In late December, épicerie Café & Grocery, a casual, counter service café and artisan grocery, opened on Hancock Drive in Rosedale.
The cozy French-Louisiana-inspired café is the delicious brainchild of Sarah McIntosh. The 60-seat eatery was inspired by McIntosh's Louisiana roots and years of cooking in refined kitchens in restaurants like Ad Hoc, Olivia and Jeffrey's.
In the months leading up to épicerie's opening, there were a number of residents that objected to the café coming to their neighborhood, fearing it would clog the streets with restaurant patrons and parked cars. Yet McIntosh says that people have been nothing but welcoming and supportive ever since épicerie opened its doors.
"I feel like we're a part of this neighborhood now," she explains. "I've been thinking about doing a place like this ever since I graduated from culinary school eight years ago. I've worked in nice restaurants, but I've never personally wanted to explore a fine-dining concept. I like the more casual, comfortable places where you know your customers by name and don't make them dress to the nines to come and visit you."
"All of these products are things that I really love and have learned about working in kitchens across the nation. I wanted to bring them all to one place, and I'm glad that I finally get to do that here." - Sarah McIntosh
In addition to featuring a mouthwatering selection of soups, salads, snacks and entrées, épicerie boasts a selection of nearly 60 cheeses, a dozen charcuterie meats, a handful of pastries and an impressive selection of artisan products, such as sweet honey, gourmet jams, American sea salt, fine wines, handmade soaps and a number of other gourmet goods.
McIntosh handpicked all the products featured in épicerie and vehemently attests to their quality standards. "All of these products are things that I really love and have learned about working in kitchens across the nation," she says. "I wanted to bring them all to one place, and I'm glad that I finally get to do that here."
The café's menu will change according to season and availability of local ingredients, but some of the current items featured on the menu include savory oxtail stew, beignets, heirloom red beans and rice, shaved kobe beef sandwich, frites, muffuletta salad and more.
One of the most attractive qualities of épicerie is its affordability, with menu items falling between $8 to $15. McIntosh says her approach to preparing and pricing the food at épicerie is particularly inspired by her time at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc.
"I really love Ad Hoc's take on food," she says. "Nothing was too expensive, and everything was very approachable. Their menu was a detailed look at classic American dishes that were made from scratch and paid great attention to detail. I love to approach food like that."
An undeniable beauty of épicerie is its chic atmosphere and interior design, which was brought to life by the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. The firm is known for designing restaurants like Olivia, Uchi, Sway, P. Terry's and a number of other Austin hospitality concepts. Épicerie is housed in a 1930s-style bungalow and features impressive, yet subtle details in things like light fixtures, earth tones and dining room furniture.
"They think through everything when it comes to designing a concept," McIntosh says. "You may have all these ideas in your head, but they bring your attention to the things that really matter. For épicerie, I wanted to bring an old classic feeling to life. Don't get me wrong; I love the modern stuff Michael does, but I wanted to highlight the old details in the building."
For now, McIntosh says she's trying to take it a day at a time and figure out what the menu staples will be at épicerie, but that hasn't stopped her from imagining what's over the horizon. "We want to build up our salad selection, change up the sandwiches and bring mussels on to the menu."