Coffee culture is widely associated with creative types — from philosophers and poets to musicians and writers. Of course, we know coffee shops are for everyone these days, even those who aren’t penning a whimsical poem or sketch in a leather-bound notebook.
In Austin, you’re probably as likely to see someone typing out esoteric computer coding as you are to find someone writing lyrics to a song. And it’s that eclectic mix of professionals, students, artists and, well, you name it, that makes coffee shops such a bastion of creativity.
A truly creative soul is probably as likely to find inspiration at a Starbucks as a bohemian dive. But, let’s face facts, it’s nice to sit down in a unique setting. The experience gives the mind something new to absorb. And the vibe sets the backdrop for us to dig into whatever we’re digging into.
Here are five places sure to stir your imagination and provide a lightning bolt of creative fuel in the form of your favorite coffee drink.
Spider House (Hyde Park)
Now in its 20th year, Spider House Patio Bar & Cafe (pictured above) is about as quirky and creative as coffee shops get. Settle in to the antique feel inside, including a bar that is probably somewhere between 20 and 200 years old. Or hit the giant patio — part of which is covered — and pick one of the odd varieties of chairs and tables available. The patio is draped in plants, sculptures and Christmas lights that cast a gentle glow year round.
Spider House is a favorite spot for students, but it’s also a hotspot for creatives of all types who are attracted to the environment and the nearby Spider House Ballroom, which frequently hosts spoken word, comedy and music. It’s served by its own restaurant, as well as two food trucks. And, if you get really wild, you can get a tattoo without even leaving the property.
The Buzz Mill (East Austin)
It’s a lumberjack’s dream. You can almost smell the sawdust walking into this rustic caffeine retreat. They serve a fantastic macchiato, or you can head the other direction with one of their infused whiskey drinks.
Like many Austin coffee shops, and as the name implies, The Buzz Mill caters to both those who want a quiet place to focus and those who want a lively place to converse. It has a tucked away hallway for those seeking near silence. Or you can wander outside, sit around a fire pit and watch a local musician belt out songs all night.
Though a little cleaner cut than many selections here, Halcyon makes the creative list because it’s tucked onto 4th Street where there’s an interesting convergence of downtown business people, artists and downtown residents. When the weather is warm, its open doors let in the bustling downtown sounds and open the view wider to some of the best people-watching in town.
It also takes on a decidedly more cocktail-oriented feel in during the evenings, perhaps a nice way to transition from some creative output to a little celebration.
Cenote (East Austin)
Writers block? Lend your mind wander up the trees painted on the walls at Cenote, maybe even eavesdrop a little, you’re sure to hit on a few new thoughts to expand on.
The home that Cenote is situated in has a rich history. The owners put it this way: “Built in 1887, our historic house appears on Austin’s very first hand-drawn map, produced for a much smaller City of Austin circa 1889. Though extensive renovations have been made to comply with the City of Austin’s building codes, the structure, design and integrity of the building remains intact.” It even won an award from the Heritage Society of Austin for adaptive reuse in 2011.
Strange Brew (South Austin)
If you’re into art, Strange Brew is typically a haven for a great, rotating display of local art. It’s a favorite spot for the late night, laptop-focused crowd because it’s open 24 hours a day and has food. They provide a quiet area for those who need to drill deep, and they host local musicians for those who want to tap a foot and unwind a bit.