SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is a conference like no other. Some 20,000 plus attendees descend upon downtown Austin for five days of schmoozing, boozing, pitching and investing.
With that many techies swarming the Austin Convention Center, finding a quiet spot to check email and get some quality work done can easily resemble the fruitless wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus in his 10-year search for home.
If you want to experience the local coffee shop scene – arguably one of the hottest in America – without sacrificing bandwidth, power outlets or work space then I suggest you check out the list below.
The beauty of Austin’s indie coffee shop movement is that at almost any time of the day you can find a great cup of coffee, perfect espresso pulls and even a well-curated selection of craft beers.
Rest assured, the coffee shops on this list were all checked against a battery of remote worker requirements: power outlets, wifi, workspace, parking. Even better, all are within a short pedicab ride of the convention center or five-minute taxi ride drive from the Convention Center and many downtown hotels.
Houndstooth Coffee (link) – Frost Tower Building
401 Congress Avenue, Suite 100
Walking distance to Convention Center. Great coffee selection, friendly baristas who won’t browbeat you if you don’t know the difference between single origin or blended espresso, good wi-fi and a decent spot to network with other techpreneurs. It may see more foot traffic than most during SXSW, given its proximity to SXSW.
Caffe Medici (link) – Austonian Building
200 Congress Avenue, #2B
Walking distance to Convention Center. Has ideal working space in a loft area. Very talented baristas, very hip mod design, very good people watching on the street. Wi-fi is competent, some challenging power outlet access but otherwise 2 coffee cups way up for this classic on Congress. If you don’t mind a short Uber drive, then consider traveling west down 6th Street to Caffe Medici’s 2nd location on West Lynn, which is far from the madding crowd.
Austin Java (link) – Austin City Hall Building
West 2nd Street
A bit more of a café then a true coffee shop but it bears mentioning due to its proximity to the Convention Center.
Jo’s Coffee (link)
242 West 2nd Street & 1300 South Congress
An Austin classic, the 2nd Street location is walkable but take a pedi-cab to the SoCo location, unless you have your walking shoes. The 2nd Street location is a café so you may compete with diners for table. A street-side seating section is good for working and people watching. Go to the South Congress location for the Austin vibe and people watching more than for working – honestly, I’m not even sure that location has wifi.
Dominican Joe Coffee Shop (link)
515 South Congress Avenue
Dominican Joe is a popular coffee shop for remote workers with plenty of tables, outlets and parking. All coffee comes directly from the Dominican Republic where it is cultivated with a conscientious eye toward environmental and economic sustainability.
Flat Track Coffee Co. & Roaster (link)
913 East Cesar Chavez
Looking for a hidden gem with great beans? Flat Track will not disappoint. It has a hole-in-the-wall appearance – literally, a small door on the side of a building that you would probably miss if you’re not looking for it. There’s limited space but you can still get a little work done while sipping on a single-origin macchiato roasted by its sister roaster in town.
1010 East Cesar Chavez
Cenote is a stalwart on the East Austin coffee scene. You can grab lunch or dinner while you’re working but the lunch crowd can get boisterous waiting in line to order breakfast tacos, Bahn Mis and Kale salad. If you do go you will be rewarded with good wifi and an outdoor seating area with lots of people watching opportunities.
Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors (link)
Near 11th & Chicon
This East Austin coffee shop is so new I couldn’t even find a website for it. But don’t let its newness scare you off as it can go toe-to-toe with any coffee shop in town. It’s a bit of a drive into East Austin but well worth the effort given its truly amazing coffee selection, skilled baristas and impressive workspace layout.
Wright Bros. Brew and Brew (link)
500 San Marcos
Such a long name for such a virtuous drinking destination. Fortunately, Brew & Brew, as the local crowd calls it, is a short pedicab ride away from the Convention Center. It’s also one of the only places in town where your barista can talk as knowledgably about coffee roasting as craft beer brewing. Workspace is found in the main area around the coffee / beer bar and also in a spill-out room to the left of the bar area.
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters (link)
3825 Lake Austin Blvd.
A long-time favorite in Austin, Mozart’s is perched beside Lake Austin and features a wide selection of coffee, tea and tasty pastries to go with its view of the lake and boats. Wifi is reliable and there is plenty of outdoor seating in case it’s crowded inside, which it often is. You can always stop by Abel’s on the Lake for a drink at the lakeside bar if you get burned out on coffee.
218 West 4th Street
A vigorous walk will land you at Halcyon, in the middle of the 2nd Street District; it’s a full bar, coffee shop, smoke shop and café all in one. Situated in a historic building, Halcyon has that keeping Austin weird vibe down. Patio seating allows you to enjoy the weather while catching up on the tech business news.
Easy Tiger (link)
709 East 6th Street
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Convention Center, Easy Tiger features coffee from a local Austin roaster and probably has the best baked goods – think golden flakey croissants – of any coffee shop in town. I should know, I recently made it my mission to find the best croissant in Austin and Easy Tiger was the Easy Winner.
The Coffee House (link)
617 Congress Avenue
Also known as the Hideout, it’s downtown Austin’s oldest indie coffee house. Seating is fairly available as are electrical outlets. A full bar beckons in the event you find yourself there with a group of friends around sunset. If you’re staying at The Driskill, you’re literally around the corner and can pop in for a quick morning Latte or a Dark Backward (coffee with 2-4 shots of espresso).
Juan Pelota Cafe (link)
400 Nueces Street
Located in Melow Johnny’s Bike Shop, you can work, get your bike serviced and even buy some impressive biking gear – all from one convenient location! While it is a bit of a hike from the Convention Center, it’s located on a quiet corner in downtown Austin and is a great place to chill, pretend you’re a biker and watch the occasional gaggle of tourists on a bike tour.
Royal Blue Grocery (link)
247 West 3rd Street
360 Nueces Street
609 Congress Avenue
While not technically a coffee shop, Royal Blue Grocery has a respectable selection of coffee drinks and a space to work, albeit a small one. You may have to compete for table space with the breakfast or lunch crowd; but if you need a quick shot of espresso and wifi to answer a few emails then RBG is the ‘dope.’
Walton’s Fancy & Staple (link)
609 West 6th Street
Equally known for its celebrity actress owner (Sandra Bullock), Walton’s is mostly a café but offers coffee, tea and a mouthwatering selection of pastries. There are plenty of tables, good wifi and parking. You’ll need to hire a pedicab or take a cab but the pastries alone make it worth the trip.
Enjoy this list of superlative coffee purveyors and be sure to tip your barista!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.