The Top 10 Coffee Houses in Houston

Categories: Caffeine

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Photo by Gary R. Wise
Greenway Coffee, one of Houston's leading coffee houses.
Last week's First Look at Black Hole Cafe prompted some interesting discussions in the comments section, namely a lively debate about the merits of weighing a just-opened coffee house against other, more established locations.

Said commenter "guest" (clever name) about the write-up:

This isn't a review, but a comparison which is very unfair to black hole and people who haven't been yet. Review it for what it was, not what everyone else is. If had never been to catalina or inversion, the article implies i shouldn't even step foot in black hole. Let them know it wasn't good while you're there, don't slander them on the backbone-less internet.

Fair enough, guest. That wasn't a review -- you're right -- merely a First Look. And I wouldn't consider it backbone-less to...well...do my job, with my name firmly attached to my opinion. But you gave us an idea: to compare Houston's well-established coffee shops and determine which are the 10 best in the city.

Taken into account are the three most important determining factors in any coffee house: quality of product, atmosphere (the physical feel of the space) and vibe (the emotional connection -- do you feel welcome there?). The results are below.

Note: Wi-fi is not considered a factor in determining the best coffee shop. Houston's coffee shops are not your living rooms or home offices. Have a little consideration for your fellow customers and don't be a wi-fi hog.

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10. Dirk's
4005 Montrose, 713-526-1319

Even the basic drip coffee at Dirk's -- formerly Diedrich Coffee -- is good. But the service doesn't match the drinks here, and can be downright cold if you don't fit the neighborhood demographic. Solution: I always get my coffee to go from Dirk's and enjoy it at home, or take it out on the patio during nicer weather and take in the view into the Museum District from Montrose.

9. River Oaks Coffee House
3601 Westheimer, 713-621-0226

An overlooked little spot just to the west of the giant St. Luke's United Methodist Church in River Oaks (as the name would imply), River Oaks Coffee House has almost the exact opposite situation as Dirk's: While the coffee here is only so-so, the service is always fabulous. Expect a warm welcome and a quiet spot to relax, but don't expect a perfectly pulled latte and you'll be fine. Bonus: A lack of high schoolers since nearby Lamar replaced its library with a coffee shop. (I'm only half-kidding here.)

8. Khon's
2808 Milam, 713-523-7775

A slice of heaven for anyone homesick for the Big Easy, Khon's is a familiar spot for Louisiana ex-pats craving Abita beer and chicory coffee. That's right -- Khon's serves booze, too, which instantly bumps it up in my book. Add to that stellar service from owners Khon and Ashley Lu as well as their staff of eager bartenders and baristas, and you have a coffee house that's as cozy as your own kitchen. It's also an ideal stop for downtown commuters heading out after work.


Location Info

Catalina Coffee

2201 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: General

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31 comments
bgbassett
bgbassett

I've only met one friendly barista at Inversion, but I love their peppermint toddy! Can't help going back :/

Scott
Scott

I'm getting mixed messages from your notes on coffee shop etiquette.  On one hand it's okay to "lose yourself in a book or study materials" at Antidote, but at Inversion it is poor etiquette to work there and use the wifi.  How many people study at a coffee shop without using the wifi.  Many coffee shops would go out of business if it weren't for the people who spend some part of their work day there.  

Mmm coffee
Mmm coffee

Javapura now has a cafe in the medical center! They have a synesso set up ready to go. Also seems to be selling sandwiches as well made in-store. Have you checked them out yet?

manish
manish

Your "note" about internet makes no sense.  I can make coffee in my own house too, but I choose not to.  I choose to go pay $3.50 for a cup because of the experience.  Internet is part of the experience.  I love drinking a cup of green tea, listening to Pandora (Miles Austin Station), while doing some work in a nice atmosphere.  I'm sure people next to me do not care as they are their for other reasons important to them.  :)

wtf_shilcutt
wtf_shilcutt

These coffee shops are all in the same general area and why do people keep calling Agora a coffee shop? It's more like a bar. It's about as much of a coffee shop as the taqueria you named. I've been a Houston coffee shop hopper and barista for years and I believe you left out some reputable coffee houses. Do some more research before you make a list claiming you are in the know of the top coffee shops of "Houston" (not just what's close to montrose.)

Caroline
Caroline

This is a great topic, but how about some places outside the Loop?

Daniel N. Calderon
Daniel N. Calderon

Howdy! Just thought you should know that due to this article, I'm checking out "El Rey Taqueria" hope to be as impressed as you are. I will keep you posted! Cheers, @DanielnCalderon

aplatanada
aplatanada

My only problem with Greenway is that it's closed on the weekends!!

Jack Cruiser
Jack Cruiser

Nooooo....youre kidding you picked the guy that writes for houston press as #1.....shocking!!!All these places are all the same when their drinks are heavy milk and flavoring. There is no pure coffee culture in Houston, its all the latte art and flavorings...the true espresso here is undrinkable. Especially the local stuff....

SOrry I just got back from Europe

benjaminlagrone
benjaminlagrone

boooo. you left Fioza off your list. The deserve to be in the top 3 at least.

Coffee Bean Junkie
Coffee Bean Junkie

This is a really great list. The problem is there are so many great coffee shops/cafes/restaurants/bakeries in Houston that it's hard to track them all down. And of course everybody's taste buds are a bit different but for the most part some things can be agreed on. Catalina is definitely the best. It's #1 in my book but #2 works too. I'll admit that I haven't been to Greenway yet but I've been wanting to go. Couldn't find it last time I searched for it. Fioza definitely should be on this list. Excellent service and great coffee/lattes/latte art. I would also add Crave Cupcakes. I go there often just for the pour-over style rich tasting coffee they serve. Haven't had a bad cup there yet.As far as service goes, that can vary alot too. I've been in some of the places listed in the top 10 and gotten both good and bad service. But that's understandable....everyone has good and bad days.

