The Coffeehouse Chronicles: Episode 3

The Spider House

Neighborhood: North Drag/Hyde Park

Address/Phone: 2908 Fruth St./480-9562

Hours: Daily, 7am-2am

Munchables: pastry case, salads, bagels

Standard Cup o' Joe: a buck

Bean Source: Texas Coffee Traders

Crowd: grad students/Hyde Park

Artwork: rummage sale portraits, ornamental concrete

Soundtrack: Edith Piaf, Yo La Tengo, Chet Baker

Bonus Points: Beer and wine, great seating areas inside and out

Whatever mood you're in (and coffee drinkers tend to be a moody lot), odds are you'll feel comfortable somewhere inside the Spider House. Light or dark. Indoors or out. Manic or depressive. Take your pick and you'll be fine.

The barely renovated WWII-era frame house sits comfortably on a huge lot bordering the TriBeTru (triangle behind Trudy's) just north of UT's campus. Behind its pointy picket fence, the Spider House, with its outrageously spacious outdoor patio, is the leading contender for the best indoor/outdoor coffeehouse in Austin.

Inside the building's sunny front rooms, dark plank walls absorb enough ambient light to allow focused study or a leisurely reading of the morning paper, while the back rooms border on the dungeon-dark, perfect for developing slide film or contemplative hangover recovery. Seating options run the gamut from vinyl restaurant booths to mismatched dinette sets to funky, well-worn armchairs -- and on busy nights, they're all filled. It has an impressive range of ramshackle ambiance -- kind of like the place where my favorite crazy Uncle Murray would live, if I only had a crazy Uncle Murray.

Spider House's al fresco seating options are also extensive, from metal-topped beer tables on the wraparound porch to the rough wooden picnic sets in the multi-textured cobblestone courtyard. With its chaotic jumble of plastic chairs, rusting patio furniture, and smooth-swinging bench gliders, the outdoor seating area feels like a tea room decorated by Fred Sanford. A makeshift stage hosts live music in the non-winter months, and during the long hot summer, shade trees help brave patrons survive the elements without seasonal brainburn. Despite the season or time of day, the Spider House's patio is the perfect place to kill a few hours with a tall coffee or frosty beer (a tempting option if you're not pushing study or work deadlines).

The joint also gets high marks for its impressive hours of operation (7am-2am daily). In an average day, the Spider staff manages to serve both night owls and early-rising neighborhood commuters -- an impressive community service indeed. --Pableaux Johnson

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