The blend of coffee spots on or near South Lamar Boulevard includes some of the city’s oldest and some of its newest offerings. (We’ve melded two posts to make this one to match the many offerings along the way.)
Catahoula Mama’s. 1305 W. Oltorf St. 512-921-6167. catahoulamamas.com. Tues.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Lots of onsite parking. Wi-Fi: ABGB_Guest. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Moderate outdoor music. Otherwise quiet.
An adorable little coffee boat recently anchored under a pecan tree in the parking lot of the very popular Austin Beer Garden Brewing, aka ABGB. Tina Rose, longtime of Jo’s Coffee and other shops, pulled up her vessel to this stretch of road that needed exactly this sort of soothing respite. On a fine day, it’s blissfully relaxing at the few tables and chairs huddled next to the trailer, or a few short steps away at ABGB’s shaded picnic tables. Espresso-based drinks come first, including those made the Catahoula Mama’s House blend. With other mindful business allies, Rose and company employ ingredients “locally sourced as much as possible, organic, fair trade, humanely and sustainably produced.” The name at this dog-friendly spot, by the way, came from Rose’s late canine companion. In a sign of the times, they offer soy, coconut and almond milk. Among the imaginative offerings: Brooklyn Boxer, an iced coffee drink — “Shaken. Never stirred” — and a Nectar Fizz that combines organic nectar with the bubbly stuff. Since it is, after all, mobile, will it ever move? Rose: “We’re here for the rest of our lives!”
Patika Wine and Coffee. 2159 South Lamar Boulevard. patikacoffee.com. Fri.-Tues. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-midnight. A fair amount of onsite parking, plus extra slots behind a nearby boutique. WiFi: “coffeeandwine”. Decaf (American), teas, chai. Burbling music and a fairly quiet crowd.
Pale ledge-stone facing gives this uncomplicated coffee shop, at one time parked inside a highly regarded downtown trailer, a dash of mod style. One must quickly identify its low-lying silhouette along busy South Lamar Boulevard just south of Oltorf Street. A laptop counter faces the big picture windows. A dozen tables wait off to the side and another dozen out back on the required Austin patio, where a trailer serves more substantial cafe cuisine at certain hours. At other times, pastries and snacks will do. Espresso-based drinks dominate the menu, but there’s also a nice selection of wines and beers, plus juice and pour-over coffees. When I visited — or revisited, since I loved the downtown location where the JW Marriott now rises — most of the customers, primarily in the 20s and 30s, were glued to their devices. There’s a little echo from the hard surfaces and metal chairs. Patika is home to some of Austin’s most meticulous baristas who make superb drinks. UPDATE: Breakfast and lunch now served Thursdays-Sundays.
Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. 2050 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-8742. opacoffeeandwinebar.com. Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-midnight. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Wi-Fi: “spiros,” password “kalimera.” Moody music and fairly quiet.
Opa was among the first in town to advertise coffee and wine in the same breath. But it’s also a Greek cafe with a full bar. As proof that it’s still a coffee shop, though, half the patrons on a recent visit were buried deep in their laptops. The building is somewhat camouflaged by the large trees that shade its roomy front patio. Another much smaller patio waits out back near the limited onsite parking (if the lot is full, drivers may park at Bead It next door after 7 p.m.). Inside, one orders at the counter, then retreats to various well-worn stools, tables, chairs and sofas. One can easily visualize this cafe transported to an old university district. All sorts of espresso-based drinks complement more than 40 wine selections. Entrees include traditional Mediterranean dishes such as souvlaki, gyros, falafel and spanakopita. “Light bites” range from breakfast items and pizzas to appetizers such as baked feta, spinach-and-cheese pies and dolmas. Images of Greek tourist sites adorn the walls. Every age group is represented among Opa’s clients, including families with children.
Work Coffee Co. 2053 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-917-4628. workcoffeeco.com. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. A few onsite parkling slots. No decaf at this time. Teas, chai. Wi-Fi password: “bigdaddio1951.” Music loud enough that people don’t sit on the laptops the whole time.
