Sip, study or socialize in 'the essence of Austin'
Laptop screens light the faces of customers at Strange Brew Austin Coffee, a 24-hour coffee shop where customers come for the free Wi-Fi and stay for the paninis and organic, fair trade coffee.
"We have amazing customers that want to shop local and support small local businesses," company President Scott Ward said.
The coffee shop gets about 70 percent of its products from Austin—coffee beans come from Third Coast Coffee, for example—and during the past two years it has continued to expand its focus beyond coffee. The menu includes bagels, croissants, wraps, pastries, herbal teas, hot chocolate, Italian sodas and locally brewed draft beers.
While Ward said Strange Brew has had success selling sandwiches and breakfast tacos made by other vendors, he wants to start making food on-site as well. The restaurant recently switched to Boar's Head meats and cheeses, and Ward plans to add cold sandwiches and bring back breakfast tacos starting early next year.
"Really great flavors are what I strive for," he said. "I taste everything; it's all my taste, so maybe it's bad. But I think it's working."
The paninis ($3.95–$6.49) are popular; their recipes were developed by Torchy's Tacos owner Mike Rypka, Ward said.Of the six varieties, the top seller is the Cookaborough, which is made up of turkey breast, cheddar cheese, jalapeo cheddar dip and roasted peppers ($5.95).
When it comes to coffee, Strange Brew offers lattes in flavors such as Wedding Cake and Pumpkin Spice, but the customer favorite is the organic Ethiopian Blend Drip coffee ($2.25), Ward said.
Ward is focused on the coffee shop's continued expansion. He plans not only to double the size of the main seating areas, but also to add a second location this fall to house a kitchen and storefront in the Cherry Creek shopping center, he said.
Ward added a lounge area to give customers a place to socialize.
"I picked South Austin because I believe it's the essence of Austin," he said. "It's what Austin really is. It's what makes Austin different."
Ward moved to Austin in 1988 at age 18. He worked as a builder for the father of a friend who founded Grinders cafe, which later became Flipnotics Satellite Caf, and he realized he could open his own place.
He had an insurance shop set up at Strange Brew's current location, and when a friend suggested he launch a 24-hour coffee shop, he asked friends if they'd prepay for coffee to help him get started.
"I was going to just get an espresso machine and wing it," he said.
He incorporated Strange Brew LLC in December 2009 and opened the coffee shop June 12, 2010. Ward said his employees have been instrumental in Strange Brew's growth.
"Had I not been blessed with great people that have worked for me, on and off, for over the last two years, Strange Brew wouldn't have near the success that it has now," he said.
- The Monty Strange–Turkey breast, Swiss cheese, raspberry chipotle sauce ($5.95)
- The Rypka–Pine nut hummus, tomato, olive tapenade, sweet balsamic reduction sauce ($5.49)
- The B-ROE Reuben–Rye bread, pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing ($6.49)
- The Italian–Salami, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted peppers, sweet balsamic reduction sauce ($6.49)
- The Cookaborough–Turkey breast, cheddar cheese, jalapeo cheddar dip, roasted peppers ($5.95)
- The Hippy–Tomato, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted peppers, sweet balsamic reduction sauce ($5.95)
- The Christina–Turkey, Muenster cheese, chipotle ranch dip, roasted peppers ($5.95)
- Grilled cheese with bacon–Cheddar, Swiss or provolone ($4.95)
*Available on sourdough, wheat or marble rye
Know your labels
Strange Brew coffee is organic and fair trade, company president Scott Ward said.
Organic: Organic means that the beans are naturally grown. The farmers don't use any pesticides, and there are no artificial or synthetic fertilizers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture certifies products as organic and ensures farms meet specific requirements. No genetic engineering, sewage sludge or irradiation can be used.
Fair trade: Coffee is the second most-traded commodity in the world after oil, and fair trade keeps farmers' wages consistent. Organizations negotiate a minimum price paid to farmers that remains steady. Also, cooperatives take a percentage of sales and put it back into local communities for schools and infrastructure.
Strange Brew Austin Coffee, 828-7636, www.strangebrewaustin.com, 5326 Manchaca Road
Open 24 hours