Last year about this time, fourth-generation rancher Adam Jacoby, who grew up working his family’s land in Melvin, launched Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile in Austin, a full-service restaurant and bar that has become renowned for its dry-aged burgers, chicken-fried steaks, and other beef dishes. Along with his partner Kris Swift, Adam has put a focus on recipes and traditions from Melvin, where family members operate a restaurant, raise cattle, and strive to educate the public about humane and sustainable ranching practices.
The Austin restaurant was too new to fully embrace the pomp and ceremony of the season last year, but now that Adam and Kris have a year’s experience under their belts, they’ve got big plans. I spoke with Adam recently about what’s in the pipeline.
Adam: We’ve had this idea to bring our traditional hog-butchering experience to Austin, but it’s hard to duplicate that in the city, as it’s pretty intense. But we do make and smoke all of our own sausage here, year-round. We use the breakfast sausage in our buttermilk biscuit-and-gravy, which is really popular at brunch. In Melvin, the hog-butchering is a big family get-together. There might be 20-30 people there, and it’s usually the day after Christmas, because sometimes we can’t all be together on Christmas Day. The big thing is that we’re all together—everybody brings their spouses or partners, and it’s always a good time.
So here at the restaurant in Austin, we’re going to bring people together with food, but also with our tree. We’re going to do a big Christmas tree on the bluff outside, and you can buy an ornament and hang it on the tree–and all of the funds will go to charity.
Lori: What are some of the special menu items we might see this Christmas?
Adam: Well, we always do egg nog and a hot toddy, and of course we’ll do a punch. Punches came into vogue a few years ago, but my grandmother has been making them her whole life. She used to make this holiday punch with Hawaiian Punch, Fresca, and Canadian Mist whiskey. She’d serve it in a big hobnail punch bowl, and I became obsessed with that punch bowl. As an adult, I started collecting that antique hobnail glass, and here at the restaurant, we do a version of her punch. People love to know why you do something and where it comes from.
Lori: Do you have any other examples of that?
Adam: Our strawberry cake, of course! I think it may be our most famous recipe. It’s this vibrant pink cake; it’s my grandmother’s cake. She makes it for everyone’s birthday. One day, we thought we’d try putting it on the menu; nobody had done that. When you taste it, it’s a little bit of nostalgia. I takes you back to when you were eight years old at a potluck.
We also do a chicken-fried steak and waffles. Chicken-and-waffles is popular everywhere now, but we wanted to try it with beef. It’s been wildly popular. The difference in our CFS is that we dry-age the whole beef, not just the prime cuts. Even our burgers are dry-aged. It has so much more flavor. We use round steak, which is the ham of the beef. We use the same breading mix that we use in our café in Melvin, and we deep-fry it. It’s definitely a treat-yourself-every-once-in-awhile comfort food. We serve it here in Austin with mashed potatoes and arugula salad, so there’s a bit of green on the plate. It’s pretty hard to beat, and it will never go off the menu.
Lori: I’m seeing a theme of family roots and nostalgia, all the way from the hobnail glass throughout the restaurant and to the recipes.
Adam: That’s our goal here. We want you to think about the old days, the times when people were together. And to taste things that remind you of those times.