Young at Heart: Young People’s Chorus, ‘Mary Poppins’ and more

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Robert Meyer and Amanda Zayas at Young People’s Chorus of New York City on Lake Austin.

When the message comes from Turk and Christy Pipkin, you listen.

They told of a summer party. One at the grand Lake Austin estate of Mike and Tami Schroeder in a sweet spot opposite Mount Bonnell.

There would be food by Jack Allen’s Kitchen. All the more enticing. Musical interludes from the Jeff Lofton Trio. Always a plus.

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Jeff Lofton Trio.

Then a performance by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Now, this was really intriguing, because the group has been known for the past 29 years for mixing kids from different classes and using song to ensure they stay in school and excel. The group plays the Paramount Theatre with Ruthie Foster on July 26.

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Young People’s Chorus of New York City arrive by boat at Lake Austin party in their honor.

Sounded like a prefect match for Austin. And, indeed, the crowd of 100 or so soaked up their preview poolside as the sun set, and after founder and artistic director Francisco J. Núñez had spoken.

It’s even more of a match because Austin might become just the second location for a Young People’s Chorus! The Pipkins are on a founding board, along with Andy Roddick, whose foundation does similar work, and other do-good titans.

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Photo: Kirk Tuck.

The previous night, I caught the official opening of “Mary Poppins” at Zach Theatre. Andrew J. Friedenthal‘s review for the American-Statesman nicely captures its magic.

It works out marvelously that P.L. Travers‘ estate opposed a stage version of the Disney classic, which Travers didn’t like, so that super-producer Cameron Mackintosh negotiated a deal that sent the writers back to the source material, while borrowing some of the best songs from the movie. Much better strategy than staying too loyal to the movie, as producers did with “Gigi” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

13709892_10157141515685316_7023995637278825412_nIn between those social events, I celebrated my 32nd personal appearance for “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories,” this one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was Lady Bird Day, which recalls the date when LBJ signed environmental legislation that his wife had promoted.

The book is a collection of historical columns originally written for the American-Statesman and then published by Waterloo Press back in October. A few months later, it earned a second printing.

What kind of stories? Ones like this piece that recently appeared in the Statesman on Austin in 1966 before and after the UT Tower sniper tragedy.

 

July 2016: My best stories this month on Austin culture

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A Pulitzer Prize winner pulls up a chair near the front row. Not far away sits a distinguished university dean. Just beyond him, at the back of the big Austin bookstore, is a writer of several popular volumes. Just as the evening’s author starts to speak, a stylish woman with short hair and bright eyes takes the last empty seat up front. “Look who’s here!” gasps the speaker. “The person who discovered the origins of writing!” The crowd chuckles at what they assume is a joke. The woman just smiles. “I know,” says Denise Schmandt-Besserat, nodding to the full house. “Always at parties, when I tell people that, they laugh. They don’t believe me.”

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On April 27, John Bernardoni, Austin music promoter and arts backer, met with James Powell, a native Austinite and longtime antiques dealer. Powell asked Bernardoni, best known locally for helping save the Paramount Theatre, if he knew anything about “Victims of the Galveston Flood,” a sculpture by Pompeo Coppini, the artist best known locally for creating the Littlefield Fountain and the controversial statues on the South Mall at the University of Texas. Coppini had been in the news of late. Last year, his sculptures portraying Confederate President Jeff Davis and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson were moved after considerable community input. Davis is going to the Briscoe Center for American History, now under renovation, while Wilson’s new home has not been finalized.

 

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Twenty years ago, as the 30th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shootings loomed, Gary Lavergne completed an exacting account of the events that took place before, during and after Aug. 1, 1966. “Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders,” published by the University of North Texas Press in 1997, has since appeared in paperback, mass market paperback and Kindle editions. We sat down with the unassuming Lavergne — by day, the UT head of admissions research, and the author of three other successful books — in his office on the ground floor of the Tower.
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It’s the neighborhood with no name. Or perhaps too many names. They include Sunnydale, Elmhurst Heights and Woodland Hills. Many Austinites — if they know that it exists at all — call it Travis Heights East. For years, this hilly, eclectic residential area has been represented by the South River City Neighborhood Association. It also lies within the East Riverside-Oltorf Combined Neighborhood Planning Area. That name is not likely to be adapted into the vernacular, so we will stick with Travis Heights East. High on rises above Riverside Drive between Oltorf Street, Burton Drive and Interstate 35, one can find scattered remnants of the area’s agricultural past, along with three distinct subdivisions developed in the mid to late 20th century.

When sisters Jewel Sundbeck and Georgia Sundbeck Gustafson were young, the services were conducted in Swedish. “We didn’t understand any of it,” Jewel admits. “But we were in church, there to worship God.” “The Sunday classes before services were in English,” Georgia says. “We had a lot of singing in the church. Joyful singing.” Back then, the Sundbeck sisters attended the Swedish Evangelical Free Church when it was at Colorado and 17th streets. Dedicated on Aug. 6, 1925, this handsome structure was the group’s second home, demolished after the State of Texas purchased the land. The group’s first church was a rough, wood-planked 1890s affair — later torn down — located in the eastern Travis County settlement of Decker. Worship services among the rural Swedish immigrants, some of whom had escaped religious intolerance back home, started there in homes and schoolhouses in the 1880s.
Just before noon on Monday, Aug. 1, 1966, Ora Houston and Sharon Alexander were eating lunch at the Pancake House at San Antonio and West 19th streets — the latter, later renamed for Martin Luther King Jr. — just southwest of the University of Texas campus. “It was such a beautiful day,” Alexander said recently. “All of a sudden, we started hearing all these sirens and went outside to see what was going on. There were ambulances, police cars and fire trucks everywhere. It was a terrible sight to see.” Someone told the young women — one a graduate of Anderson High School in East Austin, the other of Austin High School — that a person atop the UT Tower was shooting people. “We could see the smoke coming from the Tower,” Alexander said. “We were told to go to the back of the restaurant, because the bullets could reach us from where we were standing. A very shocking day, one I never want to see again and will never forget.”

