Best Austin coffee shops near Central East Austin

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 …

The Houndstooth Coffee shop on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard extends the Henry brothers’ take on updated modernism. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Houndstooth Coffee. 2823 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-243-8902. 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.”

Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311. 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 Coffee. 2200 Manor Road. 512-472-9900. 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 Coffee, 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?

We’ll post freshly brewed reports on Bennu, Vintage Heart, Figure 8, Cuvee and other Central East Austin soon.

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