Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Drink coffee. Save the world.

In a town like Austin where so many local coffee shops make giants like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best seem like they chant “Big Brother is Watching You” (though, strangely, they’re still frequented), opening a new corner café is a risky move. There has to be something interesting and new to draw in a crowd. South Austin’s new spot has just that and good coffee to boot.

Dominican Joe’s doesn’t blend into the corner strip mall it belongs to. Sharing a parking lot with Wells Fargo and Freebird’s, Dominican Joe’s commands attentions from all sides. There’s a terrace for outdoor seating, a brightly chalked sandwich board out front, and a large sign screaming, “Drink Coffee. Change the World.” on the back.

Inside, it’s got the relaxed, hip vibe of several coffee shops. The door opens into wood floors with tables and chairs and a few stairs that lead down to the bar. The menu is vast, with fun new creations like a flan latte, and all prices displayed include tax. And the prices are reasonable. A bottomless 12 ounce house coffee is only $1.50, and lattes linger around the $2.50 range. Stained concrete floors, a hodge-podge of tables, chairs, trunks, couches and armchairs make this place feel comfy. But patrons are often drawn to large prints of adorable kids and lush landscapes on the walls, or collections of bamboo poles. The kids are helped by the school that Dominican Joe’s supports. That’s where the “change the world” part comes in.

The café not only pays fair prices to coffee farmers in the Dominican Republic, but they also help the local community of the farmers. So the kids aren’t just nameless cuties, they’re growing and learning children being helped by your pocket change.

And the coffee is just plain good. Whether you sip a black coffee or something fancier, their house blend is a smooth, earthy blend that isn’t too bitter. Maybe it’s the justice, maybe it’s the roasting process or the beans themselves… Whatever it is, it smells great and tastes delicious!

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