Real estate agent Trey McWhorter has seen it time and again. Folks just don’t know what they have in hand.“Often with old, unique properties, it’s more like artwork than just a house,” says McWhorter, who specializes in midcentury modern homes. “And just as an artist has to promote himself, someone has to tell the story of the property.” That is what McWhorter has been trying to do in an area that encompasses Highland Park, Highland Park West, Balcones Park, Foothills Terrace, Colorado Foothills and Beverly Hills, as well as other midcentury subdivisions. For the most part, the steeply hilled area falls west and northwest of Camp Mabry and east of Lake Austin. Greater Tarrytown is to the south, and Northwest Hills lies to the north. Curvy Balcones Drive serves as the main through street.

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In 1963, the sitcom “Petticoat Junction” first aired on CBS. The show about a rustic railroad hotel run by a steadfast matron, her lazy uncle and her three voluptuous daughters ran for seven seasons, yoked in American minds with “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres,” two other shows that riffed on the juncture between rural and urban ways. In 1964, Petticoat Lane opened on Austin’s Guadalupe Street. The Andrews family, headed by Bob and Betty Sue, were already running two dress shops on the Drag. Their new idea, later redubbed Petticoat Fair, was a full-service boutique selling just women’s undergarments. It still thrives today, now as a one-of-a-kind shop with extensive dressing rooms in the Northcross Center off West Anderson Lane.

Count on it: Someday, I will call it ‘Petticoat Junction’ by mistake

I had fun reporting and writing about Petticoat Fair, the lingerie outfit run by three generations of an Austin family.

Yet it is almost impossible for me to rid my mind of associations with the the 1960s sitcom “Petticoat Junction.”

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So you can bet that some day I’ll slip and call the boutique by that name instead.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“In 1963, the sitcom “Petticoat Junction” first aired on CBS.

The show about a rustic railroad hotel run by a steadfast matron, her lazy uncle and her three voluptuous daughters ran for seven seasons, yoked in American minds with “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres,” two other shows that riffed on the juncture between rural and urban ways.

In 1964, Petticoat Lane opened on Austin’s Guadalupe Street. The Andrews family, headed by Bob and Betty Sue, were already running two dress shops on the Drag. Their new idea, later redubbed Petticoat Fair, was a full-service boutique selling just women’s undergarments.

It still thrives today, now as a one-of-a-kind shop with extensive dressing rooms in the Northcross Center off West Anderson Lane.

Early on, the sitcom’s insistent theme song — “lots of curves / you bet / even more / when you get / to the junction / Petticoat Junction” — echoed in the ears of their Austin customers.

“It was funny,” Betty Sue says. “Customers would make their checks out to Petticoat Junction.”

 

Extra video: Salvation Army gave Austin’s Espinosa family a firm hand up

Read here the full story about Sam Espinosa’s family. Excerpt below:

“In 2001, when Sam Espinosa was a senior in high school, his family lived day to day in a motel room.

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He performed extremely well in school, played on the varsity baseball team, and held down multiple jobs to help out his mother and five siblings, while they secretly lived on the knife’s edge.

The next year, Espinosa, no longer at risk, was able to attend Yale University on a full ride, studied history, among other subjects, and made crucial contacts that would ultimately lead to a successful career with digital start-ups. He recently married his sweetheart, a marketing professional.

What made that possible? The Salvation Army. A rental voucher allowed the family to settle into permanent housing.”

Watch funny Texas movies with live music

The Texas Archive of the Moving Image, a precious resource, will stage something fresh: A public screening of its vintage films with live local music from Casa Loma Playboys, Moonsicles and Dead Music Capital Band.

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The show starts at 8 p.m. at Pan Am Park, 2100 E. Thirds Street and it’s free.

Hearing from a Gabour family member about the UT Tower shootings

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Photo: Time

We’ve heard from dozens of readers who wanted to share their stories about Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman‘s horrific spree from the University of Texas Tower initiated the modern era of mass public shootings.

They have been responding to the American-Statesman’s extensive reporting on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

We had not, until now, heard much from the Gabour family, who were among the first shot inside the Tower on that terrible day. For 50 years, they have remained mostly silent.

Today, Jim Gabour, wrote a powerful piece for the Guardian about the deaths of family members Marguerite Gabour Lamport and Mark Gabour, as well as the critical wounding of Mary Francis and Mike Gabour.

He aslo makes connections to a sniper who later took shots at people from the Howard Johnson’s in New Orleans.

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New Orleans police officers fire into a concrete cubicle atop the Howard Johnson hotel, where Mark Essex was holed up. Photograph: GE Arnold/AP

Here’s how the story begins (follow the link above and read it all):

“I remember when word came in. I was home from school for the summer, doing full-time manual labor at my family’s small weekly newspaper in Central Louisiana. We were home for an afternoon meal when the heavy old black telephone receiver rang in the kitchen. Maybe I sensed something and instinctively knew it wasn’t one of my buds, because I did not rush to the phone as usual.

My father took the call.

He was standing at first. I watched the pale, disbelieving look grow on his face as he slowly sat on the kitchen stool, the phone poised a few inches from his ear, stopping to stare at it every few seconds like it was something horrible, something foul.

He held on to the windowsill like he was dizzy. I stood a few feet away and watched silently, not wanting to intrude. Something was happening here; something was being told to my father. Something bad.”

 

Coffee shop hunt will focus first on South Central Austin

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And we’re off!

Recently, we announced a new expeditionary force to canvas Austin’s coffee shops, starting with the fresh Mañana Coffee & Juice in the South Congress Hotel.

