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Horrible Experience at Austin Java

I'm still trying to figure out why Austin Java was voted "best lunch place" by the Austin Chronicle. Are you a lunch place or a coffee shop/virtual office?
On my last visit there, I was meeting some old friends and we were looking for a table for 3. The time was 11:30 and their lunch business was heating up. I noticed 4 tables that could accomodate 4 people that were each being used by one person sipping a cup of coffee while working on their laptop. My party of 3 was forced to sit at a table for 2 and add a chair by the door to the outdoor patio. We were constantly interrupted by the opening and closing of the patio door and the sounds of "excuse me" as patrons were trying to squeeze by us on their way to the restroom. Some other coffee houses that serve lunch, turn off their wifi during the lunch hour to attract the lunch patrons.
And, I've never been impressed with their food. I ordered the tortilla soup and salad for $6.75. My soup measured to about 1/2 cup and my salad as they called it consisted of a few field greens, 1 cherry tomato cut in half and a handful of croutons.
Are you a lunch place or a coffee shop/virtual office? Apparently Austin Java cannot do both.

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  1. I've been satisfied the dozens of times I have gone. Usually I go for breakfast to get the egg in a hole or poached eggs. I enjoy the bottomless cup of interesting coffees and the wireless. The Parkway location has a nice open patio in the rear that is rarely packed.
    The patio of the City Hall Location offers an entertaining cosmopolitan ambience.

    1. I've always enjoyed the place.

      You're complaining that a coffee shop (it does have "Java" in its name) allows people to camp out and drink coffee? What's next? Complaining that Chuck E Cheese allows kids to run around?

      4 Replies
      1. re: The Tres Leches

        Hey now... play fair and be nice. Austin Java is a full service restaurant. The original poster was speaking about it as a lunch place... specifically. And he / she is welcome to state that it was boring and tedious if that was the experience.

        I find Austin Jana (various locations) to be very hit or miss. However, it's young and very "Austin". BTW... I love living in Austin!!!

        1. re: Rene

          Rene, I don't really agree with Tres Leche's style of criticism, but the point is valid. If casey has been there before, nothing that happened, or that was observed, should be surprising. Sometimes you get what you order. I will, however, defend anyone's right to comment about their feelings. If I think their comments are ridiculous, I ignore them and sleep just as well. Who among us has never put their shoe (with or without aioli) in their mouth?

          By the way, I've never been all that impressed with their portions or quality either and the atmosphere isn't very conducive either to eating there or even drinking coffee and working on my computer.

          1. re: rollingplate

            I'm not a huge fan of Austin Java though I keep going back occasionally hoping it will get better. IMHO, breakfast is probably the best meal they do though I do like their soups as well.
            I'm currently a little off on the place for a variety of reasons. I agree with with casey because often when I go in at busy times (think Sunday at 11am), campers at large tables are frustrating since part of the business is to serve a full menu. IMHO, if you are going there to study and want a large table by yourself, go at times when they are not slammed by customers or at least move to a smaller table.

            I don't like going there any more after the last meal I had there. I ordered breakfast. Eggs: good, Bacon: hmmm really good. I ordered a bagel they took to the back immediately after I ordered it so it would be reserved for my meal. When my meal was served, the bagel I ordered (blueberry or something like it that was sweet) was substituted with a savory bagel and they also forgot half my husband's order. Worse, the bagel that showed up was both burnt to a crisp and stone cold.
            After I asked about the bagel, they took it back and eventually came back and told me they were out of the one I wanted and asked if I wanted something else and gave several choices. I picked the banana nut muffin which showed up pretty quick.

            However, the condition of the muffin made me decide not to go back there for a while. First, the muffin was burnt, but I can deal with that. What was disgusting was the server explained that since the muffins were burnt, they picked off all the burnt parts on the top. The entire muffin looked like it had been nibbled on by someone all the way around and the rest of it was burnt. I really wasn't able to eat it because it literally looked like leftovers from someone else's plate. ugh.

            I'm a pretty gracious customer because I understand things happen in the kitchen and the servers just serve (and not cook) the food but seriously, some things should just never go out of the kitchen.

          2. re: Rene

            They've been around since 1995.
            And to be fair they used to be a great place but suffered from their success like so many other great local places have.

        2. I'm a fan of Austin Java for that very reason. I'm a student and I enjoy getting a full breakfast or lunch (rather than just a pastry or cold sandwich), coffee, and studying for an hour or two and not having to worry about camping out on one of a servers four or five tables and causing him/her to lose tips. I do admit that it can be annoying to order food and then have to scope out a table, but at a busy order at the counter type restaurant it can be unavoidable.

          Are there any other similar full menu, order at the counter, coffee shop style places? During finals time I find that I get a little tired of Austin Java, and I'd love to find a similar place.

          1. Nobody should be surprised when the food at Austin Java disappoints. This place isn't here to wow on the food front. Rather, it is a home for students and (more recently) seekers of free wifi, providing them with the calories they need to continue.

