Austin's classic Counter Cafe takes over longtime campus-area pizzeria

Austin's classic Counter Cafe takes over longtime campus-area pizzeria

Counter Cafe downtown Austin
Counter Cafe is taking over the old Conan's Pizza spot near UT campus. Counter Cafe/ Facebook

One of Austin’s most beloved diners is opening a third location. Counter Cafe owner Debbie Davis confirms that the farm-to-table breakfast and lunch spot has signed a 20-year lease at 603 W. 29th St., near the University of Texas campus.

Davis tells CultureMap that the move is a way of preparing for the future. The 626 N. Lamar Blvd. lot where the original cafe sits is up for sale. Rather than risk losing a Central Austin spot, she nabbed the Conan’s Pizza space when the company closed that location in July. 

The locale was attractive because of the parking, Davis says. The small shopping center only has four other tenants, many of which open later in the day than the eatery. She also wanted to ensure fans of the downtown diner wouldn’t have to drive too far to get their greasy spoon fix. (The cafe also has an outpost on East Sixth Street.) 

“We want to stay in the heart and soul of Austin,” Davis says, noting that there are no immediate plans to move from Lamar building that once housed GM Steakhouse. If the property never sells, she is happy to stay put and operate all three eateries.

Regardless of that location's fate, the restaurateur isn’t making changes to the successful Counter formula. The new location will have the same daytime operating hours and serve the same menu of classic egg dishes and fluffy hotcakes for breakfast along with sandwiches, salads, and burgers for lunch.

There will, however, be one key difference. The campus Counter Cafe will have a full liquor license, allowing it to open a small watering hole in the space called 29th Street Bar. “We feel Bloody Marys go well we eggs,” Davis jokes.

As the location grows, she may consider extending bar hours into the evening and offering a few small plates to go with the booze. If so, it will be Counter Cafe's first location to operate past 3 pm.

Although contractors have completely gutted the space, which had seen plenty of wear and tear over Conan’s more than forty-year-old run, Davis cautions that customers should not expect the debut any time soon. A whole new open kitchen has to be built and seating has to be moved in. Realistically, she says, opening day will likely be in the spring of 2019.