Then we reached back to 2007, when we profiled 100 Austin spots under the facetious title “10,000 Austin Coffee Shops.”

Now we are ready to survey the scene again, starting in mid-August with South Central Austin. Below are some obvious targets between Interstate 35 and MoPac, Barton Springs Road and Ben White Boulevard.

After that, we’ll hit another district. Let us know about more!

Austin Java

Bouldin Creek Cafe

Caffe Medici

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Dominican Joe Coffee Shop

Fair Bean Coffee

Irie Been Coffee Bar

Jo’s Coffee

Once Over Coffee Bar

Opa Coffee and Wine Bar

Patika Wine and Coffee

Picnik

Radio Coffee

Seventh Flag Coffee

Starbucks

Summer Moon

TOMS Austin

WORK Coffee Co.

 

 

 

Best 100 Austin coffee shops in 2007

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In 2007, we proposed a series titled “10,000 Coffee Shops.” We found only 100 around Austin, but it felt like 10,000. Our point: That in the 1980s, there had only been three such spots here! We’re sure to count more than 200 during a new run in 2016.

See the first entry in this new series, profiling Mañana Coffee & Juice, here.

Noting the obvious: The following list of 100 is from 2007. Some have closed, moved, expanded or changed.

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Austin Java. Mark Matson/American-Statesman
  1. AUSTIN JAVA

Multiple locations

At one point, AJ was revolutionary: a coffee shop that served top-notch soups, sandwiches and heartier fare, not just as an afterthought. As the small chain has grown — just added: a location inside Austin City Hall — each incarnation has nurtured its own identity. It’s taken a few critical hits lately, but Austin Java still looks like a local hero to us.

  1. AZUL

1808 E. Cesar Chavez St. 457-9074

Proof positive that the East Cesar Chavez area has changed radically in the past decade, Azul instantly set its own standards for cross-cultural coolness. Additional patio seats and a varied menu have kept Azul a neighborhood magnet, plus a place with an actual parking lot for near-downtowners to meet for a midday repast.

  1. BAKERMAN’S BAKERY

120 E. Seventh St. 476-0060

Egg, cheese and sausage croissant — done the right way, filling but not greasy. That’s the kind of substantial eats that sets this downtown bakery apart, along with row after row of made-in-house pastries and sandwiches. The brewed decaf is OK, but one may choose from chalkboards full of other options for drinks in this place, set up for a busy business crowd.

  1. BARNES & NOBLE

Multiple locations

Independent bookstore purists, cease and desist. This ubiquitous big-box store raised the general quality of such shops dramatically, which expanded the number of titles published each year. Meanwhile, its mostly Starbucks-based cafes are islands of calm in frenetically busy shopping centers. Live with it.

  1. BOOKPEOPLE

603 N. Lamar Blvd. 472-5050

It might be better known as a bookstore than a coffeehouse, but the espresso is very good. Instead of “To go?” the barista asks “Do you want to walk around with it?” Patrons can peruse stacks of possible purchases at cafe tables or examine local artwork displayed on the wall. On a weekend afternoon, seats might be scarce, while on a weekend night, this bright, quiet corner of the store could be a great place to study.

  1. BOSSA NOVA COFFEEHOUSE & BAKERY

2121 E. Sixth St. 478-8700

Open just a week, Bossa Nova carries the new gleam of a shelter-magazine photo spread. In keeping with trendy nearby loft developments, the decor is modern. Still, there’s already a neighborhood feel, right down to the local beat cop, who has stopped in to shoot the breeze with the gregarious staff. The espresso is worthy.

  1. BOULDIN CREEK COFFEEHOUSE & CAFE

1501 S. First St. 416-1601

Neo-hippie down to its jagged nails, this Bouldin area hangout is so laid-back, it almost slips into the creek behind it. Service can be even more casual. Its partisans are intensely loyal, and the numerous nooks and outdoor tables are usually packed with variations on resale shop denizens and variations on creative hair. Moved and changed.

  1. BUENOS AIRES CAFE

2414 S. First St. 441-9000

The atmosphere is more South Austin than South America, despite the posters on the wall and memorabilia such as articles from Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper under the glass on tabletops. The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and might be busy at mealtimes, but you can also simply sit and sip a decent espresso while enjoying a pastry or empanada. For fine weather, there’s a diminutive patio out front.

  1. CAFÉ CAFFEINE

909 W. Mary St. 447-9473

Bouldin-area residents were afraid this modern coffeehouse would clot the area with commercialism, but they have since embraced its brisk colors, modest but chic patio, sweeping counter, better-than-average coffees, tasty treats and pleasantly uncommercial atmosphere. Other neat shops have since opened at Mary and South Second streets.

  1. CAFE DO BRASIL

200 San Jacinto Blvd. 320-8378

The Hampton Inn’s Fresh Cup coffee shop has been renamed and cheerily redecorated by an ebullient Brazilian with a fondness for parrot posters. Complimented on the uncommonly intense, complex flavor of his espresso, the proprietor exclaims ‘It’s Brazilian!’ He lifts the cover from a cake plate to offer a tantalizing sniff, and knocks a hole in a coconut to pour a fresh glass of juice. The rest of the coconut, he explains, will be used to concoct a dessert.

  1. CAFE ESPRESSO

Multiple locations

If the in-store cafe is often an afterthought over at Barnes & Noble, it’s a distinct enterprise at Borders. In some locations, Cafe Espresso has a separate entrance and marketing. For chain bookstore coffeehouses, these tend to be commodious and well-tended, and, for some shoppers, an experience unto itself.

