Best Austin coffee shops near South Lamar Boulevard

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.)

Catahoula Mama’s. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Catahoula Mama’s. 1305 W. Oltorf St. 512-921-6167. Tues.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Lots of onsite parking. Wi-Fi: ABGB_Guest. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Moderate outdoor music. Otherwise quiet.

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!”

Barista at Patika. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Patika Wine and Coffee. 2159 South Lamar Boulevard. 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.

The bar at Opa. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. 2050 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-8742. 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.

Noah Marion at Work. Michael Barnes/American-Stateman

Work Coffee Co. 2053 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-917-4628. 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. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Irie Bean Coffee Bar. 2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-4636. 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. 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. 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.

RELATED: Savor Austin coffee shops near South First Street


Austin Java. 1608 Barton Springs Road. 512-482-9450. 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. 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.

Best Texas books: Picture the Rio Grande

This week in “Texas Titles,” we follow a riverine journey, a myth busting gang, the career of a Texas historian, a ship named “Texas” and a Texas modern artist finally receiving her due.


“Río: A Photographic Journey down the Old Río Grande.” Edited by Melissa Savage. University of New Mexico Press. This slender, exquisite paperback volume collects silvery gray images of the Río Grande from the 19th and 20th centuries. Editor Savage arranges them by themes, such as crossings, trade, cultivation, flooding, etc. This is no mere picture book, however, and each page reveals a lot about particular places and people. William deBuys, Rina Swentzell and Juan Estevan Arellano are among those who contributed the accompanying essays. One can find any number of books about this great river, including Paul Horgan’s two-volume masterpiece, “Great River.” Yet few are as beautiful or as evocative as this one.



“Texan Identities: Moving beyond Myth, Memory and Fallacy in Texas History.” Edited by Light Townsend Cummins and Mary L. Scheer. University of North Texas Press. Texas is awash with mythology. This collection of academic essays attempts to sift through them to review the state’s shifting and enduring identities. The Alamo and the Texas Rangers, for instance, are ready targets for myth busters. The editors, professors at Austin College and Lamar University, have already produced multiple books on on the statae’s history that have examined the roles of women and others who have often been ignored by the keepers of our shared memory. Mary L. Scheer, Kay Goldman and Jody Edward Ginn are among the contributors, while distinguished Texas State University professor Jesús de la Teja provides the trenchant foreword.



“Archie P. McDonald: A Life in Texas History.” Edited by Dan K. Utley. Texas A&M University Press. McDonald specialized in East Texas. Molded from oral interviews, this biography, edited by Texas State History historian Utley  attempts to recover the career of the late teacher and leader who died in 2012. For decades, McDonald headed the East Texas Historical Association and edited the East Texas Historical Journal. His hand touched many other statewide groups, including the Texas Historical Commission. This book might seem like “inside baseball” — and to a certain extent, it is — but too often this kind of institutional remembrance is lost in the shuffle.



“The Battleship Texas.” Mark Lardas. Images of America. We love the “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. Compiled in template form, these small books offer scores of singular historical images, along with tightly composed captions and chewy introductory essays. (Since these books are not rigorously edited, always check the facts.) This one covers the 1914 dreadnought battleship that served the U.S. Navy in World Wars I and II. Throughout my lifetime — I grew up not far away from its final berth near the San Jacinto Monument — the ship-turned-museum has been under enormous physical stress. Lardas, who writes about maritime and Texas history, pulls from numerous sources to produce black-and-white pictures of the U.S.S. Texas in peace and war, including the charismatic jacket shot of the crew assembled on deck for a USO show starring — it would seem to me — Rita Hayworth, or someone who looks a lot like her.


“The Color of Being/El Color del Ser: Dorothy Hood, 1918-2000.” Susie Kalil. Texas A&M University Press. Texas Monthly has already done a terrific job of telling the almost forgotten story of Dorothy Hood, a respected and distinctive abstract painter who has finally received the kind of treatment she deserves, including a vast retrospective at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi. After 1941, the Houston native spent most of 22 years in Mexico City working alongside the greats of the day. Following time in New York City, she returned to Houston and, despite her promise and prolific output, never became famous. She died in 2000. The Corpus Christi museum ended up with her archives and now curator Kalil has righted an artistic injustice by making Hood’s case to the world. Makes you want to take a road trip to Sparkling City by the Sea.

