The Austin nonprofit community perks up every year for the Philanthropy Day Awards, given out by the Austin chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
These honors are chosen by the pros! The following individuals and groups will be applauded during a luncheon at the JW Marriott on Feb. 8.
A special bravo goes out to the always generous Bert “Tito” Beveridge and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Given the recent evaluation from Forbes valuing his company at $2.5 billion, however, Tito’s might more accurately qualify in the Large Corporation category.
Jorge Guerra, longtime owner of El Azteca restaurant and a fixture on the East Austin scene for decades, has died at home, his grandson, Juan Guerra, has confirmed. He was 85.
The elder Guerra opened his restaurant 3 p.m. May 10, 1963. He closed it last year due to family health care costs, rising property taxes and a drop in sales during two years of street work on East Seventh Street. His wife of 61 years, Ninfa Guerra, died after a long illness on March 28.
During El Azteca’s 53 years of operation, the spot was among the first of its kind to go beyond enchiladas, tacos and beans. Locally, Guerra popularized, among other things, cabrito and Mexican beers such as Corona, Carta Blanca, Bohemia, Tecate, Dos Equis and Negra Modelo. He also introduced colorful calendars that celebrated Aztec culture.
Yet the outspoken Guerra was also a community leader, who crusading to fix East Austin flooding, roadwork, safety and services.
“His civic engagement and political participation in his community was always a part of El Azteca,” former Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez said in a 2016 interview. “He challenged me on numerous occasions to think about things from a different perspective. We didn’t always agree, but I surely did respect his service to our country and our community.”
“Mr. Guerra was a key leader for the people of East Austin back in the day, especially in the Zaragoza and Govalle neighborhoods,” says advertising executive and community historian Lonnie Limón said in 2016. “He got things done because he was fearless and determined.
Born Monterrey, Nuevo León in 1932, Guerra came to this country with visa on Nov. 23, 1953. He had worked in his uncle’s restaurant in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, when folks crossed the international border several times a day.
As a U.S. Marine, he was stationed in Japan and South Korea. In 1955, he married Ninfa Guerra and they had two boys and two girls. A year after opening El Azteca, they bought a house at Linden and Lyons streets where they lived for years.
Family took priority, although that often meant working from morning to midnight seven days a week. This and diabetes eventually took its toll on Guerra’s wife, who spent her last years in rehabilitation.
“Opening El Azteca was a matter of survival,” he told this newspaper last year. “I don’t know how the name came to me. I thad to be something that belongs to anyone who wants to respect the culture. It is a name to be honored and respected.”
This is a developing story. Check back for more details.
If you toddling along North Lamar Boulevard, you’ve got a few choices for a coffee break and all that goes with it.
Houndstooth. 4200 N. Lamar Blvd. houndstoothcoffee.com. Open 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Parking in a lot to the north, but limited. Good WiFi. Teas and chai. Decaf. Burbling music. Some seating outside on a terrace, but not ideal in the a.m.
This place might produce the very best coffee drinks in town. Their menu is actually pretty lean. Brewed coffee and espresso drinks. Teas and chai. Some pastries and nutrition bars. Bagged coffee beans and paraphernalia. This, the original location, is located in a upscale strip center underneath an office building that includes a Taco Deli and — nearby — Uchiko, two Austin faves. Several small tables wait outside, shaded a bit by a canopy. Inside are long and short tables with lots of customers at almost any time. In fact, it’s sometimes a chore to land a seat. Blonde wood, black modernist chairs, light brick and paint conspire to give the spot a streamlined feel at odds with the its tweedy name. Hipsters, students and folks in business drag sip shoulder to shoulder and can it get a little loud inside during peak traffic. I don’t know the secret for their great coffee, but I promise to keep asking.
Austin Java. 1206 Parkway. (512) 476-1829. 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. Happy hours: 2 p.m. until close on weekdays, 6 p.m. until close on the weekends. Very limited onsite parking. Decaf and teas. Lively but not intrusive music. Quiet corners. Outside seating.
More of a hearty cafe than a coffee shop these days, the Austin Java trio started out on this very spot at the corner of North Lamar Boulevard and Parkway. And something about it harks back to an even older Austin. Scruffy tables and chairs sit in neat rows inside a converted house, while a picnic areas offer outdoor seating. A heavy wooden bar and counter line the west wall and this can make a good perch if you are alone. The place draws an eclectic crowd, including students from Austin Community College uphill. There’s always a sizable mass on hand for lunch. The drink choices are numerous and include frappes, Italian sodas, smoothies, beer, espresso and coffee drinks, wine. The food encompasses comforting selections such as soups, sandwiches, toasts, quesadillas, wings, hummus and egg dishes. Menu divided between Breakfast and Lunch/Dinner selections. One odd offering: butter coffee bomb, purported to help you be healthy and productive.
Whole Foods Market. 525 N. Lamar Blvd. (512) 476-1206. wholefoodsmarket.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Limited surface parking, much more in a busy underground garage. WiFi is free without a password, but your time is limited to 120 minutes. Decaf. Very noisy.
“Were you surprised by my simple order?” I asked the barista after several previous customers required elaborate help. I ordered a small decaf. “No,” he said. “I can’t hear you over this loud music.” He’s right: The music in Whole Foods food service area discourages conversation. The coffee bar is located to the right of the northwest entrance at a long, curved counter shared with the hopping juice bar. Despite the dozens of tables outside and in, it’s sometimes hard to find a place to sit. Brewed coffee? It’s behind you at a self-service counter. (Small decaf: $2. A deal!) Espresso drinks are constructed farther down the counter. Food? Are you kidding? It’s everywhere at the WF mother ship, recently acquired by tech giant Amazon. Nutrition bars are right there at the counter, but several usually packed cafes and a few acres of fresh and packaged food can be found down the busy aisles. Who is here? Who’s not? I recognized a couple of celebrities mixed in among folks in every manner of casual and business clothing.
Starbucks. 4440 N. Lamar Blvd. (512) 374-9784. starbucks.com. Despite the large, shared parking lot, it’s still hard to find a slot at certain hours. And don’t try the highly regulated street parking. Decaf (pour-over and Americano at noon). Teas and chai. Harmless music. Some outdoor seating with umbrellas.
Some readers might wonder why we sample representative Starbucks locales as part of this series. Because, despite corporate conventions — or perhaps because of them — each outlet is different, if only because the people are different. And their roles in each neighborhood’s texture evolves over time. One Starbucks at North Lamar Boulevard and West Fifth Street, for instance, is too small for today’s traffic. So we concentrated this report on the outlet at North Lamar just south of West 45th. It’s is quite large, but for good reason. To one side, you have fashionable midcentury modern districts, on the other, large state facilities bookended by big developments at the Triangle and Central Park. This spot offers plenty of tables inside and out, as well as the now required laptop counters and cocktail tables. When traffic is high, four or five baristas churn out the orders. Clerestory windows keep this shop light even as the color scheme and decor trend to the dark end. This day I overheard a businessman making a pitch, a couple whispering sweet nothings, a bearded man working through some problems through a an earpiece, and a foursome of well-bundled workmen who might have come from the Northeast or Upper Midwest. All are welcome.
Aamil Sarfani soaks up the burnished light at Radio Coffee & Beer, a popular hangout on Manchaca Road.