  1. CAFE JAVA

11900 Metric Blvd. 339-7677

It’s a diner. A good diner. An old-fashioned diner, with no-nonsense, professional service, slipped into a strip center near Austin Community College’s Northridge campus. Though you would never know from the exterior, this kind of place would light up any small Texas town with burgers and patty melts, salads and darn fine coffee. This comes with our highest casual-eatery recommendation. Another location has opened on Gattis School Road in Round Rock

  1. CAFFE MEDICI

1101 West Lynn St. 524-5049

A labor of amore, this family-run coffeehouse in the Clarksville neighborhood nicely complements its neighbors — Galaxy Cafe, Jeffrey’s, Cosmic Cafe, Nau’s Enfield Drugstore and Cipollina. Darkly saturated colors and discreetly distributed tables offer the average laptopper or hushed gossiper above-average privacy. The coffee — even the decaf — soaks the senses, and a healthy supply of pastries blinks from the display cases. Expanded.

  1. CAFE MUNDI

1704 E. Fifth St. 236-8634

You have to be in the know to find this poorly signed niche-and-arbor by the old, overgrown East Austin railroad tracks. Amid all the super-modern development, this undisturbed bit of old-feel Austin recently expanded. The coffee is fine, the service is cheery and, in clement weather, a cluster of oaks hosts acoustic musical acts.

  1. CASA BRASIL

5213 Evans Ave. 407-9887

Lemon-butter yellow, periwinkle and other bright hues lift a wintry mood on a rainy afternoon, even before a huge, fragrant latte appears. Hardwood floors and butterfly-patterned lampshades add to the warmth of this Hyde Park cottage. Brazilian music makes this a relaxing place to while away the hours, perhaps browsing the CDs for sale or videos for rent, or snacking on tasty heart of palm empanadas or a mushroom pie.

  1. CEDAR PERK

200 Buttercup Creek Blvd.,

Cedar Park. 257-7088

The name says it all. This place echoes its host town — now a booming suburb — and its surviving country feel, despite the modern strip mall outside. In the back, there’s a postal nook and gifts for sale. In the front, widely spaced tables and an out-of-place hearth. In between, chipper service and more than serviceable food and drink.

  1. CIANFRANI COFFEE

ROASTING COMPANY

715 S. Main St., Georgetown. (512) 869-7030

So resolute about quality coffee beans, Cianfrani offers a whole shelf of high-quality decaf varieties. You don’t find that kind of attention to detail everywhere. Part of the Georgetown courthouse square renaissance, Cianfrani is as dedicated as any coffeehouse in Central Texas. It ranks up there with Mozart’s for sober celebration of everything coffee-related.

  1. CLEMENTINE

2200 Manor Road. 472-9900

Oh, my darlin’! No, really, only a few Austin coffeehouses are this well-designed, crisp, comfortable and vibey. High standards have been applied to the coffee as well, and the pastries are fresh and fully flavored. As part of the still-growing Restaurant Road on Manor, it comes with that slightly-on-the-edge cachet. At times, a pall of Wi-Fi silence falls on the two light-blessed seating areas. Lawn chairs wait outside.

  1. COFFEE DOG

1412 W. Texas 71, Bastrop. (512) 303-2244

Blink and you’ll miss this pert spot on Texas 71 west of Bastrop, near the turnoff to San Marcos. But it’s worth the screeching brakes. A tall stack of tender pastries dominates the supermodel-thin shop. Coffee is served promptly and one may either linger at one of the cafe seats or saunter out to the tables overlooking the traffic on 71.

  1. COFFEE NUT

203 Railroad St., Buda. (512) 295-3252

You won’t have trouble finding this address, right next to the railroad tracks in downtown Buda. Once inside, you’ll browse through the eclectic selection of (very) used books and enjoy the hospitality of the family that also runs the pizza parlor a couple of blocks away. The coffee and conversation are warm enough to invite lingering, even on a busy day.

  1. THE COFFEE POT

129 E. Hopkins St. San Marcos,

(512) 396-1689

San Marcos is home to some ambitious restaurants. This is its ambitious coffee spot, with towers of coffee bean bins, cafe fare and enough room for a small squadron to spread out. Located on the San Marcos courthouse square, it’s rarely empty of students or legal types. Only Javamotion in Lockhart outsizes this place among small-town coffee shops.

  1. COMMON GROUNDS COFFEE

3720 Gattis School Road, Round Rock.

(512) 238-1833

So far from Central Austin it might as well be in Arkansas. But, oh, you could be in Europe, so careful are the owners about the food, drink, service and decor. Common Grounds turned out to be one of the great finds of the XL coffee-shop project, but seriously, unless you already live in eastern Round Rock . . .

  1. THE DAILY GRIND

16238 RM 620 N. 388-0607

Suddenly, high-design elegance pops up right in the middle of North Austin’s maze of toll roads and aging rural highways. The sleek lines and high ceilings are softened by comfortable furniture, which leads to a counter packed with goodies and manned by an amiable staff. We really shouldn’t be surprised, but we were.

  1. DANDELION CAFE

1115 E. 11th St. 542-9542

Cute. Sweet. Gentle. These words come to mind at Dandelion, which is not the least neo-hippie, but rather, like Azul, Clementine and Progress, a cross between old East Austin and tasteful modernity. Sandwiches and soups are among the healthy comfort food, and the coffee brightens even a dismal winter day.

  1. DAZZLE COFFEE

100 N. Second St., Pflugerville.

(512) 670-1100

Blueprint for fast-food coffee: a finely scrubbed hut with a drive-around window, teen staff and efficient delivery of product. Now, those youngsters prepare the coffee drinks with moderate care. And there’s something neat about securing your drink and snacks on the run, even if you’d really rather savor your meal.

  1. DHABA JOY

2900-B Guadalupe St. 320-0705

This small, healthy cafe adjacent to Toy Joy features organic coffee drinks made from fair-trade, shade-grown beans, including a full-bodied espresso. Other offerings include vegan desserts and a soft-serve made from oats. The decor is as giddily playful as Toy Joy itself. A table by the window offers a view of the top of the University of Texas Tower. A track from Tortoise completes the chill, quirky vibe.

