Sustainability with a side of coffee or beer at South Austin’s Cosmic

Jan 15, 2018

Austinites have a new patio and yard where they can hang out with a drink thanks to the arrival of Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden off South Congress Avenue — and it’s got a chicken coop, a certified natural habitat and a large herb and vegetable garden to boot.

Cosmic — a coffee shop by day and a bar with beer and draft, frozen and coffee cocktails by night — sits across a small parking lot from the Infinite Monkey Theorem urban winery in a building that had been slated to become the Buzz Mill’s second Austin location before that project fell through.

Next door is the new-school barbecue food truck LeRoy & Lewis, offering smoked meats and a new breakfast menu of barbecue bagels. It will anchor a rotating selection of food trucks.

Cosmic is the dream project of Paul Oveisi, who has returned to Austin from New York. He had already made a name here as one of the owners of Momo’s, a now-shuttered live music venue that served as an incubator for acoustic acts in particular, and decided upon his move back to combine his hospitality background with his growing passion for permaculture and sustainability, teaming up with longtime friend and Cosmic co-owner Patrick Dean.

“It dawned on me to try to fuse the two worlds. I spent two years looking for an affordable space in Austin with some land to open a bar,” Oveisi said. Once he found it, “it was me out there for a year cultivating the land and trying to get inspired before we even had a menu or a bar top or anything.”

His favorite feature is the pond just in front of the Cosmic patio. Fenced in to keep out large animals, it’s surrounded by plants and is now the home of fish, frogs, toads and a variety of aquatic flora, he said. In the springtime, it will be abloom with flowers and a striking sight for visitors sitting among the more than a dozen tables outside. The raised garden of herbs and veggies will similarly flourish in a few months.

Even the inside of the coffee shop isn’t without its greenery. Oveisi brought in a bunch of potted plants to protect them from the recent freezing temperatures and just might leave them dotted along the windowsills, he said, because of how nice they look.

The white-walled interior of Cosmic is open and airy, with a long bar at the back that serves coffee on one side and alcoholic beverages on the other. It was designed to visually reflect that — the honeycomb-tiled walls of the coffee side give way to the long reclaimed cedar planks of the bar.

The design is a nod to “the weird duality between the energy of a coffee shop — you know, early morning, lots of vibrant light — versus the energy of a bar — dark and a little more sultry. It was a little bit of a conundrum for me to design. How do you make that mix of energy work? We just embraced both,” Oveisi said.

He remembers when Celis Brewery debuted in Austin in the early 1990s. He wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker then, but he developed an appreciation in New York and now finds beer “more complex than coffee or wine or spirits.” As a result, 11 of the taps on the draft wall are devoted primarily to local brews, including the recently resurrected Celis White, as well as his two go-tos, Pinthouse Pizza’s Electric Jellyfish IPA and St. Elmo Brewing’s Angus Dry Irish Stout.

Not all the 23 taps house beer. The others pour cold-brew coffees, a nonalcoholic sparkling hibiscus tea and a variety of draft cocktails. There are also two constantly rotating frozen drinks and a half-dozen cocktails blending booze and coffee on the menu.

RELATED:10 bars, shops and breweries where you can get coffee and beer in Austin

Two cocktails Oveisi recommends? The AM and PM Negronis. The PM Negroni is made the traditional way, with gin, vermouth, Campari and orange oil; the AM Negroni swaps the gin for Cosmic Cold Brew Coffee. That might sound like a strange combination, but it’s actually a brilliant fusion of Cosmic’s two main beverage focuses. Oveisi says he worries that its low ABV (Campari is a liqueur) will entice him into drinking more of it than he should.

The Campari and cold brew “are just spectacular,” he said. “We’re not trying to be a high-end cocktail bar. This is kind of like garden store meets bar, but we want to be able to have great drinks and to have people execute them fast and for them to be affordable.”

The thing he gets asked most about Cosmic, however, is not the drinks or the garden or the on-site chicken coop housing a handful of hungry hens. Instead, because of his background at the once-beloved Momo’s, people pepper him with questions about the music program at Cosmic. His answer might not be what many of them will want to hear, he said.

First of all, he likely won’t establish live music at the beer garden for the first six months — he wants to watch over time to see where visitors congregate and where a stage might consequently make the most sense.

And once he has a stage, it might not be regularly used.

“I don’t think it’s going to be music every night,” he said. “It might be more what the Shady Grove does than the Continental Club. More of a seasonal series type thing. Music is a huge part of everything that I do, and I owe it to the music community to not just throw music in a corner somewhere. … I want to do it right.”