Two weeks ago, I spent a weekend in New Orleans, part of my week-long journey from Austin, Texas, to Portland, Maine. This was my third time in New Orleans with my Coffee Spot hat on, and my first since 2019. That followed an initial visit the year before, when I was making a similar long-distance train journey. That time I was going the other way, though, from Providence, Rhode Island, to Tucson, Arizona, a journey included a weekend in New Orleans, which inspired this post.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit New Orleans particularly hard, which has had a knock-on effect on the city’s speciality coffee scene. I found a much-changed city, and many of the places which I’d visited during my first two trips in 2018 and 2019 had closed. I arrived late on Friday night, coming by train from San Antonio. I then spent Saturday revisiting old haunts which had survived the pandemic, before spending Sunday exploring some of the new places which had opened since my previous visit and one which had been on my list since 2019. Finally, I popped into Mammoth Espresso on Monday morning on my way to the station to catch the train to Manassas.
Staying in Austin, today’s Saturday Short is Fleet Coffee, another from Bex’s Austin Speciality Coffee Guide. There’s not much to Fleet, which is at the left-hand end of a row of low, single-storey buildings on the south side of Webberville Road in East Austin. You order at the door to the right, then take a seat to the left, where there’s a four-person bar facing the street or a handful of shaded tables.
The real star is the coffee, Fleet bucking the roaster/coffee shop trend by using a rotating cast of three roasters, Sweet Bloom from Colorado, Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee and Dune Coffee Roasters from Santa Barbara. There are two options on espresso and two more on pour-over (made through the Kalita Wave using the Curtis Gold Cup automated system), along with a single option on batch brew. If you’re hungry, there are breakfast tacos and a range of pastries.
By making Flat Track Coffee my first speciality coffee stop in Austin, I was following in the footsteps of my friend Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato fame. Not only was I using Bex’s Austin Speciality Coffee Guide as my roadmap, but Flat Track Coffee had been her first stop as well. Co-located with bike shop, Cycleast, Flat Track is on Cesar Chavez Street, a main east-west thoroughfare through East Austin.
When Bex visited in 2018, Flat Track roasted all of its own coffee in the back of the store. Since then, the roasting has been moved to sister shop, Palomino Coffee (which, sadly, I didn’t have time to visit), freeing up much needed additional interior seating to go with outdoor seating on the forecourt in front of Flat Track, along with the gorgeous hidden patio along the building’s left-hand side.
Flat Track offers a blend and single-origin on espresso, along with batch-brew filter and pour-over, all the coffee changing on a seasonal basis. Espresso shots are pulled on a lovely Kees van der Westen Mirage, while pour-overs are made through the Kalita Wave using the Curtis Gold Cup automated system. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes/pastries.
Welcome to another instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot. You join me in Austin, Texas, at the start of a week-long train trip across America (although the last leg is by coach) that will see me reach Portland, Maine, just in time for Thanksgiving. My journey is spread over four days, going via New Orleans (where I’m spending the weekend) and Washington DC (where I’ll spend a day).
This Travel Spot covers the first leg of the journey, travelling on Amtrak Train No. 21, Texas Eagle, which runs daily between Chicago and San Antonio. However, I was only onboard from the second to last stop, Austin, my coach class ticket (booked six weeks in advance) costing me the princely sum of $6.
I’d been in Austin for the previous six days, having flown out from London for work. As soon as my meeting ended on Thursday afternoon, I headed to the station, stopping only for a pour-over at Merit Coffee on W 3rd Street, a convenient 10-minute stroll from the station (or so I thought). Then I carried on to the station, arriving in plenty of time for my 18:30 departure. Except, as you will see, my train was somewhat late.
Today’s Coffee Spot continues the retelling of last month’s American road trip through the medium of coffee shops. We’ve reached Kansas City, our final overnight stop before Madison, South Dakota, where we called into Monarch Coffee, a recommendation from Sump Coffee in St Louis.
Monarch is a roaster which used to have two bricks-and-mortar stores in Kansas City, one of which was the lovely store on Broadway which we visited. Sadly, Monarch took the difficult decision to close both stores at the end of October, although it’s still going strong as a roaster, making this the first time that I’ve written about a coffee shop knowing it was closed. I did consider not posting, but decided that this would be a fitting tribute to Monarch Coffee.
