Airstream-trailer food trucks, vintage clothing stores, Bill Murray sightings—these are just a few of the unusual things associated with Austin culture. “Keep Austin Weird” is gospel here, and if there’s a group of people capable of being weird, it’s freelancers.
But weirdness can be a positive, especially when it comes to creative work. I know from personal experience the French press or Mr. Coffee at home doesn’t always cut it. The couch beckons; the dishes distract; Netflix is a few clicks away. Sometimes you simply must work elsewhere to shake things up.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve researched Austin’s coffee scene, checking out places both weird and normal. Here are five of the best coffee shops the city has to offer:
1. Flightpath Coffee House (Hyde Park: 5011 Duval St.)
With more than 20 working stations—most of which are vintage Formica and chrome tables with vinyl and chrome chairs—there is no shortage of space to take care of business at Flightpath Coffee. In the shop’s back room, where the majority of tables are located, mid-century modern lights hang down from the ceiling above each workspace—just enough light to illuminate, but not interrogate, your work. Working at Flightpath feels a little like being at an office where no one actually works together. It’s a quiet space—most of the noise comes from clicking on Apple keyboards. Two tips: Bike lanes lead directly to the shop and, if you pay in cash, you’ll get 5 percent off of your total. And for a final literary touch, there are red lockers reserved for well-published writers who wrote most of their work at Flightpath. Get busy!
2. Cuvée Coffee Bar (Holly: 2000 E. 6th St.)
Cuvée Coffee is an excellent spot to work for a reason you might not expect: It doesn’t offer Wi-Fi. Not only does this prevent the shop from being crowded with squatters slowing down the Internet, it also means you have to come prepared. The music isn’t loud, the mural on the back wall is painted in cool shades of blue, and Cuvée makes and serves a “nitrogenated” coffee on tap, Black & Blue, which takes cold brew and dark foamy beverages to another level. Cuvée is an easy bike ride down 6th Street, past Austin classics like Gypsy Lounge and East Side Showroom, automobile-sized succulent plants, and a few murals. This shop also offers free parking—which may not be weird, but it’s really thoughtful.
3. Epoch Coffee (North Loop: 221 W. North Loop Blvd.)
Until I’d moved here, I didn’t know any coffee shops that were open 24 hours. But Epoch Coffee in the North Loop is open all day and all night. A six-seat counter with outlets and plenty of tables make it a great place for focusing, and if the weather is nice, there is covered outdoor working space. Recently, I went to Epoch for a non-caffeinated working stint and had a ginger lime hot tea, which had the spice of a good tom yum soup and none of the salt. Old school hip-hop, stained glass windows, and the vintage lamps that hang over each table make for a laid-back atmosphere—a perfect antidote to deadline pressure. If Run DMC isn’t your thing when you visit, wood-paneled archways lead into another brighter and quieter room.
4. Wright Bros. Brew and Brew (East Cesar Chavez: 500 San Marcos St.)
Ample natural light, minimal decoration, and an Ethiopian cup of coffee with tasting notes of “biscuits and gravy,” set you up for writing success at Brew and Brew. The baristas even bring over an aeropress and pour your coffee table-side. The hospitality doesn’t end there. The “Brew & Brew,” a customer favorite, consists of an eight-ounce draft beer paired with a shot of espresso or a cortado. The walls here are painted light blue with a gold stripe that recall the famous Greek paper coffee cups served in New York City. “We are happy to serve you,” those cups say, and at Brew & Brew it’s no different. All you’re left to do is worry about your next assignment.
5. Bennu Coffee (East Austin: 2001 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.)
On a teal wall across the street from Bennu Coffee lounge, there’s a mural of a toast slice and melting butter joined by a red heart that reads “You’re my butter half.” For a long work grind, Bennu is your better half. It’s another 24-hour operation, replete with high-energy music like Talking Heads and Belle and Sebastian, pizza by the slice or vegan mac and cheese for writing sustenance, and outlets aplenty (each table has one in reach). The LED lighting over the workspaces might even make you forget what time of day it is. Bennu is spacious and comfortable—a hodgepodge of tables, couches, and patrons ranging from students to writers to hanger-outers. Plus, it’s a cool break from the Austin heat.