A first look at 263 Grill & Provisions

 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.22.12
 
UPDATED 07.22.12: Both the 263 Restaurant and its companion specialty grocery 263 Provisions are open. See the hours and a menu at the bottom of this story.
 
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The Cuernavaca Drive area off Bee Cave Road hasn’t exactly been a restaurant destination. Drive along the quirky road halfway between West Lake Hills and Highway 71 and you might see a shaved-ice stand or the Colibri trailer or the pizza sign at the Valero. Just off the street is Ronnie’s Real Food Bistro. There used to be a snack shack called Munchies in front of the self-storage.
 
But there’s not a steady sit-down food supply, and the little Mi Gordi’s taco stand that was run by the guy who makes Sabor hot sauces disappeared a few years back. That’s where Dennis Liddy comes in, because he’s transforming that walk-up taco window into a full-scale restaurant and half-scale general store called the 263 Grill & Provisions, which he hopes to open in early March.
 
The name came from the area’s predominant 2-6-3 phone prefix and the eclectic Lake Austin area neighborhoods it encompasses, with an economic strata that embraces trailers on limb-strewn lots to Mediterranean-style houses the size of island resorts. Liddy moved to the area five years ago from East Austin, and the restaurant wheels began turning when he saw the space, a cinderblock warehouse of a building with industrial garage doors in the back and a view of the hills beyond, with a few big oaks for shade.
 
Liddy’s restaurant background in Austin includes the Granite Cafe, the Bitter End and 612 West. His daughter, Kate, is named for Kate’s restaurant, from the days before Zoot took over Kate’s spot on Hearn Street, followed by Fabi and Rosi. He gave up the kitchen life for six years to run a general store in New Mexico, but moved back to Austin with his family for better schools and ran the construction department of Gardens, a home-and-garden shop owned by one of Liddy’s former regular restaurant customers. He struck out to landscape on his own after that, and then the idea of 263 Grill started to take shape.
 
“I understood sales, so I could do the restaurant sales. I understood general-store sales and I’ve run kitchens,” Liddy said. “The missing component was building it out. I knew that if I did all the work I’d have the discount on labor and I could build this thing the way I want to.”
 
Liddy got help designing the site from Francisco Arredondo of North Arrow Studio, who has worked with restaurant architect Dick Clark, the man whose name was associated with high-end projects a decade before we knew who Michael Hsu was.  The building is a canvas of tan and green with splashes of red outside, with sections of outdoor seating that draw on Liddy’s landscape skills. A river-rock waterfall runs along tall concrete stairs on one side, and a long curved wooden rail out back is set with barstools. Inside, the walls are rough tan stone and eggshell white , with black furniture and store fixtures and resourceful lamps and glass from Ikea. Criss-crossed rope is stretched between steel boat cleats to form a minimalist partition in front of the kitchen pass.
 
Liddy’s brothers-in-law, the Butler Bros., are handling the branding and logo work. The numbers “263” look like the keytops of a vintage typewriter, a reference to Liddy’s regard for writers Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski, whose faces peer down from the walls in the bathroom and the wine section and whose books lean against a wall near the bar.
 
Liddy developed the menu with Judd Servidio, whom he met through his landscape work for hair-care tycoon, Patrón tequila entrepreneur and fellow 263-er John Paul DeJoria, for whom Servidio works as a private chef. Liddy told him, “Here’s my menu. Shake it up. Pour it out and make it current,” he said. It’s been a back-and-forth process to make the food interesting without alienating the client base for whom the 263 Grill is designed. “I’m not bringing people in from Austin,” Liddy said. “It’s not a destination place.”
 
So there will be sandwiches from a panini press and pizzas from a wood-burning oven Liddy himself is helping to build, plus burgers and fish on the grill, fries, rotisserie chicken, salads, meatloaf, cheese from a neighborhood cheesemaker, possibly mussels with Shiner Bock butter. Customers will order at the counter rather than from a waiter. The 263 will sell wine by the glass from a list curated by his wife, Bridget Liddy, and carry 14 beers on tap, with growlers for take-out.
 
The idea of turning part of the space into a specialty store with meats, vegetables, ready-made foods and wine arose as Liddy worked out the numbers for how to make the space profitable. “The restaurant can do the heavy lifting. It can pay for having freshness over on the Provisions side,” he said.
 
The Provisions side will carry fresh bread, breakfast tacos, espresso, deli salads and spreads made in-house, fresh meats, pasta, ice cream by the scoop. “You’ll never do your weekly shopping here,” he said. “But I timed it. It’s a half-hour either way to H-E-B with parking, going in, getting your stuff and coming home. And sometimes that kills the momentum when you have guests over. This takes care of the last-minute thing.”
 
 
The 263 Restaurant & Provisions
1705 N. Cuernavaca Drive. 512-263-7330, www.the263.com.
263 Restaurant hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
263 Provisions hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)