“They nailed the feel,” says the owner of Apanas Coffee & Beer, which opened at two locations in Austin during 2016. “It’s not too quiet. They offer both beer and coffee, similar to what we do. At 5 p.m., they turn the Wi-Fi off. The work day is over; time to hang out. We are too scared to do that.”
He points to the lightly scuffed floors.
“No, I just love this place,” Sarfani says. “This is one of the reasons we did wood floors, too.”
Sarfani learned that by sidestepping third parties through the direct trade model, he, as a retailer, not only could increase the farmer’s share of the revenue, he also could improve transparency and traceability of coffee bean origin and movement, something that not all “fair trade” coffee shops can do.
“I came back from the trip the year before senior year and expected to eventually start a business, but I didn’t expect to do so right out of college,” he says. “I had all the resources in hand. Talked to professors, created business plan. I was ready to do something that means more than making a quick buck.”
“One is natural processed, Los Piños, picked off the tree andleft in the cherry to increase its sweetness,” he says. “It’s a hard process to master, what with errors, low yield. If you do it right, the coffee comes out fantastic. The other is washed El Peten. We also have a drip coffee that’s a blend of bean from farms in the Los Robos community, and the money goes back to the town’s clinic.”
That echoes the efforts of Austin’s Farahani family, which funds Nicaraguan health care through its nonprofit Fara Coffees.
Sarfani grew up “behind the register” from age 12 at his father’s gas stations and fast food restaurants. So it made sense to pitch his dad as an investor.
He opened his first coffee shop in January on Rock Rose in the Domain Northside. It’s a mid-sized spot at 1,800 square feet. There’s not a lot of competition in this giant retail district for this wide open and comfortable spot that is not surprisingly already attracting regulars.
In the fall, he opened the second Apanas in a 2,500 square-foot former sports medicine space on South Congress, where there is indeed heavy-hitting competition from Jo’s Coffee, Toms Roasting Co. and Mañana Coffee & Juice.
“We have felt that,” Sarfani admits. “I consult with my Dad. He stays out of my way, tells me what I could be doing, but lets me makes mistakes.”
The blend of coffee spots on or near South Lamar Boulevard includes some of the city’s oldest and some of its newest offerings. (We’ve melded two posts to make this one to match the many offerings along the way.)
An adorable little coffee boat recently anchored under a pecan tree in the parking lot of the very popular Austin Beer Garden Brewing, aka ABGB. Tina Rose, longtime of Jo’s Coffee and other shops, pulled up her vessel to this stretch of road that needed exactly this sort of soothing respite. On a fine day, it’s blissfully relaxing at the few tables and chairs huddled next to the trailer, or a few short steps away at ABGB’s shaded picnic tables. Espresso-based drinks come first, including those made the Catahoula Mama’s House blend. With other mindful business allies, Rose and company employ ingredients “locally sourced as much as possible, organic, fair trade, humanely and sustainably produced.” The name at this dog-friendly spot, by the way, came from Rose’s late canine companion. In a sign of the times, they offer soy, coconut and almond milk. Among the imaginative offerings: Brooklyn Boxer, an iced coffee drink — “Shaken. Never stirred” — and a Nectar Fizz that combines organic nectar with the bubbly stuff. Since it is, after all, mobile, will it ever move? Rose: “We’re here for the rest of our lives!”
Patika Wine and Coffee. 2159 South Lamar Boulevard. patikacoffee.com. Fri.-Tues. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-midnight. A fair amount of onsite parking, plus extra slots behind a nearby boutique. WiFi: “coffeeandwine”. Decaf (American), teas, chai. Burbling music and a fairly quiet crowd.
Pale ledge-stone facing gives this uncomplicated coffee shop, at one time parked inside a highly regarded downtown trailer, a dash of mod style. One must quickly identify its low-lying silhouette along busy South Lamar Boulevard just south of Oltorf Street. A laptop counter faces the big picture windows. A dozen tables wait off to the side and another dozen out back on the required Austin patio, where a trailer serves more substantial cafe cuisine at certain hours. At other times, pastries and snacks will do. Espresso-based drinks dominate the menu, but there’s also a nice selection of wines and beers, plus juice and pour-over coffees. When I visited — or revisited, since I loved the downtown location where the JW Marriott now rises — most of the customers, primarily in the 20s and 30s, were glued to their devices. There’s a little echo from the hard surfaces and metal chairs. Patika is home to some of Austin’s most meticulous baristas who make superb drinks. UPDATE: Breakfast and lunch now served Thursdays-Sundays.
Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. 2050 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-8742. opacoffeeandwinebar.com. Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-midnight. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Wi-Fi: “spiros,” password “kalimera.” Moody music and fairly quiet.
Opa was among the first in town to advertise coffee and wine in the same breath. But it’s also a Greek cafe with a full bar. As proof that it’s still a coffee shop, though, half the patrons on a recent visit were buried deep in their laptops. The building is somewhat camouflaged by the large trees that shade its roomy front patio. Another much smaller patio waits out back near the limited onsite parking (if the lot is full, drivers may park at Bead It next door after 7 p.m.). Inside, one orders at the counter, then retreats to various well-worn stools, tables, chairs and sofas. One can easily visualize this cafe transported to an old university district. All sorts of espresso-based drinks complement more than 40 wine selections. Entrees include traditional Mediterranean dishes such as souvlaki, gyros, falafel and spanakopita. “Light bites” range from breakfast items and pizzas to appetizers such as baked feta, spinach-and-cheese pies and dolmas. Images of Greek tourist sites adorn the walls. Every age group is represented among Opa’s clients, including families with children.
Work Coffee Co. 2053 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-917-4628. workcoffeeco.com. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. A few onsite parkling slots. No decaf at this time. Teas, chai. Wi-Fi password: “bigdaddio1951.” Music loud enough that people don’t sit on the laptops the whole time.
Undoubtedly one of the most singular coffee spots in Austin. Noah Marion, who started his young work life as a barista, then trained as a sculptor, became a leather worker extraordinaire. Inside his working shop/studio attached to the Hoiden apparel boutique, he lovingly prepares beans roasted at Cafe Brasil specifically for avid espresso lovers. In addition, he offers four espresso-based drinks, iced cold brew, iced black tea, herbal teas and Topo Chico. Marion and his crew work their leather the whole time, but the they make the drinks with great care. Marion: “We’re the slowest coffee shop in town.”As for the shop’s name, Marion says he wanted to take back the word “work” with a positive connotation. He makes that easy with unforced conversation. Minimal seating available: One long table with four seats and a counter with four seats in an open, light-filled space, with one smaller table outside. A two-month membership gets you half price espresso. Despite the current lack of decaf coffee, I fell in love with this charming and very local spot. I even purchased a hand-tooled wallet.
