Find Me at Tiny Boxwoods
by Kristin Armstrong
Illustration by Heather Sundquist
When something wonderful happens for a close friend, the joy and excitement become your own through proximity of heart. It’s palpable and contagious.
I felt this way when my beloved friends opened their new restaurant, Tiny Boxwoods. The process took a mighty long time. Finding the land, renovating the surrounding properties in Kerbey Lane Village, creating community with the neighborhood, working with the city, making architectural plans, designing, building, landscaping, outfitting the kitchen, and finishing out the interior of the restaurant. I watched my entrepreneurial friends work endless hours in the pursuit of their vision.
One afternoon I was lucky enough to get an advance tour, when it was still unfinished and dusty with construction. I could see the dream taking shape as my friend and interior designer Dawn Thompson described the finished product. Her husband Lance Thompson and his brother Gregg own a landscape design company and built the restaurant, which was designed by architect Ryan Street. When these folks put their skills together in a joint effort the result is undeniably incredible. I brought a bottle of champagne with me and I poured us each a glass. Sometimes we need a friend to remind us to celebrate in increments.
I brought a bottle of champagne with me and I poured us each a glass. Sometimes we need a friend to remind us to celebrate in increments.
I recently attended a soft opening dinner at Tiny Boxwoods. Walking into the finished restaurant was like stepping into an evening on vacation. Soft music, flowers and lighting created an atmosphere of escape on the outside terrace, where tables surround a grassy center. The white wood, tile roof, and climbing bougainvillea feel more like the South of France or Santa Barbara, California, than 35th Street in Central Austin. Inside, the natural light filters through the large windows and across the beams and spills out across an intimate dining space appointed in a soft palette of colors that remind me of being by the ocean. Just like Dawn herself, the atmosphere is casually elegant, inviting, and feels exactly right without trying too hard.
We got to see the immaculate, fully appointed kitchen complete with a bakery for their famous cookies, in-house breads and pastries, and a wood-fired pizza oven. Best of all, I got to feel the full effect of what they were trying to create. My friends and I respect each other as artists, in all our different mediums. I create art with words. Dawn creates interiors with form, color, texture, space, scale and light. Lance creates the art of environment using elements of nature—plants flowers, trees, vines, grass, sun, water, and earth.
Tiny Boxwoods already has two well-loved restaurants in Houston, and the new Austin addition meets every lofty standard. Baron Doke, head chef and co-owner, is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. He is also an artist and his medium is food. He effuses energy and love for what he does. He is the cornerstone of Tiny Boxwoods and he’s particular about every single element from the ingredients, to the presentation, to the atmosphere, to the professionalism and personality of the staff. He vets every single component and it shows with the ambiance of effortlessness created by the sustained effort he puts into each detail.
I wanted to eat every appetizer and entrée that passed by my table. I vow to accomplish that, over time. A girl has to have goals. I had a cheese plate I now fantasize about, and I tasted a ribeye cheeseburger that was so good I almost wept. And the donuts for dessert? Dear God. It was food nirvana.
I cannot wait to go back. And back again and again. Tiny Boxwoods is that kind of place—worthy of a special occasion, yet comfortable enough to be a regular gathering place. They have managed to somehow simultaneously create a spot where you want to grab breakfast with your kids before school, have lunch with your girlfriends, meet other couples for dinner, and pay the sitter extra to linger over a date night.
If you are looking for me, I will be raising a glass to the success of good friends.
At Tiny Boxwoods.
Read more from the Food Issue | July 2017