Coffee and Austin go hand in hand, but this was not always the case. A mere 20 years ago coffeehouses were not even on the map in the Texas capital, but today Austin is seen as the coffee epicenter of the Southwest, with hundreds of cafes brewing world-class coffee that continues to win awards at national and international competitions.
A look at Austin today leaves no doubt about its love of great coffee, and the locals and tourists that visit this fine city simply can’t stay away from all the great coffeehouses the city has to offer. From large chains to alternative shops carved into tiny neighborhoods, there is always a fine hot, caffeinated brew to enjoy in the Austin community.
In the following article we will highlight several of Austin’s most popular cafes and coffee houses, including a description of each shop’s décor, amenities, and characteristics, its baristas and servers, and the different types of coffee, snacks and even craft beer you can typically find at each location.
Located in a converted little house in the Clarksville region of Austin, Caffe Medici first opened its doors in 2006. Today, it is one of the most popular coffee houses in the region, with a following that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago—before the enormous coffee boon that seems to have taken over this city. Now the “chain” has three locations in and around the city: the original Clarksville location, which is small, cozy and very charming; a second on Austin’s drag, serving mostly students from the nearby university; and the third location downtown, a cavernous shop catering mostly to morning commuters.
The lattes, French press and pour-over coffees at Caffe Medici are wonderful, but not as tasty as the near-perfect Cuvee Espresso Medici blend, which has become the mainstay here for most knowledgeable coffee drinkers. The baristas are warm, friendly and uniquely talented, quick with a smile and always happy to answer your questions. Snacks and take-home coffee beans are also available at all three Caffe Medici locations.
Irie Bean Coffee Bar
Adding a measure of chic style to Austin, the Irie Bean Coffee Bar enjoys a committed clientele thanks to their great coffee and even better service. The word “Irie” is pronounced (eye-ree), a Jamaican term that translates to a “state of feeling great,” and a very apropos title for a café that always leaves its customers wanting more.
The ambience at the Irie Bean Coffee Bar is relaxed and comfortable, with living-room style seating, cool, modern art and tables filled with people chatting. The free Wi-Fi is a nice bonus, and the breezy outdoor patio is definitely a perk, but what really keeps people coming back to Irie’s time and again is the splendid coffee, made with their own brand of aromatic beans. Also very tasty are the sandwiches and baked treats that are available all day, and the local craft beers served in the afternoon and evening.
Located in a large strip mall anchored by Uchiko, a Japanese restaurant chain, Houndstooth is a wonderfully popular little coffee shop that makes the crowds at that restaurant seem meager. When you walk into the Houndstooth coffee house, one of the first things you will probably notice is the absolute cleanliness of the establishment, with a barista area that is positively shining, including their 3-Group Mistral, one of the finest espresso machines on the market today. And while the back-bar area is sterile and sanitized, the customer area is very comfortable, with leather chairs and sofas, and a collection of large and small wooden tables.
The coffee served at the Houndstooth is a bit different than what you’ll find at the Caffe Medici. While that establishment serves only the Cuvee brand of coffee, the Houndstooth additionally features some wonderful blends from around the nation, and a variety of different roasting methods that are proving very popular to its large and loyal clientele. The baristas at the Houndstooth are very knowledgeable and friendly, and the snacks, which include decadent baked treats as well as some more sensible eats, are definitely worth a visit on their own merit.
Spider House Patio Bar and Café
Like the Caffe Medici (and many other coffee houses throughout Austin), the Spider House Patio Bar and Café occupies what once was a house, and its proximity to the city’s large university makes it a very popular destination among students. The coffee at the Spider House Patio Bar and Café is very delicious and includes lattes, mochas, espressos and a variety of iced caffeine drinks. Their food menu is equally as diverse, with sandwiches, muffins, donuts and other tasty treats.
The décor of the Spider House Patio Bar and Café, which hosts many popular Austin events, is modern and simplistic, with sparse walls and a mixture of different seating options. The free Wi-Fi offered to all customers makes it a great place for studying or just texting back and forth with friends, and the local craft beer here is also very delicious.
Once Over Coffee
Once Over Coffee, which is the second coffee venture for owners Rob and Jenee Ovitt, is a café that truly captures the vibe of Austin and the personality of its coffee culture. Founded in 2009, and located just off South First Street, the coffee house is a true hole in the wall, with a warm and inviting feel, a low-budget, yet stylish décor, and a great deck off the back of the shop that is ideal for reading or chatting with friends.
While the decorations and ambience of Once Over Coffee may be laidback and a bit low budget, the coffee is anything but. Using their own espresso blend known as Dead Fingers, each and every cup at this café is better than the next. The blend features chocolate tones and a decadent finish, making it perfect for those who dislike the bitterness of some of the other espresso blends.