Carnivore's Holiday: Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse
The last of a 10-part adventure on the other side of the food chain
Part 10: Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse
1900 S. First St. 512-416-1601, www.bouldincreek.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday. 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday-Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 06.23.12
You’ve gotta love the randomness of Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, sprawled along a patio, a bar and the sunlit rooms of what used to be a tire shop. It could still be one, a tire shop that is. At least the waiting room for one, if it were in Boulder. The cafe has accomplished the rare feat of taking a place beloved by the South Austin counterculture for its coffee, its vegetarian aesthetic and its loose counter-service groove and transplanting it a few blocks south to a more grownup table-service space without losing the charm that makes Bouldin Creek, as a friend describes it, “the Mos Eisley cantina for hipsters.”
This is my last stop on the 10-part Carnivore’s Holiday tour of Austin vegetarian and vegan restaurants, a tour I’ve wandered through with a convert’s rapture. I’m the guy at the Hare Krishna chant-along, the Scientology interview or the riverbank revival going, “You know, this might work.” At Bouldin Creek especially, I could consider a more permanent injunction on meat ... if there weren't a barbecue trailer just four blocks away.
What you’re eating: The Veggie Royale ($7.25, plus 50 cents for cheese) is part patty melt, part hamburger and part none of the above, held stubbornly together by a dense collective of corn, grain, peanuts and red-pepper spice that mimics the texture of beef from a backyard grill without pretending to taste like it. The patty’s a solid conveyor of chipotle-pecan pesto that could play king of the hill with mustard, aioli, chutney — even peanut butter — and come out on top every time. The build-out includes summer tomatoes, lettuce, purple onion and toasted ciabatta, with a side of sesame-reinforced coleslaw.
A Farmer’s Plate with three tamales ($8), beans, sliced avocado and tortillas completes the picture of an Austin lunch of burgers and Tex-Mex. Except that these corn-husked masa bombs are rolled with sweet potato. In tandem with the Mexican spice cabinet, the potato’s earthy sweetness behaves like a side dish. With stewed red and black beans, avocado, salsa and a tangle of lettuce and tomato, the plate feels more like a finger-snack B-movie than a main course, filled with character actors in need of a marquee star.
What you’re drinking: The Leveler, a drink for the best of both worlds: A tall can of Murphy’s Irish Stout, poured in a pint glass with chocolate and a shot of espresso ($4.75). It’s creamy and sweet, with the dry roastiness of the beer’s dark malt playing background to chocolate syrup and amplifying the espresso roast. Confuse your system further with a moist vegan chocolate brownie for $2.50. For something less complex, the housemade lemonade with ginger syrup is nice ($3.25).
Other options: Breakfast and coffee are natural choices here, represented best by the Renedict ($7.75), a collection of soft-fried eggs and silky vegan hollandaise over crispy ciabatta, crowned with a ring of tomato slices and tofu bacon, which is alien and spongy on its own but smoky and alluring as part of the congregation.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)