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Exclusive first look: Go inside new Austin restaurant Pecan Square Café, opening Monday

Matthew Odam
Austin 360

McGuire Moorman Lambert, arguably Austin’s most prolific and identifiable restaurant group, has drawn inspiration for its latest venture from the seasonal coastal cuisine and timeless vibes of Northern California restaurants like Zuni Café and Chez Panisse.

In a phone conversation with the American-Statesman this week, MML co-founder Larry McGuire called those spots “these inspiring places that have become the institutions that we’re always trying to build in Austin.” 

The local restaurant group is planning to open Pecan Square Café (pecansquarecafe.com) on Monday at 1200B W. Sixth St. in the Clarksville area. The neighborhood restaurant resides in the renovated building behind MML property Clark’s that was inhabited by Cafe Josie for more than 20 years. 

Pecan Square Café's main dining area features commissioned artwork and adobe-style walls lit by large windows.

“It’s kind of always driven by the building. That’s where we start,” McGuire said of his team’s approach to restaurant concepts. 

With the old building, the MML team envisioned a casual, residential-style space complete with a stone patio, a bar room and a vaulted dining room that looks into a wide-open kitchen centered by a wood-burning grill. The restaurant has design touches that speak both to the mid-century Northern California Sea Ranch aesthetic and the American Southwest, with custom artwork from emerging Texas artists. 

“We’re always trying to provide that big-city feel and some classic touches. It doesn’t feel new. The food’s not new, the space doesn’t feel new," McGuire said of his attempt to recreate the kind of timeless restaurants found on the coasts." 

He added: "It feels like it’s grounded. We’re always just trying to provide new experiences for Austin that feel sophisticated and kind of take you away, I guess.” 

The bar room, which features a cedar-clad bar, at Pecan Square Café.

Staying with that Northern California-meets-Texas inspiration, the market-driven menu from executive chef Chelsea Fadda, a veteran of MML bakery-restaurant Swedish Hill and Dai Due, will blend Mediterranean-influenced cuisine with flavors familiar to Austinites.

Diners at lunch and dinner can expect timeless dishes like pâté grand-mère, roasted chicken, handmade pasta, pizzas, pork schnitzel, a burger, and little gems and chicory salad, with a drinks program featuring coastal wines from around the world and straightforward cocktails. 

“Above all else, I think we’re opening a neighborhood restaurant. The size of Pecan Square Café and its location off the street in Clarksville — we feel like it’s the right restaurant for the neighborhood,” McGuire said. “It’s kind of like the café we want to go to on Wednesday night: super casual, white tablecloth, neighborhood, old-school feel.”

Pecan Square Cafe's main dining area features commissioned artwork by artist Matt Kleberg, mirror-lined walls, and real wood chairs and tables.

In addition to its lot neighbor, Clark’s, Pecan Square Café joins a part of the West Sixth and Blanco streets area that includes Swedish Hill and will soon welcome both a neighborhood bar and a wine bar from the hospitality group.

Lot parking is limited at the Pecan Square complex, though evening diners can use the Swedish Hill lot, and the neighboring Clarksville streets do not have residential parking restrictions. McGuire said MML may eventually institute valet parking for their collection of neighboring businesses. 

Pecan Square Café will be open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.