Southside Espresso exemplifies the Houston coffee scene. Some chill people serving up awesome coffee and craft beer. Southside is one of many shops in the heart of Montrose, Houston’s gentrifying cultural center, but it maintains it’s small business identity in an industry that is becoming increasingly corporate.
What draws me to Southside is the constant variety they offer. It feels like every week they are featuring something different on espresso which makes this the perfect place to expand your coffee knowledge. From Yemen to Columbia, Southside Espresso serves as the primary storefront for Fusion Beans Houston based roasting program. While the menu offers the usual coffee fare, there are also seasonal offerings depending on the time of year. The high score here comes from the emphasis on serving the highest quality and widest variety of beans in Houston. I do think they could be more creative with the menu though which keeps them from getting that perfect score.
Southside’s blessing and curse is it’s size. The shop itself is a cozy little space with room for maybe 15 people at once. There’s a patio as well that effectively doubles this capacity but, in Houston, the temperatures keep that undesirable for a large potion of the year. Space considerations aside, Southside does a great job of creating an intimate feel. Perfect for meeting a friend or a first date, this spot is usually fairly calm even during their daily happy hour. Wood accents, local art, and craft goods proudly displayed demonstrate a cohesive vision for the space that highlights the attention to detail at all levels of the business.
My experience with the Southside staff can be summed up largely by my experience during one visit. I ordered a shot of both of their featured espressos and as the barista prepared the second one, she furrowed her brow and said “This won’t be a good one, give me a minute to sort it out.” It took her a couple minutes, but she didn’t serve me until she was satisfied with how it turned out. I believe this interaction is indicative of the detail focused mentality I’ve mentioned. As a barista, it’s easy to just serve a drink and fix it later when things are slow. It takes an significant amount of work to dial in a machine while you’ve got a line of customers and I really appreciated the extra effort here.
Beyond that emphasis on quality, the staff here are pretty well versed in what they are doing. They can answer any question you have about the beer, wine, and (of course) coffee offerings. My critique here is that there have been times when I’ve gone that the baristas have been pretty distracted. Whether that’s by their coworkers or a friend on the other side of the counter, I felt like I was interrupting them with my business. It really hurts the experience for me when I don’t feel welcomed into a spot. Including customers in your community is how you build a culture and loyal, returning dregulars.
Southside is a Houston staple. If you’re looking for a small business in the truest sense, a few people making a living by chasing their passions, then this is your spot. Southside’s most attractive feature beyond that is the emphasis on variety and quality. The rotating bean options is great for anyone looking to expand their coffee palate.