Who would have thought that the best little diner in Austin is actually not in Austin, but a few miles north on I-35 in Georgetown?
It’s known as the Monument Café, and from the old fashioned art deco light fixtures over cozy booths, to the un-be-lieve-able food that arrives at your table morning-noon-and-night - including anything from grandma-good meatloaf and chicken and dumplings to heavenly fluffy pancakes or eggs, bacon and slap-your-mama biscuits - the Monument Café is worth a 30-minute trek from the Capital City for a life-affirming meal (I should also note that the cinnamon rolls are so good they can only be described in words that aren’t exactly as “family friendly” as the actual diner).
“We have created a market where customers can find the best in organic, locally grown and seasonal products direct from the farm.”
Even more compelling about Monument Café is the commitment owner Rusty Winkstern takes to serving a menu that is as locally sustainable as possible. So much so, that’s he’s recently opened his own farmer’s market just behind the restaurant.
In June, Monument Market opened to the public, offering fresh produce, meats, seafood, cheeses and more from within a 250 miles radius (the extended distance is to be able to include fresh Gulf seafood). And while there’s nothing necessarily new in the idea of a farmer’s market, what sets Monument Market apart are a few key characteristics.
1) It’s a daily market. That’s right, instead of waiting for the Saturday morning haul to the nearest farmers market for a rush on limited product, Monument Market is supplied daily by area purveyors guaranteeing the absolute freshest ingredients in Central Texas seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
2) It not only supports local Texas farmers, but artisan grain, dairy, jam, and consumer good producers such as Homestead Gristmill of Waco, and Austin local chip maker, Beanitos. And it also has the retail ability to sell Texas beer and wine, making it a one-stop shop for an evening dinner party.
3) It has air conditioning. That may not be such a big deal in November, but when we’re experiencing the triple digit death days of summer, it’s really nice to know you can stroll around with a cute little cart and peruse the market without trying to rush out before the heat of the day melts you and your produce (and let’s face it, if you’re outside anytime after 7 am these days, you don’t have a prayer).
“We have created a market where customers can find the best in organic, locally grown and seasonal products direct from the farm,” Winkstern says. “We’ve always been committed to knowing where our products come from and supporting local agriculture. We take pride in what we sell and now we can share the freshest ingredients directly with our customers.”
Each Thursday, Central Texas chefs are invited to the market for a “Chef’s First Pick” breakfast to give area chefs a sneak peek at the freshest produce of the day for their weekend menus — an experience Austin chef and restaurateur Larry McGuire of Lamberts Fancy Barbecue and Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar has taken advantage of. As they stroll the market for ingredients, chefs are also treated to a Monument-style breakfast with fresh-brewed coffee, breakfast tacos, and an assortment of seasonal baked goods including scones with strawberry-black pepper jam and ginger-blackberry muffins.
For Winkstern, it’s not only about supporting a local economy. It’s also about strengthening a community. It starts with the café, grows with the market, and now extends to the weekend beer garden adjacent to the café and market. The beer garden offers local Texas beers on tap, light bar food options, a glowing atmosphere accented by strings of dance hall white lights, and live local music.
“We realty wanted a place where people can come and feel like they’re a part of the community they live in,” says Winkstern, “we’re trying to provide that on this one city block.”
For some, Georgetown may seem eons away, but for those serious about their daily market visits for the best in what Central Texas purveyors have to offer, as well as a quick stop at the café or beer garden for a good ole’ small town time, Monument Market is just a stone’s throw away.