  1. DOLCE VITA GELATO & COFFEE

4222 Duval St. 323 2686

One definition of the sweet life: the leisure to linger deep into the tender night over divine gelato and expertly prepared espresso drinks. (Or something a little stronger.) We wonder how any of the surrounding restaurants — Hyde Park, Julio’s, Asti, Mother’s, etc. — manages to sell desserts when this representative of Italian street life beckons nearby.

  1. DOMINICAN JOE

515 S. Congress Ave. 448-3919

Not to be confused with Jo’s, the veteran coffee hut down the road, this freshly brewed shop was conceived as a way to support sustainable agriculture, buying its beans through a nonprofit firm from farmers in the Dominican Republic. Bookending a shopping center with a popular Freebird’s, Dominican Joe sweeps down from a high platform of dark wood to a broad serving area and a bamboo-sheltered patio.

  1. E-BAR

2901 Capital of Texas S. 691-3500

It might not be the place you’d go to write a novel, but the coffee bar at the entrance to Nordstrom in Barton Creek Square is a pleasant spot to take a break or rendezvous with a shopping buddy. The bright cafe tables and modish blond chairs are out in the mall itself for prime people-watching. Music from the chill end of the electronica spectrum spills over from the coffee bar, where a cheerful barista with two shades of hair, one not found in nature, makes a good espresso.

  1. EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS

Multiple locations

The atmosphere is pretty much pure fast-food stop, although the affable staff helps make up for the harried mood at lunchtime, and service is, well, fast. The espresso tastes more like American coffee made too strong. Bagel purists will be horrified at some of the flavor permutations residing in the big display case (cranberry?). But if you just need a quick coffee fix while chomping on a bagel dog, this is the place.

  1. ENOTECA

1610 S. Congress Ave. 441-7672

On a cold night, exceptionally well-executed espresso goes down even better in the welcoming elegance of Vespaio’s more casual cafe spinoff. Mellow gold lighting and dark, polished wood lend warmth to the trendy curves of the decor, and a seat at the bar offers a chance to chat with fellow patrons sipping wine while waiting for takeout or enjoying appetizers. One customer at the bar is immersed in a book, while a constant buzz from diners at cafe tables makes Enoteca seem extra cozy.

  1. EPOCH

221 W. North Loop. 454-EPOC

Easy to miss on curving North Loop, this shop attracts scruffy students and neighbors to its oddly shaped spaces. Funky is the feel, and while the coffee tastes satisfying, skip the pre-packaged sandwiches. Plenty of Wi-Fi action — or inaction — dotting the interior and exterior stations. The help is helpful, but could have warned us about the sandwiches.

  1. FLIGHTPATH COFFEEHOUSE

5011 Duval St. 458-4472

The back room is eerie every time we visit — a field of laptoppers working in tomb-like silence. Not that we mind. There’s plenty of room up front, or out on the deck, to chit-chat with anyone from the area north of campus. And we’ve never had a bad cup of coffee here, or anything other than the freshest pastries.

  1. FLIPNOTICS

1601 Barton Springs Road. 480-8646

You just hope it hangs on — both to the steep hill and its Barton Springs location, as the area inevitably gentrifies. Kind of like the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse & Cafe, this place gives off a neo-hippie vibe, and it’s home to one of the most intimate and well-booked music stages in town. The pleasant staff makes up for average coffee.

  1. GARDEN DISTRICT COFFEE

2810 S. Congress Ave. 462-2473

Attached to the Great Outdoors nursery, Garden District is naturally, well, natural. You can’t beat the landscaping, or the respite from the South Congress Avenue traffic outside. A big part of the improvements along LoCo, it’s laid-back without inducing somnambulation and knows how to dish out the goodies.

  1. GENUINE JOE COFFEEHOUSE

2001 W. Anderson Lane. 220-1576

When this popular shop opened, we knew that, 1) Crestview had officially joined the urban core, and 2) if the Anderson Lane strip can be considered urban, any district can. It’s unreal how much this quiet, but jammed place is appreciated by its followers. And we count ourselves in that group.

  1. GREEN CHAI CAFE

601 Chestnut St. Suite F,

Bastrop. (512) 308-0177

At first, it seemed this weathered building perched precariously above the Colorado River had too much character. But then we tasted the succulent quiche and sipped the meticulously brewed coffee. Prepared right in front of the customer, this mini-banquet convinced us to return any time we can pretend to have business in Bastrop.

  1. GREEN MUSE CAFE

519 W. Oltorf St. 912-7789

This contemplative retreat fades into its strip-center surroundings. Yet inside, you feel instantly at ease with the soft, earthy tones and the comfortably spaced tables. The counter service is spotty, but nobody is in a hurry to return to their laptops in two interior spaces and a big patio that sometimes hosts live acts. Sandwiches and pastries complement respectable espresso-based drinks.

  1. HALCYON

218 W. Fourth St. 472-9637

Even coffee shops grow up. Once the funky digs of Ruta Maya, Halcyon has added air conditioning, a full bar and a fresh menu to a West Fourth Street mostly crowded with bars. The help can be extremely helpful, or not. Pastries are usually fresh and paninis filling, and the seating areas retain the former establishment’s comfy Austin feel. The coffee is not as invested, but it’s still very good.

  1. THE HIDEOUT

617 Congress Ave. 443-3688

A comedy club? A beer joint? A coffeehouse? A community center? This downtown magnet has never decided what it wants to be, but all the above suit it well. It complements Little City among hardy Congress Avenue veterans, and it can be enjoyed mid-afternoon as well as late-night.

