The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, August 4, 2000, Columns

Small town coffee shops across Texas have changed along with the rest of the world. Espresso bars are showing up in some of the most unlikely places. It might not fit into the Lone Star image of gimme caps and pickup trucks, but I like the new addition.

I admit that I am a cappuccino junkie. I know my neighborhood barista by name. When you mix a velvety-smooth latte with a fresh oatmeal cookie, a good cassette in the player, a cold car air conditioner, and a seemingly endless farm-to-market road, it is pure heaven for a day tripper like me. Excuse me for being so bourgeois, but a venti latte is the best driving drink since they passed the open-container law.

As I travel the blacktop around the state, I still enjoy finding the local chat 'n' chew with its slice of Americana, Elvis shrines, and apple pie. But if I find a working espresso machine, I feel like I have stumbled upon a bastion of civilization. Like finding National Public Radio on the dial outside of Oklahoma City.

Few of these rural coffeehouses are of the bohemian sort. Most are either modified tea rooms that look like some rich wife's hobby or are bakeries or sandwich shops owned by somebody's mom and pop. Like the addict that I am, I'm not particular. If the kid behind the counter knows how to steam milk, I'll buy it.

1. Java Jack's on the courthouse square in Fairfield is a good example of a small-town espresso shop. It is in an old, long, narrow stone building that is nearly as old as the beautiful and historic courthouse across the street in a town best known for its agricultural products. Jack's main business is soup, salad, and sandwiches for the lunch crowd. They also have a few pastries, coffee and tea by the pound, and a small gift selection. Open Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm, 903/389-2331.

2. The Coffee Grinder on the courthouse square in Granbury takes full advantage of the tourists that flock to this scenic little town southwest of Fort Worth. This is kind of a Fredericksburg for the Metroplex. They also sell sandwiches, pastries, snacks, frozen drinks, cigars, gifts, and locally produced artwork. "We're the only thing in Granbury open late," Heather said, as she steamed a pot of milk. Open Monday-Thursday, 7am-9pm, Friday, 7am-midnight, Saturday, 9am-12pm, and Sunday, 9am-6:30pm; 817/279-0977.

3. The Daily Grind Coffeehouse on Main Street in Boerne is one of two places in town to get an espresso drink -- a true sign of how urbane this little community northwest of San Antonio has become. Across from the Pickle Lady at Carousel Antiques, this little shop specializes in coffee and teas, although they do carry coffee-related paraphernalia, sandwiches, and snacks. The small tables in front give it an ice-cream-parlor feel and makes it a good place to stop and relax while shopping the antique shops on Main Street. Open Monday-Friday, 7:30am-5:30pm, Saturday, 8am-5pm, Sunday, 11am-5pm; 830/249-4677.

4. The Bear Moon Bakery and Cafe, at 401 S. Main in Boerne, a couple of blocks south of The Daily Grind, is a great place to find a fresh oatmeal cookie or any number of other goodies. All of their soup, sandwiches, salads, and pastries are made from organic ingredients; even the milk. Enjoy their dining room or sit outside in the shade of the porch. Open Tuesday-Saturday 6am-5pm and Sunday 8am-4pm; 830/816-2327.

5. The New Braunfels Coffee Company has a great location at the corner across the traffic circle from the Main Plaza and the courthouse in New Braunfels. Lots of windows and seating, inside and outside, make this a bright and airy place for a coffee drink and a pastry. They also sell sandwiches and ice cream. The walls are lined with a wide selection of beverage-related items. Open Monday-Friday, 7am-6pm, Saturday, 8am-6pm, and Sunday, 8am-5pm; 830/608-9041.

6. Jitters in Wimberley will get you back on the road with a nice little caffeine buzz. It was only a matter of time before this artist colony had its own coffeehouse, but unfortunately, they put it in a strip mall, Wimberley North Shopping Center, on RM12. They have some snacks and serve lunch from 11am-2pm. Open Monday-Friday, 6am-5pm, Saturday, 7am-5pm, and Sunday, 7am-noon; 512/847-6101.

7. Perks Coffee Shop in Lampasas, 406 E. Third St., is one of my favorite small-town coffee shops in the entire state. It is so cool for a small ranching town to have a place this neat. In a historic building with a great coffee mural on the outer wall, this is almost a beatnik enclave in a sea of Resistol cowboy hats and high hair. They serve tasty sandwiches and pastries along with some local art and coffee and tea accessories. On weekend evenings, they often book musical acts or poetry readings. Open Monday-Thursday, 7:30am-6pm, Friday, 7:30am-9:30pm, and Saturday, 10am-10pm; 512/556-5704.

These are just a few of my favorite small-town coffee shops. There are several more that I didn't have room to list and lots more that I haven't discovered yet. That's the fun part of being a day tripper.

Coming up this weekend ...

Accordion Bash in San Antonio attracts some of the best squeezebox players from around the country to show off their moves, Aug. 5-6. 210/246-9622.

Schulenburg Festival provides a long list of family entertainment options in Schulenburg's Wolters Park, Aug. 4-6. While you're in the area, check out the local painted churches. 979/753-4514.

International Jazz Festival in Houston presents some of the jazz world's greatest names at the Herman Square Reflection Pool in downtown, Aug. 4-6. 713/839-7000.

Coming up ...

Elvis Presley Memorial Festival at Little Graceland in Brownsville celebrates the King at this monument to ingenuity and fan appreciation. You got to see it to believe it, Aug. 12. 956/233-5768.

Rate a Restroom gives patrons a chance to talk back to the owners without having to write on the wall. A new Web site asks for feedback on the quality of the facilities in national chains -- positive and negative. Log on to:

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