Undoubtedly one of the most singular coffee spots in Austin. Noah Marion, who started his young work life as a barista, then trained as a sculptor, became a leather worker extraordinaire. Inside his working shop/studio attached to the Hoiden apparel boutique, he lovingly prepares beans roasted at Cafe Brasil specifically for avid espresso lovers. In addition, he offers four espresso-based drinks, iced cold brew, iced black tea, herbal teas and Topo Chico. Marion and his crew work their leather the whole time, but the they make the drinks with great care. Marion: “We’re the slowest coffee shop in town.”As for the shop’s name, Marion says he wanted to take back the word “work” with a positive connotation. He makes that easy with unforced conversation. Minimal seating available: One long table with four seats and a counter with four seats in an open, light-filled space, with one smaller table outside. A two-month membership gets you half price espresso. Despite the current lack of decaf coffee, I fell in love with this charming and very local spot. I even purchased a hand-tooled wallet.
Irie Bean Coffee Bar. 2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-4636. iriebean.com. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Spacious parking lot, which is good because nearby shopping centers and residential streets don’t welcome spillover. Use “Irie Bean Coffee Bar” Wi-Fi with password “irielife.” Decaf (Americano), teas and chai. Music is fairly loud by unhurried. Back patio often quieter
With a smile and a shrug, this Jamaican inspired coffee shop has clung onto its laid-back space on rapidly changing South Lamar. Launched in 2006 to promote “positive vibes,” it now counts as one of the oldest coffee shop in South Central Austin. The front of the brick-and-cinder-block building — a remnant of the boulevard’s former highway culture — hugs the curb next to a tattoo shop. Inside, the light is warm and mellow and the crowded U-shaped coffee bar buzzes with espresso and brewed coffee drinks, along with a few regular guests chatting with the barista. Smoothies, Italian sodas, iced tea and other refreshments join bottled and canned beer along with a small section of wines and broths, as well as a few snacks. The funky, whimsical patio out back with its roll-top bar creates its own magic. Lots of laptoppers on a Sunday afternoon, but I know it gets livelier in the evening. Worn wooden tables, counters, benches, stools, chairs — a few of them upholstered — give customers lots of places to settle in.
Stonehouse Coffee and Bar. 1105 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-879-9429. stonehouseaustin.com. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. Onsite parking and overflow parking shared with nearby establishments. WiFi. Decaf, teas and chai. Loud music on our first visit. Plenty of options outside and in.
“This feels a lot like Seventh Flag,” I said to the baristas when I first encountered this Dawson family stone house that has been resurrected with almost Scandinavian purity and lightness inside. “I used to work there!” said one barista. Another similarity: The social options are numerous, with different sized tables, bars and outdoor seating, mostly shaded. The care with espresso drinks is similar, but in this case, Stonehouse is more expansive, whereas Seventh Flag on South First is minimal. The offer of decaf is an obvious example, but they also serve draft beers, wines in half and full bottles, plus other potable and edible options, including locally sourced gelato. The baristas are attentive and skilled. The crowd is a mix of furrow-browed laptoppers and more social folks. Once abandoned, this cleverly branded place, built around 1900 in what back then would have been the countryside, was a once a Tarot card palace and at other times offices for a title company. It has officially found its soul again. The punk music aside — one must chat after all — I like this place a lot. It could easily become one of my new haunts.
Caffe Medici. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-445-7212. caffemedici.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Lots of free parking in Lamar Union garages. Lively Wi-Fi, password: “coolbeans.” Decaf (French press and Americano), teas and chai. Mild music. Quiet inside and out.
