After visiting Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse -er, Cafe- at its new location over the winter break, I felt torn between old and new. Bouldin Creek has been a South Austin relic for many years, and what makes it work so well boils down to a few elements.
Their new space is absolutely gorgeous. Bright colors, lots of natural light, with a large coffee bar at the epicenter of it all. While I found the dim lighting and grungy look about the old Bouldin Creek comforting, I find this new space to be more uplifting- which better matches the mood of the happy, community-minded folks who frequent Bouldin.
The seating situation has also visibly improved. In the last months at their new location, I found myself skulking around to steal an indoor seat once someone was finished eating. The two times I’ve been to their new location, even when they were slammed, I got a table in less than ten minutes. There is also a good-sized parking lot, which is a definite improvement from the three “official” spaces plus street parking at the old location, which I know from personal experience some of the homeowners up the street weren’t exactly thrilled about.
Even though Bouldin Creek might look a lot more upscale these days, the same down-to-earth people are coming here. People who will let you pet their dog and talk about your dog. People who share a table with you because the table is big enough and there’s nowhere for you to sit, and not only that, but strike up a conversation with you- and it isn’t awkward at all. That’s just Bouldin.
Much to my relief, the menu remains untouched, with all of their classic menu items still intact. I had feared for my Kool Summer sammich with tofu bacon and my Ren tacos. But what about new menu items? I honestly expected to see at least a few new things in addition to the old, but I didn’t. New Bouldin is halfway there on this one. They didn’t upset older patrons by removing menu items; yet I was expecting (and excited about) new menu items along with the new space.
So if the improved space, the original menu, and the same warm environment aren’t the issue- what is?
There’s a few things I just can’t get over. I will be the first to admit that I resist change, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why I find myself longing for “old Bouldin.” I loved the indoor/outdoor screened patio they had goin’ on at the old place, especially during the winter. It was a great place to get a meal, yes, but also a place to hang out and read or drink a Lone Star. With the switch to table service, I feel guilty if I want to just sit by myself, like I’m inconveniencing the waiter or taking up a table. And I have to ask, would Leslie still fit at this re-invented Bouldin Creek? The Tom Waits shrine that hangs over the new coffee bar gives me hope.
Despite trying to cling to the relics of old Bouldin, I understand the motives behind the changes at Bouldin Creek. If I were a restaurant owner, I’d want to eventually elevate my place from “coffeehouse” to a full-service restaurant. And that’s exactly what Bouldin Creek is now- a restaurant. A restaurant that still boasts good coffee, delicious vegetarian and vegan food, and more or less the same atmosphere. So in with the new, and out with the old! There’s a new Bouldin in town.