Bunkhouse Hotels, the stylish Austin company behind Hotel San Jose, Hotel Saint Cecilia and many others, quietly took over management of the Carpenter Hotel in the summer of 2021.
The group brought in executive chef Thomas Malz late last year to lead the kitchen at Carpenters Hall, the centerpiece restaurant of the boutique hotel in the Zilker neighborhood. Malz this week is introducing his first menu, a complete overhaul on the offerings from the casual, minimalist restaurant that in its early direction was focused on highlighting the heritage of Texas and its array of culinary influences.
The native of rural northern New England intends to continue to honor the Lone Star State while also celebrating and spotlighting the diversity of the staff he put together. A veteran of Cochon in New Orleans, the kitchens of chef Mike Isabella in Washington, D.C., and Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden in Austin, chef Malz designed his menu to “combine old and new aspects of Texas, from its wild and refined elements to its abundant local ingredients, paying homage to the agricultural richness of the region and, most importantly, its people,” according to a statement from Bunkhouse.
The menu speaks of a chef who grew up in an area influenced by French-Canadian cooking, and one with experience in whole animal butchery and charcuterie who eventually made his way to Texas and surrounded himself with a diverse staff.
The new dinner menu features chowder spiced with hatch chilies and chipotle; roasted Guly oysters piqued with Cholula butter; little neck clams with hot guts sausage; pichana steak with peppercorn bordelaise; and rainbow trout with beurre noisette. Dinner will also feature communal family-style chef meals, such as a cochon de lait and a rib roast, for parties of four or more. The lunch menu will be a streamlined version of the dinner menu, with the same influences found in the dishes.
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Malz’s multicultural staff, some of whom have worked at Mcrady’s (Charleston), 610 Magnolia (Louisville), and Emmer & Rye, includes a sous chef David Gomez, who trained in Mexico; a pastry chef, Sydney Connor, trained in France; and an Asian-American chef de cuisine, Jonathan Lee, from Houston.
“Pedigree is all well and good, but what makes it an amazing team is the genuine interest we all share in each other’s stories, how our individual cooking styles and strengths might complement each other. In my experience, It’s only a few times in one’s career where you find this,” Malz said in an email to the American-Statesman. “I’m cognizant of the rarity, and it means a lot, as I work with the team and watch everyone grow, individually and as a unit.”
Returning visitors will see a few aesthetic changes to the space, which once served as a union hall, including bowling alley banquette replicas made of maple wood and vintage German school chairs. A retractable awning and misters have also been added to the large patio seating area, which sits adjacent to the hotel’s pool.
Carpenters Hall is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each weekday, with brunch served on weekends.