Talk about soul: A brand-new restaurant in Austin is bringing good vibes to a city known for them. Summer House on Music Lane is slated to open this week at the Hotel Magdalena, with a low-key but high-ambition menu of “grilled local meats and seasonal vegetables with bold accompaniments and bright salads,” along with biodynamic wines and “ice-cold martinis” served on an outdoor patio, a rep says.
Executive chef Jeffrey Hundelt will lead the kitchen, after a stint at Austin restaurant Launderette, which was named one of 10 Food & Wine Restaurants of the Year in 2016.
“My approach is to imagine throwing the ultimate dinner party for friends, and I'm aiming to impress,” says Hundelt. “The menu at Summer House will be ingredient-driven and guided by the seasons, and the open-fire cooking techniques, al fresco atmosphere, and incredible wine list.”
While good times will roll on the patio, the musical connections in the project go deeper: True Austin fans might already know the hotel sits at the one-time site of the Austin Opry House, “a legendary venue which defined the city’s music scene,” as one report puts it. (The land under the hotel was for a time owned by none other than Willie Nelson.)
“I would say the design inspiration for the restaurant is more from the site's architectural history than its musical history, but of course we have a great playlist that is rooted in the musical history of the hotel for guests to enjoy while dining with us,” says Tenaya Hills, vice president of design and development at Bunkhouse Group, the iconic Austin brand behind the hotel. “The buildings you see today are roughly in the same footprint as the prior buildings on the perimeter and surrounding a pool. The Terrace Motor Hotel grounds included the ritzy Summer House, a pool-side restaurant with lounge musical acts, which was the inspiration for the name Summer House on Music Lane.”
The restaurant is sure to be just one of the draws at the 89-room hotel that celebrated a soft opening earlier this fall. It’s the newest, and biggest, hotel from Bunkhouse, which also operates Hotel Saint Cecilia and Hotel San José in Austin, as well as El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas.
Architects Lake | Flato handled the '70s-inspired design, taking cues from Barton Springs and Austin’s long musical tradition. Signed, original Scott Newton photographs decorate all of the rooms, many of which have private balconies. Guests will find a pool, a boutique, bikes to borrow, yoga classes, “well-stocked” minibars, and more on site; concierges can help hook it up off-property.
For Lalvani, the hotel represents more than just a place to stay. “When you come off of the bustle of South Congress you enter this magical world,” says Amar Lalvani, CEO of Standard International and Bunkhouse Group. “That immediately immerses you into what we all love about Austin: live oak trees, our own swimming hole — OK, it’s a pool — and perfectly selected music.”
The property is also the first from Bunkhouse “with a residential component, the Saint Cecilia Residences,” Lalvani adds. These seven units are designed as private two- and three-bedroom homes for sale with access to hotel amenities and services. Prices start at $2.6 million.
Developing the new restaurant, hotel, residences, and everything else was, of course, complicated by the pandemic. “We faced many obstacles to get the hotel open, from construction, coordination, material, and installation delays; to limitations on in-person project meetings, socially distanced team training, and food and drink tastings; to having to reimagine the drinking, dining, and social experiences to protect our team and our guests,” Lalvani says. “The list goes on.”
But now? “We can’t wait to get beyond the pandemic to fully open the doors to this new oasis,” he says, “and to see people freely enjoying the spaces and each other’s company and having fun once again.”
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