Austin: Coffeehouses + SoCo Shopping

I drank a lot of coffee in Austin. A.lot.of.it. As a result, I feel somewhat qualified to tell you the best places to nab a morning joe or an afternoon-perk-me-up.

Coffee Houses

Houndstooth

I had heard and heard and heard about this coffee house and so expected great things on visiting it. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you will be, either.

Royal Blue Grocery

I can’t in all fairness recommend this place as I only got tea there. My friend ordered a soy latte and said it was good. I am anxious to visit the store that will be opening in my area later this year and try their espresso offerings for myself. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to stop in for a try and get some groceries while you’re waiting on your coffee.

Seventh Flag

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This was my favorite. It anchored the street we were staying on, so I was here several times over the course of our weekend. The staff were very friendly, as were the customers. It was definitely more of a local place than some of the larger offerings in Austin. The fact that a Gourdough’s food truck was right across the street was definitely a bonus.

Halcyon

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Late night coffee bar? Yes please! The coffee was good but the atmosphere was even better. It’s everything you’d imagine a late-night coffee bar full of java’d people would be.

Toms

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Maker of shoes AND coffee. Who knew? In any case, their latte was a satisfying afternoon perk. The free citrus-infused water was a major bonus as well. Oh, and the surroundings were – in typical Toms fashion – self-consciously comfort-meets modern-meets hipster-meets save the world style. (Quick Query: for every cup of coffee sold, do they give away a cup to someone in need?)

Shopping

The problem with the stores in Austin is the problem with everything in that city: which to choose when you have limited time? This is where we went, so hopefully our experiences will help you to decide whether it’s worth visiting or not should you be facing the same scheduling conundrum. Honestly, we didn’t visit as many independent shops as we would have liked, but we also had limited amounts of time and so confined ourselves to the tourist areas of Austin. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to explore stores in other parts of the city (and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments!)

Book People

This place is paradise for bibliophiles. You won’t find shelves full of the conventional offerings (although they are offered, just not in the quantity of Barnes & Noble, for instance), which is why this place is so great. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet new books, or even just new editions of favorites. I had been looking for an affordable copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast for quite a while (no success anywhere!) and so was delighted to find a lovely paperback on sale here.

Visit their website for store info.

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store

This place was a madhouse, but getting past people is only part of your problem. The other part is deciding on which vintage items to buy! I happened to be there on a sale day and scored a gorgeous pastel dress and an Italian-made wool dress (from the 60’s, presumably) for less than $15. There was much, much more to be had but one must draw the line somewhere…

Here is their website for store location and hours.

Uncommon Objects

This place is the most eclectic mix of antique, retro, junky, and chic. You have to see it to believe it.

Visit their website for store info.

Outdoor Markets on South Congress 

If supporting local artists is your thing, then the outdoor market (mostly jewelry and soaps) will make you happy. It is small and right on the well-trod path of South Congress.

Whole Foods

The mother of all Whole Foods, the Lamar location is their flagship store. Unless you have a tiny Whole Foods near you, this place can be skipped as it was simply a larger version of their typical offerings.

But if you really must visit, here is their store info.

South Congress Books

I enjoyed stopping in this bookstore for a quick look. It had a clean layout and its small space was well-stocked with interesting books. I’ll definitely be returning on my next trip!

Visit their website for store info.

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