A Barista's Guide to the Best Coffee Shops in Austin, TX

A pro's account of the city's burgeoning coffee scene.

Austin can credit its recent growth to an influx of tech industry money, a growing population that works remotely, and the entrepreneurial streak of the city's individualistic culture: all factors that have ensured its coffee scene's bloomed with it. Austin can boast at least a dozen different local coffee roasters—Chameleon Coffee started here, and Greater Goods, Civil Goat, and Wild Gift are three smaller startups worth trying—and more cafes than you can shake a mug at. As someone who was a barista in the third-wave coffee world for ten years, I have a list of my favorite coffee spots, each hipper than the last.


best coffee shops in austin

Boasting four locations in Austin and a huge rotating menu featuring coffee from roasters all over the country, Houndstooth arguably serves the best coffee in Austin. They take it seriously; baristas have to show up an hour before their shift to taste the full menu, and they can't even touch the espresso machine until they've completed a six-month training program. They offer classes, tasting menus, and occasional free tastings where you can learn how to develop your palate. In fact, my problem with Houndstooth is that they might just be a little too into coffee. Their extensive menu and daily offerings can be a bit overwhelming, and the baristas there tend to possess a sort of overbearing friendliness. Maybe it's just all the caffeine they ingest, but a simple interaction with them can be exhausting. Their logo, a silhouetted fedora in black and white, hasn't aged well, but serves as a fitting representation for a cafe that's trying a little too hard to be cool. Still, if you're looking to learn about coffee or try something new, it's hard to argue with their expertise.


best coffee shops in austin

Mañana is a bit of a dark horse on this list. While most of the hip coffee shops are located in East Austin, Mañana is off the courtyard of South Congress Hotel, right in the middle of the touristy drag. They use local roaster Cuvee's beans to great effect. Their iced coffee is wonderful, made using a lighter flash brew method popularized in Japan and showing up more and more in the States. I'll be honest, I'm cheating a little bit here. The real reason Mañana makes the list isn't for the coffee, but for their home-made pastries. They have a frosted cinnamon roll that I see in my dreams. Offerings can be pricey, but the pastries are half off from 5 PM to 7 PM every day, so you know when you can find me there.

Brew & Brew

best coffee shops in austin

The folks behind the bar at Wright Bros Brew & Brew can pull you a great shot of espresso, sure, but the cafe is also notable for its extensive selection of beer and cider—39 taps to be exact. Get there early for a coffee and a mighty decent bagel (Rosen's) or a breakfast taco from Pueblo Viejo, get some work done, and reward yourself with a beer. What else could you need? Brew & Brew stays open until midnight, and though there are other late night cafes in Austin, like the 24-hour Bennu Coffee, there's no better way to kill an hour before heading to a concert with your friends than a late night espresso and a beer. They've recently expanded to offer more seating, and if you like what they have to offer, check out Better Half, their full menu cafe, and Little Brother, their comically tiny bar.

Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors

best coffee shops in austin

Walking out of the Texas sun into Figure 8 feels like walking into a cave. In a good way. It's cool and dark, but not too dark. It's hip and can get a little busy, but those things never feel intrusive. It's the perfect place to get away from the world and get some reading done. Oh, and in my opinion, Figure 8 consistently serves the best shot of espresso in Austin. They serve a selection of different roasters, but the small batches they roast themselves are obviously where it's at. Their cold brew isn't my favorite, a bit too sludgy, and they tend to keep the place a little too cold, but they have patio seating and a more secluded little grotto around back.


best coffee shops in austin

Fleet is a tiny spot, consisting only of an espresso bar, two single-person tables inside the cafe, and a couple larger tables outside. Because it's so small, they keep the menu tight and simple. It's great for grabbing a quick shot, chatting up the barista for a minute, and heading out to whatever's next. I have a soft spot for small cafes that focus on no-nonsense efficiency. But a small, simple menu means that you really have to back it up with quality. The folks at Fleet know their business. They have a knack for pulling great single origin shots, extracting the fruity notes without being overly acidic (a hard thing to do).

Flattrack Coffee Roasters

best coffee shops in austin

Flattrack Coffee Roasters shares its space, a refurbished garage, with Cycleast, a friendly neighborhood bike shop. Its large open space is vaguely industrial, decorated in equal measure with motorcycles and plants. With a patio out front and a picturesque little yard out back, the cafe is designed to be Instagram-friendly. But all that outdoor space also means that it's particularly popular with a four-legged constituency, and you are sure to run into some cute dogs while hanging out there. And to complete the Austin atmosphere, they've recently started serving breakfast and lunch fare from a food truck out back.

Those familiar with Austin cafes refer to the last three places on this list as "The Three Fs." The final "F," and my vote for the best coffee in Austin is Flattrack Coffee. They serve a constantly rotating selection of single origin beans, roasted right there. One of their mainstay blends, Sidepipe, was designed specifically for a fruity and malty cold brew, and it goes above and beyond. They roast most weekdays from 9-5, so you can pull up a stool at the bar in back and watch the show. With the roasting, the bike shop, the dogs, and now food being shuttled in and out, it can get a little hectic. But the staff is always friendly and accommodating, and there's no better place to grab a tasty beverage and a bag of beans.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker