Houndstooth Coffee, Downtown Austin

A classic espresso in a white espresso cup with an outline image of the State of Texas on the side.Today’s Saturday Snapshot, Houndstooth Coffee in downtown Austin, is the second in the series and shares a lot with the first, Devoción in New York City. Like Devoción, which was a mere block and a half from where I was working in New York, Houndstooth was just around the corner from my workplace in downtown Austin and, like Devoción, it was perpetually busy. I called in twice a day from three straight days, either for morning coffee on my way to the office or during various coffee breaks.

There are two options on espresso, a house blend and a single-origin, both of which change every day or so. There’s also batch brew filter and pour-over, although you have to know to ask for that. All the coffee is from Tweed Coffee Roasters, Houndstooth’s sister company, which is based in Dallas, where Houndstooth has three more locations to go with its five Austin coffee shops. While it’s mostly about the coffee, if you’re hungry, Houndstooth has breakfast tacos and a selection of cakes/pastries.

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Another Weekend in New Orleans

Traditional wrought iron balconies in the French Quarter of New Orleans.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.

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Fleet Coffee, Webberville Road

A lovely cortado served in a glass at Fleet Coffee in Austin.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.

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Flat Track Coffee

Pointing the way to good coffee, the sign outside Flat Track Coffee in Austin.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.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Texas Eagle – Austin to San Antonio

The departures board at Austin Station, where there are a total of two trains a day, the northbound Texas Eagle in the morning and its southbound counterpart in the evening.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.

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Monarch Coffee

A cappuccino is a classic white tulip cup, served at Monarch Coffee in Kansas City.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.

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Blueprint Coffee, Delmar

Details from the door of Blueprint Coffee, which has the Blueprint Coffee logo with the words "Blueprint Coffee STL | MO" and "Available Here" underneath.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.

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Sump Coffee, Nashville

The Sump Coffee logo, a line drawing of a bald, bearded skull with a branch and portafilter crossed behind it.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.

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Devoción, Flatiron District

A flat white in my HuskeeCup, made with the Honey blend at Devoción in the Flat Iron District.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.

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Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery

A lovely espresso, served in a classic black cup at Niedlov's Cafe & Bakery and made with the Monarch, from Onyx Coffee Lab.As explained in Monday’s Coffee Spot, Bellwood Coffee, at the start of October I’d taken the train from New York to Atlanta, where Amanda picked me up to begin a four-day road trip to Madison, South Dakota. Our first stop was Chattanooga, where we came across Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery on Main Street, chosen largely because it was open after 5 o’clock and had a large garden where we could sit with Fergie, Amanda’s dog.

I knew nothing about Niedlov’s but was sold the moment I saw the Slayer espresso machine on the counter, along with boxes from Onyx Coffee Lab on the shelves. It may have been a chance discovery, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Chattanooga, or indeed to Tennessee, since it was my first time in the state.

Niedlov’s is a bakery/cafe which takes its coffee as seriously as its bread (and it takes its bread very seriously indeed). A standard espresso-based menu features Onyx’s Monarch, along with its Southern Weather on batch brew filter. There are separate breakfast and lunch menus, plus cake and, of course, bread, all of which can be enjoyed in the spacious cafe or outside in the garden.

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