SirRon
SirRon

My disdain for absurd Top 5's doesn't not extend to topical ranking posts such as this one. Well done Shilcutt. *upwardpointingthumb*

eatTX
eatTX

How about the Top Ten Houston Tea Houses for the non-coffee drinkers in this great city?

Sarah Hubbell
Sarah Hubbell

Really disappointed to not see Taft St. on this list. Great art, great music, and a great cause makes a great place. Not to mention the awesome coffee.

celadon9
celadon9

Im afraid that Inversion, only a block or so from my house, will never gain my respect. Udring those long few mornings when my French press was MIA, I traipsed over approx: 3 mornings.The first two, not bad: the last? Well, there's a reason i'ts called "the last". Back in the very late 80's as a baby barrista in Austin, I looked down upon those who would order an Americano-I was young, and I didn't get it. Watered down Espresso? Really? After a fw go rounds with Starbutts, trying to order just a coffee, and getting tepid dishwater; a friend hyped to what an Americano really (was) Great roast, steam brew, with steam!!! Add milk, and you're there for a fraction of the price of a cap or a latte, (I tip the same as the higher priced beverage!) and lot more sipping on your way to where ever.Now, these morans. I ordered a double Americano, with enough STEAM for a triple. The first two mornings....ok. The third, the chicalena behind thecounter decided that the hot water on a back burner destined for someTEA drinker's beverage would suffice.WRONG!!!! When I told her it wasn't hot, and requested that she make it again, and asked if she had used "STEAM" she said (the predictable, and predictably LAME and incorrect), "No it's hot water, that's the way we always make them, that's what an Americano IS." She grudgingly did as I requested, proceding to commiserate with the next customer, about how "yes, it was oneofthosemornings." As I walked out, with a lame ass Americano in my hand...I heard EVERY employee remarking that they hadn't had any caffeine that morning, "either".REALLY?!?!? YOU DON'T SAY!?!?! and WHO TOLD YOU THAT WAS EVER ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR POSITION!?!?!Next up: Ordering an Americano @ Catalina.

Note: The thing that makes Both these places THE BOMB, is THE BEAN!!! KATZ COFFEE, damnit!! Living within a few scant blocks the other direction from Frontier (I think they moved) and thier scorched earth beans. (Can you say "Dear God what is that stench?") Having spent quite some time in the warehouse district aroud the corner from Lola Savanah back in the day, and drinking thier coffee without knowing who, where, what; and saying, "OMG, WHERE DID YOU GET THIS COFFEE?!?!" And then, coming full circle. Midtown Farmer's Market; Taft Street Coffee; putting a name, a face to the bean, to the roast(er)...The Real Bean, and raising a Toast to the Roast(er) Mr. Katz, himself.Now, give me these lame ass "barista-nots" for 2 weeks, and I'll show you some COFFEE!

Ziggy Smogdust
Ziggy Smogdust

No Fioza? :( You should have an espresso there with Kid Lengua and me sometime. They really do great stuff and have good food as well.

kerms
kerms

Where's Waldo's? It is simply the best place in Houston.

Kyle
Kyle

Defunct Hazard Diedrich's > Empire Cafe > Current Montrose Dirk's

kbrigan
kbrigan

@Scott I think i know where she's coming from...wi-fi hogs usually take up enough space for three people...seriously.  They get there seat, then enough room for their computer and coffee, and enough remaining room for all their computer-carrying stuff and study materials.  Readers usually need one chair.  Also, readers tend to stick around for an hour or so, wi-fi hogs turn it into their office.  As a former barrista in Austin, I can tell you how annoying it is to see these same handful of people come in day after day and turn it into their homes...they actually cause us to lose biz because people come in and can't find a spot to sit for 30 minutes because the same 10 people take up room for 30 EVERYDAY. 

coffeeinveins
coffeeinveins

Living in Seattle the past three years has really brought upon my coffee snobbery. I'm hoping I do find a decent cup in this town and not burned up bean juice. By the way, Seattle's Best, Starbucks,. and Peet's are NOT coffee. I wish we had a Victrola, Caffe Ladro, Caffe Vita, or even a Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Those ARE coffee shops, fyi for those who aren't close to aware. Shilcutt, very good points!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

First on that list, for me, would be Te House of Tea. Best chai in the city. Great fair trade teas.

Old Salty
Old Salty

I like my coffee religion free.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I really do like Taft, but it just barely got edged out. I have a whole huge list of "honorable mentions" and Taft is at the top!

frosty
frosty

Sooo....I'm a little confused. When you say steam, do you mean you want room temp water and then your espresso heated with the steam wand? Or do you want them to run your shot and then just stick the steam wand in and crank it up for a second?

Anon today
Anon today

I'm sorry, is this supposed to make sense? I'm sorry I read this - I want my 30 seconds back.

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

I believe you mean Fontana roasters. Katz has been just as bad about scorched beans, though.

In addition, your (friend's) definition of an Americano is incorrect.

Finally - baristas don't live on coffee alone, so don't be shocked if they decide not to have it one morning.

frosty
frosty

I second that. Some of the baristas are really into it and seem proud of what they do. Makes a difference.

Old Salty
Old Salty

Places in the Heights are for Heights folks. If it was listed here, you'd be pissed you couldn't get your cuppa joe without waiting behind all these people from somewhere other than the Heights.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

While Taft is housed inside a church building, I've never been witnessed to or otherwise seen any religious implications in their coffee. :-/

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

I once thought I saw the Virgin Mary in a pattern in their coffee beans, but when I looked at it from another angle it looked more like Scarlett Johannsson. False alarm!

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