UT’s Latin American Collection is a wonder of the library world

The Nettie Benson Latin American Collection is a University of Texas treasure you should get to know better.

Leslie Montoya, Maria Farahani and Ernesto Rios at a UT dinner for The Benson Latin American Collection.

Founded almost 100 years ago in 1921 with the acquisition of Mexican historian and bibliophile Genaro García‘s library, it grew vastly under the direction of UT professor Carlos Castañeda — partial namesake for the Perry-Castañeda Library — then under historian Nettie Lee Benson. For decades, the Collection has been the finest and most complete library of its kind in the Americas.

When I did research there in the 1980s for my doctoral dissertation, it was referred to by scholars as the “Library of Congress for Latin America.” Sort of like the Ransom Center across campus, its leaders had collected so many books, manuscripts and other objects in its chosen fields, people travel from around the world to visit it.

Crucially, it houses materials that back up some of what was lost in the recent fire that gutted the Brazil Museum.

The Collection, as well as its intimate partner, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, are now receiving more attention locally.

At “An Evening for Discovery,” a recent benefit dinner at the AT&T Center, I ran into many old and new friends, including Maria Cisne Farahani, the woman behind Fara Coffee, which benefits workers in her native Nicaragua (we talked about the brisk change in political will in that country); Monica Peraza, who updated me on the latest at the Long Center, where she now captains the board of directors; attorney and event host Becky Beaver, who is becoming one of the Benson’s most eloquent promoters; Leslie Montoya, a local Univision reporter; Ernesto Rois, who is in the medical parts business (I don’t think that’s the right term, but you understand); and Adriana Pacheco Roldán, a scholar who, with Fernando Macias-Garza, gave $50,000 for an endowment to kick off the Benson’s centennial celebration.

RELATED: We bow before these honorees, including Maria Cisne Farahani.

Best Austin coffee shops near Airport Boulevard

Airport Boulevard is fast changing into a cultural magnet. Austin Community College anchors a remake of Highland Mall and numerous new hot spots pop up on the boulevard. Yet some of the nearby coffee shops not far away are among Austin’s oldest and most revered.

Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery. 411 E. 43rd St. 512-453-3399. quacksbakery.com. 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun. Shared onsite parking, plus plenty of street parking on wide East 43rd Street. Decaf, teas, chai. Wifi. Quiet atmosphere most of the day.

Quack’s Bakery offers a lot. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

No Austin coffeehouse trails a longer or more storied pedigree than Quack’s. Born as Captain Quackenbush’s Intergalactic Dessert Company and Espresso Cafe on the Drag — at a time during the 1980s when such places were extremely rare in Austin — this Hyde Park scratch bakery and beverage staple fits into an intimate retail node that includes complementary post-hippe outfits such as Mother’s Cafe, Hyde Park Cafe, Dolce Vita, Julio’s Cafe, Fresh Plus, Antonelli’s Cheese House and Asti Trattoria. Two interior rooms are almost always full. Any time the weather is fine, customers gather around small tables under an awning outside, or they might take advantage of communal lawn furniture just down the sidewalk. The bakery selections, along with deli items, are almost overwhelming in number and almost always satisfying. And while the city has nurtured a much more serious coffee culture in since the ’80s, Quack’s still makes a darn good cup from locally roasted beans.

Flightpath Coffeehouse since 1992. Contributed by Flightpathcoffeehouse.com

Flightpath Coffeehouse. 5011 Duval St. 512-458-4472. flightpathcoffeehouse.com. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Very little onsite parking, restricted street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Strong wifi. Plenty of niches for quiet time.

