As neighborhoods in central Austin fill up and downtown highrises grow closer to the sky, the charming houses on the outskirts of the city get a perk: cooler, hipper, livelier places to eat and drink are opening up. It keeps happening in southeast Austin, at the new Radio location, for example, and in far south Austin with all those busy bars on South Menchaca. And now Violet Crown Wine Bar and Coffee Shop is giving the Brentwood neighborhood residents a reason to, well, never venture to downtown Austin. Because why drive 5 miles south when you can walk to get a perfect morning cortado and an Andy K’s Donut? Or enjoy a tinned fish and caviar and potato chips with a crisp glass of Gruner Veltliner, produced naturally and poured by a kindhearted bartender with a smile?
The Violet Crown Wine Bar and Coffee Shop is a neighborhood gem, in the true sense of the word. Owned by husbands Chris Nagelhout and Grant Richardson, Violet Crown was created to serve the nearby community…while also being a completely destination-worthy spot for any foodie in Austin. (Hi, that’s me.) It’s a place where nearby residents can pop in and enjoy a conversation and a glass of wine. Or partake in the monthly wine club with a Wednesday members pick-up as a place to make new friends and connect on a monthly basis. Or a cozy nook to bring a laptop and get some work done in the morning with a specialty latte.
I had dinner reservations nearby and needed to kill an hour of time. In the evening hours, I find it much more enjoyable to knock out an hour of work over a glass of wine instead of coffee or tea (caffeine that late in the day will keep me up all night), so I put this new Austin wine bar into my maps app and decided to stop by for a glass.
The small shopping center that holds Violet Crown isn’t new to me. It’s where the original location of Little Deli is located, and I’ve stopped by for my fair share of New Jersey pizza slices or a ½ serving of that scrumptious, drippy sandwich called Harry’s Perfect Pastrami.
And so I knew that parking wouldn’t be an issue. Violet Crown has a massive parking lot, and it’s all free. In the (very weird) event that the entire lot might be full, this Austin wine bar is tucked into the Brentwood neighborhood and there’s ample parking along the streets.
I walked into the wine bar on an early Tuesday evening, and it had definitely drifted out of the “coffee shops” phase of the day and drifted into the “wine bar” phase: two different couples were sharing a bottle of wine on the front patio, which overlooks the small, quiet shopping center. There was a smattering of customers throughout the interior space, both at the charming bar area and at the smaller round tables. The largest table in the back corner was full of a group of chit-chatting moms who were sneaking sips of wine while rocking babies and monitoring toddlers. This is a family-friendly place!
The bartender quickly smiled and greeted me and asked how I was doing and what he could get me. I took my time perusing the wine menu, and I appreciate that he had some input to help guide me toward the perfect glass of wine to pair with my evening work session. (I ended up going with a sparkling glass of Italian varietals for something crisp and light before my dinner reservation later in the evening.)
I found a table, opened my laptop, and a moment later my cold glass of wine was presented to me. Free wifi, a casual hum in the background, and a beautiful ambiance made for a highly productive and enjoyable way to finish up my to-do list for the day. The owners of Violet Crown meticulously source every item on their menu. Whether you’re stopping by for breakfast, a mid-day caffeine pick-me-up, or an evening drink, everything on the menu is from small producers who care about the planet and the people in it.
The wine that they choose is natural, and no, that doesn’t mean it’s “funky.” Funky wine can be natural, but not all natural wine is funky. Most of the wine-by-the-glass options on Violet Crown’s menu will appeal to the average wine drinker…it’s just that you’ll be able to enjoy the glass knowing it was made without any manipulative farming, so it will taste a bit better, and you probably won’t feel as bad the next morning after drinking it.
The coffee is sourced from a small group of roasters around the country. Violet Crown cares about the farming and production methods that produced that coffee, which, of course, impacts the taste and ultimately the quality of coffee that sits in front of you as you work your way through your morning email inbox.
Evening bites include chic and snacky items: tinned fish, Spanish Marcona almonds, a cheese board, pimento cheese with Ritz crackers, cannellini bean, and artichoke bread served with Texas French Bread rye, and potato chips + herbed dip, with the option to add caviar.
There’s a large bottle shop along the back wall where you can peruse the (meticulously) sourced selection of gorgeous natural wines. Being a neighborhood spot, it’s the perfect place to stop and get something special to drink with a weeknight dinner, or a place to pick up a housewarming gift for a new neighbor.
But the shop itself is so spacious, bright, and beautiful, that you’ll probably want to stop by again and again just to enjoy a cappuccino in the morning or a yummy New Zealand pinot noir in the evening. And you’ll leave the space feeling a bit calmer,more grounded… maybe a bit happier. I know that I did.
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