When you live in a place that has more than 100 straight days with temperatures over 100 degrees, it is important to drink lots of fluids. Here in Austin, we like our fluids to contain alcohol or caffeine. Here are some of my recommendations.
Bennu (MLK and Poquito) I like to sit at the bar, which is usually the only place inside with open seats since this is a 24-hour joint that is constantly teeming with students. I find it kind of calming to be around all of those college kids cramming for exams and writing papers. Maybe because it reminds me that I do not have to do homework anymore.
Texas Coffee Traders (4th and about Navasota) I used to ride past this place all the time and wonder about it. From the outside, it just looks like a big warehouse, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It is a family-owned business, and they offer a lot of organic and sustainably grown beans. My favorite part was smelling all the different varieties. It’s cool, and funky, and a little industrial feeling. Not a place to sit and work, necessarily, but they do have a patio.
Thunderbird Coffee (multiple locations) The T-Bird up on Koenig is pretty quiet and laid back, while the one on Manor has a bit more of a party scene, especially on the weekends when the pitchers of mimosas are flowing.
Cenote (Cesar Chavez and Medina) I love the atmosphere and style of this place. The food
is good, the people are nice, and a friend told me that he saw Ryan Gosling there once a couple months ago. So there’s that.
Once Over Coffee Bar (South First and Crockett) I happened upon this place when I was briefly living down south. It is one of the friendliest establishments I’ve been to in Austin. Everyone seems to know everyone. The baristas are very sociable and warm. And the back porch is gorgeous—as long as it is not mosquito season.
Cafe Pacha (Burnet and about 46th) How could you not love a place named after “Pachamama,” a fertility goddess of the Andes? They are all organic and serve housemade pastries, pancakes, quiches (and, of course, coffee) in an eclectic, multicultural community-centered space.
La Tazza Fresca (Guadalupe and 37th) Better known as “that coffee shop near the Spin Cycle on Guadalupe” they make the best cafe au lait I have ever had. The decor feels vaguely Middle Eastern and they have a bunch of hookahs (though I’ve never seen anyone use them). They play a lot of classic vocal jazz and other relaxing music. Try the hummus sandwich and tomato soup!
Bars and such
In addition to the old standbys, like Spiderhouse (go for Mexican Martini Wednesday happy hour and try the Street Hassle tacos) and Rio Rita, where the Bloody Marys really are the best alcoholic-salad-cocktail in town, I have a few preferred watering holes. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these fine establishments.
If it’s beer you are after, I like the Draught House Pub and Brewery (42nd and Medical Parkway)—the outdoor seating area has a very communal, European feel, like you could make friends with everyone. Maybe it’s the rainbow umbrellas. It just feels like a party.
If you are really into brewing though, you should also go to Blackstar Co-op Pub and Brewery (N. Lamar and about St. Johns). It’s a bit out of the way, but the concept is cool—it’s a true cooperative owned and operated by beermakers and beer aficionados. They don’t even accept tips for the workers because they insist on paying a fair living wage to begin with. What a concept! I recommend the Co-op Sampler, which has a 5-oz sample of each of the co-op’s five house beers.
Finally, on the beer front, I will greatly miss the Dog and Duck Pub (Guadalupe and 17th). It’s a classic English pub with super nice people. Try the french fries. They are freakishly delicious.
As one might expect, I did a good amount of honky-tonkin’ here in Texas. I never made it to chicken shit bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn (Burnet and about Houston), but I sure had some good times there listening to amazing music and just shootin’ the shit in the parking lot out back.
And I finally made it to the White Horse Honky Tonk (5th and Comal) last weekend. I have been hearing so much about it that I thought it might be disappointing, but within an hour of being there, I had done a shot of tequila and was dancing my ass off to some conjunto music. I ended up staying for the Urban Achievers Brass Band and all the way through the Second Sunday Sock Hop. I chatted a bit with Dennis (the man, the legend) and I have to agree that he is the best barkeep in Austin. I like this place so much! And the tacos from the cart out back really are delicious.
Some other faves
The Grand Social Club and Billiards Room (Airport and 46th) for pool playin’ and cheap beer. It’s a great place to hang out before sneaking into an apartment pool for some illegal late night swimming.
My Bookpeople peeps turned me on to The Tiniest Bar in Texas (5th and Bowie). Don’t let the name fool you, it’s actually not all that tiny, when you count the outdoor area. It’s just a good ol’ drinkin’ with friends place.
The Yellow Jacket Social Club (5th and Chalmers) is just a fun all-around bar that manages to stay a little edgy even with a charcuterie plate on the menu. It seems to be a hangout for vintage motorcycle-ridin’ dudes and hot chicks, but not in a horrible way. And Tamale House East is right next door!
And, finally, if you REALLY don’t want any caffeine or alcohol and you actually want something healthy, there is Juiceland and Daily Juice (multiple locations). I guess they used to be owned by the same people, but now they are separate establishments. I like the Daily Juice on Duval and the Juiceland on Barton Springs. Their fruit / vegetable juices and smoothies will heal whatever ails you. Believe me!