The line between latte and work of art is blurry at Fuego Coffee, thanks to a team of baristas who painstakingly swirl foam into hearts, snowflakes, and paisley teardrops. Though their pouring skills are impressive, their work starts long before the coffee finds its way to the cup. The shop sources its beans from organic growers and roasts them locally to ensure consistency and freshness. Only after the baristas grind these beans do they end up in a cappuccino, Cuban espresso, or one of 20 flavored energy drinks.
But these beverages aren't all that makes Fuego Coffee unique. The shop also features two drive-thru lanes for customers who are in a rush and whose gas tanks accept only premium roast. Those who have a minute can take advantage of the shop's dog-friendly policy, which allows leashed pets to sit with their owners.
The brainchild of Benny and Sandy Fontana, Olives Italian Market evokes an Old World corner market with dishes hewn from simple family recipes and hard-to-find Italian imported edibles. Panini makers layer imported Italian meats and cheeses atop fresh, rustic breads baked in-house to forge sandwiches, and creamy house-made gelato cools tongues steamy from java brewed from house-roasted coffee beans. The family-run shop also stocks a market of Italian ingredients, including extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegars, capers, pasta, and anchovies that patrons can use to create mouthwatering meals that inspire jealousy in cans of Chef Boyardee.:m]]
Peering out onto Main Plaza between the window panes of their 1925 shopfront, New Braunfels Coffee's baristas tempt passing noses with fragrant Lavazza espresso and baked-from-scratch French pastries. Seven types of salads nest toppings of grilled chicken, feta cheese, and cranberries, and hot deli sandwiches couple with cups of daily soup on tabletops scattered across the café's sunny tiled floor. While the building houses historic charms, the amenities are decidedly modern—free WiFi allows midsip customers to monitor global goings-on or challenge former PE instructors to games of online poker.
On The Grind may be a convenient, unassuming drive-thru, but its coffee is much more complex. Brewed by Third Coast, the shop's customized blend consists of three beans?the mild Norandino from Peru, the smooth Sidama from Ethiopia, and the full-bodied Sumatra from Indonesia. These contrasting flavors make for a dynamic beverage that can be served hot, iced, or blended with indulgent sweets such as coconut, salty caramel, and chocolate macadamia.
Housed in a combined café and chiropractic office inside the historic Vivroux Hardware building, Chiro Java injects visitors with the energy to almost massage their own backs after eating an array of American- and Mexican-inspired breakfast and lunch dishes. The kitchen staff crafts chicken salad from a family recipe and uses only nitrite-free lunchmeats, both of which they sandwich between high-fiber whole-wheat bread baked in-house. At the full-service coffee and espresso bar, baristas serve up organic frappés, allergen-free desserts, and organic, fair-trade coffee roasted fresh each day. Facilitating a sense of calm, the café keeps its lighting low, and surrounds guests with festive gourds, hardwood walls and floors, and lovingly worn rugs underfoot.
Aromas of baking sourdough, amber rye, and brioche bread waft from the ovens of Texas French Bread, winner of the Austin Chronicle's Restaurant Poll Readers award for Best Bread in 2009, 2010, and 2011. For the past three decades, these ovens have been churning out artisan breads, pastries, and desserts made from scratch, and under the helm of brothers Ben and Murphy Willcott, the ovens now cook a dinner menu of local and sustainable rustic French fare, earning a place in the top five on the Growers Alliance of Central Texas's Truly Local 2011 restaurants survey. Yet neither of the brothers set out to be bakers. Murph, a Harvard law-school graduate and lawyer, and Ben, a student of English literature, both enjoyed staying up late, cooking, and coordinating aprons with spatulas so they decided to take over Texas French Bread with the goal of turning it from bakery into bistro because, as Murph claims, "rock star and/or Hollywood movie mogul seemed like a stretch."
In the kitchen, Ben crafts a weekly rotating menu hewn under the guidelines of famed chef Alice Waters, with local, fresh, and simple ingredients from the urban farms of Boggy Creek and Angel Valley, served in season at their peak. Meanwhile, the pastry chef sculpts key-lime tartlets, cupcakes, and cream puffs to accompany cups of coffee or espresso drinks made with locally roasted beans from Anderson's Coffee Company. The house blend combines premium East African beans with a Costa Rican hard bean, barrel-cooked to a medium-brown, full-city roast to jump-start mornings without licking a car battery.