  1. HILL COUNTRY COFFEE COMPANY

12115 Manchaca Road. 280-4665

A touch of country does not alter the up-to-date feel of this Manchaca establishment, which offers coffees and pastries along with healthier selections. It never ceases to amaze this observer that every Central Texas burg appears to need a place like this, reflective of the local culture, and yet very much in touch with the zeitgeist.

  1. IRIE BEAN COFFEE BAR

2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 326-4636

The multifaceted Jamaican adjective ‘irie’ always connotes positive vibrations, and this coffeehouse fosters irie atmosphere inside and out. The charming back garden features a splashing fountain made out of a galvanized steel trough, and the interior is both airy and cozy. Grab a magazine from the well-stocked rack, plunk down in one of the comfortably boxy leather chairs, put your feet up and relax to a soundtrack that might include New Orleans classics as well as reggae.

  1. IT’S A GRIND

Multiple locations

We finally ordered drive-through coffee! And it proved fully flavored, lips-ready, not fast-food atomic at this chain shop. Unlike Starbucks or Seattle’s Best, this family of coffeehouses feels flexible in design and execution. The one on endless Parmer Lane is a civilized blessing, a break from the commerce, tucked as it is in front of Cool River Cafe.

  1. JAVA DIVE ORGANIC CAFE

2101 RM 620 N. 266-5885

I drove past this casual-looking Lakeway spot several times, but, man, am I glad I persisted. Hands down, the best americano in Central Texas, along with warm, rich cookies and espresso fudge. The owner is extraordinarily engaged with his customers — rare for a coffee shop — and the cafe fare is organic as they come.

  1. JAVA JIVE

500 E. Fourth St. 493-4902

Despite the location — a corner of the Hilton lobby — and the motto — ‘We proudly brew Starbucks coffee’ — this is not a generic location. Flying wooden dragons, folk statues and comfortable cane-backed chairs lend a little earthiness to the soaring space with its walls of windows. The baristas are friendly, and while the coffee isn’t local, the luscious-looking chocolate eclairs and other temptations in the glass case are made in the hotel’s own restaurant.

  1. JAVA JUNCTION

519 N. Main St., Taylor. (512) 352-3229

I arrived at 3 p.m. to find a closed shop. ‘If we stayed open til 8 p.m., nobody would come, ’ said the young barista, who opened the doors just for your reporter. The leftover decaf was still hot and tasty. An extra room is available for meetings and wedding showers, and there’s a concrete patio out front for days when it’s not too hot — or cold.

  1. JAVAMOTION

119 E. San Antonio St.,

Lockhart, .

This place is gi-normous. I mean, full, counter-service cafe up front, big stage to the side and separate bar in the back, along with enough couches to seat half of Lockhart. Located in the courthouse square in a former clothing store, Javamotion enjoys those super-high 19th-century pressed-metal ceilings, but the coffee is pure 21st century.

  1. JAVA ROCKS

409 W. Front St., Hutto. (512) 846-1880

Front Street is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks to catch the heavy traffic zipping through Hutto. But it’s well worth the stop — and the scary turn off U.S. 79. A miniature stage for acoustic acts waits over on the side of the room (hence the shop’s name?). The espresso-based drinks and assorted goodies suggest a staff steeped in the culture of coffeehouses.

  1. JITTERS ESPRESSO STOP

14201 RM 12, Wimberley. (512) 847-6101

Aw, come on in. Join the family of chipper baristas at this locally owned — and prominent — establishment. They know their espresso beans and offer tempting edibles as well. A small second room is decorated with paintings, while the main area is radiant and cheery. While every Wimberley tourist shop in town seems to serve coffee, here it’s the main event.

  1. JOLLYVILLE JAVA

8650 Spicewood Springs Road. 336-5282

Boy, they are friendly at this spot in a seen-better-days shopping center off U.S. 183. In addition to the Texas Coffee Trader goods, they sell medicinal teas, nutritional supplements and several kinds of scratch quiche. The walls are plastered with warm-hearted art, and the staff will adopt you for life the second you walk in the door.

  1. The JAVA BEAN

1008 U.S. 281 N., Marble Falls. (830) 693-7199

Superb roasted pepper tomato soup — in a cardboard cup. That’s what sticks to the memory about this sophisticated stop on U.S. 281. The staff members are young, but they handle the coffee with maturity and the big shop includes areas for socializing, concentrating on work, or just staring at the sable sky above the (not attractive) parking lot.

  1. JEGIMAJO

2400 E. Oltorf St. 443-2062

We noted plenty of Brazilian, African, Caribbean and Indonesian influences during our coffee tour. This was the only Philippine coffee stop, attached as it is to an Asian food market along the increasingly international East Oltorf Street. The imported snacks we tried came with American-sounding names, such as Jack ’n’ Jill, Ding Dong and Boy Bwang. The espresso drink was no-nonsense and presented with genuine grace.

  1. JO ON THE GO

312 University Drive, San Marcos. (512) 353-4880

Students and teachers must cherish this place, right across the street from Texas State University-San Marcos. Right in. Right up to the counter. Right out. A few tables are scattered out front if you really want to linger in the L-shaped strip next to a textbook store. And why not? The coffee is more than decent, the food selections are numerous and the intellectual company can be bracing.

  1. JO’S HOT COFFEE

1300 S. Congress Ave. 444-3800

What’s left to say? The Lamberts turned a boxy green hut into a cultural landmark, graced daily by celebrities and locals alike. One key: It’s shoved up to the sidewalk, encouraging pedestrian access. The all-outdoor seating areas offer covered and open-under-the-sky options. The coffee’s always been very good and the food has improved enormously. And, oh, the staff is supersweet.

