Stella San Jac, an Austin-American inspired restaurant located on the corner of San Jacinto Boulevard and Fifth Street in Austin, Texas, officially opened its doors on July 16.
The restaurant serves an eclectic Southern menu inspired by the local community.
The 150-seat restaurant features an open kitchen and lounge where it hosts local musicians on a weekly basis.
"We love the name Stella because it exemplifies all things Austin," says David Dickinson, general manager of Stella San Jac. "Stella means star in Latin and, for us, relates to the celebration of the Lone Star, which symbolizes Texas pride as an independent state. The restaurant also weaves in Austin's love of music with design elements inspired by the American-built Stella guitar played by many notable artists in the 20s and 30s."
At the head of Stella San Jac's table is Chef Michael Cerrie. Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Cerrie moved to Austin in 2014 to serve as the executive chef of Stella San Jac. Cerrie has more than 25 years of experience and has cooked for celebrities, movie stars, dignitaries, and live on Good Morning America with Emeril Lagasse. In 2013, Cerrie was inducted as Chef Rotisseur into the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the world's oldest international gastronomic society that celebrates the practice of choosing, cooking, and eating fine cuisine and wine.
Cerrie spent six months working with a tasting panel to rigorously test, craft, and perfect the menu for the restaurant.
"Every week we were honest with ourselves in that the food had to be approachable and delicious. The key phrase that still sticks in my head is 'simple is hard,'" Cerrie says. "When there are literally only three-to-four ingredients on a plate, there is nothing to hide behind. A cook has to nail the execution of everything and source his ingredients from the best local farms. We have food that is simply prepared, approachable, tasty, a lot of fun, and easy on the eyes."
Stella San Jac's produce is sourced from several of Austin's favorite local farms, including Oak Hill Farms, Cooper Farms, and Labranza Farms, to ensure the freshest ingredients are used.
Some of Cerrie's favorite menu items include: Blueberry Sweet Bread French Toast, Gulf Shrimp and Lump Crab Roll, as well as classics with a twist like Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potato Mash and Green Apple Slaw. Of particular pride is the #16 Biscuits, named after the number of batches Cerrie tested to perfect its recipe.
Inspired by his great grandmother, "Nonni," and family fish fries, Cerrie attributes his cooking style to his Italian roots and an inherited appreciation for great food served simply.
"Nonni was born in Sicily and came from a large family," Cerrie says. "We would grow every vegetable you could in Pennsylvania. Whether it was an animal or a plant, Nonni taught us to respect the food we ate, as well as the time and effort we spent growing it. I will never forget the lessons I learned from her as a child."
Stella San Jac also offers a full bar with handcrafted cocktails, local craft beers, and distinguished wines. One signature drink to note is the Porthole Infuser, a cocktail infused with special herbs and spices. Only 10 infusers will be made daily using a unique piece of equipment and will be served on a first-come-first-serve basis.
"We want to ensure we have crave-able fresh cocktails that everyone is stopping by to enjoy. I believe every cocktail should be a nice balance of fresh herbs, fruits, and local spirits," says Ellery Cardone, restaurant manager of Stella San Jac. "We have hand-picked some of Austin's best mixologists to execute our cocktail menu. They will create seasonal cocktails and infusions for an ever-changing menu."
"I am excited that we opened a restaurant that represents Austin's growing culinary scene. Stella San Jac will be a cool place to hang out and relax," Dickinson says. "I want it to be a place where foodies and beverage aficionados are proud to go, but where everyone feels comfortable with warm and sincere service."
"Austin is a young, vibrant and eclectic city—much like my cooking style. It's exciting to be here," Cerrie adds. "It feels like we are all part of something that will definitely grow to be bigger than it is today."
Stella San Jac is open Sunday through Saturday 6:00 a.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant also serves guests daily in its unique lounge space between the hours of 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.