Cafe Mundi

1707 E. Sixth, 236-8634

Cafe Mundi reminds me of the small coffeehouses I loved so much in Paris. It's a cozy little haven off the beaten path, the kind of place that attracts a clientele of regulars who relish their few moments of peace in a place they feel privileged to have discovered. Located in East Austin amid a handful of homey Mexican restaurants, Cafe Mundi feels a world apart with its artsy interior and menu of imported coffees and sophisticated sweets. The mood is bohemian, with strains of international music flowing from the sound system and African and Latin American art lining the shelf space, along with an unusual display of vintage mugs. The cafe's tiny tables are artworks in themselves (as is the metalwork globe that marks the place out front), and owner/manager Jessica Nieri's collection of beaded jewelry sits atop the bakery case, testament to her creativity beyond making a memorable cup o' joe.

Coffee at Cafe Mundi is a changing affair, with Ethiopian beans taking the spotlight one day and a stout Latin American blend claiming it the next. In addition to a selection of bagels and sweets -- among them the delectable cosmic dreambar -- the cafe offers a limited lunch menu. A cool couscous-based salad studded with roasted red bell pepper, olives, and an assortment of crudités was featured the day I visited. Cafe Mundi also hosts live musicians and an open-mike night, making it an after-hours destination worth checking out. When you pay at Cafe Mundi's counter, a little stack of the management's business cards boasts "a world of difference in every cup." Coffee connoisseurs will no doubt determine that the cafe's ebony elixir passes muster, but in my opinion what really sets Cafe Mundi apart -- the thing that will keep me coming back -- is its unique look and location. Cafe Mundi has charted new territory both geographically and aesthetically, a fact that makes it my favorite new haunt for sipping coffee. Go and see for yourself.

-- Rebecca Chastenet de Géry

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