After perusing the coffee shops in South Central Austin — see links below — we headed up north to Burnet Road. One finds many parallels.
Upper Crust Bakery. 4508 Burnet Road. 512-467-0102. uppercrustbakery.com. 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun. Limited onsite parking. Decaf (brewed), teas and chai. No discernible Wi-Fi. Either no music, or it’s very quiet.
The name says it all. Upper Crust has been among Austin’s best bakeries for decades. The main attraction is a long, bent counter filled with cakes, pies, cupcakes, Danishes, croissants, breads and other baked good. Guests stream by, then reach two almost always busy registers. But wait. Upper Crust also offers sandwiches, soups, tortillas, as well as espresso-based and drip coffee drinks.Worn wood chairs, tables, cabinets and shelves lend it a warm Old World feel. At certain times of day, an Old Austin crowd actually read print newspapers. Despite the high ceilings and hard surfaces, it’s quiet enough for the conversational arts. Juices, milk, pop supplement the lunch specials. Telling detail: Black and white pictures of staff at work through the years. This is an excellent place to pick up a special occasion cake, but I couldn’t pick up a Wi-Fi connection and, let’s face it, more attention is given to the baked goodness. Coffee drinks are more of an afterthought.
Pacha Organic Café. 4618 Burnet Road. 512-420-8758. pachatx.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m-7 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Limited onsite parking. Wi-Fi: “pachapublic. Passwrod: “pachalatte.” Decaf (pour-over or Americano), teas and chai. Perky music. Quiet spots possible.
We’ve long thought that Pacha serves some of the best coffee in town. Maybe it starts with the beans. Or the roasting. Whatever the secret, we’re regularly impressed. Bright colors, tiles, round and square tabletops amplify the Latin American atmosphere, where one can order from dozens of coffee drinks and a complement of teas, juices, mile, Italian sodas, smoothies and hot chocolate. A few tables and chairs are perched out back on a cute deck. Beer and wine are also available. The menu? Start with “always organic” eggs, milk, yogurts, fruit, vegetables, beef and honey, all clearly sourced. The sign informs us: “No more tamales.” Breakfast specials might include pancakes, hash or french toast. There’s more: Quiche, salad, empanadas, tortas. Just as importantly, the place radiates soul, that hard to define quality that includes authenticity, worldly wisdom and joy.
Monkey Nest Coffee. 5353 Burnet Road. 512-505-8033. monkeynest coffee.com. Open 24 hours. Generous onsite parking. Password-free Wi-Fi. Decaf, teas. Moderately amplified music fills many a quiet corner
Boy, did the founders of this coffee shop fill a waiting niche. Before Lower Burnet Road took off to the tune of hundreds of new apartments and dozens of refilled and refined midcentury shopping centers, Monkey Nest packed its long, softly lighted space — angled to the street — with more tables than you’ll find in most other Austin coffee spots. On a winter Wednesday afternoon, almost every table was taken up by laptoppers using the password-free Wi-Fi. At the long, clearly organized counter, one lines up to order from a vast menu that includes espresso-based, French press and brewed coffee drinks, as well as teas, smoothies, pastries, soups, salads, pizza and sandwiches. Your name goes into the register, so when your order is ready, it’s as easy as listening for your call. Folks in business attire join the usual younger types that haunt coffee shops. Bonus: The coffee is actually good and, amazingly, it’s open 24 hours a day.
Genuine Joe Coffeehouse. 2001 W. Anderson Lane. 512-220-1576. genuinejoecoffee.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Lots of onsite parking, but watch the signs. Password-free Wi-Fi. Decaf (Americano). Pleasant music and plenty of quiet.
This former northern Austin coffee outpost now feels comfortably central these days. First, there’s the funky, laid-back scene in a old commerical building, surrounded by a giant parking lot. Up front are stools and counters as well as unmatched tables and chairs. Out back is more like a lounge or a rumpus room. The main counter is bisected by the pastry displays and the whole service area is plastered with images and slogans. The place offers plenty of waters, sodas, juices and teas to back up the hot and cold coffee, as well as smoothies and a few lunch items. On a very cold day, there were plenty of spots to fill, but that meant more time with the extremely engaged barista. Among amazing things here are the prices. Low! A decaf cost me under $2, which made my usual dollar tip a 50 percent grace note. And that Americano decaf, served with an unforced smile, was darn good.