Let’s remind relative newcomers to Austin that, until 1999, this location stood directly in the deafening flightpath for planes descending into the old Mueller Airport, now the new urbanist Mueller development. It might not be as old as nearby Quack’s, but anything in our city that has thrived since 1992 is almost antiquarian. The place has grown enormously in what feels like a narrow, old residential structure on the edge of the Hyde Park area. A covered patio and spacious backroom handle the overflow from the front parlor and central food-and-drink service area. Flightpath has gotten serious about snacks, too, including a wall of ready-to-go treats. A lot of laptoppers land here, but it’s not so quiet that a friendly meeting is out of place. Although University of Texas students still wander this far north, today’s crowd seems a little older and more settled.

Contributed

Kick Butt Coffee. 5775 Airport Blvd. 512-454-5425. kickbuttcoffee.com. 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs.,  6 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri., 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.* Plenty of surface parking on site. Some of the music is live. Decaf, teas, chai. Some quiet spots in this big space.

We’ve always liked owner Thomas Gohring and his ambitions to create a singular community around coffee, booze, entertainment and, yes, martial arts. Gohring brings to the game a flair for showmanship, an element almost absent from any other coffee shop in town. He has expanded the size of his original location on Airport Boulevard while retracting his attempts to go global. A small stage, backed by his signature graphics, takes pride of place, but the long coffee bar attests to the original impulse to serve rigorously prepared espresso drinks along with food, beer and wine. As the ACC Highland project, as well as the Linc and other area redevelopments fire up, expect Kick Butt to thrive and retain its inimitable character. *The place opens and closes at odd times; we rounded up or down.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.

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MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Central East Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Southeast Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Northwest Austin.

Best Austin coffee shops near Northwest Austin

We are discovering little coffee gems in Northwest Austin.

These days, we build our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start in the Great Northwest with …

Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Nelo’s Cycles & Coffee. 8108 Mesa St. 512-338-0505. neloscycles.com. 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-noon Sun. Lots of surface parking in shared shopping center lot. Coffee nook is small but comfortable.

David Wyatt introduced us to this little winner that’s near his new offices on Spicewood Lane at Elizabeth Christian Public Relations, which recently absorbed Wyatt Brand. Lance Armstrong long ago proved that coffee and bicycles go together with his Juan Pelota Cafe inside Mellow Johnny’s. We were the only customers at Nelo’s on a very rainy day, but that made the warm coffee nook in the back of the shop all the more inviting. The cycle services look very serious, but so is the coffee, made with Grimpeur Brothers Specialty Coffee. Add a few tempting snacks and some comfortable seats around small tables and you have a perfect place to meet up.

Epoch Coffee @ Far West. 3900 Far West Blvd. 512-436-8594. epochcoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf espresso drinks, tea and chai. Limited surface parking, but plenty of street options on Chimney Corners. Don’t park in nearby lots. Outside, this shop is quiet; inside it is very quiet.

Austin’s Epoch Coffee has proven that it can reinvent itself in countless ways. While the funky flagship @ North Loop remains the overwhelming public favorite, this one might be mine. The first thing one notices is the huge windows that look like overhead doors associated with auto garages. Inside, there’s a incongruous central stairwell that leads to a close-off basement. Both features are clues that this structure formerly served as a Jiffy Lube — and perhaps another such business before that. The remaining layout required some creative arrangements, with long, shared tables in the central area and a calm, narrow, darker room to the west of that. (Warning: You won’t hear your order come up back there.) The main event, of course, is the counter, which is bright, brisk and efficient. The coffee products are predictably good and the pastry fresh. There for an early afternoon meeting, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone else was lost in laptop land. Nobody, however, was tempted by the patio out front this very hot day.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Central East Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Southeast Austin.

Best Austin coffee shops near Southeast Austin

Southeast Austin’s coffee culture percolates slowly.

We trying something fresh here by building up our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start with …

Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Café Crème. 1834 E. Oltorf St. 512-710-9473. cafecremeaustin.com. 7 a.m.-6p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf, teas, chai, beer, wine. Plentiful surface parking. Lots of quiet niches.

