Let's get something out of the way right now. Fuck Starbuck's. Fuck them right in their collective ears. Starbuck's represents everything that is wrong with our Capitalist System of economics. Sure, on the surface, you have an American business that has become successful... becoming the model for other coffeeshops across the country. Indeed, they often buy-out those shops. They provide jobs for good people and they have a brand that is followed by the masses all-over the world. The downside is that the American Coffeeshop epitomizes the "mom-and-pop" business. When someone opens a coffee-shop, it is usually themselves and their family members that actually operate it. They are invested in how the business runs, knowing who their neighbors and customers are, and creating an environment. Starbuck's tears the soul right-out of the coffeeshop. Oh, sure... they pay lip-service to the idea of being a part of the community and they model themselves after the mom-and-pop shops, but when the people behind the counter are minimum-wage earners and not the people for whom this kind of business is a dream-come-true, when it is about peddling as many cups-o-joe as possible and not about creating a place... It just sucks.
I don't do Starbuck's unless I want a coffee and there is no local option to choose from, and then I have to want coffee really, really bad.
With that said, let's talk about the Hideout Theater and Coffeeshop on Congress. The Hideout caters to and has a focus upon performers; comedians, actors, vaudeville, and burlesque. It is one of those businesses that "gets" what it is to be a part of Austin.
I love this place.
The first time I visited, it was to catch a burlesque show. The place was packed, but the folks behind the counter were jazzed about the crowd; happy, friendly, and quick-to-serve. You could tell that the people were not just employees... they recognized that they were a part of something special, something that goes beyond serving coffee, beer, and sandwiches.
I'll talk about burlesque in another post.
The coffeeshop rocks. They have relatively the same drinks you would expect from the big corporate machine; frappes, cappuccinos, espresso drinks, etc. The prices are competitive with those other places as well. What you don't get at those other places is the atmosphere... the vibe. Hanging on the walls of this place is a rotating display of art by local artists; whimsical, political, realistic, child-like... As an artist, I can tell you what a boon it is to have a place like The Hideout who will display your art. Try walking into your local Starbuck's and getting your work displayed. Yeah, not without going through and getting approved by the corporate office, and only if your work meets whatever standard they are trying to maintain as per their brand.
The food is drawn from other local businesses. This morning I went in and had an espresso-shake made with Amy's Icecream, a croissant sandwich by a local vendor, and my girlfriend had breakfast tacos from Torchy's Tacos. Even with the food and drinks offered, The Hideout is a hub for many things that are "Austin".
The seating offers a variety of options, from over looking the street to sitting in a private corner in the back. You can come in here on your own or with a large party, and not only find adequate seating, but you can usually be as open or private as you want. My kids and I like to sit at the table that is on the stage (for when they have local musicians perform) and watch the early morning activity on Congress.
Even the music playing caters to the uniqueness and community conscious vibe of the place. It's not piped in from some corporate-approved digital soundtrack, and is not your top-forty drivel. Most mornings you will either hear from a local musician or they are pulling music from around the world. It is always something different and always helps complete the mood. The Hideout is the kind of coffeeshop where you can relax with your friends, sit on your computer and work on a book or artwork, or just get your thoughts in order.
The Coffeeshop supports the improv theater, which is the heart-and-soul of The Hideout. These folks are students of just about every style of improv you can imagine; short form, long form, Chicago-Style, NY-Style, CA-Style, Austin-Style... especially Austin-Style. They teach improv to those who are interested, even offering a free introductory class for the curious. They are dedicated to their craft and keeping the art-form alive-and-well. They offer classes for adults and children.
The Theater has something for everyone. Comedy is their main billing; offering not only a venue for local, amateur, and professional comedians, both Stand-up and improv, but also a stage for a variety of performers. You get the feeling that everyone involved feels like they are a part of a family, and that they are keeping something of the essential showman experience alive from the days of vaudeville. There are several shows each week, and every show is unique. For those who are looking for something "Austin" to do, The Hideout is one of the best tickets in town.
I cannot recommend this place more highly. Check out The Hideout for coffee in the morning, for information about what is going on with the creative community, and for an entertaining evening.
617 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701(512) 443-3688 (H-I-D-E-O-U-T)