The Bounty of Texas and a Roaming Chef Find a Home in East Austin.
Words by Ben Haguewood Photos by Ashley Haguewood
Chef Jesse Griffiths is not a secessionist, but if Texas did leave The Union, it wouldn’t affect his menu. The in-season fruits and vegetables, varied range of beer, wine, sodas and native Yaupon tea, cuts of meats – butchered from whole animals (pork, beef, venison, quail, and more) – even the olive oil, come from inside the state’s borders, and the closer to Austin the better. Dai Due’s storefront opened in August 2014, but Chef Griffiths is no new kid on the block. The Denton native moved to Austin to cook and work in the service industry in 1998 and has lived within walking distance of the Manor location ever since. The combination restaurant-butcher shop is not just a shrewd way to make an extra buck, but a culmination of years of experience and long-term relationships with farmers and ranchers. Long-time Austinites will recognize Jesse from Austin farmers’ markets, both downtown and Mueller, where his booth sold fresh, organic meats and sausages, or from the mobile supper club where he first combined his butchering and cooking skills for guests. Now they’ve found a home and full expression at every meal. The nightly supper club continues to get deserved attention, but the breakfast and lunch menu shows a range and level of attention infrequently lavished on humble dishes like biscuits and gravy, pancakes, burgers, and hash (made from house-cured meats, sweet potatoes, fennel, scarlet turnip, eggs and beet ketchup) to give you an idea. Like every dish Chef Griffiths creates, the ingredients are at the fore, and the commitment to seasonal vegetables and recently butchered meats does not translate into a limitation. The Central Texas Breakfast, for example, resembles the same components one might find at a national chain diner (eggs, grits, bacon, sausage, toast and jam), but to call the ingredients simple ignores the skill and effort that brought them to the table. The eggs come from an heirloom flock in east Austin, and the proof is in the bright creamy yolk. The grits are ground from Texas-farmed corn, and the difference in texture and flavor will make you wonder what you ate at that continental breakfast buffet. The sausage is made from free-roaming venison, and the thick-cut bacon is substantial, hardly resembling the flimsy stuff at the supermarket. Add in biscuits, velvety churned butter, and jam that clearly began its life as actual fruit, all made in-house, and you’ll understand the proverb for which the restaurant is named, “from the two kingdoms of nature, choose food with care.” You only get so many meals out, so choose your restaurant with care.
2406 Manor Rd.