Easy Tiger gets ready to roar on East Sixth

(Austin sign artist Joe Swec letters the front door of Easy Tiger.)
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.24.11
UPDATE: Easy Tiger is opening Monday, Jan. 23.
On a flow chart of the Austin restaurant and bar world, Scott Hentschel (pictured below) would have more lines connected to him than a space-flight monkey. He’s involved to varying degrees with 24 Diner, the Waterloo Ice House chain, the Iguana Grill, Key Bar, La Zona Rosa, Haddingtons and Mulberry. And others.
With fellow entrepreneur Bob Gillett, Hentschel is putting together Easy Tiger, an East Sixth Street animal that defies easy classification. At street level, it will house a commercial bakery that delivers bread to restaurants and markets. It’ll also be a place to walk in for a baguette or a fresh-baked pretzel and a coffee from early morning to late at night. Walk down a flight of stairs, and Easy Tiger will be a cafe and bar with sandwiches and sausages and cheese plates and 30 to 40 beers on tap. The menu is being developed by 24 Diner chef and “Top Chef Texas” contestant Drew Curren.
The tap wall will include hard-to-find specialty beers from Avery and North Coast Brewing and other brewers with whom the group has forged strong ties through beer dinners at 24, Hentschel said. Walk outside, and Easy Tiger will be a biergarten on the banks of Waller Creek with a tennis-club theme right out of “The Royal Tenenbaums.” With ping-pong tables.
The oven’s been delivered and assembled, mostly. The outdoor stage has been built. The beer cooler is ready. The banquettes are being assembled and upholstered onsite, following the plans of designer Veronica Koltuniak.
So the big question for Easy Tiger is: When? Hentschel said the project is already a few months behind schedule, tangled in a web of city permits and inspections and the realities of retooling an old building in the East Sixth Street entertainment district. What’s the mantra for a restaurant opening date? Soon. “In the coming weeks,” is as close as it gets. They’ll post updates through their Twitter feed at twitter.com/EasyTigerATX.
At the heart of Easy Tiger is baker David Norman, a veteran of Bouley Bakery and Drew Nieporent’s TriBakery in New York. Norman, who’s married to cookbook author and food writer Paula Disbrowe, came to Texas in 2002 as part of the Hart & Hind guest ranch. Since then, he’s worked as a farm auditor and purchaser for Whole Foods. And for nine months, he baked the city’s best restaurant breadbasket for Annies Cafe & Bar. Only Lakeway’s Artisan Bistro is in the same league.
So how does it feel to have the weight of a 27,000-pound deck oven worth $160,000 on your shoulders? “It’s the best tool for the job,” Norman said. “The market for the bread is here. We just have to show them the quality.” He helped unload the oven when it arrived. In 3,000 pieces. Norman plans to bake baguettes, walnut bread, rye, pretzels, croissants, pain au chocolat, French sourdough and more.
Once Easy Tiger’s up and running, what’s next for Hentschel and Gillett’s Elm Restaurant Group? A French restaurant sometime in early 2012 at the site of the Austin Diner on Burnet Road. The diner will stay open until the French project starts construction, then move to a new site of its own. The French restaurant will be headed by chef Mary Catherine James. Talk about connections: She’s married to Curren. Want another connection? Easy Tiger will be supplying the bread.
Easy Tiger
709 E. Sixth St. Opening Monday, Jan. 23. Facebook page here.
Hours: (From Facebook) Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. The bake shop stays open until 2 a.m. The beer garden is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
(Above: The area behind Easy Tiger will include a patio, biergarten and an area for ping-pong tables adjacent to Waller Creek. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking.)