Larry McGuire, Austin's prolific restaurateur, sits down to lunch at his newest restaurant, Josephine House, in the central Clarksville neighborhood. With impeccably clean hands, he straightens his Rag & Bone shawl-collar cardigan and unfolds a crisp napkin, which he places over his lap.
Josephine House opened last month, and its dining room, with whitewashed wood-paneled walls and marble counters, is already packed with neighbors and food aficionados.
If Mr. McGuire, 30, is anxious about his restaurant's reception, he does not show it. He glances occasionally at a waiter delivering fresh salads -- red grapefruit, orange and avocado in one hand; roasted pears with Texas honey in the other -- and at the eager diners. But after opening six restaurants in six years, he wholeheartedly trusts his enterprise, McGuire Moorman Hospitality, now a $25 million company with more than 400 employees.
Mr. McGuire has wanted to work in the food industry since he was a teenager growing up in the Travis Heights neighborhood of Austin.
"He was determined," says Lou Lambert, the chef and author of "Big Ranch, Big City." "At 16, he walked into Liberty Pie and said: 'I want a job. I want to cook.' "
At 24, Mr. McGuire and Mr. Lambert opened Lamberts Downtown Barbecue in the Second Street district of Austin, now a booming area that is also the home of the Moody Theater and a W Hotel.
With a concept -- fancy barbecue -- Lamberts was part of a restaurant revolution in Austin, incorporating great design, excellent service and food that joined the city's music and art scenes in luring visitors from the East and West Coasts.
It was there that Mr. McGuire began to develop a team, mostly hip young adults who might look the part at a successful Silicon Valley start-up. Tom Moorman, who was a stagiaire, or intern, at the Montreal restaurant Toqué before becoming a head chef in the Lamberts kitchen, is Mr. McGuire's partner. (Mr. Moorman is not as well known as Mr. McGuire and likes it that way.) Both Joe Holm, now McGuire Moorman's project manager and designer, and Ryan Smith, the creative director, started as waiters at Lamberts.
The five restaurants that Mr. McGuire subsequently opened throughout central Austin were inspired by their respective neighborhoods and have spurred their growth. Each has a distinct concept, cuisine and atmosphere, but they all share a laid-back sophistication.
Elizabeth Street Café in South Austin, for example, takes everyday French and Vietnamese foods -- pho, banh mi, croissants and macarons -- and elevates them with stylish packaging. The restaurant has turquoise leather stools and playful floral wallpaper. Tables are topped with vintage silverware and colorful Chinese soup spoons.
At Clark's Oyster Bar, an East Coast-influenced seafood restaurant, a clean-lined nautical theme plays out through details like original shiplap walls, waiters in Sperry Top-Siders and a striped yellow awning printed with the restaurant's geographical coordinates.
Mr. McGuire has the last word on every decision. "The mark of a good restaurateur is someone who understands the individual pieces of a restaurant, from the service to the food, uniforms and music, and appreciates how they interrelate," Mr. Lambert said. "Larry has that gift."
McGuire Moorman is working on the second part of Josephine House, the restaurant Jeffrey's, which will open in April.
"This is Larry's baby," Mr. Moorman says. "It has special meaning to him since he grew up here."
Jeffrey's originally opened in 1975 under Jeffrey Weinberger and Ron and Peggy Weiss (they are still co-owners of the project) and is steeped in Austin history. It has been host to celebrities and politicians, including Laura and George W. Bush. The new Jeffrey's will not be politically inclined, but it will continue as a fine dining restaurant, updated.It has not always been easy to work on a project that is so close to the city's heart. "Everyone asks me if we're bringing back the fried oysters and Johnny Guffey," Mr. McGuire said, referring to a veteran waiter. "Guffey is coming back, but the oysters are still under consideration."
The new concept will honor the old Jeffrey's, though substantial changes have been made. The Austin architectural firm Clayton & Little gutted most of the building. The new interior will include polished plaster walls and local sycamore paneling by Vintage Material Supply, an Austin company.
Music played on records, beverage carts carrying martinis and waiters dressed in silky smoking jackets and oxford lace-up shoes are also part of the master plan.
"Think 'The Great Gatsby' meets 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' " said Mr. Smith, the creative director.
Otherwise, décor will be toned down to let plates like wood-grilled lobster thermidor and dry-aged Texas beef shine as brightly as the new neon sign on the building's exterior.
Change may be inevitable, but it can be graceful, something that Mr. McGuire is trying to demonstrate one plate of oysters, one Nakashima chair and one seersucker suit at a time.
Correction: March 24, 2013, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of a veteran waiter at Jeffrey's. He is Johnny Guffey, not Duffy.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.