Lost Pines, Found Feasts

In Bastrop, It's Back to Basics and It's Refreshing

Common Ground

398 Old Austin Hwy., 321-3213
Tue-Sun, 11am-2pm; Fri & Sat, 5-8pm

Georgie Anne's Coffeehouse

706 Pine, 332-2200
Tue-Sat, 9:30am-6pm; Sun, 11am-3:30pm
Live music: Sat, noon-2pm

Common Ground

photograph by John Anderson

Day trippers who find shade under the soaring evergreens at Bastrop's Lost Pines State Park will be happy to learn that this small community offers more in the way of nourishment than the string of uninspiring fast-food franchises lining Highway 71. In fact, if your weekend generally includes a hike along one of Austin's greenbelts and you've never been to Bastrop's State Park, consider making the 30-minute drive east for a pleasant change of landscape. Then after your hike through the pines, indulge in a wholesome meal at Common Ground, a natural food store, cafe, and community garden.

Common Ground occupies a somewhat ramshackle house on the Old Austin Highway, a small street just off the main road into Bastrop's Historic Downtown. It's a cafe of the "crunchy granola" sort, much like one you might find doing a mean business in a small town north of San Francisco. Posterboards weighted down with pictures decrying local logging and a plethora of pamphlets on the USDA's proposed new organic standards, among other topics, cover the walls. Breakfast is served all day, every day, and includes several egg combos, breakfast tacos, pancakes, and French toast made with homemade bread. Lunch and dinner options range from homemade soups and somewhat standard deli sandwiches to Middle Eastern plates piled high with hummus, falafel, baba ganouj, and tabouli. There are four Tex-Mex options, as well as a freshly prepared lasagna, a vegetable quiche, a handful of salads, and two specialty sandwiches, the latter sub rolls piled high with grilled vegetables and savory sauces. Owner Catherine Lewis also prepares daily chalkboard specials; she characterizes her food — a marked departure from the chicken-fried norm in Bastrop — as "the kinds of things I like to eat."

My Middle Eastern platter — #2 — ($5.25) was an overflowing pita crammed with warm falafel, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, red onions, and a huge tangle of alfalfa sprouts. Good for me and good-tasting to boot. The side of tabouli that came with it was a solid rendering of the traditional recipe: practically equal parts of organically grown cracked wheat and parsley tossed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil. An order of the daily Spanikopita Special ($6.50) — a spinach and feta pie surrounded by crisp, flaking filo pastry — earned even greater admiration. There was nothing particularly fancy about the pie, yet it was exceedingly enjoyable, the slightly bitter, garlic-spiked spinach marrying well with the tangy feta cheese — proof that good food doesn't have to be complicated when the ingredients are fresh.

In the way of beverages, Common Ground does a variety of designer coffee drinks and teas, and the cafe makes its only dessert offering, ice cream, in-house. Friday and Saturday evenings occasionally feature live local musicians and you're welcome to BYOB.

Another fun and out-of-the ordinary spot in Bastrop, Georgie Anne's Coffeehouse serves house blend coffees, espresso, lattes, and basic sandwiches in a generously shaded old home off Bastrop's Main Street. Inside, Georgie Anne's looks like a modest antique shop, with vintage paraphernalia covering the walls and ceiling. Outside, a mismatched collection of lawn and garden furniture fills the front porch and adjacent patio, making it the perfect place to sit and relax, drink in hand. Georgie Anne's sandwiches ($3.50) are unremarkable save for the homemade bread on which they're served, but the huge bell jar of iced tea ($.75) and aromatic coffees are as refreshing as the atmosphere.

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