Monarch Coffee was on the ground floor of the Ambassador apartment building, occupying a large corner unit on the right. With limited tables outside on the pavement, there was plenty more seating in the spacious interior, arrayed on either side of the island counter offset to the left. When it came to coffee, there was a commendably concise espresso-based menu with a single-origin option on batch brew filter, plus iced and nitro options.
To make a change from my American road trip, today’s Coffee Spot takes us all the way back to early May and my trip to Berlin, when I visited a rather unique establishment, Café Kranzler. This Berlin institution can trace its roots back to 1825 and is easily recognisable in its current incarnation, in a rotunda on top of the Kranzler-Eck shopping complex on Kurfürstendamm. In 2016, The Barn took over the running of the iconic coffee shop, thus keeping the Café Kranzler name alive.
Access is via a lift, with a choice of seating inside the rotunda itself, outside on the 360° wrap-around balcony or on a rooftop terrace (accessed via a flight of stairs from the balcony). Although the setting is quite different from The Barn’s usual third-wave style coffee shops (or, indeed, the ultra-modern Sony Center coffee shop), the offering is very familiar, with the standard seasonal menu which you’ll find across all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu, two options on pour-over through the V60, plus cold brew, tea, hot chocolate and a range of cakes. The specific beans (all single-origins) vary by location, chosen by the baristas every few days.
Continuing the retelling of our road trip from Atlanta to South Dakota last month, our next stop after Nashville was St Louis, home of today’s Coffee Spot, Blueprint Coffee on Delmar Boulevard. We actually visited Blueprint on our way back to Atlanta, having calling into Sump Coffee on the way out. However, since I wrote about Sump Coffee’s Nashville store on Monday, I wanted to spread the love.
Like Sump, Blueprint Coffee is both roaster and coffee shop, with three shops in St Louis. We visited the original which is, for the moment, also home to the roastery, located at the back of the building.
Occupying a long, thin shop in the Delmar Loop neighbourhood, Blueprint is close to the St Louis Metro as well as having free on-street parking nearby (which was handy for us). There are a handful of tables outside on the busy pavement, with several more in the spacious interior. All the coffee is roasted on-site, with a blend and regularly-rotating single-origin on espresso, plus another on batch-brew and a selection of eight blends/single-origins on pour-over using the SP9 and Kalita Wave filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a concise all-day brunch menu and various cakes.
Continuing the retelling of my American road trip through the medium of coffee shops, we started our second day in Nashville, Tennessee, where I sought out Sump Coffee. Our first stop, Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery in Chattanooga, was a chance discovery, but Sump Coffee was a planned stop, one of several places that I wanted to visit along the way. The Nashville coffee shop is the second of two Sump Coffees, which started life in Saint Louis, where the original coffee shop/roastery is still going strong.
Part of the modern OneC1ty development, Sump Coffee was one of the first tenants when it opened in 2017. It occupies a spacious, high-ceilinged unit with lots of inside seating and plenty more outside. When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted on the 10 kg Diedrich roaster in the back of the Saint Louis store, you really are spoilt for choice, with three single-origins on espresso, six/seven more on pour-over and, if you’re there before 11 o’clock, you can have batch brew too. All the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection cakes and pastries.
Welcome to a new, occasional feature for the Coffee Spot, the Saturday Snapshot, Coffee Spots that, for one reason or another, I’m unable to do a full write-up on. The inaugural Saturday Snapshot features Devoción, one of many places from my recent trip to New York City. Devoción is a coffee shop/roaster chain that works directly with farmers in Colombia, where it owns a coffee mill. There are four coffee shops, three in Brooklyn and the subject of today’s Saturday Snapshot, on E 20th Street in the Flat Iron District.
Devoción has two options on espresso, plus decaf, batch brew filter and, from memory, two options on pour-over through the Kalita Wave filter. A beautiful space, with plenty of seating, it was consistently full and busy the three times that I visited, which is why I wasn’t able to do a full write up or get very many pictures.
For the Good of the People is part of the Real Food Market on Euston Station forecourt, directly opposite the station’s main entrance, an excellent spot for a pre-/post-train coffee (except for Mondays, when it’s closed). The set up is pretty simple, just a stall at the left-hand end of the Real Food Market stalls, serving espresso-based drinks along with a selection of retail bags of coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
For the Good of the People uses its bespoke Canopy blend, its standard espresso-based menu having a commendably simple pricing policy (one price for with milk, another for black). There’s also tea, a range of iced coffees (all at one price) and, for a small supplement, alternative milks. Although there’s no seating at the stall, you can take a seat at any of the approximately 20 picnic-style tables on the forecourt.