Back in 2005, when South Congress Avenue was just taking root as an Austin retail destination, a 1,700-square-foot specialty market called Farm to Market opened on the row of shops, sandwiched between what was then 7 restaurant and a now-closed location of Texas French Bread.
This was also when locavores, supper clubs, farmers markets and the Slow Food movement became part of the city’s food ecosystem. For 15 years, Farm to Market catered to that demographic, selling fresh produce, flowers and local products to people who lived in the neighborhood or who found themselves shopping on what has become one of the most popular foot traffic destinations in the city.
But even the local food mainstays have to evolve. Last year, Peg McCoy, who opened the store with fellow Austin food lover Mary Mahaffey, sold the business to Steph Steele, a hospitality veteran who worked for more than 20 years at the flagship Whole Foods downtown.
Steele has renovated the space and rebranded the company as Tiny Grocer, which reopened in early March and is now selling more than 3,000 goods, from local and well-known products (like Franklin Barbecue sauce or Rancho Gordo beans) to buzzy local brands (such as Austin’s Siete Family Foods or Barton Springs Mill flour).
She’s also selling fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, spices, a small selection of housewares and some prepared foods and sandwiches from a deli case. There’s also a walk-up window where customers can order espresso drinks, teas and pastries.
Austin-based food products for sale at Tiny Grocer also include Perennial Pecan’s pecan butter and vegan Parmesan; Skull & Cakebones sweets; Good Catch vegan tuna: Steamies Dumplings; and fresh-baked breads from Swedish Hill. The store, now found between restaurants June’s All Day and Neighborhood Sushi, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
In other mini-market news, Thom’s Market, a local-focused convenience store that opened its first location on Barton Springs Road just off of South Lamar Boulevard in late 2008, has added a fourth location. The new store is at 5901 Burnet Road, near the corner of Burnet and RM 2222. Like the stores on Riverside Drive, Spyglass Drive and the original on Barton Springs, the new location features a well-curated selection of local products and up-and-coming brands, as well as baked goods and pantry staples.
New Austin food products to know
Perennial Pecan has been selling pecan oil and flour in Central Texas for about a year, and like we mentioned earlier, the company recently added a vegan cheese alternative that is worth seeking out at the farmers market, too.
Available at the Mueller farmers market and online (perennialpecan.com), Perennial Pecan’s Pecan Parm is a dairy-free version of one of my favorite products: sprinkle-style Parmesan cheese.
The Kraft green-lid Parmesan was a huge part of my diet when I was a kid, so I was skeptical that a pecan flour-based seasoning mix could do the trick on a bowl of hot buttered pasted. I recently added a heavy dusting of this new product on a bowl of Emmer & Rye pasta and stir-fried kale, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t mimic the texture and the umami of such an American product, but without so much processing..
I know how I’ll be eating the rest of this 8-ounce bottle, but if you do eat meat, you can use the vegan Parmesan as a coating on chicken or fish. I know quite a few parents with kids who don’t eat dairy (and people like me who love sprinkle cheese and want to find less-processed alternatives), so this seems like a product with wide market potential.
Another new Austin product hitting the market is Tipala’s Cha, a bottled masala chai made with rooibos tea, fresh ginger, whole spices, honey and oat milk.
Cha, a commonly used term for masala chai in the Ayurvedic community, is a sweet and spicy aromatic drink that you can drink hot or cold. Owner Tiffani Patel delivers the drink in six-packs of 16-ounce bottles, starting at $39 for a delivery. Look for the product in retail outlets and farmers markets soon, or online at tipalascha.com.
The rich spread (or ice cream topping, I’m just saying) is made with pecans, pumpkin seeds and almonds and sweetened with date syrup. It comes in three flavors: original, chocolate and a turmeric-spiced golden variety. You can find them at local farmers markets and stores, including Rabbit Food Grocery, Maha Market and Three Six General, or online at jakeandjubis.com.
The last new product I’ll tell you about this week is called Slice of Sauce, a condiment company from an Austin duo, Emily and Cole Williams, who were on “Shark Tank” earlier this year. The “mess-free sliced condiment” is made with tomato paste, dried spices and distilled vinegar powder, and instead of squeezing or spreading the product, it’s packaged in a shelf-stable slice that offers a soggy-free sandwich experience.
I didn’t totally love this product when I tried it at home earlier this month, but I could see some situations where you’d want a dry, unrefrigerated condiment. The brand also sells a sriracha version. On “Shark Tank,” Alex Rodriguez agreed to an investment of $200,000 in exchange for a 15 percent stake in the business, so look for new flavors, including habanero, soon. You can currently order the product online at sliceofsauce.com.