Alta’s Cafe

For those who row on Lady Bird Lake or jog the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail, Alta’s Cafe might be their oasis at the end of a workout.

The business, founded by brothers Charles and Michael Swail, opened in December in the Waller Creek Boathouse along the north side of the lake. This is the second business venture for the brothers, who also own Peoples Rx.

The cafe provides healthy food options, local coffee roasts, select wines and craft beers that reflect the trail’s users, Michael said.

“We realized very early on that it’s an active environment,” Michael said. “We wanted to develop something that’s really supportive of that environment—something that’s health-conscious, locally focused and sustainably focused.”

To cater to that health-conscious audience, some research and taste-testing was required.

“When we sat down to develop the product, it was a hard decision to pick the coffee and the wine,” Charles said. “It’s fun to taste it all, though.”

With construction now complete on the The Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake, Alta’s Cafe could benefit from more foot traffic.

“The prospect for having real events and weddings and that sort of thing at this facility is really attractive,” Michael said. “We’re looking forward to that in the future and the awareness that will come to this area.”

Ro Fitness

Lady Bird Lake is home to the Austin Rowing Club, but for people looking to get the workout rowing provides without getting onto the water, nearby Ro Fitness is an option.

Ro Fitness is an indoor rowing studio in the Waller Creek Boathouse that was opened in February by instructor and co-founder Chelsea Moore, who worked out a lease to get space in the boathouse.

“I knew there was an opportunity for a fitness vendor here,” Moore said. “With the client base from that other studio, it allowed for people who know indoor rowing to be the base.”

Outdoor rowing can be more technical than indoor rowing, which can help break down that technique before hitting the water, Moore said.

“We work on technique that is still intricate but a little simpler,” she said.

Ro Fitness is located next to Alta’s Cafe, which can give people a convenient option for a post-workout meal or drink. The view of the lake also provides scenery, leading to some classes being held on the patio if weather permits, Moore said.

“It’s really scenic,” Moore said. “We’re very privileged to be in this location.”

Rowing is a low-impact exercise with a high payoff, she said.

“I don’t think I’ve repeated a workout since I started coaching,” she said. “It’s always just a little bit different.”


Both Alta’s Cafe and Ro Fitness are considered by their owners to be “hidden gems,” but if a Project Connect plan to bring urban rail across Lady Bird Lake succeeds, the two businesses at Waller Creek Boathouse will not be there for long.

The mass-transit system plan would put a bridge over Lady Bird Lake and tear down the Waller Creek Boathouse, the $3.5 million building that was constructed in 2012.

Neither owner plans to fight the Project Connect decision, but both disapproved of the plan.

“If the city were to make a decision to tear down a building they just built, that’s not really a positive reflection of their long-term planning,” Alta’s Cafe co-owner Michael Swail said.

Waller Creek Boathouse, 74 Trinity St., 512-831-4922,


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