Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher returned to Austin from New York almost five years ago set on opening a restaurant together. However, fate had different plans for them: her, a stint working with Dai Due; him, as chef de cuisine at Trio. The two also welcomed a bun of a very different sort from the oven. They’ve since emerged much more parental and prepared for their first business venture together called Lenoir, the new Bouldin Creek neighborhood eatery.
The interior of Lenoir is intimate and visually stunning. Delicate family-crocheted lace drapes gracefully against the windows, and ghostly whitewashed wooden tables light up the 32-seat dining room. Burnt drops (leftover wood trimmings) are put to decorative use on the walls and as salt cellars on each table. The culinary couple revamped the former location of Somnio’s on South First Street and named it after the French black grape varietal that has adapted to Texas, much like they have.
The interesting thing that sets Lenoir apart, though, is its status as a CSR, or a community supported restaurant. Much like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, subscribers invest in shares ($1,000 each, in this case) and get credit toward dining ($1,200, which works as a house account). Credits can be transferred with permission—but need to be used within a year from the date subscribed (after which they can be easily renewed). Not only does this help Duplechan and Maher in their planning for the year by generating early revenue, but it allows them to, in turn, invest back into Austin’s edible community by supporting local farmers, ranchers, breweries and wineries.
Duplechan and Maher feel this type of program—the first of its kind in Austin—will create a strong sense of community within the restaurant. “Plus, you’re kind of like a restaurant VIP,” Duplechan adds. Most importantly, however, the duo wants Lenoir to be a warm, welcoming space for all diners who support them—members or not. “We’re going to keep it very affordable,” Maher assures. “We want it to be a neighborhood restaurant people can come to often.” They look forward to starting up monthly Sunday dinner parties, which will celebrate a showcased ingredient, or pair courses with a featured speaker, book or film. Simply stated by Maher, “Any excuse to throw a communal dinner party is a great one.” —Veronica Meewes
1807 S. First St.
Tues.–Sat. 5–10:30 p.m.