwich: The hot sandwich is made with chicken breast, lettuce, marinated tomatoes, onions, olives, pesto mayonnaise and feta cheese. $6.95
Willie pizza: The specialty pie comes with sausage, red onions, jalapeos and black olives. $7.95
True to its name, Austin Terrier is both dog-friendly and dog-themed.
The restaurant’s interior has colorful dog murals, and many menu items are named after owner James Durnil’s friends’ dogs, such as Buster, Hutch and Jackson. Durnil said having a dog-themed restaurant was a no-brainer.
“I wanted to do something that embraces Austin, and everyone in Austin loves dogs,” he said. “I thought the theme would be fun.”
In addition to the dog theme, Austin Terrier’s patio is dog-friendly. Durnil, the owner of a Labrador retriever named Getty, said people bring their dogs to the patio on a daily basis.
“Lots of people walk down from the neighborhood, bring their dogs and hang out on the patio,” he said. “It’s been very popular.”
Austin Terrier,3435 Greystone Drive, 512-369-3751, www.austinterrier.com