More than one way to fry an avocado at Los Tres Bobos

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.

Los Tres Bobos memorabilia. Contributed by

“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.

Los Tres Bobos menu. Contributed by

“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.

Halloween in the 1970s at Los Tres Bobos. Contributed by

“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.

Los Tres Bobos in 26 Doors. Contributed by

“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.”

Ad for Los Tres Bobos. Contributed by Los Tres

“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.”

Best Texas books: Remember Oveta Culp Hobby?

In this latest installment of our “Texas Titles” series, we look at a pioneer, a cause, a sport, a feud and a batch of the state’s artists.

‘Oveta Culp Hobby.’

“Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist.” Debra L. Winegarten. University of Texas Press. It’s hard to believe that this is among first biographical treatments of a Texan who ran the Women’s Army Corps — becoming the first women colonel — then served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, only the second woman to be appointed to a president’s cabinet. Not only that, she teamed with her husband, former Texas Gov. William P. Hobby, to run a media powerhouse that included the Houston Post as well as radio and TV stations (an analog for LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson?). Not the least, her son Bill Hobby served as Texas Lieutenant Governor from 1973 to 1991. Winegarten, a practiced freelance writer, penned this slim, readable volume for the Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series, which includes a handy time line. It originally came out in 2014, but the author continues to speak around town on the subject, including a recent presentation to the Capitol of Texas Rotary Club.


‘Saving San Antonio.’

“Saving San Antonio: The Preservation of a Heritage.” Lewis F. Fisher. Trinity University Press. Now out in a second edition — in paperback — this essential book on historic preservation chronicles one of the oldest such movements in this part of the country. As soon as the railroads arrived in the late 1870s — ending this major city’s long geographic isolation — lovers of its Spanish, Mexican, Anglo and German heritage spoke out against the destruction of its ancient sites. Fisher, who has written several books about San Antonio and its history, is something of a myth buster, though perhaps not as disruptive as Chris Wilson, whose “The Myth of Santa Fe” stripped away the Anglo-American image-making of that tourist town. This book is thoroughly and painstakingly researched and it includes rarely seen images of San Antonio before, during and after the battles to keep its built environment safe.

‘The Republic of Football.’

“The Republic of Football: Legends of the Texas High School Game.” Chad. S. Conine. University of Texas Press. It sometimes seems that one in every five books about Texas is about football. Waco-based Conine is a journalist and, more to the point, an enthusiast. Here he interviews coaches, players and others to resurrect outstanding high school programs around the state, from Snyder’s 1952 season to Aledo’s record string of wins from 2008 to 2011. Austinites will recognize some greats witnessed locally in high school or college play, such as Drew Brees and Colt McCoy. When historians look back on this time in Texas, they will find no shortage of records about a particular communal activity engaged every fall.

‘The Red River Bridge War.’


“The Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle.” Rusty Williams. Texas A&M University Press. Who doesn’t love a feud? I knew next to nothing about this short but consequential fight between Oklahoma and Texas over a Red River toll bridge. In the summer of 1931, National Guard units from the two states faced off, backed by Texas Rangers and masses of angry civilians. The two-week skirmish included the presence of field artillery and a Native American peace delegation. Williams is a former reporter with a sweet tooth for history and every indication suggests he’s also a diligent researcher. The wider question settled for a time after this confrontation involved the place of private highways and bridges in a free market, a subject that has returned to the forefront in recent years.

‘The Art of Found Objects.’

“The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists.” Robert Craig Bunch. Texas A&M University Press. The found object as art has a long and distinguished history in this state. Bunch, a librarian at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, has interviewed more than 50 Texas artists — including a few expats — about the gritty insides of their creative processes. Despite the size of the volume and its color execution, it’s not a picture book. The sampled images are relatively small. But the details are sometimes priceless. Neither is this a regionalist survey. The artists Bunch contacted — the conversations are rendered in a Q&A format — represent all sorts of styles, materials and genres. It doesn’t appear this edition in the Joe and Betty Moore Texas Art Series is in any way attached to an exhibit. But some curator might get some ideas.