Tiny Boxwoods +
Tiny’s Milk & Cookies
What’s not to love at the Houston export’s elegant outpost
by Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Holly Cowart
At Tiny Boxwoods, the chic Houston export, it’s easy to feel like a fabulous Bayou City socialite. Long favored by the ladies-who-lunch set, the décor is lovely, the food is gorgeous and the attentive staff is nattily dressed. But in Austin, Tiny Boxwoods has attracted fans of all persuasions and shines just as brightly at breakfast and dinner as it does at lunch.
The story behind Tiny Boxwoods is a good one: A Houston landscaping store started offering its customers coffee and pastries, which eventually led to a full-blown restaurant built on the nursery grounds. Ten years later, in 2017, owners Baron Doke, Gregg Thompson and Lance Thompson opened an outpost adjacent to the Brykerwoods neighborhood, just behind Seton hospital. And like the Houston original, it’s adjacent to a sibling Thompson + Hanson landscape retail shop.
The food is reflective of its botanical roots: Garden-fresh ingredients are crafted into stylish American favorites. Mornings offer an assortment of tempting homemade pastries such as excellent croissants and pillowy brioche rolls dusted in sugar and filled with silky cream. For heartier fare, sit down with a plate of avocado toast: a generous slice of artisan bread layered with mashed avocado, heirloom tomatoes, red peppers, bacon and a fried egg. Or there’s fruit- and-yogurt parfaits, grain bowls, breakfast tacos and classic American breakfast plates.
Lunch consists of mostly sandwiches and salads, like the classic Caesar, the sublime and simple La Provençal, and the Grains & Things, a toothsome bowl of kale, farro, quinoa, roasted vegetables, crispy chickpeas, feta and fresh herbs tossed in a pine nut dressing. Sandwiches include a turkey club, a Cubano, a veggie burger and the always-popular Lucky Burger, a juicy, old-school double patty slathered in secret sauce, melted cheddar and homemade pickles, served with a side of crispy fries.
At night, Tiny Boxwoods offers some terrific starters like the addictive fried green tomatoes. Unlike any I’ve had before, these tangy bite-size chunks of green tomatoes are flash-fried in a light tempura batter and served with a zippy lemon-jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. And don’t miss the white bean stew: a rich, flavorful mélange of creamy white beans, sausage and herbs that could be a meal in itself. Be sure to sop up the last traces with some hot and crusty homemade bread. At dinner, there’s also wood-fired pizzas, plus grilled fish, chicken and steak, including the popular Black & Blue, a 6-ounce fillet atop blue cheese risotto and drizzled with a berry-balsamic reduction.
For dessert, there are assorted pastries and sweets, most notably the legendary chocolate chip cookies. The restaurant augmented its beverage service and now features a full bar in addition to its very nice wine and beer program. One evening, the talented bartender crafted a perfect Negroni and a seasonal Summer Smash, a refreshing cocktail of vodka, watermelon, lemon and fresh basil.
Tiny Boxwoods recently expanded next door with Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, an adorable walk-up coffee shop that sells pastries, biscuits, cookies, plus a few portable breakfast and lunch items. There’s a full selection of coffee and espresso drinks, teas and juices. And best of all, a dozen rotating flavors of homemade ice cream. Throughout the day, the transient Milk & Cookies clientele evolves from professionals grabbing a pastry en route to the office, to mommies with strollers getting a caffeine fix, to kids on bikes stopping by for an ice cream cone.
Appearances matter at Tiny Boxwoods and the place looks great. Like an upscale Hamptons farmhouse, it features white shiplap walls, rustic wooden floors, vaulted ceilings, tons of windows, a gleaming marble pastry counter and bar, and a lush, green patio. The inviting atmosphere feels like an idyllic oasis in the city. But don’t worry, it’s still Austin. Although the space is sophisticated, it’s not stuffy. It’s elegant with a rustic soul. Poised but not pretentious. And everyone is made to feel welcome and pampered. Sometimes it’s fun to break away from the Austin funk and take a walk on the stylish side.