  1. JO’S ON SECOND STREET

242 W. Second St. 469-9003

This is the only demi-chain that we listed twice, because the downtown location is so much more about food — splendid salads and sandwiches, among the tastiest hamburgers in town — than the one on South Congress Avenue. This busy place keeps the Second Street District real, and its outdoor seating is a model for the rest of the city.

  1. JP’S JAVA

2803 San Jacinto Blvd. 494-0015

Our favorite barista works here. In fact, we’ve always liked the laid-back but attentive staff, the graduate student crowd, the heady atmosphere of an authentic Austin coffee house. (It’s the analog to Posse East across the street.) The coffee leaves a little to be desired, but it’s the company that you’ll remember.

  1. KENNY’S COFFEE CO.

14735 Bratton Lane. 252-0999

There’s nothing remarkable about this homey coffeehouse except its location way up by the north-country toll roads. Otherwise, it’s an inviting place to relax over a decaf, nibble some fresh fruit or play the board games. Business types, daters and young families flock to what has become something of a community center in a neighborhood that obviously needs one.

  1. LA TAZZA FRESCA

519 W. 37th St.

Amy’s and Mangia helped lead the way. But this high-class, high-ceilinged coffee shop — attached to a lube shop! — really signaled the transformation of the Upper Drag. A small stage has afforded relaxed evenings of entertainment, while the coffee drinks and food keep one from expiring for a race across Guadalupe for — Amy’s and Mangia (which recently slid closer to the Lower Drag).

  1. LAVA JAVA

2901 Medical Arts Blvd. 495-9299

For a place located smack dab between the University of Texas and St. David’s complex, and therefore a natural for students and hospital workers, this coffeehouse — attached to a lunch cafe — gives off a mom-and-pop feel: low ceilings, dark paint, quiet and committed counter service, carefully drafted drinks. Laptoppers hang out, of course, but a comfy chair or sofa waits for the casual drop-by as well.

  1. LITTLE CITY

916 Congress Ave. 476-2489

In a word: revolutionary. More than a decade ago, Little City proved that downtown could support a San Francisco-style coffee shop. Downtowners rewarded the place with some of the most fervent loyalists in the city. (I estimate I’ve chatted over decaf with some 1,000 sources and subjects there.) Classy in a funky way, it attracts different crowds — Capitol, slacker, gay — depending on the time of day. In some ways, it’s the perfect urban coffee shop.

  1. LONE STAR COFFEE

309 Main St., Marble Falls. (830) 798-2850

Nestled in a cute quadrangle of boutiques — my favorite: It’s All about Me! — and restaurants one finds this Western-themed shop with excellent coffee and moist lemon cake. One section of the shop is set up like a living room, TV and all. Why not? Looking out at the surroundings, one is reminded that Marble Falls is the new Fredericksburg, which was the new Marfa, or the new Santa Fe, N.M.

  1. LONE STAR COFFEE BAR

803 U.S. 281 S., Johnson City. (830) 868-4400

Not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? What, are you kidding me? I guess in tourist-dependent Johnson City, you just go with the traffic flow. The trustworthy-looking neighbors at the town’s tourist center next door spoke highly of the coffee, pastries and sandwiches, and we can attest to the friendly look of this spot on U.S. 281.

  1. LONE STAR ESPRESSO

200 E. Pecan St., Pflugerville. (512) 251-4090

The warm cinnamon roll dissolved in my mouth, but not before it was slathered with rich, yellow whipped cream cheese. This shop is as tiny and personal as they come. Located on the main drag in Pflugerville, it’s a bit of old town with some new town tastes, and tended as if it were vital to the town’s soul.

  1. THE LOST SOCK

3101 Speedway. 524-0059

Talk about a sliver of a shop. In the front few feet of this Speedway laundromat one discovers a surprisingly sophisticated coffee shop, with maybe a half dozen tables and a completely respectful attitude about the drinks they serve. No kidding. In a laundromat. Where are we? Seattle?

  1. THE LUCKY CUP

130-A Kirkham Circle, Kyle. 535-5339

Tucked in a cute little office park in the Plum Creek neighborhood, the Cup has served as a java joint and a community gathering spot for the past year and a half. Teachers from nearby schools pop in before classes start, and commuters grab a cup before heading into Austin. But it’s more than grab and go: Lucky Cup owner Aaron Saucedo features live music on some weekend nights. The shop brews Seattle’s Best Coffee and offers a full slate of hot and iced beverages.e not the best in town, but competing with top dogs. We love the little deck looking up on South First Street and appreciate the convenience of the efficient counter space.

  1. SWEETISH HILL

1120 W. Sixth St. 472-1347

The Austin standard has seen many transformations along West Sixth Street. It’s a top-line bakery with a steady coffee-and-newspaper business as well. So popular, it operates two cash registers, which is much appreciated in an industry that often as not encourages its employees to chat up the customers endlessly.

  1. TANTRA COFFEEHOUSE

217 W. Hopkins St., San Marcos.

(512) 558-2233

Psychedelia meets Eastern mysticism in the dark red house near downtown San Marcos. A definite post-hippie aura surrounds the domestic setting — actually furnished like a home in some rooms. You could meditate here, while nipping at your drink, or socialize on the broad, old-fashioned porch. Most of the clientele, as you might guess, looks student-age or close to it.

  1. TÈO

1206 W. 38th St. 451-9555

This gelateria takes its coffee just as seriously as its Italian ices. A poster proclaims allegiance to the traditional Florentine method of espresso making, and the delicate crema and full-bodied flavor are certainly a good ad for the imported La Marzocco espresso machine. A few boisterous children can seem quite loud in this small 26 Doors strip-mall location. However, the warm shades of orange and chic furniture in beech and brushed metal make for an energizing atmosphere.

