Tuesday was our last day with visiting family. We woke up to chilly and very windy weather so we had to change the elaborate hiking plans we made. After watching Miss Congeniality 1 & 2 during the week off of school, we decided to dedicate ourselves to a Sandra Bullock theme and investigated her offerings around the town.
Bess Bistro is located in the lower level of the historic Stratford Arms building at 600 West 6th Street in Austin. This street was formerly known as Pecan Street which I think sounds much more appealing than just plain old 6th Street. Upon entering there is a tres chic bar area featuring rich wood and a mirrored backsplash with vintage fixtures. It looks like a cozy yet elegant place to enjoy a cocktail during the holidays.
Bar stools are just the right size for the counter height
Despite being set up as a below street grade establishment, it feels welcoming with it's exposed brick walls and ceiling rafters. There is just enough natural light combined with well thought out ambient lighting to give the space a warm glow. The wood work is rich and glossy with sienna colored leather banquettes and seats. There is unexpected crystal chandeliers dressing up the space.
I'm not sure how much of the renovation Ms. Bullock was personally involved with, but whoever executed the design plan for this space demonstrated an incredible attention to detail. The brick pillars were strategically padded with leather matching the seating. Not only did it give it a lush look but is incredibly practical to prevent damage to chairs as they are scooted in and out by diner
brick pillar padded & wrapped in leather
The place was full of surprises like a built in fish tank just around the wall near the bar. The attention to detail was carried out fully in the bathrooms with vintage tile on the floor and generous use of sparkling white subway tiles covering much of the wall space, broken up again by the exposed brick.
Turkey & Gouda on fresh bakery bread
Since we were merely lunching we sipped ice tea while we enjoyed attentive service and the menu which I would describe as refined comfort food with a southern flair. As is in fashion these days, there is an emphasis on using fresh, locally grown and organic ingredients. The prices were on the high side but I appreciated the uniqueness of my surroundings and my builder's brain told me the cost of the renovation is reflected in that.
What sets the menu apart from otherwise typical lunch fair was the freshly baked bread. Locally baked and used at Sandra's other establishment, Walton's Fancy & Staple, which is located in another historic building just down the street. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Bess Bistro, I am head over heels in love with Walton's. It is the coffee shop (plus more) I have dreamed of spending time in.
Side room of Walton's
Fresh flowers & catering
I can hardly describe the awesomeness of this place. Not only are the breads and pastries visually stunning, they taste just like they look. So many coffee shops offer pretty pastries (often made elsewhere) and with great anticipation you bite into it and it is just...meh.The pastries at Walton's were outstanding and the sandwiches and salads going by looked worth going back for when I'm really ravenous.
In another impeccably restored historic building, Walton's was a feast for the eyes and taste buds.It's not hard to imagine sitting down with my fellow Austin Sketchers, whiling the afternoon away. The offerings here include small unique gifts, spices, luscious candles, a florist, catering and a "gourmet to go" section.
Now y'all get over there & try it out
The calculator was running in my head the whole time we toured around both buildings. My experience as a serial renovator and designer tells me that this was a work of love on Sandra Bullock's part. The cost of this renovation would have far exceeded a tear down and rebuild project. This was definitely a gift to Austin's business district.