When Austin-based Houndstooth Coffee announced last December that they were planning a store in Dallas, it created an audible hum amongst the city’s coffee community. Dallas, where I am based, has in recent years felt like a second fiddle when compared to the wildly exciting food and coffee scene in nearby Austin, a city known around the world as a kind of global millennial Capital of Cool and a shorthand for what Texas has to offer in terms of progressive cafe & restaurant culture. Houndstooth’s opening in Dallas sparked more than a few conversations about respect for the Big D, and this city’s place in the wider Texas coffee boom.
Armchair polemics about rivalries aside–and I assure you Sprudge readers in Australia or Poland or whatever, there are inter-Texas coffee rivalries afoot–the August 14th opening of Houndstooth is an exciting development for the city. Houndstooth’s expansion to Dallas has felt like a long, slow burn that’s finally ignited, and their bringing of Coffer, the naturally fermentation-carbonated coffee soda from Austin with them, marks an important moment in the larger entrepreneurial coffee scene here in Texas.
Set in East Dallas’s lively Knox-Henderson neighborhood, Houndstooth owner Sean Henry and company are taking over the 1900 N. Henderson Ave storefront previously occupied by The Pearl Cup, a casualty in the specialty coffee arms race sweeping the city. Henry is originally from Dallas, and has spent the past few months building anticipation for the new store by opening Saturday afternoon pop-ups at various neighborhood retailers; Transit Bicycle Company and the Bonobos Guideshop are among the handful of local spots to host a temporary residence. “I believe in place,” Henry told me. “Whenever I fell into specialty coffee in other cities, I just wanted to bring better coffee to Texas because that’s where I’m from. Dallas is a great city that gets a bad rap sometimes. We’ve met some amazing people while we’ve lived here and we’re excited about the future.”
The crosshatch wooden façade spanning the main entryway of the lime green building foreshadows the wooded patterns present throughout much of the build-out. Fashioned by RAD Designs, the company that created Houndstooth spin-off Tweed Coffee Roasters‘ packaging, the interior of the Dallas Houndstooth is thoughtful and fully-realized, much like their Austin locations. The crisp, open feel of clean white and exposed light brick walls, punctuated by a few dashes of color is particularly reminiscent of their original 42nd Street store. This time, the color splashes come from the teal barstool and table legs created by Petrified Design. As Henry told me, “The design goal is fueled by one of our shop goals: increase the guest experience. We wanted to create a space that would be available and accessible for different types of guests.” He said he hoped to create a space where “from the first-timer to the regular to the coffee pilgrim, there’s something for everyone.”
One deviation from the established Houndstooth aesthetic comes in the choice in espresso machine. Whereas the Austin shops opted for more design forward machines, a Kees van der Westen Spirit at the Frost Bank building and a Kees-designed La Marzocco Mistral at the 42nd Street location, Henry decided instead to go with a functional juggernaut for Dallas: a three-group La Marzocco Linea PB. Two black Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima Pro grinders sit to the left of the Linea, currently serving espresso blends from Tweed and Counter Culture Coffee; the Timepiece and Rustico blends, respectively.
In addition to serving their own Tweed Coffee, Houndstooth Dallas marks one of Counter Culture’s first appearances in the city. It’ll also be the first Dallas sighting of Supersonic, a well-hyped Berkeley roaster being served at Houndstooth’s Austin location as well.
Behind the espresso station is Houndstooth’s brew bar, which also deviates slightly from that of the Austin stores. Instead of customer-facing manual brews–that is to say, baristas with kettles in hand conversing with patrons at the bar–the Dallas shop makes use of two Curtis Gold Cup automated pour-over brewers, resting them against the olive wall. And while this may cause the barista to momentarily turn away from the bar, Henry tells me he elected the Curtis brewers because the automation actually frees up the barista to interact with guests more easily while still producing an excellent and repeatable cup of coffee. The Gold Cups are paired with a black Mahlkonig EK-43 to brew Houndstooth’s current offerings: Tweed’s Sertaozinho from Brazil through a Kalita Wave and Counter Culture’s Finca El Puente from Honduras through a Chemex.
And because this is Texas, and summer in Texas at that, iced coffee drinks are a necessity. Houndstooth has this covered. Beyond more standard iced imbibements like Japanese iced coffee and cold brew, their menu boasts a coffee julep, a bubbly and refreshing espresso-based take on a mint julep. That’s in addition to the aforementioned Coffer soda, appearing here for the first time outside of Austin city limits.
In a clever use of space, Houndstooth is working on converting an old storage closet near the back entry into a smaller walk-up/bike-through coffee bar. The cinder block portion of the wall still needs to be knocked out and replaced with a sliding window, but Henry is expecting to have it completed in the next month or so. Once finished, he wants to install a single group Slayer espresso machine along with a second Mahlkonig EK-43 in order for the satellite bar to provide customers with a different experience from that of the main bar. “We want to cultivate a different experience for those guests,” Sean Henry told me. “Guest baristas, special menu offerings, maybe just some good conversation over drinks. That’s what we hope that area becomes.”
Perhaps more important than the new coffees and high-minded design is the buzz Houndstooth’s arrival has generated around Dallas. As any local with a Facebook account and the slightest interest in coffee can attest, the past few days have brought about a handful of articles heralding the new shop, more so than other openings in recent memory. This barrage of press has elevated the city’s awareness of specialty coffee, which is undoubtedly a good thing.
But while there is a lot of hype surrounding the long-awaited Houndstooth, the write-ups are more a reaction to a genuine excitement than they are a manufacturer of it. Glowing praise marks a drastic rhetoric shift from the ubiquitous “They paid HOW MUCH for a coffee machine?” articles of a few years ago, signaling that Dallas is more ready to accept coffee as a craft over just something you drink when you need a pick-me-up.
With their new 1900 N. Henderson Ave cafe, Houndstooth are bringing national, no, global attention to Dallas. Not for the TV show, not for the Cowboys, and not for Dealey Plaza, but for coffee. Sometimes the future feels like a long time coming.
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.
Photos by Desiree Espada.