In Austin, it's a small world after all, but one with plenty of dining options


4618 Burnet Rd., 420-8758

Monday-Thursday, 7am-7pm; Friday, 7am-9pm; Saturday, 8am-9pm; Sunday, 8am-6pm

Just north of 45th, the enormous brown coffee-cup sign on Burnet Road indicates that the converted bungalow serves coffee. Pacha is indeed a coffeehouse with the full complement of caffeinated drinks, but it doesn't stop there: This comfortable neighborhood hangout also serves beer, wine, and smoothies, along with breakfast, lunch, and (early) dinner. The tiny kitchen creates far more ambitious offerings than usual coffeehouse fare, with popular regular menu items and daily specials.

Pacha means "earth" in the Quechua language of Bolivia, and the South American theme is reflected in the cheerful decor as well as the menu. Each of the 10 tabletops is a hand-painted Andean scene, the counter is decorated with tiles, and the walls, mantles, and shelves are laden with art, pottery, and jewelry from Bolivian craft cooperatives, most of it for sale. Coffees arrive in brightly colored ceramic cups and saucers or mugs.

The daily menu is displayed on a chalkboard, and you order at the counter. In addition to bagels, scones, and muffins, the good-deal breakfast special ($5) consists of yogurt and granola, coffee, and a breakfast taco. Exceptional empanadas ($2.50) are variously filled with sweet potato, spinach, eggplant, and hummus/tabbouleh, and the similar but larger saltanas ($3) come with chicken or vegetable filling. An interesting chipotle-mushroom tamale is $1.50, and two make a meal.

By lunchtime, daily specials of deep-dish quiches, hearty salads, quesadillas, panini, and soups appear on the chalkboard, with nothing more than $6 and a combination deal for $5.50. In addition, there's a daily lasagna dish ($6.50) like my yummy baked ravioli layered with béchamel, mushrooms, and spinach, as well as a plate lunch such as pork roast stuffed with spinach and ricotta ($7.95). Pacha also stages a periodic "supper club" on Saturday nights, offering four reserved seatings and a prix fixe, four-course menu for $28.

Pacha's menu items are tasty, fresh, and prepared with obvious attention and skill. Unfortunately, the delicious crusts (on empanadas, saltanas, and the lovely apple pie) do not benefit from warming in a microwave. Excepting that fixable issue, Pacha is a cozy spot with pleasant ambience, good coffees, and affordable fine food. – MM Pack

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