When most people travel to the Lone Star State, I don’t think Coffee is the first thing on their mind – unless it’s me, then its the first thing on your mind at all times!
As I planned my trip to Austin, TX I did my homework in advance and I was pleasantly surprised to read about the booming “coffee scene” the Capital of Texas had going for itself. So knowing I was going to be working from Austin for a few days the #AustinCoffeeTour began!
There were plenty of websites reviewing the different coffee shops and venues to check out. The two websites that helped guide me were Austin.Eater.com and Foursquare.
Austin.Eater.com had fantastic photos, great reviews and helpful maps. Their Austin Coffee review defined 28 excellent coffee shops in Austin – a great starting point for the #AustinCoffeeTour.
FourSquare.com was also a great resource as the reviews and photos are all from customer feedback and personal testimonies.
But the number one resource for my #AustinCoffeeTour was the recommendation of good friends and Austin natives (Jess, Meg & Ryan) – they helped me find one specific coffee shop that wasn’t even on my radar but left a lasting impression (and tacos – oh, so many tacos).
DISCLAIMER – I am not a coffee expert, this is my own personal perspective and feedback. I don’t know a damn thing about the beans, where they came from, who ground them or if they were fair trade/organic or magical and lead to a bean-stock. BUT I do know what I like and this review is based on that!
So I packed up my work bag with laptop in tow to work from different coffee shops in and around Austin, and here is what I wanted to report…
Houndstooth Coffee introduced something brand new to my taste buds and almost two weeks later and I’m still craving another taste of their signature “Lime Iron.”
The Lime Iron (from what I can remember) is a smooth cold brew infused with lime and sugar – a remarkably refreshing and light flavor that tasted like coffees exotic and sweet cousin – that didn’t stray too far from its cold brew roots. If the description didn’t do the drink justice, the picture below sure does!
This locally owned staple of the Austin Coffee community did not disappoint! The whole place was sleek, clean and welcoming – but not nearly as welcoming and helpful as the Baristas on site. I hate that I didn’t remember my baristas name, even with a long line behind me, he wanted to make sure I was blown away with my selection that morning (because of course I told him all about my trip and my current #AustinCoffeeTour). Houndstooth’s website says that their baristas don’t just pour beverages – they craft them – and craft they did! The Lime Iron is a must – and if anyone wants to overnight me some to California I’ll happily pay the shipping!
Another unexpected stop on my #AustinCoffeeTour was Irenes’s. Just after lunch before my 1:00pm conference call, I was roaming the streets of Austin looking for another coffee shop when I saw the lush green wall, neon lights and creative billboard inviting me to Irene’s.
While Irene’s may be more of a cocktail bar with a midcentury American vibe, I loved this place and enjoyed a slight twist on my traditional coffee. While the coffee menu from the counter had the expected drip coffee, expresso, americano and chai options – I sprung for the Iced White Chocolate Matcha Latte.
Firstly, because it sounded fancy and had the longest name on the menu… Secondly, Texas is hot and humid and the sound of anything ICED sounded heavenly. Now Matcha isn’t coffee – it’s ground tea leaves – but it was on the coffee menu and this is my coffee blog so we’re gonna talk about it! The Iced White Chocolate Matcha Latte was delicious! There is a subtle green tea vibe from the matcha power that is blended with the steamed milk but it is refreshing and is a pleasant taste to mix up your coffee routine if you’re use to espresso everyday.
Like I mentioned above, the billboard caught my eye and drew me in instantly! I only wish I had time to come back in the evening to experience the patio and one (or some) of the signature cocktails they are known for – but back to coffee…
Austin, TX is very walkable – as long as you can brave the heat – and not jus walkable, but CLEAN and walkable. I was really impressed with the whole downtown area, centered around the State Capital building (pictured below) which was gorgeous – but they didn’t have coffee, so moving on…
As much as I travel, one of my favorite things is connecting with old friends and meeting new ones – and Austin was no exception! There are a few very special people I get to work with throughout the year who live in Austin and I’m lucky to be able to call them friends – they suggested I visit “The Canopy” which is a very urban and upcoming hotspot in eastern Austin (right?) which is home to a studio, art gallery and a coffee shop among other catnip for millennials (there were vintage trailers in the back, murals on the concrete walls, overhead Edison bulb lighting and and art gallery : hipster heaven).
San-Ten Coffee & Eats was one of my favorite places in all of Austin! I got to meet up with my friends here early one morning and it was a one of a kind experience! San-Ten is a Japanese inspired Coffee Shop with popular coffee offerings and delicious food menu as well.
I started the morning with the Ohayo which was rich and smooth – so smooth that I had to fight the urge to gulp the drink down, it was delicious! And the shop was creatively decorated with so much Japanese influence and the level of presentation extended deep into the drinks.
There is an art to latte art – crafting a leaf (or rosetta) or a heart is not an easy task. So when you get a drink with a perfect leaf poured from steamed milk over your latte – you know the work put into the drink will most likely reflect the work put into the finishing details!
One day I will learn the art of latte art… Until then, I will admire them one cup at a time! I have to give a special shout-out to my favorite Barista from Los Gatos, CA, Arman – No one can leave a finishing touch on a latte like he can.
Yeah, this is my #AustinCoffeeTour – but one cannot survive strictly on coffee alone (trust me, I’ve tried) and luckily for me, the toasts at San-Ten exceeded expectation. When you visit a popular coffee shop, you expect the homerun to come from the coffee and may steal a base or two with small bites – but the grand slam was the pairing of the breakfast toast and lattes (and I have no idea where the baseball reference came from – possibly the outfield, lol).