I remember this space as an arts center. Can’t remember the name. The S-shaped room is located in a nondescript office-like building that’s easy to miss along busy East Oltorf Street. Yet plenty of people from the Travis Heights East, Riverside and Pleasant Valley hoods have found it and deem Café Crème, which blends French, Vietnamese and other influences, the best coffee spot in Southeast Austin. The counter is front and center. Multiple rooms with tables and chairs — including conference rooms with doors — extend to the left and right. The crowd includes a healthy mix of silent laptappers and quiet chatters. The espresso-based drinks can be quite good, but the owners are also quite proud of their bakery that turns out pastries, kolaches, breakfast tacos and crêpes.

We’ll seek out more Southeast Austin coffee shops soon.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Central East Austin.

Best Austin coffee shops near Central East Austin

Central East Austin is home quite a few excellent coffeehouses.

We are going to try something new here by building up our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start with …

The Houndstooth Coffee shop on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard extends the Henry brothers’ take on updated modernism. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Houndstooth Coffee. 2823 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-243-8902. houndstoothcoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 pm. Sat.-Sun. Very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai, beer, wine, cocktails, food. Carefully calibrated music. Some outdoor seating.

We recently profiled Houndstooth brothers Sean and Paul Henry. Here’s what we said about their third Austin spot: “It anchors the Platform residence complex near the MLK stop on the MetroRail line. It’s also tall, angular and welcoming. The long counter is backed by a food preparation area that will provide more food to go along with the coffee, beer, wine and cocktails as the shop matures. Several features, inspired by trends in the hospitality industry, stand out: One can order from anywhere in the shop as baristas make their way to one’s location; also, one can open a tab during a longer stay. “We want to bridge the a.m.-p.m. divide,” Paul says. “People think coffee shop in the morning and bar in the evening. Why not both?” The music slightly elevates the energy in the place depending on the time of day, while sound panels help keep down the echo in a room where more than 50 people can gather and still hold a conversation.”

Iced coffee with laptops at Cuvée. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Cuvée Coffee. 2000 E. Sixth St. 512-368-5636. cuveecoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Limited onsite parking with the option to park next door when indicated. Some outdoor seating available on the former loading dock. Wifi now on!

Few Austin makers of coffee are as serious about their craft as the folks at Cuvée, who have been roasting their own beans since 1998. They also introduced nitro black coffee cold brew to Austin, which they pour from a tap at their main spot and when they cater. Even if you’ve never been to their remodeled warehouse on rapidly evolving East Sixth Street, you’ve likely savored their products, since several other Austin coffee houses employ their beans (look for the icy blue bags). At the East Austin outlet, a central triangular well offers coffee on one side, beer on the other. It’s one of the most inviting counters in town, but you can also choose from tables large and small, as well as a few well-shaded outdoor sit-downs. But here’s the big news: They now offer wifi. Valiantly, the owners had tried to encourage a sense of community by keeping the laptopping to a minimum, but they have relented and at least a few customers were taking advantage during our most recent visit. Cuvée still keeps on staff some of the most engaging baristas around and that cold brew is so inviting, this reporter defies his heart doctor to skip the decaf for a refreshing cup.

Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311. cenoteaustin.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. Street parking available, but you might have to walk a bit. Teas, chai, decaf. Strong WiFi. Many quiet niches.

One of the first coffee shops of this type in East Austin, Cenote takes full advantage of its 19th-century Victorian house with its ultra-tall ceilings as well as the rich alluvial soil of its surrounding gardens. Seating is divided roughly in thirds, one part inside, one part along tables on a shaded east patio, one part among scattered tables in the south garden, which includes a small performance stage. One orders from the counter to the back. Drinks are listed on customary boards, but for food, pick up a menu by the register. Besides the hot and cold beverages, Cenote serves beer and wine as well as a copious selection of food, including tacos, pastries, sandwiches and veggies, all carefully sourced. The place is popular with laptoppers, but if you are there to meet someone, your conversation won’t disturb them.  In fact, Cenote is so well-liked, you might have trouble locating a free table during certain stretches of the days and nights. Note: Be kind to neighbors by watching where you park in the residential neighborhood to the north.

