These are a few of our favorite drinks

They Know Beans

Quick, what’s the difference between the Starbucks outlets in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio? Answer: nothing. And that’s the trouble. Reassuring as it is to have a corporate caffeine fix on every block, there are times when you just want something in tune with the local vibe.


Progress Coffee—with its environmentally friendly shade-grown beans, custom-roasted blends, casual menu of seasonal organic foods, free wireless Internet access, and browsable magazine rack— fits the “Keep Austin Weird” image to a tee. If the look weren’t so fresh and modern, you’d swear it was 1975 in this sparely decorated converted warehouse just east of Interstate 35. Progress’s goal is to be a hangout where customers feel welcome to sit around and chat for as long as they want. Mission accomplished. 500 San Marcos, 512-493-0963,


Strictly speaking, La Duni Latin Kitchen and Baking Studio is a restaurant, but if you go between six and eleven in the morning, the glass-walled space up front is filled with well-dressed Dallas caffeine junkies enjoying twenty different coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and specialty teas, plus breakfasts of Belgian waffles, puff-pastry turnovers, popovers, and brioche. One steam nozzle on the espresso machine is in constant demand for making soufflé-like “cloud eggs.” This is one of the most inviting places in town, with walls the color of French toast and roses everywhere. Great lost weekends start here. 4264 Oak Lawn, 214-520-6888,


Because Houston’s Salento Coffee has an ecological conscience, it buys only shade-grown beans that are single-origin and picked by hand. But coffee isn’t the main point here; sociability is. So Salento encourages lingering, talking, Web browsing (free wireless access), and gazing into the far distance. The look is clean and contemporary, with local art, blond-wood tables for sipping and dining (on sandwiches, cheeses, edamame, nuts), and a cushy chocolate-brown couch for lounging. Try the wine of the month when you’ve finally had too much coffee, man. 2407 Rice Boulevard, 713-528-7478,

San Antonio

If the chairs were just a little bit more comfortable and the lighting a tiny bit brighter, Espuma’s customers might never go home. With its tall Victorian-era walls cheerfully painted in shades of papaya and mango, San Antonio’s Southtown-area coffeehouse has become a beacon for students, artists, and businessfolk. During the day, they hang out, read the New York Times (for sale), surf the Internet (free wireless access), enjoy the local artwork, and catch up on the latest gossip over made-on-the-premises pizzas, wraps, pastries, and quiche. On weekend nights they come back to hear acoustic music of many persuasions. 928 S. Alamo, 210-226-1912, PATRICIA SHARPE