In the food and beverage biz, location is not, as they say, everything. Finding a niche and delivering the expected should also be at the forefront of any business plan. And don’t forget to sweat the details. Italian? Fine, but family style or a trendy enoteca? Completely different crowds. Ice House? OK, but is the attracter local brews or cheap prices?
Halcyon, billing itself as a coffee house-bar-lounge and offering the gamut from breakfast oatmeal and coffee to late night beer and cocktails, might seem to be hedging its bets, but the emphasis here isn’t variety for the hell of it, but access. Located on the northeast corner of the Blue Star Art Center, Halcyon is open from early morn to bar closing, seven days a week. It’s a strategy that’s paid off for the original establishment, housed in a chunk of prime real estate in downtown Austin.
The Southtown spot’s layout wisely offers a selection of areas to hang out in. Go to the back, and find comfortable upholstered chairs that give patrons some privacy, or hang out at the bar and get quick service. A large deck offers outside seating, and a good view of the river. Smokers have been remembered — cigarettes and cigars are available on premises. For those not running with friends, there’s free Wi-Fi access, too.
The center attraction (visually, at least) is the bar; the back bar’s bottle racks lit-up and vaguely sculptural, while the longish counter is twisted in a Z-form; yet another consideration by the designer to create isolated sections to allow some privacy. The beer and spirit collection is decent, if not to the specs of our evolving cocktail culture, which doesn’t seem to be the main concern of management at the moment. An Old Fashioned was watery and insipid, though the simple tall drinks, like gin and tonic, are just fine. Espresso cocktails (a house specialty) and fruit-based concoctions seem to be ordered frequently; a good sign of competent delivery. Booze prices are reasonable, $8 for a martini. Not cheap, but not bad at all. Additionally, there’s a generous happy hour from 4-8 p.m. every day, with specials varying.
The service has been more than friendly on each visit. The staff seem quite excited about this new venture, and eager to show it. Not sure what beer you want? Recommendations abound. In that respect, Halcyon is a match for more expensive and established Southtown eateries.
The food is priced at bar food rates, relatively cheap — an average of $8.50 for paninis and wraps; quiche is a surprisingly low $6.00. The grub is satisfying, if not stellar—a Cubano came with a few nice chunks of pork, thick ham slices, Swiss cheese and the expected yellow mustard. Not innovative, but
I’ve had worse in Miami. The espresso, however, disappointed—watery, without a hint of chalk, and a small shot at that. Stick to the perfectly adequate house drip. They offer weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday with all the usual suspects: waffles, French toast, egg sandwich, etc…
Do not attempt to judge the kitchen’s (or the bar’s, for that matter) offerings by the online menu. An extended range of treats — from baked brie to absinthe — are to be had, listed on the print menu at the bar along with daily specials recited by your server.
If you go on weekends, expect the noise level to pick up at about 10 p.m. when a young crowd begins to hit. Before that, it’s mostly a quiet buzz, and live music on the lounge side — last week, an unobtrusive jazz trio with vibes warmed up the room.
Halcyon might not be your main destination day or night, but if you’ve got time on your hands, or need a place for your group to plan attack strategies, it will do more than nicely.
1414 S Alamo Ste. 101
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