Lanell, Tiffany and Brittany Brown are joined by Shaqueta Hinke at Butter and Brown Bistro in Oak Park.

After spending 17 months converting a retail space into a restaurant and navigating a pandemic, Lanell and Tiffany Brown have proudly opened Butter and Brown Bistro, 420 Austin Blvd., in the heart of the Lake and Austin business district. 

“It is nice to see this corner coming to life,” said Lanell Brown. “We are happy to join Chef Daddy, Church’s Chicken and One Lake Brewing in the area. And we do a lot of business with our neighbor, Blue Ribbon Meats.”

The Brown family has resided in Austin for a decade and built Butter and Brown Bistro to be a hands-on, family-run enterprise. Customers should expect to find daughter Brittany behind the counter taking orders, accommodating special requests, and bringing friendly energy to every customer interaction. 

The welcoming eatery offers all-day breakfast, but the expansive menu covers lunch and dinner as well. Full of fun touches, the menu, is designed to appeal to the masses and provides niche selections found on few, if any, local menus. Thankfully, Shaqueta Hinke, head chef, knows how to maneuver through all types of dishes and has familiarity with volume menus. Every menu item is cooked to order at Butter and Brown. A sign clearly states customers should expect to wait 15-20 minutes to receive their order to allow for proper cooking time.

“My wife and I are foodies, and we can tell when a restaurant starts cutting corners,” said Brown. “There are ways to get things done faster, but we won’t do it. Our food takes a little longer, but you can taste the difference time makes.”

Expect to find a vast array of classic breakfast fare like biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, and egg dishes to appeal to breakfast purists. Butter and Brown’s “Back that Thang Up” omelet comes brimming with bacon, sausage, ham, sauteed peppers and cheese while more innovative offerings like sweet potato infused waffles spiked with coconut, cinnamon and vanilla and an assortment of “OMG Buss it Baby Butter Sandwiches” keep things creative in the diminutive restaurant. Both children and adults will appreciate the customizable sandwiches featuring a choice of meat and come on a unique jam-filled bread making the offering an unexpected sweet and savory delight. 

Most breakfast dishes come with a side of Butter and Brown’s signature “pimpin’ potatoes” and grits. The fresh spuds are cube cut and cooked with onions, red and green peppers, and are topped with cheddar, while the well-seasoned grits are served plain or with cheese in generous portions.

Customers clearly clamor for Butter and Brown’s grits making them popular at breakfast and at other times of the day. Shrimp and grits have proven to be the single most popular offering on the broad menu. Study the menu long enough and you’ll find tempura-fried alligator, a massive tomahawk steak, and fried brussels sprouts with sweet and spicy drizzle included among the offerings.

Brown was raised by a competent home cook. His mother cultivated his love for cooking by putting a hot meal on the table every day and reserving fast food as a rare treat, but his time in the Navy taught him about large scale cooking and batch production.

“I entered the Navy just like any regular person. I had no idea what I was doing,” laughed Brown. “But I found my way to the kitchen and became a cook. Before long I was cooking for 1,500 people at a time.”

After departing the Navy is 1996, Brown went on to a career in the car business, but never strayed far from the kitchen. The Brown family owns several properties they rent out on Airbnb and additionally rented out a duo of rooms in their family home through the platform. Relying on his love for cooking and his mother’s legacy, Brown frequently cooked breakfast and brunch for his guests. 

“Everyone who stayed with us would tell me I should open a restaurant,” said Brown. “One day my wife and I were stuck in traffic at the corner of Austin and Lake. When I saw this property, I asked Tiffany how she would feel about opening a restaurant. We had no idea what it would entail or that we’d be opening in a pandemic, but by the grace of God we are here.”

Since opening, the Browns learned from locals that 30 years ago the very same store front operated as a neighborhood restaurant. Now, in addition to welcoming first-time patrons, Butter and Brown Bistro is serving up a sense of nostalgia to longtime residents with every meal.

“It has been awesome being open. The neighborhood has been nothing by receptive. We hope to give people a place to listen to good music, read a newspaper and enjoy breakfast, lunch and or dinner.”

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