When a new wellness center opens just outside of town and it has an adjoining gluten-free cafe, it quickly jumps to the top of my restaurant list. My husband is gluten-free and dairy-free by choice because both allergens cause him skin issues, so eating at restaurants and avoiding gluten and dairy really limits his options at most places. When I heard about the opening of Alive + Well in Bee Cave and their gluten-free Elle’s Cafe & Coffee, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we made our way over to try the food.
Our first visit was on a Saturday afternoon for lunch and coffee. I figured it would be a nice place because it was brand new, but I have to say it exceeded my expectations on multiple fronts. It’s a beautifully designed building and the cafe is the perfect complement to the wellness center. My first step inside was like a breath of fresh air. The decor, the walls of windows, and the friendly staff made quite the first impression. Walking into the cafe was like its own type of wellness treatment. I was feeling all of the good vibes and energy from the moment we walked in. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the excitement of a new beginning, but I truly believe Elle’s Cafe & Coffee has something special. The best and most successful businesses are usually born out of a strong desire to share a personal passion with others, and that’s exactly what you get at Elle’s.
For lunch, we both ordered a Fronks Latte to drink. For food, I went with the Turkey Tartine while my husband grabbed something from the cold case. The lunch menu had a variety of healthy salads, bowls, and tartines to choose from. If you don’t already know, “tartine” is just a French word for “a slice of bread with something on top.” Let me just say, I’m so glad I went with the Turkey Tartine for my first dish because it was one of the best tartines I’ve ever had! The portion size was great for my post-workout meal hunger, and the ingredients were incredibly fresh and flavorful. The gluten-free bread was thick and had a nice texture, and they did not skimp on the toppings. The latte was made with Coava Coffee and the Fronks nut-milk was properly foamed. I know that sounds silly, but I’m a stickler for latte foam because it’s not easy to make with non-dairy milk and it does make a difference in how the latte tastes in my opinion. Both the latte and the tartine were made with care and precision, which put Elle’s Cafe & Coffee on par with some great restaurants in Austin that are of the non gluten-free variety.
After we finished with lunch, we happened to meet the owner and even got to see his adorable daughter, Elle, for whom the restaurant is named after. He talked with us about the benefits of a gluten-free diet and how they were inspired to open the cafe because of his wife being diagnosed with celiac disease. It’s stories like theirs that are truly inspiring in this world. Being diagnosed with celiac can be depressing for many, but being able to take that and turn it into something positive for the community is just wonderful. He then told us about an upcoming community dinner they were hosting the following weekend that would be completely gluten-free to provide a full dining experience that many gluten-free people miss out on at most restaurants. I thought that sounded like a great way to experience more of what Elle’s Cafe had to offer, so I signed my husband and I up for two tickets! Members of Alive + Well received a discount on their tickets, and the full price we paid was $60 each for 5 courses plus one drink. It was a great deal considering the quality of food and drinks, and the beautiful setup for the dinner.
When we arrived for the community dinner on Saturday, June 2, we walked into a completely different space than what we had seen the previous weekend. The tables were set up as one long table in the center of the restaurant complete with floral arrangements, candles, beautiful dinnerware, and a special menu for the evening. The decor was gorgeous and so inviting. Chef Shandon (spelling?) created a beautiful Italian meets Northern California menu that featured seasonal ingredients and absolutely no gluten. The pasta, croutons, and sauces were all gluten-free, and there was no loss of flavor in any of the dishes. We arrived at 6:30pm and finished promptly at 9:30pm after 5 courses of beautifully imagined food and lovely paired wines. Our table neighbors were local to Bee Cave and Lakeway, so we had fun meeting people outside of the downtown Austin scene. There were about 30 people dining, and it was impressive to see how perfectly orchestrated the delivery of each dish was. The temperature of the food was spot on, the plating was beautiful, and the flavors and textures were all so enjoyable.
Gluten-Free Community Dinner Menu:
Grilled Pecorino, Apples, Crispy Panelle, Tangerine Vinaigrette
Baby Greens, Pickled Fennel, Fine’s Herb
Fava Bean Agnolotti
Pea Shoots, Mint Pesto, Preserved Lemon
Grilled Seasonal Gulf Catch
Hot Corn Relish, Charred Zucchini, Sunflower Sprouts, Sweet Onion Brodo
Buckwheat Granola, Mascarpone, Lavender
The entire experience was excellent from start to finish. It was nice to see how involved the owners were with serving dishes and drinks, and finding time to mingle with guests. It was truly a community dining experience. It seemed as though most of the guests were members of the Alive + Well center and were not necessarily gluten-free, so I’m curious how the event will evolve as awareness grows. I think it’s a great opportunity for people who have been diagnosed celiac or have gluten sensitivities to experience a dinner out that is worry free and focused on healthy ways to enjoy food that might typically be made with gluten ingredients. I will leave you with my favorite dishes of the evening – the mushroom risotto, the fava bean agnolotti, and the grilled gulf catch. These three were expertly prepared and bursting with flavor. Overall, I’m so glad we found out about this event and were able to attend on such short notice. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next!
If you’re looking for a completely gluten-free restaurant experience or just delicious healthy eats, look no further than Elle’s Cafe & Coffee at Alive + Well in Bee Cave. What are some of your favorite healthy and/or gluten-free dining places around Austin? Let me know in the comments!