Best Austin coffee shops near Lavaca Street

For whatever reason, the western side of downtown is fertile ground for good coffee shops.

Jo’s Downtown. Laura Skelding/American-Statesman

Jo’s on Second. 242 W. Second St. 512-469-9003. 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 at City Hall. Alberto Martinez/American-Statesman

Austin Java. 301 W. Second St. 512-481-9400. 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 from West Forth Street. Contributed by Michael Knox

Halcyon. 218 W. Fourth St. 512-472-9637. 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.

Contributed by Juan Pelota’s Cafe

Juan Pelota Café. 400 Nueces St. 512-473-0222. 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.

Memorial set for Austin LGBT activist Ceci Gratias

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign Austin honored LGBT activist and organizer Cecilia “Ceci” Lourdes Bulaong Gratias with the Bettie Naylor Visibility Award at its annual gala.

On Sunday, Gratias died.

Ceci Gratis in January. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

A memorial will be held at Austin City Hall Plaza at 4 p.m., Nov. 12. Details about a Ceci Gratias Legacy Project will be revealed by Mayor Steve Adler and City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, for whom she most recently tended constituent services in District 6.

After the memorial, to commemorate Gratias’ work with early Austin Pride Parades, admirers will process from the plaza to Congress Avenue then to West Fourth Street to Oilcan Harry’s club for a celebration of her life. Guests are encouraged with wear purple, her favorite color.

As detailed in our profile of Gratias, she served as an aide to former Mayor Pro Tem Gus Garcia, who encouraged her to volunteer for groups such as Out Youth and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She also served as the business group’s first full-time president and CEO.

Later this month, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will salute her life and legacy at its annual National Dinner Awards.

During our interview in a cafe at the Domain Northside, Gratias, who grew up in The Philippines, remained unreservedly open and upbeat, even though she had recently broken up with her partner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.


Austin and DC parties that trilled and thrilled this past week

KMFA Classical 89.5, the Texas Book Festival and the LBJ Foundation showed us all how to do good and have a good time this past week.

Dianne Donovan and TresMusicos at Sound Bites for KMFA. Contributed by Katrina Barber

Sound Bites: KMFA at 50

When you throw your first gala 50 years into your history, you really want it to sing. The good folks behind Sound Bites for KMFA Classical 89.5 made it trill. First, they picked a music-themed venue, Hotel Van Zandt, then they placed musicians at key spots. Even the dinner dishes came with (stretched) musical analogies. Among my favorite touches was a mock-up of longtime “Voice of KMFA,” the late Leonard Masters, in his studio. The man looks like he was born to be a classical DJ.

The fundraising duties were kept classy and relatively short. We were hoping for a hint at bigger news, but none was forthcoming by the time I left, which, alas, was also before additional performances from some of my favorite local artists. But I did have time to relish one of the best things about Austin society: A long, far-ranging chat with somebody who knows our city well, cares about its future and does everything she can to make good things happen. In this case, it was Sharon Watkins, owner of Chez Zee, and a constant friend of the arts her entire life.

Lois Kim and Min Jin Lee on the opening night gala at the Texas Book Festival. Bob Daemmrich

First Edition Literary Gala

Before I go into detail about this benefit for the Texas Book Festival, always one of the high points in the Austin social season, I must relate a sweet case of mistaken identity. It is the custom of the First Edition Literary Gala to place one of the year’s honored festival authors at each table of 10 guests. I was ushered to Table 2 as a reporter, but the table hosts from Dallas assumed I was “their author.” These incredibly gracious people treated me like royalty and it wasn’t until very late in the evening that I realized their misapprehension. Too late to disappoint them with the truth, that they spent dinner with a mere workaday writer whose second book is coming out in December.

On the dais, Dallas journalist and author Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly, “The Midnight Assassin”) managed to be genuinely funny while retaining his dignity, a hard balancing act. The author-speakers, including Min Jin LeeAttica Locke and Kevin Young, were not only incredibly distinguished in their own rights, they were more charismatic than any writer has a right to be. I can’t wait to read Locke’s “Bluebird, Bluebird,” set along Highway 59 in East Texas.

Two days later, at the actual festival in the Capitol district, I mostly haunted the tables of the small presses that don’t receive much attention, and made a neat discovery of a small book about the drug wars by Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke with Susie Byrd, “Dealing Death and Drugs” (El Paso-based Cinco Puntos Press). Plainly written in a powerful style.

Lynda Johnson Robb, Luci Baines Johnson and David Rubenstein at LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award dinner. Contributed

LBJ Foundation Award

We were not free to jet up to Washington, D.C., for this one, but the Austin-based LBJ Foundation handed David Rubenstein its LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award during a dinner at the National Archives Museum. Rubenstein was honored for helping to preserve the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Declaration of Independence and other treasures. How’s that for a list of accomplishments?

“David Rubenstein has distinguished himself as one of the most grateful and generous Americans of our generation,” said Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation. “He embodies the beliefs that President Johnson held dear — that our mission in public service is to serve man and provide opportunity to all.”

Among the dinner guests were Lynda Johnson Robb, Luci Baines Johnson, Amy Barbee, Ben Barnes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Dates set for big Mack, Jack and McConaughey benefit

The Austin triumvirate of Matthew McConaugheyMack Brown and Jack Ingram has already raised $7.5 million for youth charities through their Mack, Jack & McConaughey golf-plus-music-plus-dinner-plus-fashion-plus-auction-plus-good-will weekends.

