This entry isn’t very “crawl” style because it only covers two coffee shops, but I thought it was a catchy title and a great idea for a future post. That will be a good one, all java-induced.
First of all, I really appreciate the abundance of coffee houses that Austin has to offer. Where I grew up we only had Starbucks, and a ton of them, so it has been nice having a little variety, and some character, in the many locally owned coffee shops here in town. This past weekend I spent some time in two particular cafés: a new place for me, called Pacha, and Progress coffee, a joint that I have been to on a handful of occasions.
Beginning with Progress because I have been there multiple times and have more than just one experience to go off of here: The place is cute and hip, almost too hip for the regular non-hip Austinite. Some patrons really stick out like a sore thumb. I wonder if this is because the staff and local clientele are really hip with their cycling caps and shoulder bags and really hip tattoos or if the sore thumbs are too dolled up in Louis Vuitton. Either way, Progress is very clean and the location is kind of neat – right off Fifth Street and I-35 and across from the Austin Pipe & Supply Co. building and field where lots of South by Southwest shows took place this spring. Progress has a narrow patio that gives you a nice view of the highway and some tall downtown hotel buildings. This section of Fifth Street also seems pretty popular for small block parties and what not, like the small block party for the Bike Film Festival that took place last weekend. It wasn’t much of a block party, just a few tents with dozens of bike wheels and small ramps for BMXers to do their thing. A few tents were set up for bike shops, but it just looked more like a good place for local bikers to get together and sweat. A lot of them showed up at Progress to rehydrate and show off their sweet tats.
While the food and drink menu at Progress is priced moderate to high, they try to use mostly local and organic ingredients and compostable dishware. I have to give them major props there. The sandwiches are priced kind of on the unrealistic side, in my opinion. I don’t think I will pay $8 for a sandwich at any coffee house. Aside from the salads and sandwiches, they serve typical coffee house pastries and treats, most of which I assume are locally made and delicious.
While most of my experiences at Progress have been mediocre as far as service goes, the second to last time I visited I was on my way to never returning and cursing the establishment forever, until one of the nice baristas made it all better. We were in a rush and I ordered a chai latte with soy and an extra espresso shot, over ice. Maybe my order was sort of complicated, but baristas should have their game down. I watched the confused looking gal behind the counter make a chai of some sort (I knew this one wasn’t mine because the spices were drowning in milk), but she looked all confused. I just sat there thanking the coffee gods that she wasn’t making my drink, but would she be making my drink next? While I hoped that wouldn’t be the case, I think I hoped a little too hard because 15 minutes passed by and she never called up my order. What the hoo-ha! I told a different barista about the wait and she was extremely nice about it and made one hell of a chai latte right there in front of me. Then she gave me two coupons for free drinks. Now that is supreme service and I just keep going back.
On to Pachamamma!
Just called Pacha, the décor and menu of this coffee house are heavily influenced by South American food and art. The whole place screams South American culture with the handicrafts, festive paint job, and empanadas. I recently discovered this place when I moved to a more central location in Austin and found it next to my favorite pet store, Bark ‘n Purr. On my first quest for some delicious South American style coffee, I noticed the café is small but still feels like a joyous place to hang out and chillax. The fact that it used to be a doctor’s office for nearly 30 years really gives it a cozy feel with the fireplace and huge windows. Now Pacha has become a one-of-a-kind institution here in Austin with all of the colorful paint and tiles that make up the décor along with the TV fish tank that has real fish! (I’ve always heard people talk about how cool these things are, but have never actually seen one in real life.)
In addition to just looking and feeling awesome, the full menu at Pacha is extraordinary. They serve mostly vegan and vegetarian items, which I find very intriguing because it is always a wonder to me how so many delicious things can be completely meat- or animal-free. My favorite items are the empanadas: sweet potato, hummus-tabouli, spinach, mushroom, eggplant, and pear. Freaking yum. But the menu is full of other sweet and savory items including tamales, quesadillas, muffins, scones, and yogurt (Fage, the really delicious Greek kind.) If you wanted to, you could eat three or four meals a day at Pacha because they have tons of breakfast items, a fantastic lunch special, and range of things you could eat for the evening meal time.
I am also really into Pacha’s coffee. Because it was my first visit, I asked the barista for drink advice. She recommended the Pacha Latte, which at first made me erck because lattes are usually whole milky, sweet, and make me not feel so good. But the Pacha Latte comes from a super secret recipe that not even the baristas knew. All they could tell me was that it is nondairy, lightly caffeinated, and slightly sweet. It didn’t sound all that bad so I got a big one over ice. It didn’t taste that bad either. It was delicious and I could tell right away that it was lightly caffeinated and slightly sweet. And I didn’t really miss the dairy. But to even things out a bit, I ordered a brownie for 50 cents and it gave me all of the sweet milky/buttery goodness that I missed in that latte.
500 San Marcos St
Austin, TX 78702
4618 Burnet Road
Austin, TX 78756