Aromas of baking sourdough, amber rye, and brioche bread waft from the ovens of Texas French Bread, winner of the Austin Chronicle's Restaurant Poll Readers award for Best Bread in 2009, 2010, and 2011. For the past three decades, these ovens have been churning out artisan breads, pastries, and desserts made from scratch, and under the helm of brothers Ben and Murphy Willcott, the ovens now cook a dinner menu of local and sustainable rustic French fare, earning a place in the top five on the Growers Alliance of Central Texas's Truly Local 2011 restaurants survey. Yet neither of the brothers set out to be bakers. Murph, a Harvard law-school graduate and lawyer, and Ben, a student of English literature, both enjoyed staying up late, cooking, and coordinating aprons with spatulas so they decided to take over Texas French Bread with the goal of turning it from bakery into bistro because, as Murph claims, "rock star and/or Hollywood movie mogul seemed like a stretch."
In the kitchen, Ben crafts a weekly rotating menu hewn under the guidelines of famed chef Alice Waters, with local, fresh, and simple ingredients from the urban farms of Boggy Creek and Angel Valley, served in season at their peak. Meanwhile, the pastry chef sculpts key-lime tartlets, cupcakes, and cream puffs to accompany cups of coffee or espresso drinks made with locally roasted beans from Anderson's Coffee Company. The house blend combines premium East African beans with a Costa Rican hard bean, barrel-cooked to a medium-brown, full-city roast to jump-start mornings without licking a car battery.