After the Ohayo and the (yummy) breakfast toast, we moved on to the macchiato set. The set includes a small steamed milk latte paired with a shot of espresso. The espresso was surprisingly sweet and matched perfecting with the smooth latte.
Catching up with good people is good for the soul – but also provides ample opportunity to make your way through the coffee menu – and that we did!
And I hate that I can’t remember the name of the last drink I had, but it was the winner for the day! It tasted like a rich vanilla milkshake blended with two shots of espresso. I had no shame in downing this in a few sips – I wish I knew how to make lattes this smooth… I’d never leave the house (which may be a good thing).
After a little more visiting with friends, I was off for a few more conference calls and then on to my next “nesting” location for the afternoon!
Quick Shoutout- Thanks for making time to meet & hang, Meg & Jess!
My new friend, Ryan (not pictured – sorry, dude) generously gave me a few more recommendations which I jumped on!
My next stop was Lazarus, a brewery made popular by their craft beer, coffee menu and most importantly their life changing tacos. I know, this wasn’t intended to be a food blog – but I feel like every place in Austin served Tacos. Literally – gas station tacos, coffee shop tacos and I’m sure they even have elevator tacos and bus stop tacos.
With the weather is Austin reaching near death (I’m only being slightly dramatic) I found refuge in the House Brewed Cold Brew from Lazarus. This Californian has been spoiled by our coastal weather and near perfect climate (aside from that whole global warming and state wide drought thing) so anywhere away from the humidity with air conditioning was a welcomed venue – made only better by a tasty menu of food and drinks like Lazarus provided.
While I really enjoyed the cold brew (no cream or sugar needed) I have to report on the tacos… I asked the bartender/barista if the tacos were any good, and he literally laughed at me as if It was the most ridiculous question he had ever heard – and now that I have experienced them, I 100% support his reaction. I put my ordering in his hands and he brought me a Chorizo Taco from the breakfast menu a and an “Al Pastor” taco from their lunch/dinner menu.
These tacos can only be described as a carnival of delights for the taste buds. The Al Pastor taco was brisket that was marinated to perfection and exploded with flavor as it met your tongue – and the chorizo taco from the breakfast menu would make anyone a breakfast person! I devoured both tacos without even touching the salsas – which I’m sad about because I heard that the “green sauce” is amazing. I also regret not experiencing the craft beer selection. There was an actual craft beer tour happening as I was on a conference call with 30+ people working their way through the beer selections ounce by ounce – but like I said, I was still working and bouncing between conference calls on this #AustinCoffee(and taco)Tour.
When roaming Congress Ave in the afternoon, I had to appreciate this sign outside of TOMS’s – while they promote their glasses and shoes (with great purpose) I loved the shout out to “Coffee” and the love of “Love” – two of my favorite things.. but my shoes and sunglass game was pretty strong as well.
And the last – but not least on my #AustinCoffeeTour that I wanted to mention is Flat Track Coffee (another A+ recommendation from Ryan)! In my previous post, I shared the colorful mural that covers the east side of this coffee shop.
Flat Track Coffee combines two of my favorite things – bicycles and coffee!
I am sad to report that there are 130+ cooler pictures of this place on Yelp.com than the ones I have to share – which only speaks to what a popular spot this is for tourists and as a must visit for coffee loves in and around East Austin.
Upon walking in to Flat Track, you’re immediately pulled to both sides of the shop – Do you venture to the right to see what the bike mechanics are working on or get a closer look at the bikes and vintage artwork on the wall – or go left and dive in to the coffee menu and bakery items?!?!
I must have been standing in the entrance looking around longer than normal, because the barista warmly asked me if I needed anything and if it were my first time in the shop (I suppose my tourist light was shining brighter than usual). I gave my “I’m visiting Austin” introduction and he suggested I get the Cortado – a popular choice from the regulars.
A Cortado is a small drink made up of 1/2 espresso and 1/2 warm milk – the milk is used to take the acidic bite off of the espresso – and that it did! Again, the craftsmanship in the look of the drink is always an indicator of how good the actual drink is going to be, and this cortado was no exception!
I spent a few hours here knocking out e-mails and returning calls, and I loved the vibe of this place. Multiple locals and “regulars” all greeted by the staff and each other – totally a neighborhood coffee shop and meeting places for cycling enthusiasts. A few of the staff were in the back of the coffee portion of the shop grinding beans and comparing the aromas of each of the beans and their blends. You could tell this was their passion and something they truly put their hearts into – and their matching Flat Track shirts in different colors set the scene or what could be a reality TV show on “Creating the Perfect Cup.”
I followed up my first drink with their signature cold brew – which was rich with notes of graham cracker and cola (their words not mine) – but damn it was good! Flat Track is the kind of place I wish I could visit daily – so much, that I had to get one of their signature T-Shirts. A nice reminder of the cold brew, the cortado and most importantly my #AustinCoffeeTour.
I know these were just a few of the amazing places Austin has to offer – and I cannot wait to plan another trip back to see more of the city, bike more of the trails and get a bigger taste of Austin (literally).
If you have any recommendations, please let me know! I want to get back sooner than later and want to make the most of my trip! As always, thanks for reading and I can’t wait to share more from this amazing roadtrip with ya’ll over the next few blog posts!