Best of 2021: 10 dining features from Lake Travis-Westlake and surrounding areas

Restaurant General Manager Abdiel Rodriguez and Haus Group Business Partner Jane Ko sit in one of the shared spaces for Me So Poke and Tea Haus. (Photos by Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Restaurant General Manager Abdiel Rodriguez and Haus Group Business Partner Jane Ko sit in one of the shared spaces for Me So Poke and Tea Haus. (Photos by Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)

Restaurant General Manager Abdiel Rodriguez and Haus Group Business Partner Jane Ko sit in one of the shared spaces for Me So Poke and Tea Haus. (Photos by Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)

Here is a roundup of dining features that appeared in the Lake Travis-Westlake edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2021.



January

New York natives serve traditional pies in Texas

Leah and Mark Mirra relocated from Albany, New York, to the Lake Travis region three years ago and immediately loved the area. Still, the Mirras said they could not help but miss one thing about home—New York-style pizza. When Gatti’s Pizza closed its location in the Four Points area, the husband and wife team decided to make the career shift from property management professionals to pizzeria owners.


March

Me So Poke brings affordable option to traditional sushi lovers

The restaurant’s name refers to the centerpiece of the eatery’s menu—the poke (pronounced poh-keh) bowl. The style of cuisine originates from Hawaii. Customers can build their bowls in steps, starting with a base layer with options of rice, kale, quinoa or spring greens. They then move on to a choice of sauce, an array of vegetables and fruit, and a protein of either tuna or salmon. Tofu is offered as a vegetarian option.

May

Owners of Westlake bakery appreciate long-lived community ties

At Great Harvest Bread Co. the art of making and selling a fundamental food such as bread continues to resonate with those living and working in the surrounding Westlake community. The shop has been located at the West Woods Shopping Center in West Lake Hills near the intersection of Bee Cave Road and Walsh Tarlton Lane since 1992. Today, the locally-owned franchise is operated by Gisela Hernandez and her husband, Juan Maldonado.

June

Landmark Briarcliff diner serves up diverse menu

The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge sits on an upper bend of Lake Travis near the Pedernales River. But the landmark eatery is equally connected to the hungry neighbors of the surrounding community of Briarcliff and campers at Pace Bend Park as it is to the waves of hungry boaters who dock at the adjacent marina and boat slips. The menu covers a range of tastes and culinary styles of cooking.

August

Ellera & The Garden at Ellera offer dual dining experience at a single location

Restaurateur and Boston native Chris Meroff offers two for one in Bee Cave, but not in the way one might expect. It is not the price, but the experience. For those seeking upscale dining, there is Ellera, and for those looking for dining for the whole family, there is The Garden at Ellera. Having spent 10 years in Italy, Head Chef Tim Lane said he has helped organize a team committed to providing authentic dining that emphasizes Italian, not Italian American, culinary traditions.

September

The Gramercy: Lakeway restaurant brings style of the big city lounge to the Hill Country

With its darkly painted walls, artwork, couches and lounge music, The Gramercy restaurant might seem out of step with the retail shops and grab-and-go eateries around it, but owner Billy-Joe Hunt said that is the idea. Hunt and his wife, Suzanne, opened their business in October 2020 to not simply run a restaurant but also a bar and lounge that pays homage to the big city boutique hotels and bars Hunt said he grew up around in his hometown. The style of the venue, with its art deco color scheme, pulls heavily from the 1920s, Hunt said.

Regional Dining

August

Kerbey Lane Cafe serves the Austin community with 'family feeling'

Managing Partner Jon Haben and Kerbey Lane Cafe’s University location have one thing in common: a history of seeing customers and employees through decades of life. Having worked for Kerbey Lane Cafe for 14 years, Haben’s career shifted from serving comfort food to fine dining at resorts and hotels, including The Driskill Hotel, before returning to become general manager of the University location on Guadalupe Street. Kerbey Lane Cafe has opened seven other locations since its inception. Four of those locations reside in the Southwest and Central Austin areas, each with their own unique styles.

September

Cajun Skillet serves layered New Orleans flavors in Cedar Park

In New Orleans, Steven and Shantrese Gillam’s home was “the hub for everything,” they said. Some party guests said the food served was so good they thought it was catered. When the Gillams moved to Texas in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, they brought their love of cooking and hosting traditions. Cajun Skillet opened in 2016 for catering, and a food truck was later added to bring their food to different communities. In September 2020, Cajun Skillet’s brick-and-mortar location opened as a result of their food truck success.

October

Two brothers open Cooper’s Sandwiches in South Austin to celebrate dogs

When Albert Demi and his wife, Melanie, adopted Cooper in college, the retriever would not eat. Then, one day he stole a bite of their sandwich, and it seemed like his entire demeanor changed. Years later, when Albert and his brother, Agon, had the opportunity to rent the commercial space next to their parents’ restaurant, they knew what it had to be—sandwiches in Cooper’s honor. Each of their sandwiches exemplifies one of the family’s dogs.

November

Pitmaster turns focus from sandwiches to smoked meats in Northwest Austin

John Bates, owner of InterStellar BBQ, said he has been in the food industry for 30 years. After working as a chef, Bates opened Noble Sandwich Co. in 2010 a half-mile down the road from InterStellar BBQ, which is at 12233 N. RM 620, Austin. After Texas Monthly published its November 2021 article ranking InterStellar BBQ second out of 50 of the best barbecue restaurants in Texas, Bates said he is seeing more than the regulars throughout the week and families on the weekends.
By Grace Dickens

Reporter, Lake Travis/Westlake

Grace is the Lake Travis/Westlake reporter for education and city government. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2021 after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and geography.