Austin Coffee Guide 2013

Coffee

Welcome to my 2013 Austin coffee guide, part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance 2013 Austin City Guide.

Austin City Guide

Best Coffee Shops

1. Caffe Medici

Caffe Medici on West Lynn
1101 West Lynn
Austin, TX 78703

The original location of this amazing coffee house is still a favorite with discerning coffee aficionados. Not only do the use Austin’s own best-of-the-best Cuvée Coffee, they have their own blend! Knowledgeable, dedicated baristas making near-perfect coffee. Adorably situated in a renovated house in the historic and quaint Clarksville neighborhood.

Caffe Medici on the Drag
2222B Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78705

Hip little spot with the best coffee in town, full hot breakfast menu, and some excellent people watching.

Caffe Medici
Iced coffee with hazelnut, Caffe Medici on the Drag

2. Cherrywood Coffeehouse

Cherrywood Coffeehouse
1400 East 38th 1/2 Street
Austin, TX 78722

Cherrywood is a funky spot on the East Side with ample outdoor seating (a large patio, plus an even larger yard with palm trees!) and intimate indoor tables and booths. Not only do they serve some of the best coffee in Austin (try the Cuban Con Leche), but they also have some amazing food and a great atmosphere. I could stay here all day (and sometimes I do)!  I can’t believe I don’t have a picture, because we go here all the time!  I’ll rectify this soon.

3. Thunderbird Coffee

Thunderbird Coffee on Koenig
1401 Koenig Lane
Austin, TX 78756

Thunderbird
Ridiculously delicious vegan chocolate truffle, Thunderbird Coffee on Koenig.

Thunderbird is, for my money, the best coffee shop in the Brentwood Neighborhood. Truly at the forefront of Austin’s coffee scene, they serve Cuvée, they buy direct trade, and the place is just super comfortable. Oh, Thunderbird also has some amazing snacks (see above).

Thunderbird Coffee on Manor
2200 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722

Thunderbird’s Manor location is every bit as great as the Koenig shop, and is also a great spot to catch some live music (see their Facebook page for updates).

4. Bennu Coffee

Bennu Coffee
2001 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Austin, TX 78702

BennuBennu is tucked away in the dip of a steep valley on East MLK, and it’s a very snug spot! Their coffee is excellent, but the real draw for me is their gourmet mochas menu! I tried The Raven, above (“a luscious dark chocolate mocha topped with home-made whipped cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce – go, Ravens!). Delicious.

Honorable Mentions

Houndstooth Coffee
4200 North Lamar, Suite 120
Austin, TX 78756

When telling people that I was writing a guide to Austin coffee shops, Houndstooth is the place that was mentioned the most! These folks take coffee seriously, and this place is the epitome of Austin’s burgeoning upscale hipster cool. Situated on North Lamar amongst our favorite hip establishments and next to a Ferrari dealership, Houndstooth is small, crowded, and always abuzz. Their baristas are true professionals, and coffee is the main draw here. Their original location will soon be joined by a downtown shop, too!

Jo’s
1300 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

Jo's
Eric at Jo’s on South Congress.

This happening coffee dealer is among the most beloved in town, not only because of their gourmet roasting abilities, but because the main, South Congress location includes some famous Amy Cook graffiti. Jo’s has a sister shop downtown on 2nd Street, which also serves up their very, very good sandwiches in addition to coffee. Jo’s is a must-visit, practically an institution.

Flipnotics
1601 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX 78704

Another Austin institution, Flipnotics will always have a place in my heart as the place where Luke Wilson once held a door for me. No lie, he held the door for me, and then proceeded to silently sip a large cup of coffee while reading a book, mere feet away. Beyond potential Wilson-spottings, though, Flipnotics is an amazing coffee shop on Barton Springs road that serves up some of the strongest midnight coffee I’ve ever had in addition to an array of locally-produced foodstuffs (like Hoboken Pie!). They also have live music daily. Now that’s Austiny, y’all.

J.P.’s Java
2803 San Jacinto
Austin, TX 78705

J.P.'s Java
Hazelnut latte, J.P.’s Java.

Wonderful, warm coffee shop near The University of Texas (north campus). Cozy indoor seating and a large, sunny patio.

The Hideout
617 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Latte at the Hideout
Latte, the Hideout.

Cozy little coffee shop affiliated with the Hideout Theatre (which is upstairs) on Congress Avenue. You can even take your coffee into the theater! Good people watching, great coffee, funky atmosphere.

Espression Lavazza
914 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Espresso at Lavazza
Espresso, Espression Lavazza.

One of only ten Lavazza retail coffee shops in the USA, the Austin location is a sensory overload of very strong espresso, Italian pastries, gelato, IKEA-like modern decor, and ridiculous artwork (see below).

Lavazza artwork

Spider House
2908 Fruth Street
Austin, TX 78705

A north campus institution, Spider House is just as funky as it was when I was a wee undergrad in the late 90s. They serve an impressive selection of colorfully-named sandwiches (Sam-I-Am-Wich, anyone?) and have a full bar as well as quite a few excellent imported beers, but their coffee is nothing to sniff at, either. A brightly-painted, converted house, this place is a real mecca for students, and is usually very busy during term time. And, trust me, f you get a table, you’ll want to stay a while.

East Village Cafe
1111 Chicon Street
Austin, TX 78702

East Village Cafe
Eric enjoying an americano at East Village Cafe.

East Village Cafe comfortably inhabits an old, renovated storefront in the Rosewood neighbhorhood, and makes a lovely cup of coffee! Friendly baristas, two patios, JFK art, and a great sunset view make this small place extra special.

Austin Java
1206 Parkway (12th & Lamar)
Austin, TX 78703

Now at seven locations, including the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Austin Java has been serving up great coffee and hearty meals for years. The all day breakfast is good, but I have to recommend the Thai One On Salad and Spicy African Peanut Soup. The front patio is another great spot for people watching, situated as it is on Lamar Boulevard.

Mozart’s Coffee
3825 Lake Austin Boulevard
Austin, TX 78703

Mozart’s is just a treat. It’s a great place to hang and study or read, but it’s also a bit romantic. Right on Lake Austin, they regularly schedule live music shows and serve some truly decadent coffees, pastries, canoli, and homemade cheesecake. Especially intimate after dark.

Bouldin Creek Cafe
1900 South First Street
Austin, Texas 78704

Long a hole in the wall on South First, vegetarian hotspot Bouldin Creek Cafe moved into sweet new digs a few blocks away from their original location a couple of years ago. Famous among vegans for their amazing scrambled tofu with nutritional yeast (I still order it, even though I now eat two dozen eggs a week), Bouldin Creek has preserved its funky charm while moving a bit upscale. This is a place you could hold an anarchist book club or take your out-of-town parents. Serving locally roasted Black Velvet Coffee, Bouldin offers both cow’s milk and vegan options including rice, soy, and almond (mmm!). This place is plain addictive.

Halcyon
18 West 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701

When I told Eric I was writing the City Guide post on coffee shops, the second thing he said (after, “Cherrywood!”) was, “Oh, good, you can tell everyone about how much better Halcyon used to be.” It’s true. I loved the old (pre-2007) Halcyon. They did a renovation and made the place a lot smaller and less comfortable, but it’s still one of the best coffee houses in Austin, and a day/night chameleon. Alongside expertly roasted standard coffees, they feature brilliant menu items like the chocolate espresso martini and tableside s’mores (complete with fire – and a favorite of mine back in the day). Open till 3:00am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Epoch
221 West North Loop Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751

North Loop. Delicious coffee (especially the iced mochas). Free, reliable wifi.  They’re open 24 hours.  And it’s a good thing, because this is the type of coffee house where you’ll want to hang out all day (and night).

Hidden Gems

Driskill Bar
604 Brazos Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Driskill

Nestled inside the back of the historic (and hyper-Texan) Driskill Hotel, the Driskill Bar is not only one of the very best people watching spots on this list, but they also serve pretty damn cheap Irish coffees alongisde the ridiculously priced happy hour menu (half-price bar snacks, including Angus beef sliders and bacon-wrapped medjool dates, both highly recommended).

Arturo’s Underground Cafe (Yelp)
314 West 17th Street
Austin, TX 78701
Arturo's

Texas Pecan Roast, Arturo’s Underground Cafe.

A real hidden gem between campus and the Capitol, serving up amazing breakfast tacos, sandwiches, and wraps every morning and lunchtime. Basement and sidewalk seating, friendly staff, and amazing Texas Pecan Roast coffee.

Dobie Market
2025 Guadalupe Street, Suite # 142
Austin, Texas 78705

This is going to sound crazy, but my favorite cup of coffee lately is the plain, small, black coffee at Dobie Market, the new convenience store in the bottom of Dobie Mall (enter from the corner of 21st and Whitis). They serve freshly roasted beans from Texas Coffee Traders, and, well, it’s just excellent. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also cheap, they’re always open, the owner is super friendly, and they stock a wide selection of foodstuffs, including Capitol Grill breakfast tacos, the entire Blue Bell range (in pints), Krispy Kreme doughtnuts, beer, and wine. Seriously, go check it out.

For a round-up of Austin coffee roasters, see Eli Catro’s blog, Grubbus!

To see the complete 2013 Austin City Guide, click here!

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Guest Post: E’s Rock Candy Bulleit Julep

Bulleit

Guest post from Eric!  With bonus Civil War trivia.

While I wouldn’t normally advise adulterating Bulleit with mint, making mint juleps with Jack Daniels results in a product that is only so-so, although the Jack Daniels honey version is passable. Bulleit is a prudent choice for this kind of thing because it’s a quality Mintbourbon at a reasonable price, so you don’t sacrifice taste and can still feel good about committing the deadliest of all sins (not simply enjoying bourbon for what it is).

This drink is great to make on a summer day in February (can you tell we live in Austin?). The actual work is only about 10 minutes, as most of the process is just letting the syrup cool and congeal in the fridge. If you have to walk to the liquor store, as I did today, that’ll add 20 minutes to the process, but again, it’s Austin so that’s just a bonus.

