A Month of Sundays: Brunch at Olamaie

1610 San Antonio St., Austin (map), 512-474-2796, www.olamaieaustin.com
Brunch hours: 11am-2pm Sat
Lunch: 11am-2pm Wed-Fri. Dinner: 5:30-10pm Tue-Thu and 5:30-10:30pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.01.16
To say that Grae Nonas and Michael Fojtasek have reshaped Southern dining in Austin is to shortchange them for how much they’ve shaken up the scene in general. To say that these two James Beard winners are cooking on the line even for brunch is to acknowledge the dedication that got them here. And they got here with dishes as simple as cornbread, biscuits, Hoppin’ John and roasted chicken with chicken-fat rice, executed with precision way beyond simple. Their space — hewn from the bungalow that once housed Mars and then Sagra — combines white-washed pickets and vintage window sashes with cool thunderstorm gray walls and pickled wood tabletops for an experience rooted in tradition but right at home in a modern, competitive kitchen.
What you’re eating
 Benton’s Country Ham: Give Spain its jamón ibérico. Give Italy its prosciutto. But give me Benton’s Tennessee ham. A union of salt, fat and velveteen pork that’s every bit the indulgence of its overseas counterparts. Olamaie folds it like opry curtains on one side of a plate dressed like a Southern sampler box: warm hominy hushpuppies as thick and salty as a Bavarian pretzel, pickled green onions with a sharp, sweet crunch and pimento cheese chopped ultra fine with an aroma like wild blossoms. If $18 seems pricey, think of it as an Oxford American charcuterie board. (But $18 will still seem pricey.)
 Hoppin’ John: Crispy rice has a place of honor in cultures from Korean bibimbap to Persian tahdig. And it’s the unlikely hero of this dish, the grounding wire for an electric combination of red peas in a salty-smoky pot likker with a vinegared chop of tomato, onion, garlic and scape coddling a soft-boiled egg. ($13)
What you’re drinking
 Cherry Phosphate: I haven’t had a phosphate since I was a kid at the Six Flags Saloon. In this more modern of saloons, it’s soda, cherry, lemon and a single Luxardo cherry for a refreshing non-alcoholic palate cleanser. ($3)
 Pecan Milk Punch: A piece of Old Austin I miss is the milk punch at Green Pastures, a bourbon-fortified way for genteel porch society to catch a morning buzz. That spirit’s alive at Olamaie, with a whiskey milk punch fortified with pecans and Steen’s cane syrup. It’s Southern horchata. It’s eggnog in spring. It’s your sweet country aunt with whiskey breath. ($10)
Something sweet
 Biscuits: You could sweeten brunch at Olamaie with French toast or handmade ice cream, but surely the sweetest dish of all is a basket of biscuits with velveteen honey butter. With their crunchy golden crowns and layers so kinetically dense they tilt the whole biscuit like a hurricane tower, they’re Sunday-morning good, even for Saturday brunch. ($10. They’re not on the menu, so you have to ask.)
A Month of Sundays: 31 Austin brunches
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)