I love coffee. I’m a fundraiser. I can’t imagine those two not going hand-in-hand. Anyone who can do this job without caffeine is a stronger person than me.Most people are fairly particular about their daily cup o’ joe: Extra short, dry, extra foam, no cream, 3 splendas, add a shot, half caff, extra hot, and on and on...I feel very fortunate to live in a town with so many fabulous independent coffee shops and cafes. For the past year, I've been on a quest to try as many coffee shops in town as possible. So how did they stack up? Really well.
Frank - It’s no secret that I think Frank has the best brunch in town, and that is, in part, because I think they have the best cappuccino in town. Bar none. The baristas take the time to make the foam like a meringue in texture. It’s so thick and creamy and unlike anything you can get in town. When you eat-in, the cappuccino comes in a wide top mug, and the thickness of the foam actually keeps the espresso warm. It won’t be the prettiest drink you’ve ever had, but it will be the most delicious. I feel the same way about their lattes and iced lattes.
Houndstooth - I love Houndstooth. They now have a downtown location, but I really enjoy their 45th st location, which is coincidentally right beside Tacodeli. What a good combination. My favorite thing about Houndstooth is they rotate the espresso options, so you’re able to try something new if you’re feeling adventurous. They always make my drink with care, and you can tell they love what they do; the baristas are friendly and knowledgeable and the drinks are visually stunning as well as delicious. They also have a few beer options if you’re not into coffee.
Bennu Coffee - 24 hours. That should have you excited. Bennu is a great local business off of East MLK. I love this place! They serve great house brews, great espresso drinks, and they have almond milk, soy milk, and standard available, which is a lot more options than you’ll get other places. Their custom mocha beverages are FANTASTIC and named after literature, which makes my inner book nerd smile. They have dark chocolate, white chocolate, and even ancho chile spiced chocolate. They make their whipped cream in house, and if you ask for extra they really dole it out. If you love mochas, you need to go to Bennu. They also have lots of food options, and their banana bread can’t be beat.
Medici (Guadalupe, Congress Ave and West Lynn) - My boyfriend’s favorite spot for his Americanos, Medici is also one of my favorites. We started visiting the campus location on the drag, but then when we became grown-ups started heading toward congress on the way to work and West Lynn on the weekends. Always consistent, always good. A word of advice: don’t even try parking in the West Lynn parking lot; just make an immediate right and you’ll easily find street parking.
Brew & Brew - Brew and Brew is in the old Progress Coffee location, and speaking of Progress, they had a tremendous Mexican Vanilla latte. Brew & brew features an expanded bar selection and a decent espresso menu. They don't make Americanos, just aeropress brew, so if you're into that you might be disappointed.
Cenote - What an adorable coffee shop! Cenote occupies an adorable Victorian cottage on East Cesar Chavez. They serve Cuvee but I’ve seen other brands make their way in. It’s a delicious quick drink, but what makes them exciting is the locally sourced foods. They also serve beer, wine, and food and there’s a great outdoor space.
Dominican Joe's - Good coffee, not great service. They’ve forgotten to make my drink a few times, and once you’ve stood there waiting for a while, it loses its glimmer. That being said, it is always packed so my guess is a lot of people love it. I’ve had their frozen frappe style drinks and the standard lattes and cappuccinos. It beats starbucks, but not my much for me. The philanthropist in me sings at their business model though. They’re locally owned and have a partnership with a nonprofit called Makarius, which goes to the Dominican republic and provides educational and economic development through coffee.
Texas Coffee Traders - Are you ready for this? They give you a FREE espresso beverage if you buy a pound of coffee. What! I like free, but I also like that Texas Coffee Traders sell at least 30 different varieties of coffee. They love what they do and it screams East Austin from the moment you pull up. The folks inside love sharing info with you, giving tastings, and classes. This place is worth a visit if only just to smell coffee for 20 minutes.
The Cool Kids Hangouts
Flipnotics - I had a great latte here, but I think most visitors are interested in the live music and poetry than a precise beverage. This is a total atmosphere locale.
Epoch - Epoch is a total student hangout. Call me old, but the music seemed awfully loud for studying, but they serve great coffee in beer mugs, which I enjoyed. Like Bennu, they're open 24/7 which is a plus if you need some fuel to get a paper done...or figure out your next year's development plan.
Spider House - Ultimate university coffee shop vibe. They have a fantastic Mexican hot chocolate if you’re interested.
Flightpath – This place offers decent coffee…if you can find a seat. Plan on getting your drink to go. You also should be prepared to walk a bit; the streets are labeled NO PARKING, so you either need to throw on your hazards and hope for the best.
Opa! Coffee and Wine Bar - a great South Austin feel. Decent coffee, great space.
Mozart’s - They have great brewed coffee and au lait, but their espresso is a bit too bitter for me. But let’s face it, if you’re at Mozart’s, you’re there for the desert and a coffee to go with it. Their bakery is out of the park and the coffee is a wonderful complement. The outdoor seating and views can’t be beat, and the holiday light show is still wonderful no matter how many times I’ve seen it. During one of my first visits to Mozart’s a bird shit on me, and I still love coming here. That should tell you something.
Jo’s - Home of the famous I Love You So Much, this coffee stand is straight up adorable, and a great place to grab a quick coffee while enjoying SOCO. There is a little outdoor patio if you want to sit and enjoy the sights.
Juan Pelota - This is such a great downtown spot! It’s delicious, there’s ample parking at Mellow Johnny’s and it can easily be integrated into a downtown walk around the 2nd st district. If you’re into cycling, this place is attached to Mellow Johnny’s, so you can check out their inventory while you’re waiting for them to make your drink.
The Just Okays
Cherrywood - This place is very hit or miss for me. I can either get in and out quickly or I circle the area and hunt down a parking spot in someone’s driveway. The baristas don’t really seem to care and it can either be great or taste like burnt, bitter sludge. They do have good pie, but I just can’t get into this place.
Vintage Heart - Right off of East 7th, this place is cute, but the coffee wasn’t anything to write home about. The décor is right out of a 1920s dollhouse, and I wanted to love it, but it just came across as average.
Once Over - This place didn’t live up to the hype at all. After making the trek all the way South to check this place out, all I could think of is “We passed not 1 but 2 Medici locations.” It is still worth a try, especially if you live around South 1st.
Missed the Mark
Halcyon - I could never find parking to give it a try, so I have no idea what the coffee is like.
East Village Café - This was maybe the worst coffee I’ve ever had. Located near Huston Tillotson right off of Chicon, it’s a great location for anyone in Central East Austin, but the espresso was so thick and tasted burnt. It takes a lot for me to dislike a drink, but this did it. Hopefully others have a better experience. *Correction: they are now closed. Guess because their coffee was gross.