Home of “The Original” — a muffuletta-inspired creation with three meats, three melted cheeses, lettuce, tomato, olives, and a signature dressing, served on warm, freshly made sourdough bread — Schlotzsky’s Sandwich Shop opened in Austin, Texas, in 1971.
Now known as Schlotzsky’s Bakery Cafe, the company moved its corporate headquarters to Atlanta a year ago, and has more than 350 locations worldwide.
But the biggest news right now is the debut of Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery, which opened on Dec. 15 at Sugarloaf Marketplace in Duluth, a fast-casual-friendly mixed-use development that’s also home to Freddy’s, Chipotle and Panda Express locations.
Pitched as “the first prototype to test the brand evolution,” the Eatery is both a rewind to the lively Austin vibe of the original shop on South Congress Avenue, and a fast forward to a new menu aimed at capturing the tastes of millennials who favor food trucks and craft beer.
To that end, the new design is an eclectic mix of reclaimed wood, brick, found objects, Austin-influenced graphics and state-of-the-art electronic displays. The space features an open kitchen and exhibition bakery, with mismatched furniture and varied seating options, including a spacious covered patio.
The new menu adds the likes of sliders, street tacos, and “tins” filled with mac and cheese, tater tots or tortilla chips and a hefty blend of meaty, cheesy and veggie toppings. And for the first time, wine and beer are on the Schlotzsky’s menu, including local offerings from Jekyll, Monday Night and Red Hare.
What’s more, the fast-casual service style has been turned up a notch, with GPS pager technology and servers roaming the floor to guide guests in customizing orders with a range of add-ons and condiments.
Last week, the two people most responsible for the latest evolution of the Schlotzsky’s concept, president Kelly Roddy and executive chef Maira Isabel Morales, were in Duluth to talk about the new design and food.
“Every element of this restaurant, the look, the feel, is inspired by that South Congress, Austin, spirit,” Roddy said. “The brand started there some 45 years ago, so it’s evolved with that influence, particularly the bold flavors.
“And, of course, Austin was one of the first places where the food truck parks evolved. So we took bits and pieces of that, both in the decor and the menu. You could see a food truck with tacos next to a food truck with brisket mac and cheese, or there might be sandwiches or sliders.”
Morales, who is also the director of research and development for Schlotzsky’s, noted that the one thing that would always remain on the menu unchanged is The Original.
“If you have something that’s perfect and amazing, you’re not going to mess with it,” Morales said. “But on the new menu, we have a number of items made with brisket. We also brought in carnitas, which I think are beautiful. And we put a lot of different flavors together that you might not think go together, but they become magic together.
“In that way, we have a mix of different countries, too. A taco called the Exchange Student has chicken, Mexican-style chorizo, Korean gochujang sauce, mozzarella cheese, avocado and pickled onions. So we’re going worldwide, almost like the found objects of food.”
Morales said another big idea behind the offerings is that many items can be mixed and matched and shared among a group of diners.
“The menu is big, the flavors are bold and exciting and we wanted to have some things you will never find anywhere else,” she said. “You come with your friends and family. You have a beer or a glass of wine, you share tacos, sliders, tins, and it’s a community feeling.”
2260 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Duluth. 678-226-5223, schlotzskys.com/austineatery.
More images from a First Look at Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery.