Austin’s Top Chef Competitor
to Open Mexican Eatery on Rainey
For a taste of the Yucatan, head to Rainey Street District, run by an Austin-based top chef.
Chef Gabe Erales, currently the 18th season contestant of Bravo’s top chef and master of Mexican cuisine, will open his first restaurant – a Mexican-inspired restaurant called Bacalar, which draws influence from different regions of the Yucatan peninsula where Erales has his family .
Bacalar, slated to open next fall, will anchor the ground floor of 44 East Ave Residences, the sleek skyscraper currently under construction on the shores of Lady Bird Lake.
Bacalar is a partnership between Erales and Austin-based owner and CEO of Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors, Kevin Burns, and the company’s lead designer, Merrill Alley. Burns and Alley, who recently launched Urbanspace’s first hospitality concept, Codependent Cocktails and Coffee in the Seaholm District, bought the first floor retail space at 44 East Ave and sought out Erales for the new restaurant partnership.
“I’m very excited to partner with Urbanspace as my relationship with Kevin and Merrill have shown me their true potential in developing projects that are not only unique and exciting, but also a milestone for the Austin community.” says Erales. “I’ve been a close friend of Merrill and her family for 10 years. During this time we exchanged our professional passions, dreams and goals and at the same time witnessed our professional growth. I knew that one day we could create something special together. “
Erales’ previous cooking stints in Austin include chef work at downtown Comedor and local favorite Dai Due Taqueria.
Although the new restaurant’s menu is still under development, the concept is based on Erales’ family memories of Bacalar, the historic and stunning Mexican lakeside town north of Belize, including its good experiences with local flavors and cuisine. Bacalar will also draw on the concept of “La Milpa”, with Erales emphasizing the personal relationships with the farmers he sources from and the ingredients he will highlight in his dishes. And you can bet the menu features odes to traditional Mexican corn and chilli, two of the chef-selected ingredients.
“We love working with passionate, talented people, and Gabe really is the best of the best,” says Burns. “His attention to detail in the preparation of his dishes matches the attention to detail we bring to the environments we create. This concept is about creating an appealing and harmonious setting in which Gabe’s talent takes center stage. “
While fans of Erales’ food will have to wait about a year to dine at Bacalar, they can catch him at Top Chef, the high-stakes culinary competition that airs Thursday night on Bravo.