Austin Central Public Library’s new cafe and bar, Cookbook, is dishing out classics.

By Mary Murphy, Photos courtesy of Resplendent Hospitality 

Gone are the days of resorting to vending-machine snacks when visiting the public library. Austin Central Public Library patrons can now enjoy both food and drinks pulled from culinary publications found right in the library. From appealing appetizers to delectable desserts, Cookbook Bar & Café is bringing recipes to life.

Chef Andrew Curren of ELM Restaurant Group draws inspiration from timeless classics, like those found in your mother’s favorite cookbook, as well as from celebrated chefs throughout the country. The menu changes seasonally, allowing guests to try various dishes made with the freshest ingredients. Curren draws on the Austin spirit, keeping things close to home and socially conscious by incorporating farm-to-table and local components whenever possible.

The bustling bistro offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and beverage menus. Breakfast, served weekdays from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday, is anything but traditional. PB&J French toast from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook and farmer’s breakfast grilled cheese from Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollak are just a couple of entrees worth trying. Are you in a hurry? No problem! Cookbook offers scrumptious grab-and-go pastries too, including orange-scented rye muffins with walnut streusel, a recipe from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck.

Cookbook is a place Austinites can enjoy a unique meal during lunch breaks or change the cycle of the same old place for dinner. The lunch-and-dinner menu features appetizers, soups and salads, sides, sandwiches, entrees, kid-friendly choices and dessert. Items are reasonably priced, from $5 to $14.

While the idea of establishing a restaurant within a library is progressive in itself, the fact that alcohol is also offered takes Cookbook up a notch. Wine, local craft beer and cocktails abound on the beverage menu. Guests can treat themselves to creative and cleverly titled concoctions like the Tequila Mockingbird, A Midsummer Night’s Dram and The Adventures of Huckleberry Gin.

From the book-themed menu categories to the witty literary drink names, this themed eatery is full of delightful detail. An open floor plan allows for guests to comfortably stay and sit, either inside or outside. A beautiful bookcase close to the entrance holds some special treasures: more than 500 books previously owned by late Austin Chronicle food editor and aficionado of Austin food culture, Virginia B. Wood.

Fresh colors and calm music make Cookbook the perfect hangout for any food and book lover. Library visitors from all walks of life can mix and mingle in the cozy space Cookbook provides. The café and bar is also accessible from outside the library, and is open an hour before the library and an hour after it closes.


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