Mack Brown, Jack Ingram and Matthew McConaughey at 2017 MJM. Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman

Now the Academy Award-winning actor, the ESPN analyst and former Longhorns coach and the ACM Award-winning recording artist have set the date for their sixth annual fundraiser that culminates at ACL Live: April 12-13, 2018.

SEE PHOTOS: Mack, Jack and McConaughey gala with Miranda Lambert.

No headliner named yet, but past musical partners have included Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow and John Mellencamp. Additionally, Camila Alves will bring back your signature fashion show that weekend; past spotlighted designers have included Jason Wu, Veronica Beard, Badgley Mischka, Lela Rose, and Milly.

HISTORY: 17 parties that altered Austin.

This mega-event benefits groups such as CureDuchenne, Dell Children’s Medical Center, HeartGift, just keep livin Foundation and The Rise School of Austin.

Turk Pipkin interviews Turk Pipkin for Book of Every Other Month Club

This week, Turk Pipkin launches his new Book of the Every Other Month Club on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. Subscriptions help fund new libraries in Kenya as part of the ongoing Nobelity Project. Since he has enough time to write and publish six new books, I’ve added to his load by asking him to interview himself. So here are five questions and five answers by funnyman Pipkin — a project that only Pipkin would agree to do.

Turk Pipkin: So Turk, why would any writer be crazy enough to write and publish six books in a year?

Turk Pipkin: That’s what I keep asking myself! I’ve been writing the past decade while I was making films and building schools for the Nobelity Project, but only published “The Tao of Willie” (or “The Toe of Willie”, as my co-author Willie Nelson calls it). But these other stories and ideas kept coming. A while back, I sent my new novel “All for Love” to some New York publishing suspects and they all said it would make a great movie. Sure enough, I sold the movie rights in L.A., and I think it would be great if people could read the novel before they see the film.

RELATED: Austinites reflect on visits to Nobelity Project Kenya efforts.

One down, five to go. Are you getting any sleep?

What? Sorry, I dozed off there for a second. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that “The Sopranos” cast me as a narcoleptic. In answer to my question, I’m considering a tattoo that say, “I’ll sleep when I’m published.” In my defense, I have a great copy editor and six great book designers on the publishing team, and they’re all good at making coffee.

What’s your favorite of the books?

It’s not good to play favorites with your children. But I love them all and whichever one I’m playing catch with at any given time is my favorite. The past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing the copy edit and design for “Moleskin Mystery,” which is a New Orleans love story about a guy who finds a partially written journal and takes over the writing to solve a mystery and shed a little light in his own life.

“Moleskin Mystery” ships to subscribers in time for Christmas, which immediately changes my favorite, “Requiem for a Screenplay,” my second book-child which I describe as my magnificent failures — three original screenplays that went up and down the Hollywood development process without getting green-lit. They never made it to living color, but I think they stand up to the test of the time in black and white.

Next November when the sixth book, “A Christmas Song,” is shipping to subscribers, it will be my favorite. There area a lot of fans waiting for this follow-up to my Algonquin Christmas novel, “When Angels Sing,” and the movie “Angels Sing,” which starred Willie Nelson, Connie Britton, Harry Connick, Jr., and Kris Kristofferson.

Oh, that Turk Pipkin! The Austin entertainer and humanitarian puts out six books soon. Contributed

Are you shipping books all year at the same time that you’re building three new libraries at schools in Kenya?

All I want for Christmas is a direct flight from Austin to Nairobi. Is that asking too much? And yeah, every two months, I’ll be shipping another new book to subscribers. I’ll also be working with our building contractors, and our library book publisher in Kenya to get a beautiful libraries functional for the 1,500 kids at three remote schools. In the U.S., we take books for granted, but access to books for the kids we work with in Kenya and creates a lifelong love of books, improved literacy and higher scores. A new library can be life-changing as it enables kids to achieve their true potential. One for one, book for book, everyone who subscribes to the book club will be making that possible.

RELATED: Feed the Peace or Nobelity Project.

Sounds like a perfect Christmas gift. How does someone buy the series, and—more importantly—how close were you to the lions in those photos?

Turk, you of all people should know that there are links at to buy the series and get the “Moleskin Mystery” before Christmas. The higher subscription levels include canvas prints of my best Kenya wildlife photos. The big male lion with the scars was about 20 feet away and looking right at me. And that’s the real reason I can’t sleep.

Best Austin parties for an incredibly artful time

Design, photography and visual art count big in Austin’s social swirl this week.

Nov. 8: Austin Design Week Studio Tour. 4704A E. Cesar Chavez St.

Nov. 9: Pop Austin VIP Opening Night Party. Fair Market.

Nov. 9: Struggle for Justice: Four Decades of Civil Rights Photography reception. Briscoe Center for American History.

Nov. 9: A Night in Africa from African Leadership Bridge. Springdale Station.

Nov. 9: First Light: Preview Party for Creek Show. 708 E. Fifth St.

Nov. 9: Beat the Odds Benefit Concert with Pat Green. Stubbs.

Nov. 9 Due East Native Wildflower Dinner. Big Medium.

Nov. 9-12: Austin International Drag Festival. Various venues.

Nov. 10: ArtBash from Austin Alliance Austin. Native Hostel.

Nov. 10: Veteran’s Show from Austin Visual Arts Association. Austin ArtSpace.

Nov. 10: University of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Awards. UT Alumni Center.

Nov. 11-12: East Austin Studio Tour. Various venues.

Nov. 11: Patriots Ball. Georgetown Sheraton Hotel.

Nov. 12: Umlauf Presents Bernstein 100 Austin. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Nov. 12: Seton Development Board Gala salutes Luci Baines Johnson. Fairmont Austin.