The Austin Chronicle

Restaurant Review

Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, June 17, 2011, Food

Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse

1900 S. First, 416-1601
Monday-Friday, 7am-12mid; Saturday-Sunday, 8am-12mid

Despite being housed in essentially a drafty shack, Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse has always enjoyed a large and enthusiastic clientele. Armies of tattooed hipsters perennially crowded the outdoor seating area, spilling out of the (faint) air conditioning directly into the Texas heat (and in winter, the northerly wind). I always imagined that the milieu was the drawing card – a place for like-minded individuals to meet and discuss last night's gig – but it wasn't long before I discovered the actual attraction: the food.

An out-of-town director wouldn't hear of meeting anywhere else, because Bouldin Creek had "the best tofu scramble in the world." Like many a skeptic, Bouldin Creek's brunch made me an instant convert. Farm-fresh local free-range eggs, Fair Trade coffee, crisp hash browns, blueberry corn cakes, vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp baby lettuces, stellar salad dressings, and tasty grilled sandwiches are all prepared without any danger of meat "contamination," something my vegetarian husband dreads. Add its many vegan options, such as the aforementioned tofu scramble, and the coffeehouse's constant press of business is no longer a mystery.

Thankfully, Bouldin Creek's deserved success enabled the business to move a few blocks down the street to a beautifully restored, solid brick building, the former location of Big G Tire. The renovation is absolutely stunning. Artistically, owner Leslie Martin was able to keep some of the gorgeous window signage from Big G ("Tires Rotated") while bringing along Bouldin Creek's characteristic splashy, big colors and abundant outdoor seating.

With the move, Bouldin Creek has made a few changes: Instead of waiting in an endless, slow-moving line to order, there is now table service, and the menu has been expanded. Service, always hit or miss, continues to be so; however, I got the impression that my server was busting her ass to provide the best service she could and that the various delays had more to do with working out the kinks of the new location than with carelessness.

Breakfast remains Bouldin Creek's strong suit. Everything I sampled in the breakfast arena was absolutely up to standard, from the crisp, rosemary-perfumed potato-hash cakes to "Fire," the marvelous house fresh-pepper puree that can be added to any meal. The Renedict ($6.50), a spin on eggs Benedict, was outstanding. Atop a grilled slice of ciabatta, two perfect eggs are decorated with strips of tofu bacon and vegan hollandaise, surrounded by fresh baby spinach and sliced organic tomatoes. It was delectable as only food made with the highest quality ingredients can be. Joe's Smokin' Omelet ($7.25) was very nearly as good: tender eggs folded with spinach, onion, and cheddar-Jack cheese, and topped with chipotle-pecan pesto.

Breakfast and brunch items make up the majority of the menu, but there are a number of sandwiches and hot entrées available if breakfast food doesn't appeal. The Bello Jiafra Melt ($7.25) sports meaty, beautifully roasted sweet red peppers and portobello mushrooms with melted Gruyère on ciabatta. The mushrooms are extremely flavorful, and happily all of the sandwich breads are fresh and soft, enabling the sandwiches to stay together with the fillings firmly inside during consumption. The grilled cheese con hierbas ($5.75) is the epitome of what a grilled cheese sandwich should be: long, thin sourdough slices filled with cheddar and Monterrey Jack, your choice of fresh cilantro or basil (or tomato or red onion, for an extra 50 cents) slipped inside, then grilled to a golden crispness.

The prices are so reasonable, the new building so comfortable, and the food so nourishing and enjoyable that Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse's base is destined to keep expanding. It may become an Austin institution – if it isn't one already.

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