The blend of coffee spots on or near Upper South Lamar Boulevard — meaning mostly south of West Ortorf Street — includes some of the city’s oldest and some of its newest offerings.
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.