Food-o-File

Austin is drowning in coffee, and the Blue Bonnet Cafe is Still Cookin' After 80 Years

We have our bimonthly story meetings in coffee shops for convenience, and when we were gathered around a table recently at Fair Bean Coffee (2210 S. First, 444-2326, www.fairbeancoffee.com), one topic of conversation was the proliferation of coffee shops and coffee businesses in Austin neighborhoods. With the recent debut of Once Over Coffee Bar (2009 S. First, 326-9575, www.onceovercoffeebar.com), where serious baristas Jenée and Rob Ovitt specialize in the French-press preparation of selected quality single-origin coffees, there are now three coffee shops on South First between Elizabeth and Oltorf and another four or five along South Con­gress between Riverside and West Mary. We stopped counting before considering the same stretch of South Lamar but can report that a new outlet of international chain the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (221 S. Lamar, www.coffeebean.com) is set to open just south of the river in June. Now, some of these places sell food and/or merchandise as well as coffee, but many really only offer coffee beans, coffee/tea beverages, and pastries they've purchased wholesale, so the question we were considering was this: Just how many businesses can survive on the proceeds of coffee beans, coffee drinks, and pastries while essentially offering free Wi-Fi and office space to legions of laptop users? I'm really curious about the answer to that question, but the coffee shop explosion does appear to be generating sales for local pastry shops and wholesale bakers... Speaking of new coffee businesses, two new roasting operations have set up in the midcity area. Longtime Austin coffee maven Travis Kizer has struck out on his own with Owl Tree Roast­ing (3421 N. I-35, 334-9211, www.owltreeroasting.com), in a converted 1950s Texaco station alongside the northbound freeway access road. Kizer is custom-roasting beans for Progress Coffee and other shops and considering eventually opening a retail location of his own. Also new is online delivery service Pilot House Coffee Roasters (www.pilothousecoffee.com), which custom roasts in small batches and delivers fresh-roasted beans directly to the customer via scooter in selected neighborhoods... Owners of the Blue Bonnet Cafe (211 U.S. 281, Marble Falls, 830/693-2344, www.bluebonnetcafe.net) celebrated the restaurant's 80th anniversary this week by publishing an expanded and updated version of their popular cookbook, Still Cookin' After 80 Years ($12.95). Grab one the next time you stop in there for a great slice of pie!... I probably do spend too much time thinking about how much Austin has changed in the years since I took on this job, but the magnitude of the changes was brought into sharp focus with the passing of two legendary Austin restaurateurs in recent weeks. Ralph Moreland created a successful local chain of family-friendly restaurants in mid-20th century Austin known as the Holiday House. In addition to selling good, simple food at affordable prices, Moreland provided comfortable neighborhood hangouts for generations of young people and gave many of them their first restaurant jobs. And long before the Northwest Hills area became a busy Austin suburb, crusty barkeep Sarah "Nina" Ransom barked the same admonition to cedar choppers, hippies, and frat boys alike when they came to drink beer, play the jukebox, and appreciate the sunsets from her Dry Creek Cafe deck: "Bring that bottle back down here, or you won't get another beer!" They will both be missed.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

coffee, Ralph Moreland, Sarah "Nina" Ransom, Fair Bean Coffee, Once Over Coffee Bar, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Owl Tree Roasting, Pilot House Coffee Roasters, Still Cookin' After 80 Years, Blue Bonnet Cafe

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