Thunderbird Cafe. 2200 Manor Road. 512-472-9900. thunderbirduaustin.com. 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Very little onsite parking. Street parking backs up quickly. Decaf, teas, chai. Generally quiet.

I always plan to arrive early when I meet a friend at Thunderbird Cafe, the longstanding stop on Manor Road close by a half dozen established eateries and walking distance from the University of Texas campus. So popular is this Greater Cherrywood outfit, there’s rarely two seats open together at the high tables, low tables, small tables or picnic tables. Laptoppers rule this domain. Happily, the baristas are accomplished so the line at the central counter near the south door is rarely long. Snacks, some light, some substantial, are available there. The coffee is good and the beer is welcome, especially on hot days when the western sun beats down on the well-worn patio. The feel is very local and the owners have opened a second location in the Crestview/Brentwood area. Does anyone else have trouble with their website?

Flat Track Coffee. 1619 Cesar Chavez St. 512-540-6040. flattrackcoffee.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. Limited onsite parking. Decaf. Quiet spots.

Three makes a trend. First there was Lance Armstrong’s breakthrough Juan Pelota Cafe downtown. Then Nelo’s Cycles & Coffee in Northwest Hills. Flat Track Coffee, which has been hidden from my scrutiny since it opened some three years ago (according to my barista), makes it a trend to put a coffee shop into your cycling spot. (There could be more in town. We’ll report.) Here, the customer really feels like a part of the action because the repairs are done right in front of you while you take in the wonderful aroma of tires and oils. Wonderful to me at least. There’s a generous upfront patio outside, then mostly counter space near the windows, and more tables in the back, all kind of chic without trying too hard to be so. The coffee is good, too, and my barista was particularly helpful with the decaf options. The menu is minimalist, which seems to be another Austin trend. Anyway, now that I’ve found it, I’ll return to Fast Track soon.

IMG_6944

Bennu Coffee. 2002 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-478-4700. bennucoffee.com. Open 24 hours seven days a week. Decaf, teas, chai. Onsite and nearby street parking. Strong Wifi. Plenty of quiet spots.

We got to know this coffee group when it took over the venerable Dominican Joe spot at South Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive. We were impressed with the concept. It takes just a few variations to make an Austin coffee shop feel special. Open 24 hours a day? That’s clearly a winning strategy. Pack the place with a lot of mismatched old furniture? Also a natural choice for Austin. Both locations can get quite crowded, mostly with sprawling, intensely focused laptoppers. Yet the East Austin spot benefits from its long, low-ish, somewhat dark space in an older commercial structure as well as its extra-large counter area, where one can find snacks as well as beverages. Does anyone know the previous history of the space?

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Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors. 1111 Chicon St. 512-953-1061. figure8coffeepurveyors.com. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Wifi. Side street parking. Fairly quiet. There’s a tiny patio out back that is shady most of the day.

This small shop is smart. It focuses on freshly roasted coffee in a demure location across Chicon Street from Huston-Tillotson University. The furniture, arranged in a variety of manner, looks like postindustrial art. The interactions between baristas and regulars seem warm and genuine. The afternoon sun could be a problem for this west-facing spot, but the chairs are generally placed to avoid direct light and heat. Did we like the coffee? Very much. But we liked the relaxed atmosphere even more on our second visit. It’s going to become a regular meeting spot.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Northwest Austin.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Southeast Austin.

 

 

Best coffee shops near North Austin

We extended our coffee search to Near North Austin recently and, although we got a good start on this sector in late 2017, we need your help in filling out the candidates. We’d gladly add to this list.

Contributed

Kick Butt Coffee. 5775 Airport Blvd. 512-454-5425. kickbuttcoffee.com. 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs.,  6 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri., 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.* Plenty of surface parking on site. Some of the music is live. Decaf, teas, chai. Some quiet spots in this big space.