Irie Bean Coffee Bar. 2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-4636. iriebean.com. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Spacious parking lot, which is good because nearby shopping centers and residential streets don’t welcome spillover. Use “Irie Bean Coffee Bar” Wi-Fi with password “irielife.” Decaf (Americano), teas and chai. Music is fairly loud by unhurried. Back patio often quieter
With a smile and a shrug, this Jamaican inspired coffee shop has clung onto its laid-back space on rapidly changing South Lamar. Launched in 2006 to promote “positive vibes,” it now counts as one of the oldest coffee shop in South Central Austin. The front of the brick-and-cinder-block building — a remnant of the boulevard’s former highway culture — hugs the curb next to a tattoo shop. Inside, the light is warm and mellow and the crowded U-shaped coffee bar buzzes with espresso and brewed coffee drinks, along with a few regular guests chatting with the barista. Smoothies, Italian sodas, iced tea and other refreshments join bottled and canned beer along with a small section of wines and broths, as well as a few snacks. The funky, whimsical patio out back with its roll-top bar creates its own magic. Lots of laptoppers on a Sunday afternoon, but I know it gets livelier in the evening. Worn wooden tables, counters, benches, stools, chairs — a few of them upholstered — give customers lots of places to settle in.
Stonehouse Coffee and Bar. 1105 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-879-9429. stonehouseaustin.com. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. Onsite parking and overflow parking shared with nearby establishments. WiFi. Decaf, teas and chai. Loud music on our first visit. Plenty of options outside and in.
“This feels a lot like Seventh Flag,” I said to the baristas when I first encountered this Dawson family stone house that has been resurrected with almost Scandinavian purity and lightness inside. “I used to work there!” said one barista. Another similarity: The social options are numerous, with different sized tables, bars and outdoor seating, mostly shaded. The care with espresso drinks is similar, but in this case, Stonehouse is more expansive, whereas Seventh Flag on South First is minimal. The offer of decaf is an obvious example, but they also serve draft beers, wines in half and full bottles, plus other potable and edible options, including locally sourced gelato. The baristas are attentive and skilled. The crowd is a mix of furrow-browed laptoppers and more social folks. Once abandoned, this cleverly branded place, built around 1900 in what back then would have been the countryside, was a once a Tarot card palace and at other times offices for a title company. It has officially found its soul again. The punk music aside — one must chat after all — I like this place a lot. It could easily become one of my new haunts.
Caffe Medici. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-445-7212. caffemedici.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Lots of free parking in Lamar Union garages. Lively Wi-Fi, password: “coolbeans.” Decaf (French press and Americano), teas and chai. Mild music. Quiet inside and out.
No students. That’s a shocker for a Central Austin coffee shop. The crowd this day ranged from their late 20s to their mid 60s. Not to record that’s always the case, but it says something about the clientele of the megalithic Lamar Union development. One of several coffee shops by this name to focus on excellent coffee as well as handsome, grown-up design, this Caffe Medici — brown, white and black color scheme — feels best matched to the group’s luxe downtown location in the Austonian. A dozen outside tables invite guests on cooler days and will be even more tempting once the trees grown in. Another dozen tables, plus some laptop counter stools, wait inside. Besides the fine espresso drinks, coffee, cafe au lait, iced coffee and teas as part of a fairly simple menu, the place also offers a limited array of pastries and snacks. Single-origin coffee beans are on offer, too. And here’s unexpected news: Several good beers on tap. The staff is well-practiced and helpful. Although Lamar Union can seem a little intimidating at first, this place has already attracted regulars.
Austin Java. 1608 Barton Springs Road. 512-482-9450. austinjava.com. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. 1 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Parking in garage to the rear. Fast Wi-Fi. Decaf, teas, chai. Moderate music. Although busy, relaxed.
More of a full-service restaurant than a mere coffee shop, this local stand-by gives one the choice of sitting at a short bar near the entrance, or being escorted to ready seating in the front and the back. A full bar accompanies a paradise of coffee and other drinks, many of them made with locally roasted Arabica beans. Coffees can be straightforward — drip or espresso-based — or come with themed names such as Morning Glory or Fog Cutter. Signature drinks include Caramel Knowledge and Sugar Daddy. Need something a little headier? How about spiked coffees, beer, wine or cocktail? The breakfast side of the menu is dominated by egg dishes, while lunch and dinner on the flip side includes rib-stickers such as pasta, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and especially good soups. The staff stays pretty animated, or so one can hear from the large kitchen. Not many laptops here among an array of guests. This edition of the local group that started on North Lamar Boulevard thrives without much competition in its market niche on Barton Springs Road.
Picnik. 1700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-293-6188. picnikaustin.com. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Shared parking lot and street parking. Wi-Fi password: “bodybybutter.” Decaf, tea. No chai. Fairly loud music, but it’s outside. Set back from traffic, so peaceful.
This mod cafe/coffee shop, built inside a recycled cargo container, continues to shine on low, green rise along South Lamar Boulevard. It’s earned a trendy, imported neighbor in Snooze, which focuses on breakfast dishes. Picnik’s streamlined menu more than holds its own. They serve “famous coffee” drinks, such as Golden Milk Matcha and Mayan Mocha, but also very good “plain and simple” coffee. No espresso, which is rare these days. They’ll make you shakes or teas (although the latter offering is a bit confusing on the menu). Decaf in two forms: black coffee or butter coffee, which includes grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Soul-warming on cold days are three types of bone broth. Of the six food offerings, they were out of the breakfast tacos by noon, but a helpful barista recommended a filling chicken club wrap with bacon and a kale exterior. Just right. Because South Lamar isn’t (yet) pedestrian friendly, this is more of a destination spot than a impulse stop. Metal tables and chairs are scattered under a canopy or in the sun. A sign of the times: Three fat sriracha sauce dispensers next to the counter.
Starbucks. 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-912-7919. 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Shared parking at Lamar Plaza, plus drive-through service. Wi-Fi before you even ask. Decaf, teas, chai. Soft music. Fairly quiet inside and out.
This Starbucks is almost too popular. Squeezed narrowly and deeply into the Lamar Plaza shopping center — which offers a mix of local and chain outlets — this coffee shop deals in familiarity and consistency for a crowd of mixed ages and backgrounds. The products don’t differ much — or at all — from store to store: Espresso-based drinks, coffees, teas, and a long list of trademarked “frappuccinos.” The drive-through remains busy all day. You are instantly recognized by its Wi-Fi signal when you engage your device. Like other chains, Strbucks fights absolute conformity by localizing the decor and supplying a neighborhood flyer board. A few outside tables under umbrellas attracted no one on this warm day, but customers flocked to the short counter space and no more than a dozen tables inside. Some people sometime complain when this ubiquitous chain duplicates shops in the same area, at times right across the street from the next. But as Austin grows more dense, there’s a ready argument for it. Not every Starbucks regular on South Lamar can fit in here.
Recently, we published a 1980s recipe for the Avocado Zapata from Los Tres Lobos, a long gone Austin eatery. We rescued it from the book “Ellie Rucker’s Almanac.” The late American-Statesman columnist often published recipes from readers’ favorite restaurant dishes.
Afterward, we heard from James Wilsford, who shares a different path to fried avocado goodness.
“I enjoyed reading your column about Ellie Rucker and Los Tres Bobos. I met Ellie Rucker since I was friends with her daughter, Allison, with whom I waited tables at the County Line on the Lake.
“However, prior to that, I was the fry cook at Los Tres Bobos that prepared the Avocado Zapata for several years and have to tell you that your recipe, although probably tasty, is not the same as we made them.
