Sunshine streaming in through old-fashioned storefront windows and warm light bouncing off of quirky vintage art. Exposed brick and stone. 1970s speakers above a game and book nook. Amazing beer. A framed photo of 1980s beauty pageant contestants. Tennis-themed decor.
Heavy wood furniture painted in a modern bar code theme. A wall of vintage baking pans. Delicious meats and breads. Amazing hand-painted signage. A flea market planter-turned-light fixture in a bathroom. Boldly-patterned wallpaper just begging to be the background to someone's Instagram photo.
No, it's not a highly-detailed set from a Wes Anderson movie; it's Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden, opening Jan. 23 at 709 E. Sixth Street downtown.
These next few paragraphs will make you really hungry
Dreamed up by the ELM Restaurant Group (also behind 24 Diner), Easy Tiger will be a place to enjoy the finer things in life that take a long time to make and a lot of experience to perfect. 24 Diner’s executive chef Andrew Curren (People’s Best New Chef from Food & Wine Magazine and a contestant on Top Chef: Texas last fall) came up with a mouth-watering menu of housemade sausages, jerky, corned beef and pastrami, as well as homemade krauts, relishes and peperonata.
When you enter Easy Tiger at street level, you'll burst into a beautiful bakery with a wall full of baguettes, French country levain, rye bread, German pretzels, Danish and turnovers, and you'll be able to see all the action happen through large glass windows that look into the bakery run by artisan baker David Norman (who has been head-baker at New York greats like TriBakery, Ecce Panis and Bouley Bakery). Enjoy sandwiches that combine the best of the bread and meat worlds at Easy Tiger for lunch or dinner.
Down some stairs below into the low-lit and friendly-feeling bar and beer garden, Easy Tiger impresses with an array of 30 craft beers on tap, cocktails, a curated wine list and more helmed by CIA graduate and 24 Diner sommelier Billy Caruso. You'll also be able to enjoy a selection from Antonelli's Cheese Shop, and there's organic tea and great coffee from Texas Coffee Traders’ locally roasted beans at Easy Tiger, too.
When asked how such a unique concept and combination of elements were brought together, the answer sounded gradual and enthusiastic.
"We were having an issue with our bread at 24 — we wanted better bread. Honestly, out of the blue one day this guy dropped off some bread, like a baguette and a croissant. And Drew our chef and I are both big foodies, and we're in tears about this freakin' baguette. We were like this is the best baguette we've ever had. And that was the bakery part," says Caruso.
"So we started looking around at spaces and all came here and felt like it was a kind of weird place, and then all went home and slept on it and woke up the next morning and looked at each other and realized we loved this space. So we gutted it, and the beer garden idea just made sense. I knew the craft beer movement in Austin was getting huge and knew it was the next thing that was gonna hit Austin. [Easy Tiger investor Chad Gluckson] had this idea to call it 'Easy Tiger,' and we thought it was so awesome. Just a weird, cool concept."
Why you'll come to Easy Tiger and probably want to move in
Of course it's not just what'll be served at Easy Tiger that's got folks around Austin buzzing, it's the captivating atmosphere expertly designed by local Austin interior designer Veronica Koltuniak, who's worked for celebrities like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez and who also did 24 Diner's interiors.
The location, nestled right up to Waller Creek, is in a great older brick building from around the 1890s (that most recently was the Habana Restaurant). Koltuniak stripped the place down to its essentials to start: Molding and trim were ripped out to reveal gorgeous brick archways in the interiors; old sheetrock pulled off walls to highlight crusty, character-filled stone in a bathroom.
"I felt like this project needed a lot of research to it. There was a lot of energy and history to the building and I really wanted to pay homage to that. It was great — I felt like Nancy Drew," says Koltuniak.
Koltuniak stripped away to make room for a design concept that Austin didn't know it had been waiting for: deco 1970s-meets-the best of 1980s-meets-campy, eccentric and industrial-meets-neocolonialism federalism revival.
Or something like that.
The location's uniqueness certainly matches Easy Tiger's clever concept: From the beer garden you're treated to a startling view of a tall rock wall contrasting with even taller downtown buildings and soon, ping pong tables (set to arrive in less than a month) will attract those looking for good flavors, good sport and good views. A planned permanent video installation by local artist Denise Prince will further cement Easy Tiger as one of Austin's coolest new places when it debuts in a few months.
I think we're just going to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that
Koltuniak drew some inspiration from cozy New York clubs that embodied the sort of feel the owners were aiming for and borrowed historical Austin details from her research (like for the scalloped metal awnings in the front and back). Local visual talent like graphic designer Ryan Rhodes and sign painter Joe Swec add to the handmade, clever look of the space.
Most interestingly, she cites the popular movie director Wes Anderson's work as an important source of inspiration. That pink that splashes the bakery counter and shows up in the background of the fun wallpaper in the front? Totally taken from the film "The Royal Tenenbaums."
All her eclectic and detailed work comes together to create Easy Tiger's soft, dreamy atmosphere that will be perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee, a baguette and watching the "Moonrise Kingdom" trailer on your iPad while you catch up with your ex.
In other words, you're going to want to slow down and stay awhile (which just so happens to be their motto).
"We just want to make really kick-ass food, really awesome bread, have hospitality-driven service and incredible beverages," says Caruso.
Easy Tiger will be open 7 days a week, with the cafe being open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. and the Beer Garden from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Find them on Facebook.