If you’re as obsessed with coffee as us, then you’re probably stoked that artisan coffee shops are cropping up all over Austin. These third wave coffeehouses move away from the convenience-focused Starbucks model to a business philosophy that prioritizes community values — such as cultivating homey, inviting atmospheres and utilizing beans from local roasters — and coffee at its very best.
Up until recently, folks living in extreme North Austin would have to drive between twenty and thirty minutes to Epoch Coffee at The Village enjoy artisan brews. Then in 2014, Red Horn Brewing Coffee House and Brewing Co. popped up in Cedar Park and the following year, Round Rock scored its first third wave shop, Lamppost Coffee, thanks to local entrepreneur Brian Burns.
Burns felt drawn to that proverbial, laid-back coffee shop vibe early in life when he and some school buddies began frequenting a small cafe that maintained a homey atmosphere and a wide selection of board games for patrons to play.
“I told the owner, ‘I love this. I want to run a coffee shop someday,'” Burns said. “So before I ever liked coffee at all, I fell in love with the atmosphere of coffee shops as a place to hang out with your friends. Later in life, I started getting lattes and different things and from that I fell in love with coffee itself.”
Burns worked a number of different jobs throughout his twenties, including an industrial position that taught him to rely on milk and sugar coffee to wake up for his 5 a.m. shifts, before signing on with Summer Moon Coffee, a local roaster known for its wood-fired beans. There, Burns learned to appreciate artisan coffee and rekindled his desire to own his own coffee shop someday.
In 2010, Burns got his official start as a coffee entrepreneur when he founded Brian’s Brew Coffee, a walk-up window located within Bank of America at 6th Street and Congress Avenue that serves joe made with Summer Moon beans and house-made eats. When the kiosk proved successful, Burns began looking for a physical space in which to start an actual sit-down coffeehouse.
Sporting decor loosely inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, one of Burns’ favorite book series, Lamppost Coffee officially opened in July 2015 in a shopping center complex adjacent to Round Rock High School.
“Round Rock was a pretty easy choice because there’s not a lot in the way of coffee here,” Burns said. “It’s definitely Starbucks town, so we’re trying to help people from where they are ordering Frappuccinos and baby step them into appreciating coffee at its best, without all of the additives.”
That’s not to say that Lamppost doesn’t serve sugary goodness. Their menu offers a variety of coffee and non-coffee drinks including flavored lattes, traditional espressos, cold brews, pour-over and French press coffees, teas, espresso milkshakes, and fruit smoothies, and they frequently stock an assortment of grab-n-go salads and sandwiches, as well as delicious house-made breakfast tacos and pastries.
“We definitely want to encourage people who like coffee already to try coffee in its purest form,” said Burns. “We’ll say, ‘I’ll make you a sweet one, but try this first,’ and hand them a cappuccino. A lot of times, they’ll say, ‘This is really good!’ and switch over or dabble and get something different next time they come in. That’s exciting to see.”
Besides food and drink, Lamppost serves up a modest event schedule featuring open mic poetry readings and public karaoke sets, as well as plenty of board games and table space in the back of the venue to accommodate game nights and business meetings.
“We want this to be a community and a second home where people feel like they want to hang out and play board games and get comfortable,” said Burns, explaining that he only hires staff who genuinely like people and will take initiative to learn customers’ names and drink preferences.
“Hopefully, when people come in, they feel that,” he concluded. “Hopefully, they feel like they’re in a peaceful place where people care about them.”
Lamppost Coffee is open from 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. If you visit, be sure to let your barista know that Austin.com sent you and don’t forget to tip!
All story photos: Rebecca L. Bennett