We’ve always liked owner Thomas Gohring and his ambitions to create a singular community around coffee, booze, entertainment and, yes, martial arts. Gohring brings to the game a flair for showmanship, an element almost absent from any other coffee shop in town. He has expanded the size of his original location on Airport Boulevard while retracting his attempts to go global. A small stage, backed by his signature graphics, takes pride of place, but the long coffee bar attests to the original impulse to serve rigorously prepared espresso drinks along with food, beer and wine. As the ACC Highland project, as well as the Linc and other area redevelopments fire up, expect Kick Butt to thrive and retain its inimitable character. *The place opens and closes at odd times; we rounded up or down.

 

Contributed

Fat Cats Organic Coffee & Desserts. 7020 Easy Wind Dr. #140. 512-296-2960. fatcatsaustin.com. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Tues., 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. Shared surface parking. Decaff, teas, chai. Moderate music.

If you aren’t familiar with the moderately dense developments at North Lamar and Airport boulevards near the MetroRail Crestview Station, you might have a hard time locating Fat Cats. Here’s a clue: Turn west off North Lamar onto W. St. Johns Avenue, then left on the interior lane, Easy Wind Dr., and park just about anywhere. Then wander around the other local magnets, such as Vigalante Gastropub, Black Star Co-op and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The bright, narrow, deep coffee shop attracts an assorted crowd, including very focused laptoppers. The owners, however, have gone a long way to ensure the taste and quality of the fair trade coffee drinks and vegan desserts and, oh, the ice cream. It’s worth looking up and paying attention.

Contributed

Brentwood Social House. 1601 W. Koenig Lane. 512-362-8656. brendwoodsocial.com.  7 a.m.-6 pm. Monday-Sunday. Surface parking off Arroyo Seco. Decaf, teas, chai. Very quiet.

We were quite surprised to learn about this comforting and popular Brentwood spot from a source for a completely unrelated story. The smallish house on busy Koenig probably started in the 1930s when this was on the edge of town, then was renovated in the 1950s or ’60s to give it a whimsical modernist twist. The owners, Suzanne Daniels and Sarah Olano, have made it all their own with well chosen colors and decor, including a capacious dog-friendly patio out back. Olano specializes in English pastries as well as French-inspired food — all worth trying. Daniels, among other things, makes sure service at the bar and elsewhere is prompt, courteous and knowledgeable. This was sort of a coffee house desert for a while, so we welcome the Social House with open arms. (We’ll also add it to our Burnet Road list.)

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

Best Austin coffee shops near Lavaca Street

For whatever reason, the western side of downtown is fertile ground for good coffee shops.

Jo’s Downtown. Laura Skelding/American-Statesman

Jo’s on Second. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003. josecoffee.com. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Fri., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf, teas, chai. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Despite the crowds, quiet corners.

How to improve on one of the city’s most innovative and persistently popular coffee shops — Jo’s on South Congress Avenue? Add very good comfort food and indoor seating at a second location downtown. For those who complain that the upscale Second Street District feels a little alien to Austin, Jo’s is the perfect antidote: Friendly, local and just funky enough. And a pioneer of downtown’s Great Streets program with its expanded sidewalks. At times the double line to the cashiers can get long, especially when a flock of tourists arrives wearing dazed but happy looks, but they’ve made a wise decision to try the salads, burgers, sandwiches and other offerings at this Jo’s, also a favorite of the City Hall crowd. The espresso-based drinks, with beans roasted by Stumptown, are well above average, but there are other options, including wine and beer.

Austin Java at City Hall. Alberto Martinez/American-Statesman

Austin Java. 301 W. Second St. 512-481-9400. austinjava.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon-Thurs. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Despite the whirling foot traffic, one can get work done here.