If you have a non-ironic portrait of Robert E. Lee handy, it’s best to toast it before your first sip. If not, just toast any nearby old people with beards, or walk to the statue on campus and toast the grackles. If you live in Baltimore, walk to the statue of Lee and Jackson on the eve of Chancellorsville and toast the horses. Okay, I’m done.

Ingredients:

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
1 small piece of rock candy, left over from Christmas
2 tbsp local honey
1 bottle of delicious Bulleit bourbon

Steps:

1. In a small tea pot, combine ripped up mint leaves and honey.

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2. Throw in the rock candy.

3. Add boiling water.

4. Let steep for at least 20 minutes, to make a mint/sugar tea.

5. Pour out mint tea into separate container, and throw in any additional mint that’s handy.

-4

6. Close container, put in fridge, let cool for at least an hour.

7. Take out container, strain contents (if loose mint is in there)now you have a simple mint syrup.

8. Combine mint syrup and delicious Bulleit1 part mint syrup to 2-3 parts bourbon, to tasteand one or two ice cubes.

9. Consume gleefully.

10. Discuss to anyone present how the South shall rise again.

11. Tip hat.

Bulleit


/INSUFFERABLE HIPSTER IRONY

Homebrewed Coffee Milk Stout


This is just a teaser. A full post will come later, when I have time.

We popped open the first bottle of our homebrewed Coffee Milk Stout last night (a little early, I admit!), and it was amazing. It was thick, dark, opaque—not red in the light, like Guinness. It smells like coffee, with a kick of parsley (?). It’s smooth, with no bitterness, and complex. It tastes like coffee—just the right amount of flavor, not overpowering. It finishes clean. I can’t wait to share the whole process with you soon. Eric made it with our pals Mike* and Kris.

*What kind of freak doesn’t have a blog?

Three days of food!

For the holiday weekend, my parents decided to come visit.  So it was another long weekend of celebratory food.  Here is some of what we’ve enjoyed here in sunny, beautiful Austin.

Happy hour!  Started the weekend early at 4:00pm at Freddie’s.

Crème brûlée at the Driskill ($6 – and a ridiculous $3 during happy hour).

Breakfast tacos from Arturo’s (now open again for Saturday breakfast, 9:00am – 1:00pm!).

Milanos dipped in coffee!

My new favorite allergy medicine: the Tartufo cocktail at Sagra (regular $10, $8 during happy hour).  Waterloo Gin (from Treaty Oak Distilling Co.), honey, and lemon.

Gin and tonic, expertly mixed by one of my favorite bartenders in Austin, Dred at Clay Pit.

One of the specialties of the house at Clay Pit: Khuroos-E-Tursh.  Khuroos-E-Tursh ($15.00).  Medallions of chicken-breast stuffed with seasoned spinach, mushrooms, onions & cheese, simmered in a rich cashew-almond cream sauce.  Possibly one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Goan Yellow Curry with Shrimp ($15).

Perfect basmati rice.

Aloo Ghobi: braised cauliflower and potato curry  ($10).

Threadgill’s special: Shiner-braised pot roast served over mashed potatoes, with a side of black-eyed peas and macaroni and cheese ($12.95).

Chag Pesach Sameach, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring!

Skillet Paella at Joe’s Crab Shack on Town Lake: clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and sausage simmered in a tomato basil sauce served over rice and topped with crispy calamari.

Salmon Orleans, topped with a creamy Cajun sauce and crawfish, shrimp, and andouille sausage. Served on a bed of dirty rice. This was awesome.

Ragin’ Cajun Steam Pot: Dungeness crab, Queen crab, shrimp, andouille sausage, and corn on the cob.

Refreshing Homemade Fruit-Infused Green Iced Tea

3-6 tsp loose green tea leaves or 3-6 bags, to taste*
1 lemon sliced
1/2 an orange, sliced
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp raw honey

You will also need a large pitcher and about 2 cups of ice.

1. Bring a full kettle of water to a boil.  If you don’t have a kettle, use a regular pot on the stovetop.

2. To steep the tea, you can do one of three things: you can either place bags of tea directly in your kettle or pot; you can pour the boiling water into a separate kettle or pitcher and then add the bags; or you can use a tea strainer or ball strainer for loose leaf tea.  We use a lovely little cast iron Japenese tea pot with a built-in strainer that my out-laws gave us when we moved in together.  Steep the tea for at least ten minutes.  If using tea bags, remove them from the tea and discard.  Add honey and stir vigorously until it is dissolved.  Allow tea to cool a bit, say for about another ten to fifteen minutes.

4. Meanwhile, pour the fruit and mint into your pitcher.  When the tea is cooled, add the ice to the pitcher, and then pour the tea over it.  Stir to mix in fruits and mint.  Refrigerate immediately.  Allow to cool further in the refrigerator–for at least 30 minutes.

5. Serve over ice, adjusting the amount depending, again, on how weak or strong tea you like your tea.  I like mine stronger and with a bold tea flavor; the boy likes his weaker and with more ice, as he finds it more refreshing.

*Use more or less to taste, depending on how strong you like your iced tea. Here, we used loose leaf green tea with mango.