From the outside, the Live Oak Market looks like it could be just another generic convenience store branded with an Austin-y name. Even though I could walk to the Live Oak from my house, it took a recommendation from a friend to get me to go- but once I did, I kept coming.
Good businesses start with good people, and the people who run this place are awesome, which is more than one can usually say for any other convenience store. I knew this would be a great place when the employees recognized and chatted me up after I had only been in the store a few times, and even though I don’t get in there as often as I used to, I’m still welcomed every time. One of the guys that works at night even gave my then-roommate supplies for an art project she was working on! If you were to cut out the food, the Live Oak Market would still be a great place to have an engaging conversation with great people (or, if you’re there at night when they turn the music up, have a dance party through the aisles.)
But hey, this is a food blog, so let’s talk food. Excellent food, to be exact. Convenience store food often brings up images of hot dogs on a rotisserie, crusty pastries, and frozen blue drinks from a machine. This is not so at the Live Oak. In the morning, they offer a variety of breakfast tacos with two vegetarian options, egg/potato/cheese and egg/black bean/cheese. They offer a salsa that is unlike any I’ve ever tried on a breakfast taco before, fire-roasted with hints of citrus and just the right amount of spicy-ness for the morning. Breakfast tacos are meant to be portable, and these are well put-together and made with love. I often eat them in the car on the way to school in the morning and I’m not covered in pieces of taco by the time I’m done. For lunch, the Live Oak offers a variety of unique panini sandwiches, including a plain ‘ol grilled cheese. They have happily let me customize my meat-free sandwich to my heart’s content on many occasions. The paninis are large and fairly priced, grilled to perfection, and have fresh in-house ingredients.
Besides the great food, this place offers a smorgasbord of funky products. Their non-alcoholic beverage selection rivals the nearby Central Market. In addition to Mexican Coke and Jones sodas, you’ll find Dublin Dr. Pepper, sodas sweetened with Agave nectar, Kombucha, a variety of Yerba maté drinks, flavored iced teas, and natural energy drinks- all local whenever possible. You could probably try a different drink every day for a few months and still not have tried everything. For what it’s worth, their beer and wine section also runs outside of the regular convenience store scope. You’ll be sure to find some good IPA’s and lots of local brews here.
Don’t get me wrong, the convenience store basics are still there if you need them. But you’re going to have a hard time getting to them, as you’ll be wonderfully distracted by the dizzying array of funky local products. Even though you just went in there to grab a quick drink, you’re likely to walk out with a handmade bar of soap or some goat’s milk ice cream. They even have WiFi and outdoor seating! It’s almost redundant at this point to say that the Live Oak Market goes above and beyond what you’d expect from a normal convenience store, all while keepin’ Austin weird.