Jo’s or Java? That’s the luxurious choice at West Second and Lavaca streets: Two proven Austin coffee dispensers that double as cafés. This one juts out from the irregularly shaped Austin City Hall and counts a couple of dozen tables outside and inside. The counter is located just to the right of the main entrance — you can’t miss it. This iteration of the comforting local eatery group is a little less about the food, however, more about the beverages and the chance to sit down and cool your feet in the growing downtown hubbub. Outdoor seats, surrounded by regional geology and botany, are at a premium. As always, fairly good coffee, too.

Halcyon from West Forth Street. Contributed by Michael Knox

Halcyon. 218 W. Fourth St. 512-472-9637. hacyoncoffeebar.com. 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat.-Sun. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Quieter during the day, although even then the music can interfere with thinking or talking.

Many Austin coffee shops nowadays offer adult beverages, but few actually operate as bars and thrive as part of a busy nightclub district. Halcycon, which took the place of Ruta Maya at Lavaca and West Fourth streets, is there for you morning, noon or night. We sometimes run into trouble gaining the attention of the baristas/bartenders, but no wonder with the constant stream of guests seeking places at tables, on sofas or out on the seating raised above the street level. And luckily, almost anything one orders here is worth consuming. Compared to some of the newcomers to this district, Halcyon hangs onto its original funkiness, handed down in part by its predecessor Ruta Maya.

Contributed by Juan Pelota’s Cafe

Juan Pelota Café. 400 Nueces St. 512-473-0222. juanpelotacafe.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m. -6 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Garage parking nearby, some street parking on good days. Decaf, teas, chai. Not really a workspace, more about food, drink and community.

Bear with me as we go back in history to when Lance Armstrong was the city’s second most famous celebrity after Willie Nelson and a busy downtown bike shop that included a small, but very popular coffee spot with a jokey name (look it up). The passage of time has altered Armstrong’s constellation in Austin’s social skies, but Mellow Johnny’s and Juan Pelota Café still anchor a robust cycling community. The café has expanded its footprint to include not only outdoor seating, but also a greater share of the interior space. Coffee was the original lure, but it’s now a place to bulk up on an expanded menu of healthy cuisine as well. The clientele is forbiddingly fit. Even folks clearly my age sport the tight figures, burnished skin and clear eyes of ridiculously good health. More power to ’em.

As always, if we missed your favorite spot in this district, let us know.

 

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Upper South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lower South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.

BACKGROUND: Original 2007 Austin coffee shop series.

COMING IN 2018: Near North Austin, Central East Austin, Guadalupe Street, Manchaca Road, Northwest Austin, Far North Austin, Far East Austin, Far West Austin, Far South Austin, Hays County, Williamson County.

Need a jolt of coffee before heading to ACL?

You probably stayed up pretty late after the first day at Zilker Park for the ACL Music Festival. Although plenty of potable and edible treats await you on the Great Lawn, you can zing into action before you arrive.

BEST COFFEE SHOPS NEAR THE ACL FESTIVAL.

Apanas is a relatively new coffee and beer spot on South Congress Avenue. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Note that the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on South Lamar Boulevard has closed.

 

Best Austin coffee shops near Congress Avenue

Not surprisingly, Congress Avenue, sometimes called the Main Street of Texas, counts more coffee shops than any other 12-block stretch of the city.

Before we dive into the local outfits, though, we should note that Starbucks operates at least six reliable coffee outlets within easy walking distance of Congress Avenue.

So the field is doubly crowded.

Japanese frozen and iced coffee drinks at Houndstooth. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Houndstooth. 401 Congress Ave. 512-394-6051. houndstoothcoffee.com. Paid parking in area garages; very little on the street. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Unobtrusive music, plenty of quiet spots.

