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Spread & Co. Harmonizes with its Artistic Garden Setting in Austin

The cheese-centric cafe serves delicious breakfast, lunch, and charcuterie at Laguna Gloria

Spread & Co. Chicken Salad (photo by Holly Cowart)
Spread & Co. Chicken Salad (photo by Holly Cowart)

Art comes in many forms. It might be a painting or a sculpture. A symphony or a play. Or a sandwich. Yes, there’s an art to making great food. And the offerings at Spread & Co, a tiny café located on the grounds of The Contemporary Austin art museum, rival the masterpieces that surround it.

That might seem like high praise for someplace that’s basically a snack bar, but I’m telling you, Spread & Co is special. With its stunning location at Laguna Gloria, it could succeed on location alone. The 1916 Italianate-style villa on the banks of Lake Austin is set among lush landscaping, outdoor sculptures and roaming peacocks. But S&C doesn’t skate on scenery alone. Instead, it elevates its offerings to complement the beauty that surrounds it. The food on its modest menu is stylish, thoughtful and delicious — and worth seeking out whether you visit the museum or not, with no entrance ticket required to dine at the café.

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Spread & Co. (photo by Holly Cowart)

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Spread & Co. Grilled Cheese (photo by Holly Cowart)

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Spread & Co. Picnic (photo by Holly Cowart)

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Spread & Co. Charcuterie (photo by Holly Cowart)

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Spread & Co. Avocado Toast (photo by Holly Cowart)

The S&C at Laguna Gloria opened in February 2021 as an outpost to the original restaurant just up the road at Jefferson Square. That location, which shares space with a tasting room for local winery, Wine For The People, opened in 2019 and offers a more expansive menu and hours. Co-owned by Rosemary and Austin Ewald, S&C began as a food delivery company offering cheese and charcuterie boards in 2016, then evolved into a brick-and mortar in 2019. Rosemary brought experience from her background in restaurant management and natural foods and Austin had cooked at respected locals restaurants Grizzelda’s and Jacoby’s.

The Laguna Gloria café sells takeout items from a counter-service kiosk, encircled by a scattering of outdoor dining tables and stools under a covered patio. Due to its compact size, the museum eatery offers a more limited menu than its Jefferson Square sibling. Its kitchen barely accommodates one S&C employee, but is able to turn out surprisingly sophisticated offerings that belie its diminutive space. Each dish is artistically plated with great care and precision, with thoughtful little details like gourmet garnishes and condiments. And although served on compostable paper plates, the food looks and tastes much more highbrow.

Mornings are an enchanting time to visit the café. It’s peaceful and serene, before the school groups and tourists descend. The avocado toast is one of my favorite breakfast items. A thick slice of toasted sourdough is slathered with smashed avocado, topped with shaved radishes and a jammy soft-boiled egg, then sprinkled with a toasted Middle Eastern dukkah spice mixture. Assorted in-house pastries include buttermilk cheddar biscuits served with homemade jam and banana pecan bread. There’s also a cup of overnight oats and chia seeds, plumped up with almond milk and topped with fresh fruit and granola. Morning beverages include a wide selection of coffee, tea, matcha and hot chocolate, plus mimosas for a weekend brunch vibe.

Spread & Co. (photo by Holly Cowart)

At lunch, one of my favorite sandwich options is the Pesto Chicken Sandwich. Chicken breast is brined for two days then slow roasted, resulting in moist, tender meat that is sliced and layered on homemade brioche. Garnished with pesto, gruyere cheese, cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic, it’s a classy yet comforting sandwich. The Pressed Grilled Cheese sandwich is another popular choice, oozing with melted gruyere and aged cheddar on grilled brioche. Or there’s the Classic Cold Cut sandwich with salami, prosciutto cotto, gruyere, lettuce, tomato and red onion on homemade sourdough. A garden fresh Caesar is given an elevated twist with the addition of shaved French mimolette cheese atop the chopped romaine and sourdough croutons.

Food options for everyone

There are also several lovely snacking options, like the signature grazing board with two cheeses, charcuterie, dried fruit, Italian Castelvetrano green olives, Spanish Marcona almonds, housemade pickles, jam and whole-grain mustard. It’s meant for sharing, but there’s also a scaled-down individual version in a portable cone. There are also dips and spreads like pimento cheese served with housemade pickles and chips and freshly made hummus sprinkled with Middle Eastern spices and served with vegetable crudités.

A kid’s menu offers pint-size sandwiches and snacks, all made with the same attentive care given to the grown-up versions. Don’t skip dessert. There are fresh-baked brown butter chocolate chip cookies that taste like Mom’s and a rotating selection of handmade popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Wash it down with lemonade, iced tea, coffee, sodas, plus a nice little selection of wine, beer and seltzers.

S&C is open for breakfast and lunch, plus Thursday evenings when the museum offers complimentary admission and stays open late. You can dine in or takeout, but I encourage you to savor its elevated offerings while enjoying the resplendent scenery of this artistic oasis. “It’s just good for the soul,” one visitor remarked as he exited the museum grounds. And also good for the tummy.