Chef Sarah McIntosh is opening a second location of her beloved cafe Épicerie at Laguna Gloria.
By Meagan Leahy, Photos courtesy of Resplendent Hospitality
Chef Sarah McIntosh is an ideas person. She loves engaging in the creative process and dreaming up what could be. But when Louis Grachos, CEO of The Contemporary Austin and a regular diner at McIntosh’s beloved café, Épicerie, pitched her on the idea of opening a restaurant at Laguna Gloria, she had a lot of questions.
Laguna Gloria is the spectacular 14-acre outdoor space housing the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, the Art School and the Driscoll Villa. The Contemporary Austin team began revitalizing the landscape and architecture of the space last March and had been searching for the perfect restaurant to open at Laguna Gloria. McIntosh may have been skeptical at first, but once she understood the whole concept, she was sold. Thus began the launch of Épicerie at The Contemporary.
McIntosh first opened Épicerie in 2012 as a quaint grocery and café featuring food McIntosh coins as “Louisiana Cajun meets Texas and French cuisine.” Situated in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin, Épicerie rapidly became a neighborhood favorite. And while McIntosh loves the restaurant, she’s ready for a new challenge.
“I think if you ask anybody that’s creative, it’s hard to stay still. You just feel stagnant. I think that’s why this project is so exciting to me, because it hits all those points,” McIntosh says.
Épicerie at The Contemporary, which is scheduled to open this spring, will be a very different space than McIntosh’s inaugural restaurant. Guests can order at a walk-up window and either take food to go in a picnic bag or opt to eat under a shaded terrace in the outdoor-seating area.
“It will essentially be like a trailer. I mean, it’s an amazing, very beautiful, very expensive trailer,” McIntosh explains.
The lack of indoor seating is meant to encourage an experience among art and nature. The tasty fare is meant to be an amenity to complement that experience, a goal that means McIntosh will regularly make changes to the menu, the cornerstones of which will be light snacks and bites.
“We’re focusing more on grab-and-go foods, things people can take in a to-go box and eat really easily,” the chef says, noting this will include a number of McIntosh’s prized salads and sandwiches, along with her ready-to-nosh nibbles and cheeses.
While the menu will differ from that of the Rosedale Épicerie, the bulk of the café’s grocery items will be available to order. A massive display window will host the jams, fermented products, butters, coffees and spices McIntosh and her team make in-house. The new space will also sell many of the locally and seasonally sourced products that can be found at the original location, such as local beers, wines, beans and more.
Residing at Laguna Gloria, Épicerie at The Contemporary will be available to cater both private and public events. McIntosh already has ideas, such as a pig roast or a burger bar, for public events hosted on the grounds.
While McIntosh expresses the relative ease of opening a second location, compared with her first experience, Épicerie at The Contemporary will have unique difficulties to overcome. McIntosh, however, sees this as an exciting challenge rather than a daunting undertaking and is thrilled to blend her varying artistic talents in this project.
“People can grab some jam, grab some cheese, bread and just sit in the park and look at art,” McIntosh says. “It fits us. It fits them. It all kind of came together perfectly.”