Hello, we are Austin, and we are addicted to food.
Fortunately for us, we’re addicted to the good stuff: local, organic, sustainably farmed foods that promote our health and economy. We live in a city that is proud of its backyard gardens, chicken coops, and home-brewed kombucha. We are aspiring farmers, brewmasters, and butchers (well, some of us).
Our passion for local food is reflected on the menus of the many restaurants around town that boast local, organic produce, meat, and dairy. One of my favorite restaurants with a commitment to responsible eating is Monument Cafe, located just a hop-skip-and-a-jump up I-35 in Georgetown. After opening its doors in 1995, Monument Cafe has become one of the state’s most beloved roadside cafes.
This little spot is the pinnacle of retro charm and down-home goodness. In the last few years, Monument has expanded to include The Garden at the Monument, a traditional Texas biergarten, and Monument Market, one of central Texas’ most unique incarnations of the local food movement.
Tucked back behind the cafe and through the biergarten, Monument Market is not easily spotted from Austin Avenue. My husband and I wandered over while waiting for a table in the cafe on a busy Saturday night. It was past closing time, so we peeked in through the windows at the neat rows of vegetables, soaps, and coffees.
A young man appeared in front of us, unlocking the door so we could look around while he finished closing up shop. He was wearing a button-down and white apron reminiscent of the 1950s and seemed to fit perfectly into the aesthetic of the market: old-school but fresh, with plenty of charm.
Sturdy wooden tables held organized, uncluttered displays of gourmet pasta, locally pressed olive oil, fresh bread, and seasonal vegetables. The chalkboards above the newly opened deli counter listed the day’s selections of fresh cheeses and meats (including quail, when we stopped by).
I gravitated toward a table of locally made bath products and immediately had to have a bar of pomegranate and oak-scented goat milk soap by the Hill Country brand Nuluv. I eventually made my way over to beer and wine section, where I found my husband taking inventory of all his favorite Texas brews.
The well-curated selection of local goods at Monument Market is unlike any store or co-op in the Austin area. The staff member explained the concept as part neighborhood grocery, part farmers’ market, with around 90 percent Texas-sourced goods, many of which come from within a 50-mile radius. Growers for Monument Market include Fruitfull Hill Farm (Bastrop), Johnson’s Backyard Garden (Austin), Prickly Pear Farm (Burnet County), and Vital Farm (Austin), among many others. The selection of produce isn’t as varied as you’d find at a full-scale farmers’ market, but it’s just as fresh and seasonal. Plus, it’s available seven days a week, and you don’t have to wear sunscreen while you shop.
Monument Market also keeps an active blog, with special announcements, recipes, and articles on topics such as aquaponics and the wonders of cooking with lamb. They even host classes at the store on Saturday mornings and afternoons. February options include “Intro to Beekeeping,” “Alternative Garden Design,” and a gluten-free cupcake tasting in honor of Valentine’s Day. Check their blog or Facebook page for more information on Saturday classes.
The next time you find yourself looking for your local food fix, head north and check out Monument Market. The food, vibe, and friendly faces will surely keep you coming back. Be sure to stop by next door for a slice of coconut cream pie on your way home.
Samantha Champion is an archaeologist at an environmental consulting firm in Austin. She moved here nearly nine years ago and can’t imagine living anywhere else. She currently lives in southwest Austin with her husband and two hound dogs.
Have you ever been to Monument Market?
Photos courtesy of Monument Market on Facebook.