Austinites have a new patio and yard where they can hang out with a drink thanks to the arrival of Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden off South Congress — and it’s got a chicken coop, a certified natural habitat, and a large herb and vegetable garden to boot.
Across a small parking lot from the Infinite Monkey Theorem urban winery in a building that had been slated to become the Buzz Mill’s second Austin location before the project fell through, Cosmic is a coffee shop by day and a bar with beer and draft, frozen and coffee cocktails by night.
Next door is the new-school barbecue food truck LeRoy & Lewis, which will anchor a rotating selection of food trucks with its smoked meats and a new breakfast menu of barbecue bagels.
Cosmic is the dream project of Paul Oveisi, who has returned to Austin from New York City. He had already made a name here as one of the owners of Momo’s, a Sixth Street music venue that closed in late 2011, and decided upon his move back to combine his hospitality background with his growing passion for permaculture and sustainability, teaming up with longtime friend and Cosmic co-owner Patrick Dean to do so.
“It dawned on me to try to fuse the two worlds. I spent two years looking for an affordable space in Austin with some land to open a bar,” Oveisi said. Once he found it, “it was me out there for a year cultivating the land and trying to get inspired before we even had a menu or a bar top or anything.”
His favorite feature is the pond just in front of the Cosmic patio. Fenced in to keep out large animals, it’s surrounded by plants and now the home of four species of fish, frogs, toads and a variety of aquatic flora, he said. In the springtime, it will be abloom with flowers and a striking sight for visitors sitting among the more than a dozen tables outside. The raised garden of herbs and veggies will similarly flourish in a few months.
Even the inside of the coffee shop isn’t without its greenery. Oveisi had brought in a bunch of potted plants to protect them from the recent freezing temperatures and just might leave them dotted along the window sills, he said, because of how nice they look.
The white-walled interior of Cosmic is open and airy, with a long bar at the back that serves coffee on one side and alcoholic beverages on the other. It was visually designed to reflect that — the honeycomb-tiled walls of the coffee side give way to the long reclaimed cedar planks of the bar.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden has beer and cocktails served on one end of the bar and coffee served on the other, separating the two visually with its back wall made of tile and then wood.
Photo: Arianna Auber / American-Statesman
Designing it that way is a nod to “the weird duality between the energy of a coffee shop — you know, early morning, lots of vibrant light — versus the energy of a bar — dark and a little more sultry. It was a little bit of a conundrum for me to design. How do you make that mix of energy work? We just embraced both,” he said.
He remembers when Celis Brewery debuted in Austin in the early 1990s. He wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker then, but he is now and finds beer “more complex than coffee or wine or spirits.” As a result, 11 of the taps on the draft wall are devoted primarily to local brews, including the recently returned Celis White, as well as his two go-tos, Pinthouse Pizza’s Electric Jellyfish IPA and St. Elmo Brewing’s Angus Dry Irish Stout.
But not all of the 23 taps house beer. The others pour cold-brew coffees, a nonalcoholic sparkling hibiscus tea and a variety of draft cocktails. There are also two constantly rotating frozen drinks and a half-dozen cocktails blending booze and coffee on the menu.
Two of the top choices? The AM and PM Negronis. The PM Negroni is made the traditional way, with gin, vermouth, Campari and orange oil; the AM Negroni swaps the gin for Cosmic Cold Brew Coffee. That might sound like a strange combination, but it’s actually a brilliant fusion of Cosmic’s two main beverage focuses. Oveisi worries that its low ABV will entice him into drinking more of it than he should.
The AM Negroni at Cosmic is slightly darker than the gin-based PM Negroni because it's made with cold-brew coffee, which is surprisingly stellar with bitter Campari.
Photo: Arianna Auber / American-Statesman
The Campari and cold-brew “are just spectacular,” he said. “We’re not trying to be a high-end cocktail bar. This is kind of like garden store meets bar, but we want to be able to have great drinks and to have people execute them fast and for them to be affordable.”
Of all the things he gets asked the most about Cosmic, however, it’s not the drinks or the garden or the on-site chicken coop housing a handful of hungry hens. Instead, because of his background at the once-beloved Momo’s, people pepper him with questions about the music program at Cosmic. His answer might not be what many of them will want to hear, he said.
First of all, he likely won’t establish live music at the beer garden for the first six months — he wants to watch it first to see where visitors congregate and where a stage might consequently make the most sense.
And once he has a stage, it might not be regularly used.
“I don’t think it’s going to be music every night,” he said. “It might be more what the Shady Grove does than the Continental Club. More of a seasonal series type thing. Music is a huge part of every thing that I do, and I owe it to the music community to not just throw music in a corner somewhere. ... I want to do it right.”
Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden is open at 121 Pickle Rd. with the hours of 7 a.m. to midnight Mondays-Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays-Sundays. For more information, visit cosmiccoffeebeer.com.