“First, instead of nuts, we used crushed peanut brittle, and we added a little cheese to the mix to help is stick together along with the egg. The meat mixture was made with cold leftover taco meat because, if you try it with hot taco meat, it will not stick together and you get an exploded avocado zapata in the fryer.
“The avocados are formed ahead of time so that they can cool and congeal. The wet batter used was one egg, one cup of milk and one cup of butter milk. The dry batter was one part flour, one part Bisquik, with a little salt and a lot of black pepper.
“It was usually double battered so as to avoid the aforementioned exploding Avocado Zapata. Your creole sauce is essentially correct. I have made this over the years for groups of friends and for parties but it makes a mess to do it like they do in the restaurant so, I usually make it for a dozen avocados which give you two dozen “zaps.”
“Like many recipes that get printed, there are variations, either from a chef’s personal taste or a more convenient way to make something but that also accounts for why sometimes things just do not have the same zing when prepared at home and you are wondering what the small trick was that gave it that special flavor.”
South First Street rivals South Congress Avenue in several ways, including its comparable wealth of quality coffee shops.
Seventh Flag Coffee Co. 1506 South First St. seventhflagcoffee.com. Open 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Parking in back. Strong Wi-Fi. Teas and chai. No decaf. Music sometimes loud. Despite traffic outside, picnic area fairly quiet.
I adore this place. This, despite the fact they don’t carry decaf coffee of any kind. The owner took an old wood residence and transformed the inside with almost Scandinavian precision and lightness, then added a variety of tables and counters accompanied by amazingly comfortable molded wooden stools. One low couch sits in a niche and shaded picnic tables tempt the mostly young crowd on fine days. Perhaps to maintain quality or efficiency, the menu is quite limited. An increasing number of themed non-food-and-drink items are for sale. Three toasts have proven quite popular, and there are also a few nutrition bars, water and juices on offer. The always alert baristas — who looked like they were hired from the same talent agency — moved over recently to City of Saints coffee beans for espresso-based drinks, as well as cold and hot brews. Sometimes the musical volume is too loud for us oldsters, but they’ll turn it down if you ask. What do I order without the decaf option? Coconut green iced tea in the summer, green tea in winter, unless I’m going crazy on the caffeine. Above a mantle hangs a black flag adorned with seven white stars. It reads: “Our country of friends.” Indeed. Both my husband and I feel supremely at home here.
Once Over Coffee Bar. 2009 S. First St. 512-326-9575. onceovercoffeebar.com. Open 7:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. Onsite parking in front. Good Wi-Fi, no password. Decaf, teas and chai. Muted music. Serenely quiet on back creekside deck.
One of the first places in town to offer French press coffee, Once Over now uses a shiny Curtis Gold Cup machine, which a helpful barista described as “robo pour over,” to go along with espresso drinks. Recessed in a nondescript strip center, this always packed place offers a few tables out front under a big tree surrounded by untended planters, as well as a divine creekside deck out back. Now that nearby Bouldin Creek Cafe is more of a restaurant and less of a coffee shop, the mix-and-match Once Over provides the most reliable link to the neighborhood’s funky coffee house past. It’s very laid back. There’s a 10 percent discount if you use cash and another $.25 if you bring your own cup. You don’t pay at point of contact, but rather after being served. The excellent drinks aren’t extravagant or whimsical. The baristas pours four types of red wine and four types of white wine, along with Austin Beer Works varieties. The usual snacks and pastries call out to an easy mix of people working on projects together or alone. The baristas usually engage with folks sitting at the long, bar-like counter. As you could guess from the rest of this description, a good number of guests are loyal regulars, who engage in fluent banter with the staff.
Summer Moon Coffee. 3115 S. First St. 512-804-1665. woodfiredcoffee.com. 6 a.m.-12 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m Sat., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.Some onsite parking, also street parking nearby. Solid Wi-Fi with password posted on chalkboard near entrance. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Moderately loud music. Not too noisy on small deck out front.
This place is very popular with students. And the brand has expanded to other neighborhoods since this original shop opened in a tiny strip center on South First not far from St. Edward’s University. A good deal of emphasis is placed on the fire-roasted coffee beans — “100 percent organic, 100 percent Arabica” — and products that come with variations on the shop’s name, including Moon Milk (secret recipe). The five kinds of breakfast tacos usually sell out by 10 a.m., a Sunday barista told me, after which one can choose from three types of sandwiches or wraps, along with pastries and snacks. A few comfy chairs and meeting tables complement a fascinating staple-shaped laptop counter. I like that this place maintains a sense of humor, which is adopted without coyness by the young baristas. The stone and wood decor lend Summer Moon a sense of place, and although I can’t tell you why the fire roasting makes a difference, the coffee here is definitely superior.
UPDATE: Fair Bean Coffee has closed.
Starbucks. 516 W. Oltorf St. 512-534-6654. starbucks.com. Open until 11 p.m. Not too much parking, plus a drive-through ramp. Instantaneous Wi-Fi. Decaf (pour-over or Americano), teas, chai. Low music. Partially shaded outdoor seating set back from busy intersection.
Face it, this part of South Austin deserved a big, new, drive-through Starbucks. Sometimes, that’s exactly the option you need. The new one at Oltorf and South First streets takes the place of a defunct chicken joint. If you are driving there, enter via westbound Oltorf or northbound South First. Don’t try left turns across traffic into the undersized parking lot. Do try the smooth-as-latte drive-through. The interior is vast, enclosing with windows on three sides at least two dozens metal seats and two types of stools, some counter seating, also some lounge seating. The pristine wood, concrete and masonry finishes dampen the feeling of chain sameness. Partially shaded seating invites one outside, but only on the sunny west and south sides. Of course, there’s a dazzling array of espresso and cold brew selections, as well as bagged coffee beans, water, chips, juices, pastries, teas. A sign you’ll probably see more often: “Now serving almond milk”! The college-age baristas handle the traffic handily, happily. Despite all the hard surfaces, the place doesn’t sound loud and there are plenty of spots to close those laptops to chat. Of course, Starbucks is a globally recognized way of life, not just a coffee shop, which you can take or leave at will.
In 2007, we proposed a series titled “10,000 Coffee Shops.” We found only 100 around Austin, but it felt like 10,000. Our point: That in the 1980s, there had only been three such spots here! We’re sure to count more than 200 during a new run in 2016.
Noting the obvious: The following list of 100 is from 2007. Some have closed, moved, expanded or changed.
At one point, AJ was revolutionary: a coffee shop that served top-notch soups, sandwiches and heartier fare, not just as an afterthought. As the small chain has grown — just added: a location inside Austin City Hall — each incarnation has nurtured its own identity. It’s taken a few critical hits lately, but Austin Java still looks like a local hero to us.
1808 E. Cesar Chavez St. 457-9074
Proof positive that the East Cesar Chavez area has changed radically in the past decade, Azul instantly set its own standards for cross-cultural coolness. Additional patio seats and a varied menu have kept Azul a neighborhood magnet, plus a place with an actual parking lot for near-downtowners to meet for a midday repast.
120 E. Seventh St. 476-0060
Egg, cheese and sausage croissant — done the right way, filling but not greasy. That’s the kind of substantial eats that sets this downtown bakery apart, along with row after row of made-in-house pastries and sandwiches. The brewed decaf is OK, but one may choose from chalkboards full of other options for drinks in this place, set up for a busy business crowd.
