A Quick Tasting Tour of Houston

As I said in my previous post, I spent the Labor Day weekend in Houston. I toured the Katz Coffee Roasting facility, and went to three coffee shops that were highly rated in the city:

  1. Boomtown Coffee
  2. Antidote
  3. Catalina Coffee

I didn’t make it over to Blacksmith, but when traveling not everything goes perfectly according to plan. By the time I got over there parking was a bit difficult to come by so I passed it up. Next time! As for the places I visited, I took some notes at each place.

Boomtown Coffee

Boomtown is situated on 19th Street in the Heights neighborhood in Houston. The last decade has seen some massive changes to the Heights, where large older homes are being replaced by 4-6 condo sets or McMansions. On some streets it’s holding on to historical charm but a lot of it has been massively gentrified. As a former resident of the Heights, this makes me sad. In any case, you walk past the little boutiques and vinyl record shops that haven’t been open all that long, past the patio full of people on MacBooks, and walk into Boomtown Coffee.

Boomtown

I ordered a cappuccino and it was good. Not great. Not amazing. But good. Unfortunately for them I’ve had Mark’s cappuccino at Theory Coffee here in San Antonio, so that is a high bar for them to clear. I didn’t stay long because even though there’s a “No Smoking” sign on the door, there was a hint of cigarette smoke that kind of hung in the place. I thought it would be better - I’ve heard such great things - but if I lived in Houston again I don’t think Boomtown would be “my place”.

Antidote

Antidote was a great cafe. It is also in the Heights neighborhood. The front patio is shaded with huge tilted umbrellas to protect patrons from the sun (unfortunately it doesn’t help with the humitidty) and there’s a side patio that is well shaded with fans to move air around. There’s a nice cafe area inside with plenty of seating. The coffee bar is in a completely separate room from the cafe area, which sadly killed any prospect of barista-customer conversation. The real only place you can talk to the people making your coffee is when you order, and then there’s that awkward “OH GOD THERE ARE PEOPLE WAITING BEHIND ME” feeling you get if there’s a line, which there was.

Antidote

I was surprised to see that Antidote’s coffee was from Big Bend Coffee Roasters, a roaster I have written about in a previous post. I just ordered the drip coffee, which was much bolder than I prefer. Like the coffee I reviewed previously, it was probably meant to drink with a bit of cream and sugar. I wasn’t really a fan of the coffee, but maybe they switch out from time to time. Antidote felt a bit more “old Heights” to me than Boomtown (definitely “new Heights”).

Catalina Coffee

Catalina is closer to downtown Houston than the previously mentioned shops, but is on Washington. Earlier in this post I said Boomtown would not be “my place” if I ever moved back to Houston. I said that because Catalina would definitely be that place. It’s the kind of coffee shop I walk into and just know they are doing it right.

Catalina Coffee

Catalina had several things going for it that Boomtown and Antidote did not. One was parking, which is kind of important in car-obsessed Houston. Catalina also had whole beans for sale. I don’t remember seeing whole beans at Antidote. Finally, they had a seating area right next to the espresso machine (a La Marzocco). You can talk to the baristas and learn a thing or two about what you’re drinking. What a concept.

I ordered a Cortado. There were two things I found interesting:

  1. No latte art. Straight milk pour into the cup. You can see this in the picture below.
  2. It was really, really good.

Catalina Cortado

Catalina gets coffee from Amaya Roasting, a local Houston roaster. Other than the free bag I got at Katz for the tour, a bag I bought here was the only coffee I felt was worth bringing back home. If you’re in San Antonio, you can get Amaya at Press Coffee. It’s worth the trip.

I had a great time in Houston - I drank some great coffee, had a blast touring Katz, and got to see some old friends too. When you go: save yourself the trouble of figuring out where to go for coffee. Just go straight to Catalina Coffee.