For the books
Austin Central Library begins new chapter with opening of all-day cafe
The owners of Irene’s, 24 Diner, and Italic are giving Austin a new reason to eat their words. ELM Restaurant Group has announced that its anticipated Cookbook Bar & Cafe is now open inside the Austin Central Library.
The bookish location isn’t just an attractive space. “It was important that Cookbook Bar & Cafe was not only an amenity to the new Central Library, but an extension of it,” said chef Andrew Curren in a release. “I wanted there to be an educational piece that tied back to the menu and the books from which the recipes were published. Not to mention, our guests will enjoy an ever-changing menu with no boundaries.”
For the menu, Curren drew inspiration from recipes created by some of the most acclaimed culinary figures in the country, paying particular attention to cookbooks from the American South and Mexico. Like all of the kitchens under the ELM Restaurant Group banner, Cookbook sources local ingredients whenever possible.
Highlighted dishes include a granola parfait based on Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon’s ode to one of New Orleans’ classic restaurants, The Commander’s Palace Cookbook. Lauded Birmingham, Alabama, chef Frank Stitt provided the inspiration for an asparagus and crawfish meunière, and culinary guru Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi was the launching point for a rice pudding with strawberries and spice hibiscus syrup created by ELM pastry chef Mary Catherine Curren.
Cookbook also has a full bar with local craft beer, a curated selection of wine, and original cocktails. Andrew Curren, beverage lead Noah Gray, and general manager Val Dahlgren crafted a playful drinks list with names like Cava’s Web, The Adventures of Huckleberry Gin, and Murder on the Oriental Espresso.
For non-imbibers, there is a selection of zero-proof beverages like a lemonade and a pomegranate spritz inspired by Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Fruit.
VeroKolt and architect Lake Flato designed the space to be as airy as the library. Mostly neutral colors play off white oak and steel elements and expansive windows. The design also incorporates the Virginia B. Wood Memorial Cookbook collection, created from the decade-spanning archive of the former Austin Chronicle food editor, who passed away in March of this year.
Starting June 21, the counter service eatery will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch. A separate coffee cart serves drinks and pastries on the library’s garden rooftop patio.