When Nathan and Jamie Todd opened Tantra Coffeehouse in 2006, they envisioned a setting where people would come together over cups of coffee, build community ties, and celebrate the arts and culture of San Marcos.
What happened, without anybody really planning it, was that Tantra became a live music headquarters. Punk rockers, angsty singer-songwriters and others flocked to the coffee shop's small outdoor stage.
Neighbors complained about the noise, and the business wasn't making money. Tantra's four owners discussed dissolving their partnership and closing the doors of the purple wooden building a couple of blocks west of the downtown square.
"We've got the best cup of coffee in town, but most people didn't know it because you couldn't get them in the door," said Adam Lilley, a co-manager who bought an ownership stake from the Todds in November 2010.
Instead of closing, the owners decided to pull the plug on the raucous outdoor music scene. The switch happened in June 2012.
"We took a really hard left turn, stripped away all the fluff and all the bright lights and went back to the basics. One thing Nathan and Jamie had right from Day 1, they didn't skimp on quality food and beverages," Lilley said. "We braced ourselves for the chunk of time that we figured we'd have to form a new clientele but within a month to six weeks, things were going as well as they ever had before."
The success has been bittersweet, said Lilley, himself a musician. Since making the change, however, the coffee shop has allowed a few performers back onto the wooden stage—but this time, they fit within a coffee shop setting, such as bluegrass on Wednesdays.
"We'll put an emphasis on music that is neighborhood-friendly," Lilley said.
Co-owner Adam Lilley's recommendations
Blackened salmon tacos — "I feel certain we're the only place in town doing blackened salmon. When we first introduced it, I thought, 'That's pretty fancy for a coffee shop.'" $7.50
Tantra Turkey — Lilley's favorite food offering is a grilled turkey sandwich with avocado spread, spinach and tomato. "I think that's it. It's a very simple sandwich." $6.95
Breakfast bagel — "It's a bagel of your choice with bacon, egg and cheese. We have the best bagels in this town, for sure. I'd say maybe the best bagels in Hays County." $4.95
The Busy Bee — Tantra's signature drink is made of honey, orange juice and yerba mate, a South American herbal tea. "It's a light, refreshing beverage, and it's got a nice buzz to it, but yerba mate metabolizes in your body differently than coffee. It's all of the buzz with none of the crash." $3.50
Hours of operation:
Sun.–Fri. 7 a.m.–midnight,
Sat. 7 a.m.–1 a.m.