For whatever reason, the western side of downtown is fertile ground for good coffee shops.
Jo’s on Second. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003. josecoffee.com. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Fri., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf, teas, chai. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Despite the crowds, quiet corners.
How to improve on one of the city’s most innovative and persistently popular coffee shops — Jo’s on South Congress Avenue? Add very good comfort food and indoor seating at a second location downtown. For those who complain that the upscale Second Street District feels a little alien to Austin, Jo’s is the perfect antidote: Friendly, local and just funky enough. And a pioneer of downtown’s Great Streets program with its expanded sidewalks. At times the double line to the cashiers can get long, especially when a flock of tourists arrives wearing dazed but happy looks, but they’ve made a wise decision to try the salads, burgers, sandwiches and other offerings at this Jo’s, also a favorite of the City Hall crowd. The espresso-based drinks, with beans roasted by Stumptown, are well above average, but there are other options, including wine and beer.
Austin Java. 301 W. Second St. 512-481-9400. austinjava.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon-Thurs. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Despite the whirling foot traffic, one can get work done here.
Jo’s or Java? That’s the luxurious choice at West Second and Lavaca streets: Two proven Austin coffee dispensers that double as cafés. This one juts out from the irregularly shaped Austin City Hall and counts a couple of dozen tables outside and inside. The counter is located just to the right of the main entrance — you can’t miss it. This iteration of the comforting local eatery group is a little less about the food, however, more about the beverages and the chance to sit down and cool your feet in the growing downtown hubbub. Outdoor seats, surrounded by regional geology and botany, are at a premium. As always, fairly good coffee, too.
Halcyon. 218 W. Fourth St. 512-472-9637. hacyoncoffeebar.com. 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat.-Sun. Garage parking nearby, almost no street parking. Decaf, teas, chai. Quieter during the day, although even then the music can interfere with thinking or talking.
Many Austin coffee shops nowadays offer adult beverages, but few actually operate as bars and thrive as part of a busy nightclub district. Halcycon, which took the place of Ruta Maya at Lavaca and West Fourth streets, is there for you morning, noon or night. We sometimes run into trouble gaining the attention of the baristas/bartenders, but no wonder with the constant stream of guests seeking places at tables, on sofas or out on the seating raised above the street level. And luckily, almost anything one orders here is worth consuming. Compared to some of the newcomers to this district, Halcyon hangs onto its original funkiness, handed down in part by its predecessor Ruta Maya.
Juan Pelota Café. 400 Nueces St. 512-473-0222. juanpelotacafe.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m. -6 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Garage parking nearby, some street parking on good days. Decaf, teas, chai. Not really a workspace, more about food, drink and community.
Bear with me as we go back in history to when Lance Armstrong was the city’s second most famous celebrity after Willie Nelson and a busy downtown bike shop that included a small, but very popular coffee spot with a jokey name (look it up). The passage of time has altered Armstrong’s constellation in Austin’s social skies, but Mellow Johnny’s and Juan Pelota Café still anchor a robust cycling community. The café has expanded its footprint to include not only outdoor seating, but also a greater share of the interior space. Coffee was the original lure, but it’s now a place to bulk up on an expanded menu of healthy cuisine as well. The clientele is forbiddingly fit. Even folks clearly my age sport the tight figures, burnished skin and clear eyes of ridiculously good health. More power to ’em.
As always, if we missed your favorite spot in this district, let us know.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Upper South Lamar Boulevard.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lower South Lamar Boulevard.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.
BACKGROUND: Original 2007 Austin coffee shop series.
COMING IN 2018: Near North Austin, Central East Austin, Guadalupe Street, Manchaca Road, Northwest Austin, Far North Austin, Far East Austin, Far West Austin, Far South Austin, Hays County, Williamson County.