Central East Austin is home quite a few excellent coffeehouses.
We are going to try something new here by building up our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start with …
Houndstooth Coffee. 2823 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-243-8902. houndstoothcoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 pm. Sat.-Sun. Very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai, beer, wine, cocktails, food. Carefully calibrated music. Some outdoor seating.
We recently profiled Houndstooth brothers Sean and Paul Henry. Here’s what we said about their third Austin spot: “It anchors the Platform residence complex near the MLK stop on the MetroRail line. It’s also tall, angular and welcoming. The long counter is backed by a food preparation area that will provide more food to go along with the coffee, beer, wine and cocktails as the shop matures. Several features, inspired by trends in the hospitality industry, stand out: One can order from anywhere in the shop as baristas make their way to one’s location; also, one can open a tab during a longer stay. “We want to bridge the a.m.-p.m. divide,” Paul says. “People think coffee shop in the morning and bar in the evening. Why not both?” The music slightly elevates the energy in the place depending on the time of day, while sound panels help keep down the echo in a room where more than 50 people can gather and still hold a conversation.”
Cuvée Coffee. 2000 E. Sixth St. 512-368-5636. cuveecoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Limited onsite parking with the option to park next door when indicated. Some outdoor seating available on the former loading dock. Wifi now on!
Few Austin makers of coffee are as serious about their craft as the folks at Cuvée, who have been roasting their own beans since 1998. They also introduced nitro black coffee cold brew to Austin, which they pour from a tap at their main spot and when they cater. Even if you’ve never been to their remodeled warehouse on rapidly evolving East Sixth Street, you’ve likely savored their products, since several other Austin coffee houses employ their beans (look for the icy blue bags). At the East Austin outlet, a central triangular well offers coffee on one side, beer on the other. It’s one of the most inviting counters in town, but you can also choose from tables large and small, as well as a few well-shaded outdoor sit-downs. But here’s the big news: They now offer wifi. Valiantly, the owners had tried to encourage a sense of community by keeping the laptopping to a minimum, but they have relented and at least a few customers were taking advantage during our most recent visit. Cuvée still keeps on staff some of the most engaging baristas around and that cold brew is so inviting, this reporter defies his heart doctor to skip the decaf for a refreshing cup.
Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311. cenoteaustin.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. Street parking available, but you might have to walk a bit. Teas, chai, decaf. Strong WiFi. Many quiet niches.
One of the first coffee shops of this type in East Austin, Cenote takes full advantage of its 19th-century Victorian house with its ultra-tall ceilings as well as the rich alluvial soil of its surrounding gardens. Seating is divided roughly in thirds, one part inside, one part along tables on a shaded east patio, one part among scattered tables in the south garden, which includes a small performance stage. One orders from the counter to the back. Drinks are listed on customary boards, but for food, pick up a menu by the register. Besides the hot and cold beverages, Cenote serves beer and wine as well as a copious selection of food, including tacos, pastries, sandwiches and veggies, all carefully sourced. The place is popular with laptoppers, but if you are there to meet someone, your conversation won’t disturb them. In fact, Cenote is so well-liked, you might have trouble locating a free table during certain stretches of the days and nights. Note: Be kind to neighbors by watching where you park in the residential neighborhood to the north.
Thunderbird Cafe. 2200 Manor Road. 512-472-9900. thunderbirduaustin.com. 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Very little onsite parking. Street parking backs up quickly. Decaf, teas, chai. Generally quiet.
I always plan to arrive early when I meet a friend at Thunderbird Cafe, the longstanding stop on Manor Road close by a half dozen established eateries and walking distance from the University of Texas campus. So popular is this Greater Cherrywood outfit, there’s rarely two seats open together at the high tables, low tables, small tables or picnic tables. Laptoppers rule this domain. Happily, the baristas are accomplished so the line at the central counter near the south door is rarely long. Snacks, some light, some substantial, are available there. The coffee is good and the beer is welcome, especially on hot days when the western sun beats down on the well-worn patio. The feel is very local and the owners have opened a second location in the Crestview/Brentwood area. Does anyone else have trouble with their website?
Flat Track Coffee. 1619 Cesar Chavez St. 512-540-6040. flattrackcoffee.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. Limited onsite parking. Decaf. Quiet spots.
Three makes a trend. First there was Lance Armstrong’s breakthrough Juan Pelota Cafe downtown. Then Nelo’s Cycles & Coffee in Northwest Hills. Flat Track Coffee, which has been hidden from my scrutiny since it opened some three years ago (according to my barista), makes it a trend to put a coffee shop into your cycling spot. (There could be more in town. We’ll report.) Here, the customer really feels like a part of the action because the repairs are done right in front of you while you take in the wonderful aroma of tires and oils. Wonderful to me at least. There’s a generous upfront patio outside, then mostly counter space near the windows, and more tables in the back, all kind of chic without trying too hard to be so. The coffee is good, too, and my barista was particularly helpful with the decaf options. The menu is minimalist, which seems to be another Austin trend. Anyway, now that I’ve found it, I’ll return to Fast Track soon.
Bennu Coffee. 2002 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-478-4700. bennucoffee.com. Open 24 hours seven days a week. Decaf, teas, chai. Onsite and nearby street parking. Strong Wifi. Plenty of quiet spots.
We got to know this coffee group when it took over the venerable Dominican Joe spot at South Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive. We were impressed with the concept. It takes just a few variations to make an Austin coffee shop feel special. Open 24 hours a day? That’s clearly a winning strategy. Pack the place with a lot of mismatched old furniture? Also a natural choice for Austin. Both locations can get quite crowded, mostly with sprawling, intensely focused laptoppers. Yet the East Austin spot benefits from its long, low-ish, somewhat dark space in an older commercial structure as well as its extra-large counter area, where one can find snacks as well as beverages. Does anyone know the previous history of the space?
Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors. 1111 Chicon St. 512-953-1061. figure8coffeepurveyors.com. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Wifi. Side street parking. Fairly quiet. There’s a tiny patio out back that is shady most of the day.
This small shop is smart. It focuses on freshly roasted coffee in a demure location across Chicon Street from Huston-Tillotson University. The furniture, arranged in a variety of manner, looks like postindustrial art. The interactions between baristas and regulars seem warm and genuine. The afternoon sun could be a problem for this west-facing spot, but the chairs are generally placed to avoid direct light and heat. Did we like the coffee? Very much. But we liked the relaxed atmosphere even more on our second visit. It’s going to become a regular meeting spot.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Lavaca Street.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Congress Avenue.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South First Street.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near South Lamar Boulevard.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Burnet Road.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Lamar Boulevard.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Congress Avenue.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near North Austin.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Northwest Austin.
MORE COFFEE SHOPS: Near Southeast Austin.