BARNES & NOBLE
Independent bookstore purists, cease and desist. This ubiquitous big-box store raised the general quality of such shops dramatically, which expanded the number of titles published each year. Meanwhile, its mostly Starbucks-based cafes are islands of calm in frenetically busy shopping centers. Live with it.
603 N. Lamar Blvd. 472-5050
It might be better known as a bookstore than a coffeehouse, but the espresso is very good. Instead of “To go?” the barista asks “Do you want to walk around with it?” Patrons can peruse stacks of possible purchases at cafe tables or examine local artwork displayed on the wall. On a weekend afternoon, seats might be scarce, while on a weekend night, this bright, quiet corner of the store could be a great place to study.
BOSSA NOVA COFFEEHOUSE & BAKERY
2121 E. Sixth St. 478-8700
Open just a week, Bossa Nova carries the new gleam of a shelter-magazine photo spread. In keeping with trendy nearby loft developments, the decor is modern. Still, there’s already a neighborhood feel, right down to the local beat cop, who has stopped in to shoot the breeze with the gregarious staff. The espresso is worthy.
BOULDIN CREEK COFFEEHOUSE & CAFE
1501 S. First St. 416-1601
Neo-hippie down to its jagged nails, this Bouldin area hangout is so laid-back, it almost slips into the creek behind it. Service can be even more casual. Its partisans are intensely loyal, and the numerous nooks and outdoor tables are usually packed with variations on resale shop denizens and variations on creative hair. Moved and changed.
BUENOS AIRES CAFE
2414 S. First St. 441-9000
The atmosphere is more South Austin than South America, despite the posters on the wall and memorabilia such as articles from Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper under the glass on tabletops. The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and might be busy at mealtimes, but you can also simply sit and sip a decent espresso while enjoying a pastry or empanada. For fine weather, there’s a diminutive patio out front.
909 W. Mary St. 447-9473
Bouldin-area residents were afraid this modern coffeehouse would clot the area with commercialism, but they have since embraced its brisk colors, modest but chic patio, sweeping counter, better-than-average coffees, tasty treats and pleasantly uncommercial atmosphere. Other neat shops have since opened at Mary and South Second streets.
CAFE DO BRASIL
200 San Jacinto Blvd. 320-8378
The Hampton Inn’s Fresh Cup coffee shop has been renamed and cheerily redecorated by an ebullient Brazilian with a fondness for parrot posters. Complimented on the uncommonly intense, complex flavor of his espresso, the proprietor exclaims ‘It’s Brazilian!’ He lifts the cover from a cake plate to offer a tantalizing sniff, and knocks a hole in a coconut to pour a fresh glass of juice. The rest of the coconut, he explains, will be used to concoct a dessert.
If the in-store cafe is often an afterthought over at Barnes & Noble, it’s a distinct enterprise at Borders. In some locations, Cafe Espresso has a separate entrance and marketing. For chain bookstore coffeehouses, these tend to be commodious and well-tended, and, for some shoppers, an experience unto itself.
11900 Metric Blvd. 339-7677
It’s a diner. A good diner. An old-fashioned diner, with no-nonsense, professional service, slipped into a strip center near Austin Community College’s Northridge campus. Though you would never know from the exterior, this kind of place would light up any small Texas town with burgers and patty melts, salads and darn fine coffee. This comes with our highest casual-eatery recommendation. Another location has opened on Gattis School Road in Round Rock
1101 West Lynn St. 524-5049
A labor of amore, this family-run coffeehouse in the Clarksville neighborhood nicely complements its neighbors — Galaxy Cafe, Jeffrey’s, Cosmic Cafe, Nau’s Enfield Drugstore and Cipollina. Darkly saturated colors and discreetly distributed tables offer the average laptopper or hushed gossiper above-average privacy. The coffee — even the decaf — soaks the senses, and a healthy supply of pastries blinks from the display cases. Expanded.
1704 E. Fifth St. 236-8634
You have to be in the know to find this poorly signed niche-and-arbor by the old, overgrown East Austin railroad tracks. Amid all the super-modern development, this undisturbed bit of old-feel Austin recently expanded. The coffee is fine, the service is cheery and, in clement weather, a cluster of oaks hosts acoustic musical acts.
5213 Evans Ave. 407-9887
Lemon-butter yellow, periwinkle and other bright hues lift a wintry mood on a rainy afternoon, even before a huge, fragrant latte appears. Hardwood floors and butterfly-patterned lampshades add to the warmth of this Hyde Park cottage. Brazilian music makes this a relaxing place to while away the hours, perhaps browsing the CDs for sale or videos for rent, or snacking on tasty heart of palm empanadas or a mushroom pie.
200 Buttercup Creek Blvd.,
Cedar Park. 257-7088
The name says it all. This place echoes its host town — now a booming suburb — and its surviving country feel, despite the modern strip mall outside. In the back, there’s a postal nook and gifts for sale. In the front, widely spaced tables and an out-of-place hearth. In between, chipper service and more than serviceable food and drink.
715 S. Main St., Georgetown. (512) 869-7030
So resolute about quality coffee beans, Cianfrani offers a whole shelf of high-quality decaf varieties. You don’t find that kind of attention to detail everywhere. Part of the Georgetown courthouse square renaissance, Cianfrani is as dedicated as any coffeehouse in Central Texas. It ranks up there with Mozart’s for sober celebration of everything coffee-related.
2200 Manor Road. 472-9900
Oh, my darlin’! No, really, only a few Austin coffeehouses are this well-designed, crisp, comfortable and vibey. High standards have been applied to the coffee as well, and the pastries are fresh and fully flavored. As part of the still-growing Restaurant Road on Manor, it comes with that slightly-on-the-edge cachet. At times, a pall of Wi-Fi silence falls on the two light-blessed seating areas. Lawn chairs wait outside.
1412 W. Texas 71, Bastrop. (512) 303-2244
Blink and you’ll miss this pert spot on Texas 71 west of Bastrop, near the turnoff to San Marcos. But it’s worth the screeching brakes. A tall stack of tender pastries dominates the supermodel-thin shop. Coffee is served promptly and one may either linger at one of the cafe seats or saunter out to the tables overlooking the traffic on 71.
203 Railroad St., Buda. (512) 295-3252
You won’t have trouble finding this address, right next to the railroad tracks in downtown Buda. Once inside, you’ll browse through the eclectic selection of (very) used books and enjoy the hospitality of the family that also runs the pizza parlor a couple of blocks away. The coffee and conversation are warm enough to invite lingering, even on a busy day.
THE COFFEE POT
129 E. Hopkins St. San Marcos,
San Marcos is home to some ambitious restaurants. This is its ambitious coffee spot, with towers of coffee bean bins, cafe fare and enough room for a small squadron to spread out. Located on the San Marcos courthouse square, it’s rarely empty of students or legal types. Only Javamotion in Lockhart outsizes this place among small-town coffee shops.
COMMON GROUNDS COFFEE
3720 Gattis School Road, Round Rock.
So far from Central Austin it might as well be in Arkansas. But, oh, you could be in Europe, so careful are the owners about the food, drink, service and decor. Common Grounds turned out to be one of the great finds of the XL coffee-shop project, but seriously, unless you already live in eastern Round Rock . . .
