1509 South Lamar Boulevard Austin, TX
Designer: Kim Lewis Designs
After several years scooting around Austin serving a delectable hybrid of Korean-Mexican fare, the popular food truck, Chi’Lantro, opened its first permanent “brick and mortar” restaurant in January. While this new eatery stands in a fixed location, it pays homage to its roots, explained Kim Lewis, who designed the 1,500-square-foot space, with a mural on the front right wall featuring a food truck “using different icons that are specific to our brand and story.” Below the playful narrative, black and white subway tiles represent dashes of a highway.
Fitting with the hearty, finger food-style menu (most famously known for its Original Kimchi Fries), the spacious interior keeps it relaxed and lively with its use of raw materials and bright, colorful accents. The feature wall and ceiling, made of 2-by-4 birch studs, create a crisscrossing, geometric framework. The sides of several beams are painted a vibrant orange, echoing the strip of orange on the tabletops, the strings from which exposed filament bulbs hang, and the auburn birch plywood under the dropped soffit over the banquette seating. A communal table at the front of the space is made of reclaimed 100-year-old wood from a building in downtown Austin.
“From our journey on the roads of Austin as a food truck to a permanent space, we wanted to reflect the growing nature of the company from the ground up in the design,” said Lewis.
To spur conversation over soy-glazed chicken tacos and kimchi fried rice balls, patrons receive a subway tile with a number for their order, inscribed with a question, such as “What musician are you inspired by?” This is intended to not only be food for thought, but also “an element of the build out of the space,” said Lewis.
Even with this new 39-seat restaurant in place, Chi’Lantro isn’t retiring its wheels quite yet: Its brigade of food trucks can still be found at different locations throughout the city.