The last time we met a friend at this sublime downtown coffee shop on the ground floor of the Frost Tower, he ordered a Japanese frozen coffee cocktail, while I had an iced decaf Americano without a hint of the grainy, musky qualities that sometimes linger in an Americano. This shrine to coffee, the second in the Houndstooth family, blossoms in Scandinavian red tile and blond wood. The ceiling soars above the mixed crowd sitting at counters and tables on curved stools, but it rarely sounds too loud. The espresso and other coffee drinks are superb. The snack and alternative beverage options are minimal. Bags of beans await your inspection. The outside tables are seductive in the morning, less so in the afternoon.

Caffe Medici operates two coffee spots on Congress Avenue. This is the daddy shop. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Caffe Medici. 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2770. caffemedici.com. Paid parking in area garages; very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Modish music. Quiet upstairs.

It was something of a shock when Caffe Medici, which operated a low-key, high-quality coffee shop in an old house on the border between Clarksville and Old West Austin, went into an entirely different direction with shop no. 2. Located in the soaring Austonian downtown, this edition blended modern and contemporary styles with exquisite taste. A few tables are scattered on the sidewalk for people watching, while two large customer areas await inside. Upstairs is a quiet work area; downstairs includes multiple social and lounging options. One orders at a counter at the back, then espresso drinks are picked up at a nightclub-like island well. During big festivals, I’ve watched some visitors who confused “caffe” with “cafe” and expect more to eat. Locals know better. On their own, the drinks compete with the best on the avenue. Bonus: There’s a baby Caffe Medici that opens to the sidewalk with copious outdoor seating in the 900 block of Congress.

The Hideout has survived as a performance venue, coffee shop and hangout for longer than most. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The Hideout. 617 Congress Ave. 512-443-3688. hideouttheatre.com. Paid parking in garages; very little street parking. Decafe, teas, chai. Mellow music. Performance venues in the back and upstairs.

The sole survivor from the Middle Period of downtown Austin coffee houses, the Hideout is doubly known as a performance venue that has hosted artists and audiences in a least four of it interior spaces. A knowledgable barista tells us that only two are now in use. The vibe here his creative, funky and authentic, but that doesn’t mean its food and drink service has slacked off. In fact, by my estimates, it has improved enormously. Workers behind a streamlined counter fetch espresso drinks, beer, wine, beverage novelties, pizza, pastries, tacos, snacks, juice and water, just to get you started. A dozen table and a high counter hold a mix of meeters and laptoppers within dimly lighted painted brick walls. During the past few visits, the staff has proven extraordinarily alert and helpful.

Cafe Aragona started as a Lavazza franchise outlet. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Caffe Aragona. 914 Congress Ave. 512-505-8784. caffearagona.com.  7 .am.-6 p.m. Mon-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., closed Sun. Paid parking in nearby garages, very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Minimal music at all. Outdoor seating under European umbrellas.

What started out as a franchise outlet of a old Italian coffee chain is now locally owned Caffe Aragona. The Lavazza branding remains everywhere, but the first thing we noticed is that the food offerings seem more substantial than we had remembered. Sure, one can still order pastries, panini and gelato, but now the emphasis seems to be on hearty fare such the Chicken Bacon Ciabata, Sausage Roasted Pepper Pizza, Italian Baguette, Salmon Salad and such. The shop’s hours are likewise trimmed to serve downtown workers, not stray tourists or clubbers. Like clockwork, the lunch masses rush in around noon. Some are Capitol types attired in suits, but the rest reflect the usual Austin casual look. They linger among stylish brightly hued chairs, tables and counters. Recall that Little City, which launched the modern urban coffee shop movement in Austin, once thrived in the spot right door. It closed in 2011.

Slake Cafe. 120 E. Seventh St. 512-476-0060. slakecafe.com. 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Paid parking in nearby garages, very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Fairly loud music at lunch.

We like a cafe that’s serious about coffee. Slake is such a one. The L-shaped room starts off with a briskly run counter service that includes a full breakfast and lunch menu as well as piles of tasty pastries and a multitude of drink selections. Customers often use the high island counter nearby as a waiting station for take-out orders. Around the corner are a dozen or more well-spaced tables and a full bar, which I assume gets more more use as the hours crawl by. This is a place for eating and drinking, though, not working. Rare is the laptop. If you don’t live or labor downtown, it’s easy to forget this spot just to the east of the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. But if this is your hood, you stop by here as often as possible.