THE DAILY GRIND
16238 RM 620 N. 388-0607
Suddenly, high-design elegance pops up right in the middle of North Austin’s maze of toll roads and aging rural highways. The sleek lines and high ceilings are softened by comfortable furniture, which leads to a counter packed with goodies and manned by an amiable staff. We really shouldn’t be surprised, but we were.
1115 E. 11th St. 542-9542
Cute. Sweet. Gentle. These words come to mind at Dandelion, which is not the least neo-hippie, but rather, like Azul, Clementine and Progress, a cross between old East Austin and tasteful modernity. Sandwiches and soups are among the healthy comfort food, and the coffee brightens even a dismal winter day.
100 N. Second St., Pflugerville.
Blueprint for fast-food coffee: a finely scrubbed hut with a drive-around window, teen staff and efficient delivery of product. Now, those youngsters prepare the coffee drinks with moderate care. And there’s something neat about securing your drink and snacks on the run, even if you’d really rather savor your meal.
2900-B Guadalupe St. 320-0705
This small, healthy cafe adjacent to Toy Joy features organic coffee drinks made from fair-trade, shade-grown beans, including a full-bodied espresso. Other offerings include vegan desserts and a soft-serve made from oats. The decor is as giddily playful as Toy Joy itself. A table by the window offers a view of the top of the University of Texas Tower. A track from Tortoise completes the chill, quirky vibe.
DOLCE VITA GELATO & COFFEE
4222 Duval St. 323 2686
One definition of the sweet life: the leisure to linger deep into the tender night over divine gelato and expertly prepared espresso drinks. (Or something a little stronger.) We wonder how any of the surrounding restaurants — Hyde Park, Julio’s, Asti, Mother’s, etc. — manages to sell desserts when this representative of Italian street life beckons nearby.
515 S. Congress Ave. 448-3919
Not to be confused with Jo’s, the veteran coffee hut down the road, this freshly brewed shop was conceived as a way to support sustainable agriculture, buying its beans through a nonprofit firm from farmers in the Dominican Republic. Bookending a shopping center with a popular Freebird’s, Dominican Joe sweeps down from a high platform of dark wood to a broad serving area and a bamboo-sheltered patio.
2901 Capital of Texas S. 691-3500
It might not be the place you’d go to write a novel, but the coffee bar at the entrance to Nordstrom in Barton Creek Square is a pleasant spot to take a break or rendezvous with a shopping buddy. The bright cafe tables and modish blond chairs are out in the mall itself for prime people-watching. Music from the chill end of the electronica spectrum spills over from the coffee bar, where a cheerful barista with two shades of hair, one not found in nature, makes a good espresso.
EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS
The atmosphere is pretty much pure fast-food stop, although the affable staff helps make up for the harried mood at lunchtime, and service is, well, fast. The espresso tastes more like American coffee made too strong. Bagel purists will be horrified at some of the flavor permutations residing in the big display case (cranberry?). But if you just need a quick coffee fix while chomping on a bagel dog, this is the place.
1610 S. Congress Ave. 441-7672
On a cold night, exceptionally well-executed espresso goes down even better in the welcoming elegance of Vespaio’s more casual cafe spinoff. Mellow gold lighting and dark, polished wood lend warmth to the trendy curves of the decor, and a seat at the bar offers a chance to chat with fellow patrons sipping wine while waiting for takeout or enjoying appetizers. One customer at the bar is immersed in a book, while a constant buzz from diners at cafe tables makes Enoteca seem extra cozy.
221 W. North Loop. 454-EPOC
Easy to miss on curving North Loop, this shop attracts scruffy students and neighbors to its oddly shaped spaces. Funky is the feel, and while the coffee tastes satisfying, skip the pre-packaged sandwiches. Plenty of Wi-Fi action — or inaction — dotting the interior and exterior stations. The help is helpful, but could have warned us about the sandwiches.
5011 Duval St. 458-4472
The back room is eerie every time we visit — a field of laptoppers working in tomb-like silence. Not that we mind. There’s plenty of room up front, or out on the deck, to chit-chat with anyone from the area north of campus. And we’ve never had a bad cup of coffee here, or anything other than the freshest pastries.
1601 Barton Springs Road. 480-8646
You just hope it hangs on — both to the steep hill and its Barton Springs location, as the area inevitably gentrifies. Kind of like the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse & Cafe, this place gives off a neo-hippie vibe, and it’s home to one of the most intimate and well-booked music stages in town. The pleasant staff makes up for average coffee.
GARDEN DISTRICT COFFEE
2810 S. Congress Ave. 462-2473
Attached to the Great Outdoors nursery, Garden District is naturally, well, natural. You can’t beat the landscaping, or the respite from the South Congress Avenue traffic outside. A big part of the improvements along LoCo, it’s laid-back without inducing somnambulation and knows how to dish out the goodies.
GENUINE JOE COFFEEHOUSE
2001 W. Anderson Lane. 220-1576
When this popular shop opened, we knew that, 1) Crestview had officially joined the urban core, and 2) if the Anderson Lane strip can be considered urban, any district can. It’s unreal how much this quiet, but jammed place is appreciated by its followers. And we count ourselves in that group.
GREEN CHAI CAFE
601 Chestnut St. Suite F,
Bastrop. (512) 308-0177
At first, it seemed this weathered building perched precariously above the Colorado River had too much character. But then we tasted the succulent quiche and sipped the meticulously brewed coffee. Prepared right in front of the customer, this mini-banquet convinced us to return any time we can pretend to have business in Bastrop.
GREEN MUSE CAFE
519 W. Oltorf St. 912-7789
This contemplative retreat fades into its strip-center surroundings. Yet inside, you feel instantly at ease with the soft, earthy tones and the comfortably spaced tables. The counter service is spotty, but nobody is in a hurry to return to their laptops in two interior spaces and a big patio that sometimes hosts live acts. Sandwiches and pastries complement respectable espresso-based drinks.
218 W. Fourth St. 472-9637
Even coffee shops grow up. Once the funky digs of Ruta Maya, Halcyon has added air conditioning, a full bar and a fresh menu to a West Fourth Street mostly crowded with bars. The help can be extremely helpful, or not. Pastries are usually fresh and paninis filling, and the seating areas retain the former establishment’s comfy Austin feel. The coffee is not as invested, but it’s still very good.
617 Congress Ave. 443-3688
A comedy club? A beer joint? A coffeehouse? A community center? This downtown magnet has never decided what it wants to be, but all the above suit it well. It complements Little City among hardy Congress Avenue veterans, and it can be enjoyed mid-afternoon as well as late-night.
HILL COUNTRY COFFEE COMPANY
12115 Manchaca Road. 280-4665
A touch of country does not alter the up-to-date feel of this Manchaca establishment, which offers coffees and pastries along with healthier selections. It never ceases to amaze this observer that every Central Texas burg appears to need a place like this, reflective of the local culture, and yet very much in touch with the zeitgeist.
