Coffee Talkback

32174618_4e54c2fab8_m.jpgToday’s XL takes a socio-stroll through coffeehouses in Austin, noting the distinct customer types that populate our varied local caffeine scene. The story devotes a lot of ink to Starbucks-related vignettes, which is inevitable given the chain’s multitudes of regional locations and the muddled statistics showing that, like marriage and environmentalism, convenience dictates most people’s dedication to coffeehouses. But be wary of such damn lies and statistics, because the factors that drive choice (sidebar) add up to 170 percent, which is 60 more than any athlete ever gave and 70 more than reality allows.

Starbucks may be an ironic posterchild to the coffeehouse revolution, but even the most derisive opponents of corporate coffee have to admit that its success has helped our favorite corner shops thrive in a market that has now been conditioned to accept a $4 cup of joe. Unless you’re looking for a latte while cruising I-35, you can almost always find an independent alternative within a few blocks.

XL listed 10 favored shops to help guide you to independence. While I can’t claim to have sampled all of them, the list is obviously wanting without a few choice establishments:

  • Flipnotics: The one and only, as far as I’m concerned. Yeah, it doesn’t have the plushy seats, and the wi-fi has been down on occasion. But the place just feels organic and comfortable, catering to neighborhood clientele with damn good coffee and authentically nice employees. Everything on the short (i.e. manageable) food menu is tasty, especially the pie. Also an intimate music venue for the likes of Erik Hokkanen or Adam Carroll. 10% discounts for bicyclists.
  • Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse: Sure, the coffee rocks, but I’ll always take friends and family to Bouldin for their kickin’ breakfasts and organo-fresh sandwiches. The baked oatmeal is way better than Mom used to make. Parking can get scarce pretty fast, but there’s always a nook to sit somewhere outside or in the cozy indoor decks. It’s soooo South 1st, not like that Freddy’s bullshit.
  • 360 Uno: An authentic Italian cafe is supposed to have open-air seating along a main thoroughfare. Sipping and seeing is the game. Even though Davenport Village is about as walkable as the DMZ, 360 Uno somehow pulls off the right vibe and makes their ritzy strip mall location feel a lot more comfortable than it should. Fantastic drinks, including the best chai latte in town, and a great selection of pasta and panini make it worth driving to Westlake once in awhile. And the pizza next door is a bonus.

Don’t forget you can always use the Starbucks Delocator to find your next favorite independent coffee shop. What about it Austin, what other shops need to be on the list?

Photo by OldAustin on Flickr.

8 Comments so far

  1. mss (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    I’m glad to see that Cafe Caffeine made the Statesman’s list even though they’ve cut down on their pie and cheesecake selection during the slow summer months.

    I am surprised that Jo’s (without the “e”) didn’t make either list. Both the original South Congress location next to the Hotel San Jose and their new location on 2nd Street have woven themselves into the fabric of a new Austin–in a good way. They make the best cafe mocha I’ve tasted. And the coffee’s hot!

  2. steve odom (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 9:21 am

    For working, I find Flightpath to be an excellent choice. It’s the only coffee shop that I’ve found where patrons will “shhh” you if you’re talking to loudly. People go there to get some work done.

  3. wae (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 9:28 am

    I thought about listing Jo’s, but my description would have been little more than an addict’s slathering worship of their iced turbo concoction. Can’t get within 100 yards of that place without hives and DT’s because of that stuff.

  4. ttrentham (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    I’ll add Cafe Mundi (East Fifth) and Dandelion Cafe (East 11th) as places I hit in East Austin. Joe’s Bakery does have amazing baked goods.

    There’s also Green Muse on Oltorf just east of South First and I’m partial to Little City at Congress and 10th downtown. There’s also the Hideout near 6th and Congress. They have shakes. Mmmm…shakes.

    North, there’s Russell’s on Hancock where they make a pretty good Chai. I’ve heard good things about Genuine Joe on Anderson, but never been there myself.

    I’ll forever be indebted to Spiderhouse for introducing me to Tortoise one rainy afternoon. That was the same afternoon that my then girlfriend and now wife introduced me to Chai.

    Flightpath is the venerable Austin indie coffehouse in my eyes. It’s been around long enough to have gotten its name when there were still planes flying overhead to land at Mueller. It’s at least twice the size it was when it opened. At the time, I think Quack’s on Guadalupe was the only other coffee house I’d ever entered before going to Flightpath.

    Man, we do have a lot of independent coffee houses in Austin.

  5. Michael A. (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

    North central: there’s a place just opened a couple of weeks ago called Epoch on North Loop between Guadalupe and the mini-shopping district. (It’s in the old dry cleaners next to the aikido studio.) I haven’t been there yet but it looks worth a try. They have a pretty cool sculpture on top, some sort of Mayan mask.

  6. sinda (unregistered) on August 11th, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    Um, the stats aren’t meant to add up to 100%. The percentages listed refer to the number of people who cited each factor as important when choosing a cofee house. So had I completed the survey, I could have chosen more than one factor. Make sense?

  7. wae (unregistered) on August 11th, 2006 @ 11:44 am

    Sure Sinda, but it would have been nice for somebody to label such “multi-punch” data appropriately. Otherwise, the numbers are counter-intuitive to most general consumers of the information.

    And considering the amateur folly of combining disparate concepts such as “quality” with “convenient location” into a single category, along with the questionable validity of self-explicated importance evaluations, this data is essentially useless anyway. The Specialty Coffee Association of America should stick to shilling high-dollar caffeinated drinks and leave the quantitative research alone.

  8. JC (unregistered) on August 11th, 2006 @ 5:18 pm

    I’ll second the Flight Path, good Joe and a place to get things done. Don’t forget the “After Dinner” coffee and goodies of Dolce Vita; it’s not your typical coffee-house but great desserts (gelato!) and nice people watching.

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