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Elementary and Hopscotch Bring Playful Global Cuisine to Austin

Local ingredients, culinary innovation, and education come together for a buzzy new dining experience

dinner with friends at Elementary (photo by Chad Wadsworth)

We were giddy when we walked up to Austin’s hottest new restaurant, Elementary, which everyone has been talking about since it first opened a couple of weeks ago. It was a few hours before the dining room would open for the day, and the kitchen staff was already stirring in the back. While the three co-owners surely had a big afternoon and night ahead of them, they seemed at ease spending time with us, each hopping up intermittently throughout the interview to greet a too-early guest, check on the kitchen, or grab water for the table. 

Elementary + Hopscotch co-owners
Co-owners Colter Peck, Allan Bautista, and Chris Arial (photo by Chad Wadsworth)

The trio behind the new dining duo

Colter Peck, Chris Arial, and Allan Bautista met while working at Two Hands, and while their interests and experiences vary, they share a deep passion for culinary innovation. After years of doing pop-ups together, on July 28, they opened Elementary and Hopscotch, a restaurant and sister wine bar that sit adjacent to each other on South Lamar.

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Chris is the creative mastermind behind the design and drinks at Elementary and Hopscotch. He had the energy of a true artist, gleaming with childlike enthusiasm about his work. The pops of primary colors in the design and the experimental cocktails reflect his creativity. He values “being like in that constant state of learning and experimentation as you were when you were like a kid at elementary school for the first time,” he says. 

Elementary’s interior boasts primary colors and elevated school cafeteria vibes.

Elementary’s interior is youthful yet refined, full of bold colors and touches like handmade monkey bars over the back bar. And the owners reflected this quirky, thoughtful vibe. As we chatted, it felt like catching up with old friends from high school — friends who were now doing something very, very cool. 

Allan, director of operations, comes from a more traditional, high-end background, including culinary school and then working at San Francisco’s RN74 and Austin’s Fukumoto and Red Ash. Through his experience, he has found that the cooks and servers must communicate well and feel connected to the same mission. The tips are shared with the cooks so they feel more responsible for the customer’s experience. Allan’s passion for creating a smooth experience for guests and employees was palpable, obviously a huge component (along with the food) of why everyone is talking about these new hot spots. 

Colter is the head chef, who has previously worked at Portland restaurants, including Le Pigeon and Proud Mary (which recently opened an Austin location). During COVID, he took a break from the service industry to work on farms — where he learned how to grow and distribute food. He carried himself like an athlete, with a vigor he likely brought to the farms and kitchens he worked in, resulting in more flavorful food. 

Because of his varied background that brought him to where he is today, Colter emphasizes mutual education in his kitchens. Staff are encouraged to teach other team members and even speak up when they want to hone specific skills so that they can put something on the menu that will allow that development. Similarly, he hopes to educate consumers with innovative dishes that merge local ingredients with global cuisine, offering opportunities to explore new dishes and flavor profiles — often breaking the confines of traditional culinary thinking. 

al pastor tortellini at Elementary (photo by Chad Wadsworth)

An ever-changing and innovative menu based on local ingredients

Colter is also passionate about using local ingredients in Elementary and Hopscotch dishes and building solid relationships with Central Texas farmers. All three of the men recently attended “farm school.” a six-week program where restaurant industry professionals learn how food is grown, especially in Central Texas, from soil to harvest. Farm tours and farmers’ markets continue to be commonplace activities for the trio. 

“When you talk to a farmer about the produce they’re growing, it’s the same as talking an artist about why they painted a specific thing,” says Colter. “It’s a form of art, and you can see the love that each of these people has for the things that they grow — and in turn, you can taste it.” 

seasonal summer squash at Elementary (photo by Chad Wadsworth)

Both menus are updated frequently based on what ingredients are in season and the interests of the kitchen staff. Hopscotch offers smaller bites and natural wines, the perfect bookend experience to your full meal at Elementary, currently offering the likes of Hiramasa Crudo, Tiger Prawns, Al Pastor Tortellini, and a Wagyu New York Strip Steak. Drinks include a Kool-aid Cosmo and Clarified Gochujang Sour. Need we say more? Check it out for a laid-back setting offering elevated — even educational — dishes.