It makes sense that a restaurant would pull from nearby sources, and the Austin Central Library’s new downtown restaurant Cookbook Cafe on 710 West Cesar Chavez Street is drawing from, well, the library’s best assets: cookbooks. The counter-service menu is a patchwork of influential cookbooks, from granola parfait from The Commander’s Palace Cookbook to Julia Child’s split pea soup to rice pudding from Dorie Greenspan. It opens today, Thursday, June 21.
Cookbook Cafe is “truly an extension of the library,” said Cookbook and ELM Restaurant Group chef Andrew Curren. “We wanted the cafe to not only be an amenity to the library, but an opportunity for guests to learn, read, and peruse cookbooks while experience dishes straight from the books.”
Curren used books that were “true representations of both place and technique,” as well as himself. There is plenty of Austin and Southern picks, like Joe’s Bakery’s huevos rancheros (via the Austin Cookbook) and Sean Brock’s watermelon salad from Heritage.
Curren also made use of his mentors, with selections from Jonathan Waxman, Floyd Cardoz, and Justin Smiley, and well-known and favorite cookbook authors and chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi (both savory and desserts), Alain Ducasse, and Charlie Trotter.
Dishes are wide-ranging, from tacos to sandwiches to seafood to even a peanut butter and jelly French toast. There is a separate breakfast menu served in the mornings, with a breakfast grilled cheese sandwich, among other dishes. The menus note the source of each recipe too.
For drinks from Curren, the beverage lead Noah Gray, and general manager Val Dahlgren, there is an assortment of wines, beers, and cocktails. Straight-up Texas spirits, like Tito’s Vodka and Austin Reserve Gin, get a special section. Cocktails take on literary names, like the Tequila Mockingbird with jalapeno-infused tequila and muddled watermelon, and the brunch-time Bloody Mary Jane Hair of the Dog.
The restaurant was designed by ELM’s go-to designer VeroKolt, along with architecture firm Lake Flato. The light and airy space features white oak and steel, with whites, browns, and blues colors punctuated by the restaurant’s bright orange accents. The ground-floor restaurant features indoor seating as well as a patio that overlooks Shoal Creek.
Of course there are cookbooks, with bookshelves and a nearby table for those who want to look through the tomes. The books stem from Virginia B. Wood’s collection, the former Chronicle food editor who died in March. The wallpaper outside of the restrooms feature fake vintage cookbook covers and signs.
Ahead of Cookbook’s opening, it debuted a rooftop coffee and pastry cart this week at the library, serving drip coffee, muffins, and cookies during daytime hours.
Once it debuts, Cookbook will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Breakfast is served from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on the weekdays and all day on the weekends.
This article has been updated with Cookbook Cafe’s opening date, as well as the source of the restaurant’s physical cookbooks.