Brian’s Brew Coffee. 515 Congress Ave. 512-738-7713. briansbrew.com. 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Parking in area garages, virtually no nearby street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. No music during our visit. No obvious place to sit.

Imagine operating a coffee kiosk not much bigger than an old-fashined phone booth, if you can remember what those were. You’d need just the right personality to fill it and Brian’s Brew gets that. Our barista on our only visit was alert, able and funny. While serving me, he kept up a brisk chat with a member of the office tower’s engineering staff, who had repaired one of those giant, old, expensive espresso machines, but not the slimmer, newer models like the one here — that needed some loving care. One can find handy spots like this one all over office buildings in larger cities, but it’s not that common a sight in Austin. A helpful sandwich board out on the sidewalk points the newcomer in the right direction, but one must explore a bit beyond the elevator lobby to find counter with an amazing array of edibles and drinkables for such a tight fit. As I left, the barista asked if my iced decaf Americano was just right. To be honest, it seemed a bit stout, but he was so kind, I replied: “Exactly.”

Floyd’s. 301 Congress Ave. 512-330-4044. floyds301.com. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Fri. Parking in area garages, virtually no nearby street parking. Decaf. Fairly quiet.

“Hard to find. Easy to love.” That’s the motto for Floyd’s, based deep inside the ground floor of an 1980s-era office tower that has undergone some spiffy renovations lately. The shop seems streamlined to suit exactly the tastes of those customers who can find it, in other words, white-collar workers in a hurry. The main beverage menu is split among classics, specialities and chocolate drinks. Breakfast fare includes bagels, tacos, sandwiches and breakfast bowls. Lunch goes the way of presses, wraps and build-your-own sandwiches. The place is light and airy for a room without exterior windows; the tables and chairs are utilitarian. No fuss was made about it, but my coffee drink hit the spot.

MORE AUSTIN COFFEE SHOPS

Near South Congress Avenue

Near Upper South Lamar

Near Lower South Lamar

Near South First Street

Near North Lamar

Near Burnet Road

Original 10,000 Coffee Shops series from 2007.

We bow before these Austin honorees including Maria Cisne Farahani

The world honors Austinites. We report.

Maria Farahani and her niece, Fargol Farahani, at Fara Cafe in the Austin Bergstrom International Airport in 2007. Mark Matson for American-Statesman

Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. presented Maria Cisne Farahani its Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal. Born in Nicaragua, Farahani attended the University of Texas and later settled in Austin with her family. She founded Fara Coffee’s philanthropic arm, the Fara Foundation, which operates clinics among the coffee workers in her home country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott honored longtime community volunteerEvelyn Reininger, with the Yellow Rose of Texas Award for her dedication to the betterment of our state. Reininger, 89, was the first female engine manager at Bergstrom Air Force Base. She also worked alongside Lady Bird Johnson, Gov. Ann Richards and journalist Liz Carpenter on the Federal Women’s Program. After retiring, she worked on day care for need kids and teaching adults to read. We learned that she’s also more than a bit history-minded.

Impact Austin just gave out $403,000 in its latest raft of high-impact grants. Their new community parters for the giving group of more than 400 women deal with homeless youth, refugees, school-age kids, first-time mothers and families of incarcerated adults. Receiving $80,600 each were the Safe Alliance, the Contemporary Austin, Any Baby Can, Interfaith Action of Central Texas and Seedling Foundation. Acting executive director Lisa Apfelberg reminded folks that Impact Austin has given out more than $6 million since 2003.

Comings and goings: Erin Wiegert is the new development associate and major gifts officer for the Austin Symphony. … The collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros is giving 83 works of Spanish Colonial art to the Blanton Museum of Art.