Beyond a Cafe Review: Three Cafes in Austin, TX

As I found last summer, even when you have the room or the house to yourself, it can still be difficult to detach from all the daily tasks–or the television–to focus on getting some real work done. Once again, I have found myself hopping around a few cafes this summer. Sadly, they are not all made the same, which means not all of them have the right vibe.

1) Trianon

Last time I walked inside this Westlake coffee shop, the barista literally jumped up and down as I approached the counter. I think that says something about the atmosphere of this place. I found it first through a Meetup group called “Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write!” The group meets in the back room three times a week for an hour of uninterrupted writing, preceded and followed by get-to-know-you chat only if you want to stay and participate. Not only have I been super productive while working on projects that I would otherwise avoid, but I have found a comfortable home for when I want to work alone.

Trianon is filled with artists, writers, and scholars most of the time, or at least that’s what it looks like when my eyes rise up from the screen and I glance around the room. One time I even saw a lady working with a lap easel and acrylic paints. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a coffee shop before, definitely not in Starbucks . . .

The drinks are reasonably priced, the chairs are super comfy, and they have more than just the normal late/capuccino/etc. I haven’t tried their snacks yet, but I am encouraged by the fact that they can’t even contain the bananas, cakes, and biscotti in the glass case but have to allow some to spread out over the rest of the counter.

2) Opa!

My mom actually introduced me to this Greek coffee and wine bar. It reminds me so much of Agora in Houston, except this is definitely the Austin version. You know you live in a relaxed, artsy town when even business meetings take place in this converted house with Greek paintings on the walls and big kitchen-type tables instead of the normal coffee house fare. I loved looking through the books of art prints while we waited for our Mediterranean plate (I love when Mom takes me out for tea/lunch . . .) It was definitely worth the wait because the warm hummus and pita bread was probably the best I’d ever had. Since I’m a major hummus fan, this is a big compliment.

My mom said that last time she came there with a friend, they spent four hours lounging in the plush chairs and chatting. I can definitely see why. If it weren’t so far away on Lamar, close to downtown Austin, I would probably be there for my writing more often.

Added bonus: I swear I saw this shop on the HGTV show Property Brothers once. No, they weren’t selling or re-decorating it, but if it was good enough for the show’s clients to meet their realtor there, it’s more than good enough for me.

3) Lola Savannah (Lakeway location)

The disappointing one of the bunch, sadly enough. I thought it would be a great find since it just opened and is right on the side of a big Texas hill country valley. But even without the pouring rain and fog that was there the day I visited, I don’t think I’ll be using it as my normal spot. Again, it can be well summed-up by the baristas. Whenever I looked up from my laptop screen here, the barista could be seen texting on her phone or flirting with the bartender/manager from the connected restaurant. No helpful order selections, just a hip, sort of swanky, but cold atmosphere.

The mocha was still delicious with lots of foam, but it didn’t give me enough to make this my permanent spot. Honestly, I didn’t feel accepted here. I felt like I needed to be pretending to be doing something more important. Or wearing a flowy blouse, big shimmery jewelry, and long, curly locks. Not me at all . . . The top 40 music didn’t help me stay inspired either. I wish this place would catch my fancy because it’s much closer to home. But if flow writing time is easier had at Trianon, I’d rather take the drive through the hills than sitting at the top of Lola Savannah’s.

For me, it’s not about the drinks or the caliber of the espresso machine. It’s all about the atmosphere. Otherwise, why not stay at home and brew up my own concoctions? There I don’t have to pay extra for soy milk.

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About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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