Dominican Joe- “Drink coffee…change the world” in Austin, Texas

I find myself in Austin this weekend combining an opportunity to bring the family down to see Granny and Granddaddy and do the CapTex Triathlon tomorrow on Memorial Day.  Donna came with me after worship at Northwest (and carb loading at the Cheesecake Factory) to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike.  After browsing around the Expo we hopped back in the car and guess what time it was?  Yep, it was time for coffee!

I asked the parking attendant on the way out of the garage where the best coffee in downtown Austin was and he paused for a moment before saying, “Well there’s a Starbucks around the corner”.  Down, but not out, I wipe the tears from my eyes and type “nearby coffee” into the ol’ iPhone and sure enough, multiple bogies immediately pop up.

Within 5 minutes, we pull up to Dominican Joe.

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This coffee shop started in the mid-2000’s with a goal of providing great coffee to downtown Austin and improving the lives of families in the Dominican Republic through the purchase of Fair Trade coffee.  Located along South Congress just outside downtown proper, it sits in a small strip center with fairly decent parking.  It boasts generous indoor seating as well as outdoor on the patio.  It was fairly packed on this warm Sunday afternoon but had plenty of room to sit and enjoy the afternoon java.

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Donna ordered her drink of choice, a soy latte and I opted for my typical Cortado.  Their menu offered a Cortadito which is a sweetened version of the Cortado.  It uses a splash of condensed milk to add that touch of sweetness, but as I already had my honey with me, I needed no extra sweetness and requested a straight Cortado.

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My Cortado was outstanding but Donna said her latte was a tad on the cool side with a bit too much foam for a typical latte. The flavor of the beans was smooth and strong and was well drawn.  We did not sample any of their food items, but they offered typical pastries along with some breakfast and lunch items prepared by local popular eateries.

All in all, this downtown Austin establishment seems to be meeting its goal of serving good coffee with a mission.  If you find yourself in downtown Austin someday and need a jolt of java, you will not  be disappointed at Dominican Joe.

Brew on, fellow coffee hunters and safe travels over this holiday weekend!

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Zenzero Bakery & Cafe

Ahhh…the smell of fresh roasted coffee and homemade baked goods…that was the welcome we received upon entering the Zenzero Bakery & Café in Coppell.  The second round of the DFW Coffee Hunters search for great coffee was underway!  I hesitate to opine so early in the game, but after all is said and done, I would not be at all surprised if Zenzero (pronounced “ZEHN-zeh-roh, which is Italian for ginger) ranks near the top of my personal favorites. Why you might ask? Let’s start with the owner of this sublime establishment.  Ginger Blazek is passionate about baking.  A graduate of The Culinary School of Fort Worth with a degree in Pastry Arts, I am certain she was at the top of her class. You can see it in her attention to detail with the simplest of tasks such as icing a fresh batch of cookies or baking their own bread for the burgers they serve up in their kitchen.  Other coffee shops may offer baked goods or snacks of some kind, but this is on a completely different level. z1 The shop itself, a narrow affair squeezed into a small stretch along Denton Tap Road, offers inside and outside covered seating.  They were doing steady business on the morning of our visit but lunch the next day (yes, I went back with Donna) saw a string of hungry patrons lined up out the door awaiting their chance to order from the solid menu.  Dinner is available on Friday nights and Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays with a completely separate and enticing menu. z5 “What about the coffee?” you say.  I’m glad you asked.  As Mark Roberts mentioned, I will order a Cortado at each coffee shack we visit in order to level the playing field.  Presentation is a bonus.  But for me, it is all in the smoothness of the pull, the correct consistency and proportion of milk, and the richness of the flavor as it makes its way across my palate.  Put a fancy heart on my foam if you must, but does the drink itself have heart?  The clear answer at Zenzero is yes, it certainly does.  Served with a sidecar of Topo Chico mineral water to cleanse the palate, this Cortado was exceptional. z3z4 Parker, our barista, was both knowledgeable and skilled at his art.  Offering a slow bar as well as espresso drinks, Zenzero showcases a number of coffee beans from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters and a guest roaster (currently, Sweet  Bloom Coffee from Lakewood, Colorado).  They use a professional La Marzocco Strada MP espresso machine.  These espresso machines are still made by hand just outside Florence, Italy.  Does that make a difference?  You bet your beans, it does. z8 B.B. King once said, “I don’t do chords”.  At Zenzero, while they don’t do flavors, they will do soy milk in addition to whole.  They believe that simplicity and clarity lead to an exceptional cup of java.  So don’t come to Zenzero if you want a “tall, skinny, two-pump vanilla, cup of waste-o-time”.  Come to Zenzero if you want a smooth, fragrant, flavorful cup of coffee…and a cinnamon roll.  Don’t forget the cinnamon roll. Brew on, fellow coffee hunters! p.s. the specific mineral water used as a cleanser is becoming of interest to me, so stay tuned for a home experiment I will be conducting in the near future!