Thunderbird’s Coffee

Yesterday afternoon’s unexpected trip into an art supply store is a direct result of having tried a new place for coffee: Thunderbird’s.  To me, a great coffee-shop is just that: inspiring, motivational and leaving me with enough money in my pocket afterward still to go shopping.

First, we had to find it. All we (my husband and I) had to go on was a vague memory of a light green, boxlike structure, reminiscent of Phil’s Icehouse, with the same once-a-mechanic’s-shop feel about it. We new it was on a corner, within a five block radius of our home, and popular. Just a few weeks ago we’d sat inches from it, with our engine off, watching runners flit by us. We optimistically believed it was a 5k.  Unfortunetly for us, this was the Austin Marathon, and we had crossed its main path just early enough to not notice it, and then ran smack into it on the way home. As we sat, windows unrolled, music from a live band playing in front of this strange green box, I remarked to my husband two things: “There could be worse ways to be stuck in traffic.” And, “That place looks really popular.”

Eventually, we started the car, turned around and spent the next half hour trying to find a way home. Since that day, this cool corner cafe stayed in my mind, especially as my husband kept taking his daily coffee from a nearby establishment that, though convenient, is rather unfriendly and pricey for such bland coffee. When I read this blog post, the author’s words were the last straw for me (Well, for the me listening to my husband complain about his coffee again) : “Just okay food but in a conveniently located spot? – I’ve done it, you’ve done it, now stop doing it!”

And with that, we set off to find this mythical green box. And weren’t we fantastically surprised to discover that it’s even closer than the beforementioned cafe! And it has a name: Thunderbirds. Just what does a Thunderbird look like?, I wondered idly. Turns out, it looks like this:


The rest of the cafe looks like my dream -cafe come true.


The indoor seating is a mixture of tables and couches. The couches have that worn in, slightly frayed look that beckons us to bring a library book, grab a mocha and snuggle in for the afternoon. The tables were, much to my delight, large. As in, width-wise, large enough for me to spread my arts and crafts on, or so I imagined as we sat down.

The decor is fantastic, especially the two matching lamps hanging over the bar. I tried desperately to snap a picture of these lamps, but only succeeded in making the guy behind the counter think that I was obsessively trying to take his photo while sitting across from my husband (he looked concerned for Jonathan’s sake). In fact, if I were single, this probably would’ve been the case. Attractive staff, yet another plus to this awesome cafe.

Not only were the staff attractive, but the customers were too. Or at least, highly eclectic. Though I love a spot full of artists and hipsters, when it’s just that it kills my creative vibe: I need diversity in my procrastinating people watching –  a healthy mix of artist types who stroll in wearing knee high striped socks and carrying portfolios, businessmen with Blackberrys plugging away at their Macs, and blue collar street workers who pop in for a to-go coffee and Panini.

Does it bother anyone else that Americans call a single Panino a Panini? Panini is a plural word, perfect for heading up a menu of creative, drool-inspiring grilled sandwiches, which Thunderbird’s has. Though technically, one should order a “panino” but I guess that will have to die with many of my other grammar related dreams (Express Lane: Ten items or less…??!!)

My husband ordered the Raymond, which for 6.95 have him a piping hot sandwich made of Deli Turkey, Brie, Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts (is it just me or is the basil and pine nut clarification redundant, since it already says Pesto) and Red Onion, alongside a fresh green lettuce salad with sliced cherry tomatoes. His daily espresso was 1.99 (before tax) and that makes it cheaper than the place he complains about daily, and on par with Starbucks for price and strength. In short, a winner.


Thunderbird Coffee on Urbanspoon


  1. I may not be remembering correctly, but once I listened to my step-sister’s boyfriend explain pesto and he said it’s a rather vague term, that the only real “requirements” were ground-up herbs and olive oil, maybe also the ground nuts, but what types of herbs or nuts specifically can vary from one recipe to the next. So maybe pine nuts aren’t a “given” in pesto. Or maybe I got it wrong…

    I love this post, and the one about Shady Grove, and how they seem to embody typical Austin. ; ) So glad you guys are settling in, and finding these funky little places.

  2. You can make pesto from anything! Sun-dried tomato, olive, parsley, coriander, rocket .. it doesn’t have to have basil or pine nuts in it. Although in my opinion, pine nuts are always a good addition to EVERYTHING, without exception.

  3. now, in modern times, you can certainly make pesto from any creative things you want. but originally, pesto is basil, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and garlic and is called Pesto Genovese..from Liguria. So now if you say Pesto, you shoudl mean that, and if you are making it differently, then you would list those ingredients in order to differentiate it from the original. like “sun dried tomato -pecan pesto” which is what I want to try to make soon!

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