Lockhart Bistro fills a capacious space that once housed a popular department store.
“This used to be the only place in town that sold Levi’s—lots of people still remember it,” says Lockhart Bistro chef and owner Parind Vora, who pared away 1950s-era stucco to reveal the building’s original limestone wall, a contrast to the rest of the renovated space, where cherry-red barstools and pendant lights pop against a cool turquoise accent wall.
In 2006, Vora moved from New Mexico to Austin, where he opened and ran restaurants for almost a decade before opening up Lockhart Bistro last fall, one of the first of nine new bars and restaurants to open on the square in less than two years. Six months earlier, hoping to escape Austin’s urban sprawl, he had relocated to 20 acres of land between Lockhart and Bastrop.
“I moved out here to get away from the traffic and expense of living in the city,” says Vora. “Ninety percent of my commute now is with cows and horses, so that definitely helps me decompress … they’re not always pulling in front of ya.”
When Vora discovered Lockhart by making a wrong turn one day, he was immediately enthralled. When he investigated the price of opening a restaurant on the square, the choice seemed like a no-brainer. Within four months, he was able to open Lockhart Bistro.
“When I moved to Austin in 2006, I was able to open up without any investors—I was the real owner,” he recalls. “And in Lockhart, you’re still able to do that, which is why we’re seeing such a renaissance. It’s a little bit of that American spirit, and that’s what’s nice—seeing people live out their dreams.”
With an expansive open kitchen and multiple walk-in refrigerators, Lockhart Bistro is capable of catering off-site events for up to 10,000 people. Vora has also reopened the fourth incarnation of his passion project, Jezebel, in an intimate dining room connected by a window to the kitchen, where he improvises the night’s menu depending on diners’ preferences. His mother’s saris drape over certain tables, which are set with silver candlesticks and handblown glass, while Astroturf gives the space a playful edge. Vora has been drawing diners from Austin, Bastrop, San Marcos, and beyond both for Jezebel’s wine-pairing experiences and for Lockhart Bistro’s diverse menu, which includes items like shrimp scampi, frog legs with green Thai curry, and a popular house-ground brisket burger.