IRIE BEAN COFFEE BAR
2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 326-4636
The multifaceted Jamaican adjective ‘irie’ always connotes positive vibrations, and this coffeehouse fosters irie atmosphere inside and out. The charming back garden features a splashing fountain made out of a galvanized steel trough, and the interior is both airy and cozy. Grab a magazine from the well-stocked rack, plunk down in one of the comfortably boxy leather chairs, put your feet up and relax to a soundtrack that might include New Orleans classics as well as reggae.
IT’S A GRIND
We finally ordered drive-through coffee! And it proved fully flavored, lips-ready, not fast-food atomic at this chain shop. Unlike Starbucks or Seattle’s Best, this family of coffeehouses feels flexible in design and execution. The one on endless Parmer Lane is a civilized blessing, a break from the commerce, tucked as it is in front of Cool River Cafe.
JAVA DIVE ORGANIC CAFE
2101 RM 620 N. 266-5885
I drove past this casual-looking Lakeway spot several times, but, man, am I glad I persisted. Hands down, the best americano in Central Texas, along with warm, rich cookies and espresso fudge. The owner is extraordinarily engaged with his customers — rare for a coffee shop — and the cafe fare is organic as they come.
500 E. Fourth St. 493-4902
Despite the location — a corner of the Hilton lobby — and the motto — ‘We proudly brew Starbucks coffee’ — this is not a generic location. Flying wooden dragons, folk statues and comfortable cane-backed chairs lend a little earthiness to the soaring space with its walls of windows. The baristas are friendly, and while the coffee isn’t local, the luscious-looking chocolate eclairs and other temptations in the glass case are made in the hotel’s own restaurant.
519 N. Main St., Taylor. (512) 352-3229
I arrived at 3 p.m. to find a closed shop. ‘If we stayed open til 8 p.m., nobody would come, ’ said the young barista, who opened the doors just for your reporter. The leftover decaf was still hot and tasty. An extra room is available for meetings and wedding showers, and there’s a concrete patio out front for days when it’s not too hot — or cold.
119 E. San Antonio St.,
This place is gi-normous. I mean, full, counter-service cafe up front, big stage to the side and separate bar in the back, along with enough couches to seat half of Lockhart. Located in the courthouse square in a former clothing store, Javamotion enjoys those super-high 19th-century pressed-metal ceilings, but the coffee is pure 21st century.
409 W. Front St., Hutto. (512) 846-1880
Front Street is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks to catch the heavy traffic zipping through Hutto. But it’s well worth the stop — and the scary turn off U.S. 79. A miniature stage for acoustic acts waits over on the side of the room (hence the shop’s name?). The espresso-based drinks and assorted goodies suggest a staff steeped in the culture of coffeehouses.
JITTERS ESPRESSO STOP
14201 RM 12, Wimberley. (512) 847-6101
Aw, come on in. Join the family of chipper baristas at this locally owned — and prominent — establishment. They know their espresso beans and offer tempting edibles as well. A small second room is decorated with paintings, while the main area is radiant and cheery. While every Wimberley tourist shop in town seems to serve coffee, here it’s the main event.
8650 Spicewood Springs Road. 336-5282
Boy, they are friendly at this spot in a seen-better-days shopping center off U.S. 183. In addition to the Texas Coffee Trader goods, they sell medicinal teas, nutritional supplements and several kinds of scratch quiche. The walls are plastered with warm-hearted art, and the staff will adopt you for life the second you walk in the door.
The JAVA BEAN
1008 U.S. 281 N., Marble Falls. (830) 693-7199
Superb roasted pepper tomato soup — in a cardboard cup. That’s what sticks to the memory about this sophisticated stop on U.S. 281. The staff members are young, but they handle the coffee with maturity and the big shop includes areas for socializing, concentrating on work, or just staring at the sable sky above the (not attractive) parking lot.
2400 E. Oltorf St. 443-2062
We noted plenty of Brazilian, African, Caribbean and Indonesian influences during our coffee tour. This was the only Philippine coffee stop, attached as it is to an Asian food market along the increasingly international East Oltorf Street. The imported snacks we tried came with American-sounding names, such as Jack ’n’ Jill, Ding Dong and Boy Bwang. The espresso drink was no-nonsense and presented with genuine grace.
JO ON THE GO
312 University Drive, San Marcos. (512) 353-4880
Students and teachers must cherish this place, right across the street from Texas State University-San Marcos. Right in. Right up to the counter. Right out. A few tables are scattered out front if you really want to linger in the L-shaped strip next to a textbook store. And why not? The coffee is more than decent, the food selections are numerous and the intellectual company can be bracing.
JO’S HOT COFFEE
1300 S. Congress Ave. 444-3800
What’s left to say? The Lamberts turned a boxy green hut into a cultural landmark, graced daily by celebrities and locals alike. One key: It’s shoved up to the sidewalk, encouraging pedestrian access. The all-outdoor seating areas offer covered and open-under-the-sky options. The coffee’s always been very good and the food has improved enormously. And, oh, the staff is supersweet.
JO’S ON SECOND STREET
242 W. Second St. 469-9003
This is the only demi-chain that we listed twice, because the downtown location is so much more about food — splendid salads and sandwiches, among the tastiest hamburgers in town — than the one on South Congress Avenue. This busy place keeps the Second Street District real, and its outdoor seating is a model for the rest of the city.
2803 San Jacinto Blvd. 494-0015
Our favorite barista works here. In fact, we’ve always liked the laid-back but attentive staff, the graduate student crowd, the heady atmosphere of an authentic Austin coffee house. (It’s the analog to Posse East across the street.) The coffee leaves a little to be desired, but it’s the company that you’ll remember.
KENNY’S COFFEE CO.
14735 Bratton Lane. 252-0999
There’s nothing remarkable about this homey coffeehouse except its location way up by the north-country toll roads. Otherwise, it’s an inviting place to relax over a decaf, nibble some fresh fruit or play the board games. Business types, daters and young families flock to what has become something of a community center in a neighborhood that obviously needs one.
LA TAZZA FRESCA
519 W. 37th St.
Amy’s and Mangia helped lead the way. But this high-class, high-ceilinged coffee shop — attached to a lube shop! — really signaled the transformation of the Upper Drag. A small stage has afforded relaxed evenings of entertainment, while the coffee drinks and food keep one from expiring for a race across Guadalupe for — Amy’s and Mangia (which recently slid closer to the Lower Drag).
2901 Medical Arts Blvd. 495-9299
For a place located smack dab between the University of Texas and St. David’s complex, and therefore a natural for students and hospital workers, this coffeehouse — attached to a lunch cafe — gives off a mom-and-pop feel: low ceilings, dark paint, quiet and committed counter service, carefully drafted drinks. Laptoppers hang out, of course, but a comfy chair or sofa waits for the casual drop-by as well.
916 Congress Ave. 476-2489
In a word: revolutionary. More than a decade ago, Little City proved that downtown could support a San Francisco-style coffee shop. Downtowners rewarded the place with some of the most fervent loyalists in the city. (I estimate I’ve chatted over decaf with some 1,000 sources and subjects there.) Classy in a funky way, it attracts different crowds — Capitol, slacker, gay — depending on the time of day. In some ways, it’s the perfect urban coffee shop.
