A recent trip to Austin found us believers in a distinct form of Texas two-step: places that defied definition by straddling categories: a pho shop with a boulangerie counter or a bakery slash beer hall. To celebrate such lone stars, we present a trio of our favorite Texas trailblazers. Long live dualism!
709 East 6th Street
A yeast-based hybrid of bake shop and beer garden, bundled in a chic brick-faced, bi-level building at the mouth of bustling East 6th Street. Beyond the commendable bread menu (all baked before peering eyes in an open kitchen), Easy Tiger offers housemade sausages and pretzels (destined for dipping in homemade beer cheese). True to its name, the drinks menu doesn’t disappoint with an endless array of reserve whiskeys and some 33 beers on tap. On a nice day, claim one of the creek-side ping pong tables. A place to plant yourself.
ELIZABETH STREET CAFE
1501 South 1st Street
The cultural and culinary palimpsest that is contemporary Vietnam inspires this South Austin hotspot: with teal shutters and a bright pink front door, the vibe is vibrant from the get-go, a colorfulness carried through to the menu where kouign amann and macarons share the same page with pho and bánh mì. With farmer’s market sourcing and a shaded garden patio open year round, the café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with startling freshness felt throughout the day. A jam-packed gem.
HOTEL SAN JOSE & JO’S COFFEE
1316/1310 South Congress Avenue
We know: The boutique hotel + stellar coffeehouse model is nothing new, but the Hotel San José takes the trend to stratospheric heights. For more than a decade, the San José has been synonymous with the quirky creativity coursing through Austin, a laid-back, close-knit community that convenes daily at the hotel’s streetside outpost, Jo’s Coffee. A true coffeehouse, Jo’s is a venue revered not only for its sensational roasts but also its intimate events – concerts, outdoor movie screenings, music festivals. This cool-community ethos emanates from everything Liz Lambert touches: a Texas native and lawyer by trade, Lambert was working in the Attorney General’s office when, on a whim, she approached the owners of a 1930s flophouse (she had been eyeing the spot from across the street at the legendary Continental Club). Miraculously, the owners had just put the place up for sale. With a plan to renovate room by room, Lambert’s finances forced her to manage the hotel for several years in its low-rent residential state, an experience that taught her about the human side of gentrification and urban renewal (all documented in the film, Last Days of the San Jose). With funding, Lambert hired celebrated San Antonio architecture firm Lake/Flato to transform the motor court into a lush web of bungalow-style rooms that pay homage to Texas minimalism. The San José and Jo’s are now the cornerstones of Lambert’s Bunkhouse company, an ever-growing portfolio of hotels and coffeehouses including the rock-star, five-star Hotel Saint Cecilia around the corner from the San José, and El Cosmico, a teepee/tent/trailer camp in Marfa. From the flannel kimono bathrobes in each room to Jo’s impeccable brews, Lambert’s visionary aesthetic sets the stage for living an adventurous, inspired, authentic life.