  1. TEXAS FRENCH BREAD

Multiple locations

Once the city leader, this small chain of bakeries with the binational identity slid to second-rung status during the 1990s. Now it has bounced back, quality-wise, although the crowds have not followed at all locations at all times. How can you go wrong, however, with the signature Hyde Park Fudge Cake and the namesake baguettes? The South Congress Avenue and Rio Grande Street locations serve as de facto neighborhood community centers.

  1. TEXPRESSO

2700 W. Anderson Lane. 467-9898

Under the harsh fluorescent lighting, you’ll find more police officers caffeinating and teenagers congregating than poets musing. The baristas are as disinterested as fast-food workers, and the decor, like the espresso, is strictly utilitarian: acoustic-tile ceilings and stark white walls marked by the metal cafeteria chairs. Connoisseurs of kitsch may be amused by the huge Farrah Fawcett poster, or the autographed pictures of TV celebrities such as Pat Sajak and Jaclyn Smith.

  1. 360 PRIMO

98298 Great Hills Trail. 795-9292

‘I live in this place!’ said a former Austin American-Statesman writer when we ran into her her at this Italian-themed food/coffee spot near the Arboretum. One can see why: pizzas and panini, espresso and cappuccino, pastries and imported desserts. The owners have done as much as possible to disguise the shop’s strip-center origins with touches of European class.

  1. 360 UNO ESPRESSO VINO

3801 N. Capital of Texas Highway. 989-0114This Italian deli, bar and bakery — connected to an inventive pizza parlor — also serves as the caffeine hook-up for upper-crust Davenport Village. They do the coffee right, too. After making your selection at the long, tempting counter, you can huddle at the small cafe tables or kick back in one of the comfy chairs near the shop’s entrance.

  1. THUNDERBIRD COFFEE

1401 W. Koenig Lane. 420-8660

It might have been airlifted straight from Dwell magazine, with its concrete floor, vast expanses of window, lofty ceiling and sleek furniture. Still, a few cozy old armchairs and thrift-store lamps show the place isn’t taking its decor too seriously, and local art adds color. Thunderbird only recently alighted, but already seems to have its regulars. Maybe it’s the rich, smooth espresso, or the chance to lounge like an urbanite with no risk of urban attitude from the friendly baristas.

  1. TRIANON THE COFFEE PLACE

Multiple locations

Although one of these long-standing local favorites is now a Scooter’s franchisee, so far that store remains fairly independent. The wine red-accented decor is nothing special, especially under fluorescent lighting, but fans of independence will prefer the low-key, utilitarian comfort to the aggressive branding of the Scooter’s interiors. The espresso is on the thin side, but doesn’t have the same ersatz Starbucks tang as at the full-blown Scooter’s and service is more personal and personable.

  1. TRIUMPH CAFE

3808 Spicewood Springs Road. 343-1875

You might not know it by passing its somber facade, but this coffee specialty shop is also a lively Vietnamese restaurant, with pho, vermicelli, fried rice and other basic dishes. The coffee is not an afterthought, whether sipped inside the packed cafe or outside on a lovely patio overlooking a steep arroyo. A fully stocked nook of beans and accessories complements the coffee theme.

  1. UPPER CRUST BAKERY

4508 Burnet Road. 467-0102

Sunlight washes the blonde accents in this bakery with the long, long case of tempting pastries and breads. The coffee niche to the back gets a little crowded, but there’s plenty of space to spread out in the bright, two-part seating area. The coffee is decent and the bakers don’t stint on ingredients, which are two reasons this Burnet Road veteran attracts such a steady stream of customers.

  1. VENTANA DEL SOUL

1834 E Oltorf St. 707-7447

One of the only nonprofit coffee houses in town, Ventana strives to be many things — community center, lunch spot, meeting magnet. The domesticated interior contrasts starkly with the insurance-building exterior on super-busy East Oltorf Street. We’ve never had a bad drink or snack, or sat through a boring meeting here, which may or may not reflect on the venue.

  1. ZOOMBAZ

8100-C Burnet Road. 459-9896

The goofy name and attention-grabbing architecture — PeeWee Herman where are you? — make this drive-through seem like the product of corporate branding, but ask the barista if this is a chain, and he replies drily: ‘Ha! Chain of fools . . .’ No, it’s local. The kiosk looks a little lonely in the parking lot of a discount clothing store, but the espresso has a fine flavor and packs a serious punch. A bunch of bananas sits on a counter waiting for customers who prefer to try the smoothies.

 

The Classical Garden sprouts at Umlauf site

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Carla Bossenbroek and Nina Seely at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Music, art, nature and social amity harmonized at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. The occasion? The first installment of the Classical Garden, a collaboration between the venue near Barton Springs devoted to the legacy of sculptor Charles Umlauf and the folks at the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

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Reassembly of Charles Umlauf’s studio.

First, we took in one of the most instructive exhibits ever seen at the museum. It offered a crowded timeline of Umlauf’s life and career, video interpretations of his artistic method and, most importantly, a version of his sculpture studio that still stands on the hill that overlooks the garden. Pretty darn amazing.

IMG_3245Then we mingled with friends old and new, including orchestra maestro Peter Bay and his wife, singer and radio host Mela Sarajane Dailey, symphony backer Jane Sibley and Umlauf dynamo Nina Seely, another somebody who gets things done.

A quartet of musicians from the orchestra played Beethoven, but, sadly, insistent conversation dampened the treat. It was easier to hear the big band that followed. Guests happily dance when they were not nibbling on the appetizers and sipping cooled glasses of wine.

A tradition is born?

Debut: Out and About video on Austin social scene

We had such fun creating a video version of a post on Austin Found — regarding Texas dorm life before the Ruckus — that we decided to do the same for a week’s worth of Out and About posts.

Behold below the dubious glories of “Out and About in Austin” for a recent week.

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Karen Hawkins, Maria Groten and Val Armstrong at Central Standard.

Also, for the full reports, see the previous posts on Out and About.