When Judy Willcott opened the doors at Texas French Bread Bakery (TFB) in 1981, Austinites lined up around the block on Saturday mornings for hot ham and cheese croissants and petit pains au chocolats. Now, nearly three decades later, and with the next generation of Willcotts at the helm, TFB has added a little something new to the menu: dinner, three nights a week.
Evening service might be a new step for the bakery, but for co-owner and chef Ben Willcott, the dinner course is no stranger. “About 10 years ago, I started dragging large groups of friends to the house on a regular basis for home-cooked meals,” says Ben, whose popular evening fêtes have been known to line neighborhood streets with cars and pack his house with guests for an often all-night affair. Now that the supper party has moved to TFB, the parking is easier and guests can relish exceptional food while still tucking-in at a reasonable hour.
The dinner menu changes weekly to showcase things seasonal, local, organic and fresh, and reflects the influences of Ben’s travels to Taiwan, China, East Asia and India.
Co-owner Murph Willcott notes the strong emphasis on French and bistro-style cooking, simple sauces and innovative pairings like harissa and yogurt with homemade lamb sausage, squid with Spanish chorizo, and buttery cannellini puree with thinly shaved artisanal salami. Menu highlights regularly include meat, fish and dairy from Loncito’s Lamb, Bastrop Cattle Company, San Miguel Seafood and Pure Luck Farm and Dairy.
With its charming 1920s-era building, its cozy neighborhood setting and the inviting new menu, TFB offers the communal dinner spirit reminiscent of a European corner café. Guests are encouraged to gather in large groups, mingle, mill about and, as Murph says, “dine nonsequentially and linger between orders.”
Thurs.–Sat. 6–10 pm
29th and Rio Grande location only
BYOB, cork fee $7