Coffee in Austin, Texas: Once Over Coffee Bar


[Photographs: Meister]

Though it looks modest from the outside, Once Over is a mighty little coffee shop, in the cultural heart of a mighty little town: Austin, TX. What makes it so special? Coffee, community, and quality. Oh, and the fact that the owners are awesome helps, too.

"We chose coffee shops because we wanted to have the same fun you can have in a bar, but during the day and without drunk people," wink shop masters Rob and Jenée Ovitt, who opened the cafe in 2009. And to that end, Once Over might actually be the coolest bar that's not a bar in town. A sleek and shiny black La Marzocco espresso machine sits like a hot rod in the front of the cafe, and the barista behind it cranks out expert Americanos made with the shop's signature Dead Fingers espresso blend. (You won't have dead fingers after this coffee, though they might be a little shaky if you overdo it.)


The couple bounced around a bit before settling in Austin (they tried out spots far and wide, doing turns in Boston and San Diego, a couple stints in New York, and even put in their time as founding owners of Izzy's Coffee Den in Asheville, NC), but they were long in love with their current town's small-but-not-too-small vibe.

Turns out small-but-not-too-small is the cafe's perfect descriptor, too. Beans come fresh from within city limits, roasted by Cuvée Coffee Roasting Company, and offbeat snacks like rosemary-and–sea salt bagels keeps things at least a little bit weird (as the capital city's unofficial motto goes), but Once Over is a serious operation dedicated not only to the coffee community at large, but also the locals that stop by every day for a cup and a chat. "By the time we sold Izzy's," Jenée says, "we thought we were [going to] open our 'dream' quality-centered coffee shop. Coming back to Austin, we found a balance between quality coffee and quality service. After opening Once Over, we remembered the people are as important as the quality of the coffee."


That's the Once Over all over: Quality and hospitality, driven by people who love people who love putting back shots of espresso. Folks near and far come for the coffee, linger over a Russell's Bakery–made muffin, and often stick around late enough to partake in a frosty-cold local beer—not to mention local tunes. Today the shop is hosting SXOnceOver: Its own SXSW-alternative showcase of musicians from both near (nearly a dozen Austinites on this lineup) and far (including New York singer-songwriter Dayna Kurtz and Colorado bluegrass band Head For The Hills).

But naturally, things aren't all fun and games (and rock and roll). "Doing coffee well is not easy," the Ovitt's warn pie-in-the-sky cafe owners. "The growth spurt of specialty coffee has sprouted a lot of opportunists, [but] people should demand more than buzz words and postures from their coffee shop. Slow down and taste the coffee. Demand more than mediocrity. The end."

Once Over Coffee Bar 2009 S. First St, Austin TX 78704 (map) (512) 326-9575