            1. I'm with tom in austin on this. I'd also say that whenever I choose restaurants based on what makes the "best of Austin" newspaper polls, I am almost always disappointed. As for Austin Java's food specifically, I'm not a big fan (and I've tried almost everything on the menu). Here's a link to an older thread on the subject:


              3 Replies
              1. re: MPH

                I agree. I'm sitting in Austin Java now, having jsut finished a tragically overcooked migas breakfast, complete with boring homefries and lackluster beans. At $7, not a rip-off, but I'd rather have a "Grand Slam" at Denny's for $4 (and I hate Denny's) than have this poorly executed dish again. The coffee here is average - I generally order "foo-foo" drinks like a Mocha, and I can't figure out why these places use syrup for a mocha! A scoop of dutch-process cocoa powder makes a much better drink, and I would be happy to pay extra for it. Anyone know of a local coffee house that uses powder for a mocha rather than syrup?

                  1. re: Bababooey

                    Bababooey, Most coffee shops use a syrup because it is more convenient, and mixes into the drink much more easily. And the common perception is the opposite of yours--most customers think that using a powder is cheap, akin to opening a packet of Swiss Miss and putting it into your drink. Even the most respectable coffee shops, who buy quality chocolate powder in bulk, often reconstitute it into a syrup for easy mixability. It's easy to tell who does what--most of the people who use a jug of syrup just put a plastic pump into the top of that jug, and it sits out in plain sight, with the brand clearly visible. The ones who use a powder usually have a metal canister with a reusable metal pump on top.

                1. the spicy African peanut soup is good. the turkey sandwich isn't bad.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ieathereforeiam

                    Yeah.. I've always been underwhelmed by this place. But the other day, i was looking for wi-fi so i could escape the office and take a working lunch, and the Jo's downtown's wi-fi wasn't working ... so I 'camped out' across the street and got connected. I would never eat there with all the other choices around, but sometimes I'll get a not-so-spectacular coffee for the privilege of using their free wi-fi. i also go when I'm hanging out with my friend's 10 and 12 year old girls -- the menu seems to appeal to this age range.

                    1. re: reina_de_fideo

                      Had a bad day at Austin Java. The BF and I decided to stop by the barton springs location with our Pooch after running Townlake, convenient and dog friendly. I ordered eggs benedict with the sauce on the side. The first let down was the fact that they were out of coffee on one side the entire time we were there. I asked to have it refilled and they suggested going to the other side of the building for a refill. But this is a coffee house!! Anyways, my benedict came with the sauce on it and on the side, while I was searching for coffee. So the BF didnt know it was not how I requested it. I was miffed and disappointed, but didnt want to send it back. I tried to scrape off the runny sauce. But at this point I was really disappointed in the whole experience. We don't go out to breakfast very often so I can confidently say that when we endulge in the future, Austin Java will not be on our list.

                  2. I've never been impressed by the food at Austin Java. Food has always been a shade above mediocre. Too many other places to go that are better than border line acceptable.

                    1. The food here is horrendous on an absolute level, but not unreasonably so. You certainly get what you pay for. In terms of (quality/price) it's pretty mediocre. In terms of absolute quality, it's terrible. Still, you would probably get far far better (quality/price) at various super small joints/taco stands around austin.

                      I'd put the food at a good notch or two below the level of TGIF, which is not terribly respectable to begin with.

                      I think the ambience just fine--not for a restaurant--but rather for a place to "hang out."

                      1. Boy, this sure is a hot topic. First thing, let me point out that the three locations I'm familiar with (City Hall, 12th and Lamar, Barton Springs Road) have very different flavor and atmosphere. The N. Lamar location is the best one, IMHO, and I've had a couple of dishes there that were definitely better than TGIF. Last week I had the Chicken Skewer Appetizer--pretty decent, nothing great, better than average. But one time I had an Ahi Tuna Sandwich that just blew me away. Definitely not Uchi quality, but I'm telling you, for less than $10, its one of the better sandwiches in Austin. And one other thing to point out, their cold teas always taste fresh. I know, its not that hard to do, but its definitely something that stands out in my mind.

                        As to the other locations, I've heard so many complaints through the service industry grapevine about both management and clientele (more about the latter, frankly), that I just can't bring myself to step in those other locations.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: taliesin15

                          "And one other thing to point out, their cold teas always taste fresh. I know, its not that hard to do..."

                          Apparently it is! There are several places I frequent where I will not get iced tea because it's too strong and stale tasting.

                        2. I usually enjoy Austin Java. I'm not always thrilled with their lunch selections, but I thoroughly enjoy their French toast and breakfast quesedilla. Coffee is fine for me, and I enjoy making Hibiscus fizz from the fountain drink area. I mostly go there to hang out on the back porch and socialize or sequester myself in a corner with my laptop. And it serves that purpose very well.

                          1. I agree Java is best for breakfast. Lunch is always packed and there is no parking. Also cakes look great but have no flavor. It's a funky place but go at the right times.