March Madness is upon us once again, but not the American college basketball trope with the bracketology and the bubble teams. This madness, nay, lunacy, is the 70,000-plus-person invasion of Austin, Texas known as South by Southwest, the weeklong multimedia blowout turning anything resembling a street in ATX into a parking lot. It is a heaving mass of humanity. Young, sweaty humanity. And while the grumblings about the corporate takeover grow with each passing year (See: McDonald’s opening a food truck during the festivities in some weird attempt to gain cultural capital with Millennials), the fact remains the SXSW is one of the best places to catch all the new and cool things in the worlds of music, film, and comedy.
Sitting somewhere just below booze, but way above food, exists coffee’s place in the hierarchical order of necessity for surviving the surfeit of 24-hour party people about to flood Austin. And finding a shop that doesn’t suck isn’t always easy, especially for out-of-towners. But we’re here to help. Adding to last year's list of SXSW coffee haunts (and various feature articles published in the last 12 months about shops in ATX), we’ve rounded up five more Austin shops to visit during South by Southwest.
Patika Wine and Coffee
Patika would have been on last year's list, had its downtown coffee cart not been forced to close because…the parking lot in which they resided was being rented out for South By. Their cart will be operational this year, and Patika now has its own brick and mortar shop, a mid-century-modern-inspired beauty. Patika's coffee program is anchored by two local roasters, the OG Cuvee Coffee and the upstart Wild Gift Coffee, whose owner and head roaster Clancy Rose just took second in the Roaster’s Choice competition at this years United States Coffee Championships. Patika also offers a monthly-ish rotating guest brew; during my visit, they were serving up San Francisco’s De La Paz.
Beyond coffee, Patika offers a pretty healthy selection of baked goods, all made in house. Masala chai scone, chorizo-manchego biscuit, lemon-blueberry-tequila muffin—the pastries are a sharp diversion from the standard fare normally found in coffee shops, and it is a welcome change. And Patika is stocked with a nice wine and beer selection, befitting the laid-back vibe at the shop. It’s a good place to stop in to get away from all the hustle and bustle going on just about everywhere else.
No list of Austin cool is complete without a nod to the east side, and Sister Coffee is well worth such a head tilt. A converted mini-trailer serving Blue-Bottle, Sister changed management earlier this year, and new owner Amanda Farris brings with her a bi-coastal coffee pedigree: she's a veteran of both Ritual in San Francisco, and Gimme! in New York. As to be expected from a trailer the size of Sister’s, the operation is small—just one barista and a single-group espresso machine (and brewed coffee)—but the output is top notch, keeping up with and even outpacing the drink quality at the bigger name shops around town.
Along with serving Barrett’s, a local micro-roaster, Farris has brought Ritual to Sister, making hers the only shop in town to carry beans from thee longstanding Bay Area coffee nerd favorites. Sister is also the only cafe on this list to not serve booze, unless you count the minuscule amounts of alcohol in their deliciously neutral kombucha made in-house. Which I do. Because it’s so tasty.
Stouthaus Coffee Pub
Only open for six months, the newest addition to the Austin coffee scene isn’t in Austin at all. Based in Sunset Valley, a less than 1,000 occupant city surrounded on all sides by Austin, Stouthaus is the southern- and southwest-most shop in the area, so it’s pretty fitting for this list. Though it is only eight short miles from downtown, Stouthaus feels far, far away from all the craziness, making it a nice, quiet respite from the sensory barrage going on a few miles up the road.
The Stouthaus coffee program is straightforward but well done. They carry an assortment of Cuvee coffees including Black & Blue, theit nitrogenated cold brew, which they have both on tap and in cans. They also have 17 other taps devoted to a nice selection of Texas and national beers. Along with local stalwarts Live Oak, (512), and Houston darlings (technically Magnolia, Texas) Lone Pint, Stouthaus carries big name national microbrews like Prairie Artisan Ales and Firestone Walker. Southwest Austin may not necessarily be on your way to any SXSW event, but it’s worth a visit if you want to, you know, breathe, or like, not be touching six different strangers at any one given time.
Radio Coffee & Beer
Radio is part of a two-front boom going on in Austin right now: they are part of the new class of shops and restaurants putting down stakes in the now-cool-again South Austin area, and they are a member of Austin’s growing Stumptown contingent, with shops across the city using the Portland-based roaster. Based out of a house-turned-cafe on Manchaca (pronounced man-chack, rhymes with man-shack), Radio is a pretty large establishment, with its size doubling thanks to the massive patio outside. But even with all that square footage, it gets pretty crowded in there and parking comes at a premium, so be prepared to walk.
Radio is a pretty nice one-stop shop for all your sustenance-related needs: they’ve got coffee, they’ve got beer (lots of beer, like 25 taps worth), and they’ve got food. A permanent food truck, the excellent Veracruz Tacos, is always stationed out on the patio and stays open until midnight.
Radio is also a concert venue focused mostly on folk and folk-adjacent music. They have shows going on every night during SXSW, making for a softer landing on the comedown from the louder festivities during the day.
Thunderbird Cafe and Tap Room
You may not have heard of Thunderbird, but you’ve undoubtedly seen them, as they were the inspiration behind the “23 Types of Baristas” list that lurched its way around your social medias last year (we all remember Rick). Thunderbird is by no means new to the Austin coffee scene–the shop pre-dates this current Austin coffee boom– but Thunderbird has done a good job of evolving along with the coffee scene.
Thunderbird has two locations, one on Koenig and one on Manor (pronounced kay-nig and may-nor, respectively. We don’t spell good in Texas.) The Koenig location, the northernmost haunt on the list, was recently revamped and has an entirely new look and more open feel. Thunderbird has historically been a Cuvee shop, but during my visit they were using Wild Gift and Counter Culture for espresso and brewed coffee. For the already over-caffeinated, the Koenig Thunderbird has a staggering 35 beers on tap and a covered patio, making it a worthwhile place to visit at any hour, rain or shine.
Please don’t be alarmed by the pictures of their baristas adorning Thunderbird’s parking spots. One or all of them is Rick, I think.
For all your caffeine related needs wherever you are in Austin, check out our handy map of places we have featured on Sprudge over the years.
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.
Photos by Ethan Billips for Sprudge.com