1886 Café & Bakery Austin Reviews
A sweet destination Oct 15, 2016
This is a truly elegant coffee shop with a wonderful history. Adjoining Austin’s landmark Driskill Hotel, the café came into existence when citizens rescued the building from the wrecking ball in 1969. Scheduled for demolition, the property was spared by rapid formation of a non-profit corporation which raised enough money (partially through bake sales) to buy the Driskill. For the next twenty years the non-profit operated the venue, which included opening the “1886 Lunchroom” in the space formerly hosting the hotel saloon and billiard hall. The posh interior and traditional recipes earned it fame as “Austin’s socializing parlor” --- the for-profit successor hardly missed a beat in transition.
Today the café boasts an executive pastry chef and their sweet treats are apparently legendary (of course I did not sample any of these, but the coffee was damn good!). There were tons of pastries and breads on display and I noticed they create custom cakes for your wedding or that special birthday. Service was cafeteria style, so no table waiters. While I prefer this, it did seem a bit at odds with the upscale atmosphere (though I noticed their marketing blurb expressed the atmosphere as “casual elegant”, lol)
On the plus side, this enables quick satisfaction of your order and everyone hustling behind the main counter struck me as impeccable: smartly dressed, polite, cheerful, knowledgeable about everything offered (several folks ahead of me asked specific questions and it was obvious they were veterans who relied on staff replies) and adept at running the various machinery to crank out cappuccino, etc.
My visit was mid-morning, but after viewing the lunch menu I wished I had been a bit late. Sticking with the “sweet” theme, one of the lunch selections was their “Hangover Burger,” featuring grass fed beef topped with chile rubbed bacon, cheddar cheese, a sunny-side up egg and brown sugar! A separate dinner menu features Texas ‘comfort food’ (Green Chile Pork Mac & Cheese and Honey Glazed Fried Chicken, for example).
Seems like whatever time you drop in, the 1886 Café will satisfy your hunger for food and people – during my visit the joint was packed and seemed to continue its reign as Austin’s socializing parlor.
Part of the Killing Time in Texas travel blog
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