Years ago, San Antonio clamored for coffee shops. Now they are everywhere. With at least four coffee shops in Southtown, a Starbucks on the South Side (and a buttload on the North Side), the new challenge is not where to go, but where not to go.
About a year after it opened I finally stopped by Olmos Perk in (that’s right) Olmos Park. To quote David St. Hubbins from Spinal Tap, “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
Olmos Perk is located on McCullough by the tracks in a shopping center called The Yard, a commercial rail yard without the yard bosses or hobo jungles. Corporate coffee shops deliver consistency but lack atmosphere and authenticity. On the other hand, many independent coffee shops have atmosphere but get sloppy with the details. Olmos Perk is a rare exception that delivers the best of both. From the lavish but extremely comfortable furniture to the flatscreen digital menu to the laptop workstations to the store logo, every detail at Olmos Perk seems well-conceived and executed.
Such attentiveness might suggest a stiff environment, but the opposite is true. One can go there to work or socialize just as easily. And the baristas are some of the most gracious and skilled in town. I hadn’t previously encountered another coffee shop outside of Portland’s famous Stumptown Coffee that tops off every espresso drink with an ornate design (though I’m sure they’re out there). A star was drawn with chocolate and foam on the top of my mocha. My friend’s chai was topped with a subtle maple leaf. I realize it’s a gimmick, but one that you notice.
And how was the coffee? The mocha and chai both showed an
appropriate restraint from sweetness. They weren’t the best in town, but quite good. The baked goods come from the well-respected Broadway Bakery and were all appetizing. My favorite drink on the menu was the mango fruit smoothie. It was 100-percent fruit with blended ice and no extra sugars or preservatives. The baristas got the consistency of fruit and ice just right. It was perfect.
Quality coffee and baked goods are now standard at almost all coffee shops, which is why the details are all the more important. Most successful independent coffee shops compete with Starbucks by offering something different, usually quality café-style food. Olmos Perk doesn’t do that, but their classy yet relaxed atmosphere may be just what the people of Olmos Park desire.
Classy but relaxed atmosphere encourages work and socialization
The mango fruit smoothie
6:30am-7pm Mon-Wed, 6:30am-9pm Thu- Sat, 8am-3pm Sun