No students. That’s a shocker for a Central Austin coffee shop. The crowd this day ranged from their late 20s to their mid 60s. Not to record that’s always the case, but it says something about the clientele of the megalithic Lamar Union development. One of several coffee shops by this name to focus on excellent coffee as well as handsome, grown-up design, this Caffe Medici — brown, white and black color scheme — feels best matched to the group’s luxe downtown location in the Austonian. A dozen outside tables invite guests on cooler days and will be even more tempting once the trees grown in. Another dozen tables, plus some laptop counter stools, wait inside. Besides the fine espresso drinks, coffee, cafe au lait, iced coffee and teas as part of a fairly simple menu, the place also offers a limited array of pastries and snacks. Single-origin coffee beans are on offer, too. And here’s unexpected news: Several good beers on tap. The staff is well-practiced and helpful. Although Lamar Union can seem a little intimidating at first, this place has already attracted regulars.
Austin Java. 1608 Barton Springs Road. 512-482-9450. austinjava.com. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. 1 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Parking in garage to the rear. Fast Wi-Fi. Decaf, teas, chai. Moderate music. Although busy, relaxed.
More of a full-service restaurant than a mere coffee shop, this local stand-by gives one the choice of sitting at a short bar near the entrance, or being escorted to ready seating in the front and the back. A full bar accompanies a paradise of coffee and other drinks, many of them made with locally roasted Arabica beans. Coffees can be straightforward — drip or espresso-based — or come with themed names such as Morning Glory or Fog Cutter. Signature drinks include Caramel Knowledge and Sugar Daddy. Need something a little headier? How about spiked coffees, beer, wine or cocktail? The breakfast side of the menu is dominated by egg dishes, while lunch and dinner on the flip side includes rib-stickers such as pasta, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and especially good soups. The staff stays pretty animated, or so one can hear from the large kitchen. Not many laptops here among an array of guests. This edition of the local group that started on North Lamar Boulevard thrives without much competition in its market niche on Barton Springs Road.
Picnik. 1700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-293-6188. picnikaustin.com. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Shared parking lot and street parking. Wi-Fi password: “bodybybutter.” Decaf, tea. No chai. Fairly loud music, but it’s outside. Set back from traffic, so peaceful.
This mod cafe/coffee shop, built inside a recycled cargo container, continues to shine on low, green rise along South Lamar Boulevard. It’s earned a trendy, imported neighbor in Snooze, which focuses on breakfast dishes. Picnik’s streamlined menu more than holds its own. They serve “famous coffee” drinks, such as Golden Milk Matcha and Mayan Mocha, but also very good “plain and simple” coffee. No espresso, which is rare these days. They’ll make you shakes or teas (although the latter offering is a bit confusing on the menu). Decaf in two forms: black coffee or butter coffee, which includes grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Soul-warming on cold days are three types of bone broth. Of the six food offerings, they were out of the breakfast tacos by noon, but a helpful barista recommended a filling chicken club wrap with bacon and a kale exterior. Just right. Because South Lamar isn’t (yet) pedestrian friendly, this is more of a destination spot than a impulse stop. Metal tables and chairs are scattered under a canopy or in the sun. A sign of the times: Three fat sriracha sauce dispensers next to the counter.
Starbucks. 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-912-7919. 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Shared parking at Lamar Plaza, plus drive-through service. Wi-Fi before you even ask. Decaf, teas, chai. Soft music. Fairly quiet inside and out.
This Starbucks is almost too popular. Squeezed narrowly and deeply into the Lamar Plaza shopping center — which offers a mix of local and chain outlets — this coffee shop deals in familiarity and consistency for a crowd of mixed ages and backgrounds. The products don’t differ much — or at all — from store to store: Espresso-based drinks, coffees, teas, and a long list of trademarked “frappuccinos.” The drive-through remains busy all day. You are instantly recognized by its Wi-Fi signal when you engage your device. Like other chains, Strbucks fights absolute conformity by localizing the decor and supplying a neighborhood flyer board. A few outside tables under umbrellas attracted no one on this warm day, but customers flocked to the short counter space and no more than a dozen tables inside. Some people sometime complain when this ubiquitous chain duplicates shops in the same area, at times right across the street from the next. But as Austin grows more dense, there’s a ready argument for it. Not every Starbucks regular on South Lamar can fit in here.