A colorful new bar is on the scene in East Austin. Lovebirds opened at 2337 East Cesar Chavez Street in the Holly neighborhood on May 7.
Austinites will recognize that address as the former home of vegan restaurant Counter Culture. Randy Baker, who owns Lovebirds with brother Christopher, says that a friend alerted them to the spot becoming available, and they quickly jumped on the opportunity.
Lovebirds clearly has a romantic vibe throughout the space. The bar’s logo —depicting a pair of birds who have their necks intertwined over a drink — bears the words, “From first sight to last call.” Expect cocktails with swoony names like Puppy Love (sotol, grapefruit cordial, lime, and soda), Head Over Heels (gin, fig syrup, lemon, and prosecco) and the bar’s namesake drink (rum, bitter bianco, butterfly pea tea, pineapple, and lime).
More than one cocktail has a kick, like the Ball & Chain (Buffalo Trace bourbon, ginger syrup, spicy chiles, and lemon) and Old Flame (blanco tequila, blood orange cordial, arbol chiles, and lime).
Lovebirds also serves twists on the classics, including two versions of an Old Fashioned. The Oaxacan Old Fashion, which Randy Baker calls his current favorite, is made with Los Vecinos mezcal, Pueblo Viejo reposado tequila, agave and Aztec chocolate and orange bitters. The TX Old Fashion skews more traditional, with Still Austin bourbon, bitters and sugar. The bar also offers beers and shots.
“We set out to make a cute bar, and Lovebirds was a fitting name for the concept and feel of the place,” says Christopher.
There’s a Hawaiian-ish food truck on site. Wow Poke serves dishes like a spicy maguro poke bowl, a teriyaki bowl or wrap, and house-made doughnuts. The Bakers were fans of the truck and asked them to open at the bar.
Lovebirds general manager Jon Stephenson created the drink menu, which is still in development. He recently worked at Austin speakeasy Midnight Cowboy, and he previously ran the Saloon and the Tavern in Ventura County in California.
The Bakers, who are Austin natives, also operate vegan food truck Arlo’s, as well as the event space of North Campus spot the Ballroom (formerly Spider House’s Ballroom).
Inside, guests will find a colorful, artfully designed space with just a dash of kitsch. Painted red and yellow leaves crawl across teal walls. A “garden” of old television sets nestled into a patch of greenery over one archway lends an almost cyber-punk feel. Above the gold-brushed aluminum bar top, neon red tigers jump over the bottle shelf. There are also murals by artist Jessi Manchester.
Various styles of velvet seats — blue swivel chairs, and orange and mauve benches — invite guests to sit and enjoy the natural light pouring through the space and bouncing off the light-toned wood elements throughout the space. Throw pillows embroidered with birds and cats, as well as eclectic wall art you might find in a thrift store, add a splash of “cool aunt’s house” energy.
Counter Culture, which opened in 2012 in East Austin, closed at the end of December 2022. Amid a pandemic slowdown in business and rising rents, owner Sue Davis decided not to renew the beloved vegan spot’s lease. Davis first opened Counter Culture as a food truck in 2009 in the North Loop neighborhood.
At the time, Davis said that Counter Culture was just taking a break, and she was good on her word. Earlier this month, a new Counter Culture food truck held a soft opening on the back patio at Tweedy’s Bar, according to an Instagram post. The new truck will operate from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday at 2908 Fruth Street. Counter Culture eventually will expand its hours, including brunch service, according to the post.
Lovebirds is open from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday, noon to 1 a.m. Saturday, and noon to midnight on Sunday. Wow Poke is open from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.