LONE STAR COFFEE
309 Main St., Marble Falls. (830) 798-2850
Nestled in a cute quadrangle of boutiques — my favorite: It’s All about Me! — and restaurants one finds this Western-themed shop with excellent coffee and moist lemon cake. One section of the shop is set up like a living room, TV and all. Why not? Looking out at the surroundings, one is reminded that Marble Falls is the new Fredericksburg, which was the new Marfa, or the new Santa Fe, N.M.
LONE STAR COFFEE BAR
803 U.S. 281 S., Johnson City. (830) 868-4400
Not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? What, are you kidding me? I guess in tourist-dependent Johnson City, you just go with the traffic flow. The trustworthy-looking neighbors at the town’s tourist center next door spoke highly of the coffee, pastries and sandwiches, and we can attest to the friendly look of this spot on U.S. 281.
LONE STAR ESPRESSO
200 E. Pecan St., Pflugerville. (512) 251-4090
The warm cinnamon roll dissolved in my mouth, but not before it was slathered with rich, yellow whipped cream cheese. This shop is as tiny and personal as they come. Located on the main drag in Pflugerville, it’s a bit of old town with some new town tastes, and tended as if it were vital to the town’s soul.
THE LOST SOCK
3101 Speedway. 524-0059
Talk about a sliver of a shop. In the front few feet of this Speedway laundromat one discovers a surprisingly sophisticated coffee shop, with maybe a half dozen tables and a completely respectful attitude about the drinks they serve. No kidding. In a laundromat. Where are we? Seattle?
THE LUCKY CUP
130-A Kirkham Circle, Kyle. 535-5339
Tucked in a cute little office park in the Plum Creek neighborhood, the Cup has served as a java joint and a community gathering spot for the past year and a half. Teachers from nearby schools pop in before classes start, and commuters grab a cup before heading into Austin. But it’s more than grab and go: Lucky Cup owner Aaron Saucedo features live music on some weekend nights. The shop brews Seattle’s Best Coffee and offers a full slate of hot and iced beverages.e not the best in town, but competing with top dogs. We love the little deck looking up on South First Street and appreciate the convenience of the efficient counter space.
1120 W. Sixth St. 472-1347
The Austin standard has seen many transformations along West Sixth Street. It’s a top-line bakery with a steady coffee-and-newspaper business as well. So popular, it operates two cash registers, which is much appreciated in an industry that often as not encourages its employees to chat up the customers endlessly.
217 W. Hopkins St., San Marcos.
Psychedelia meets Eastern mysticism in the dark red house near downtown San Marcos. A definite post-hippie aura surrounds the domestic setting — actually furnished like a home in some rooms. You could meditate here, while nipping at your drink, or socialize on the broad, old-fashioned porch. Most of the clientele, as you might guess, looks student-age or close to it.
1206 W. 38th St. 451-9555
This gelateria takes its coffee just as seriously as its Italian ices. A poster proclaims allegiance to the traditional Florentine method of espresso making, and the delicate crema and full-bodied flavor are certainly a good ad for the imported La Marzocco espresso machine. A few boisterous children can seem quite loud in this small 26 Doors strip-mall location. However, the warm shades of orange and chic furniture in beech and brushed metal make for an energizing atmosphere.
TEXAS FRENCH BREAD
Once the city leader, this small chain of bakeries with the binational identity slid to second-rung status during the 1990s. Now it has bounced back, quality-wise, although the crowds have not followed at all locations at all times. How can you go wrong, however, with the signature Hyde Park Fudge Cake and the namesake baguettes? The South Congress Avenue and Rio Grande Street locations serve as de facto neighborhood community centers.
2700 W. Anderson Lane. 467-9898
Under the harsh fluorescent lighting, you’ll find more police officers caffeinating and teenagers congregating than poets musing. The baristas are as disinterested as fast-food workers, and the decor, like the espresso, is strictly utilitarian: acoustic-tile ceilings and stark white walls marked by the metal cafeteria chairs. Connoisseurs of kitsch may be amused by the huge Farrah Fawcett poster, or the autographed pictures of TV celebrities such as Pat Sajak and Jaclyn Smith.
98298 Great Hills Trail. 795-9292
‘I live in this place!’ said a former Austin American-Statesman writer when we ran into her her at this Italian-themed food/coffee spot near the Arboretum. One can see why: pizzas and panini, espresso and cappuccino, pastries and imported desserts. The owners have done as much as possible to disguise the shop’s strip-center origins with touches of European class.
360 UNO ESPRESSO VINO
3801 N. Capital of Texas Highway. 989-0114This Italian deli, bar and bakery — connected to an inventive pizza parlor — also serves as the caffeine hook-up for upper-crust Davenport Village. They do the coffee right, too. After making your selection at the long, tempting counter, you can huddle at the small cafe tables or kick back in one of the comfy chairs near the shop’s entrance.
1401 W. Koenig Lane. 420-8660
It might have been airlifted straight from Dwell magazine, with its concrete floor, vast expanses of window, lofty ceiling and sleek furniture. Still, a few cozy old armchairs and thrift-store lamps show the place isn’t taking its decor too seriously, and local art adds color. Thunderbird only recently alighted, but already seems to have its regulars. Maybe it’s the rich, smooth espresso, or the chance to lounge like an urbanite with no risk of urban attitude from the friendly baristas.
TRIANON THE COFFEE PLACE
Although one of these long-standing local favorites is now a Scooter’s franchisee, so far that store remains fairly independent. The wine red-accented decor is nothing special, especially under fluorescent lighting, but fans of independence will prefer the low-key, utilitarian comfort to the aggressive branding of the Scooter’s interiors. The espresso is on the thin side, but doesn’t have the same ersatz Starbucks tang as at the full-blown Scooter’s and service is more personal and personable.
3808 Spicewood Springs Road. 343-1875
You might not know it by passing its somber facade, but this coffee specialty shop is also a lively Vietnamese restaurant, with pho, vermicelli, fried rice and other basic dishes. The coffee is not an afterthought, whether sipped inside the packed cafe or outside on a lovely patio overlooking a steep arroyo. A fully stocked nook of beans and accessories complements the coffee theme.
UPPER CRUST BAKERY
4508 Burnet Road. 467-0102
Sunlight washes the blonde accents in this bakery with the long, long case of tempting pastries and breads. The coffee niche to the back gets a little crowded, but there’s plenty of space to spread out in the bright, two-part seating area. The coffee is decent and the bakers don’t stint on ingredients, which are two reasons this Burnet Road veteran attracts such a steady stream of customers.
VENTANA DEL SOUL
1834 E Oltorf St. 707-7447
One of the only nonprofit coffee houses in town, Ventana strives to be many things — community center, lunch spot, meeting magnet. The domesticated interior contrasts starkly with the insurance-building exterior on super-busy East Oltorf Street. We’ve never had a bad drink or snack, or sat through a boring meeting here, which may or may not reflect on the venue.
8100-C Burnet Road. 459-9896
The goofy name and attention-grabbing architecture — PeeWee Herman where are you? — make this drive-through seem like the product of corporate branding, but ask the barista if this is a chain, and he replies drily: ‘Ha! Chain of fools . . .’ No, it’s local. The kiosk looks a little lonely in the parking lot of a discount clothing store, but the espresso has a fine flavor and packs a serious punch. A bunch of bananas sits on a counter waiting for customers who prefer to try the smoothies.