Kelly Abshire, owner and operator of Hot Mama’s Café, is a straight badass. She’s open to creating different menu items, she knocks out orders all over the city, and she always does it while showcasing her loving and comforting personality.
The road for Kelly to get here was not easy. From 2004 until 2007, Kelly was the owner of Ararat, a Middle Eastern fusion restaurant in North Austin. When the lease came to an end, Kelly took the operation on the road. While at a fundraiser held at Café Mundi, a “black tie and flip flop affair,” the then-owner of Hot Mama’s Espresso, Holly Lawson, offered Kelly the kitchen she had been searching for.
Since 2009, Kelly has been at Hot Mama’s Café on East 6th Street. The café features a small Ararat menu, along with their own “Mama-Made Mediterranean” and Eastern-inspired dishes.
In general, the café’s groovy courtyard has been a breeding ground for creativity in Austin. It has been host to all sorts of local events – like art showcases, sustainable swaps, craft fairs, morning yoga, belly dance performances, and hula hoops galore at “Hoop Church” on Sundays. Mama is a staple at Art Outside, Austin’s version of Burning Man, and home to creativity of all forms. This past October, we caught her at the 10th annual event, and her Ararat food staples brightened the mellow weekend!
Hot Mama’s Cafe has allowed Kelly to showcase her Ararat favorites. Those include Lemon Garlic Hummus, Tabouli, Roasted New Zealand Lamb, Mama’s Cass (gluten-free tortilla casserole layered with seasonal veggies and cheese), and the beloved Choclava. The menu rotates constantly, offering daily specials like kombucha, polenta, and soups. She grows many ingredients right behind the Café, in a shared community garden; all other ingredients are grown or raised locally. Yet, she doesn’t limit her menu to Middle Eastern dishes; she often determines it based on the produce she receives that day.
Our Austin office’s favorite is definitely the salad bar, which we get catered to our office constantly. It includes feta cheese, marinated chickpeas and beets, curried chicken, rosemary flatbreads, and pomegranate dressing. If we’re down to grub a little harder, we go with the Persian Prince (roasted lamb, Havarti, tomatoes, and a rosemary tahini) or the Mediterranean Mama (turkey, olives, tomato, feta, and cucumber with dill mayo). Recently, Kelly has introduced Lambzagna: layers of lamb, grilled zucchini and ricotta. One meal at a time, she’s turning us all into her mamas and papas!