Named after an esoteric brewing method, Siphon coffee is a hip spot in Montrose’s growing east side. The best word to sum up this space is “flashy”. They paid a lot of attention to the aesthetics of this place. The wood grain counter, living wood island, chalk board menus and halogen lights craft a rustic atmosphere. From an aesthetics alone standpoint, this is one of the most polished cafes I’ve been to. But this review goes beyond skin deep. Once you get past the flash, Siphon is lacking in substance.
The coffee selection here is exactly the same as any other craft shop you’ve been to. The only exception is that they have swapped traditional slow bar methods for their namesake marked up to a premium price. The coffee siphon is a beautiful piece of equipment that is exciting to watch. There’s a reason it’s fallen out of style though; it doesn’t make great coffee. They might try to argue with you, but it’s essentially a worse form of the french press that lacks an avenue for temperature control. $7 for a cup of mediocre coffee isn’t worth the novelty in my mind. They get points for doing well with the espresso mainstays but, again, there’s nothing here to place them above the normal curve.
As I mentioned in the intro, Siphon has a cool space. The attention to detail and the quality of the environment are on point; the place is just plain sexy. But sexy doesn’t equate to functional. Once we get to what fills the space, we start to hit some hiccups. The crowds that consistently fill this place are one of the biggest issues to hurdle. Unless you’re going late in the day (post 5pm or so) Siphon is going to be crowded and parking will be awful. This paired with inadequate wifi and sparse power outlets nixes this as a study/work spot. As a hang-out spot, it would be great except the seating intended for small groups is located next the the few existing power outlets. This results in those tables being occupied by the anti-social, laptop crowd. If you want to sit down with and talk with a friend, you’re options are severely limited. The result is a cafe that tries to be both a work spot and a social spot but fails at both.
A word on the food options. When Siphon first opened, it received a lot of press for bringing in the locally semi-famous Amanda McGraw as a consulting chef on the menu. My experience hasn’t been anything to justify that level of attention. Siphon staff will point to their house made empanadas as a signature dish, but I’ve found them to be consistently lacking. Even if the recipe comes from an all star chef, the cold insides and bland chimichurri reveal it’s being made by an amateur one.
Every time I’ve been to Siphon, the staff has been genuinely disinterested in being there. My presence seems to be a burden to them. While they might do perform all the required duties to an acceptable level, the staff here doesn’t go much further. They will take your order, keep the tables clean, and call your name when your coffee is ready but don’t expect much interaction beyond that.
With so many coffee options available in Houston, I wouldn’t recommend Siphon as a destination. Mercantile is two blocks north and does everything better save the aesthetics. If you do find yourself here, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. The coffee is fine as is the beer selection. The food will take the edge off your hunger and the pricing is largely reasonable. Nonetheless, I’d describe my visits here as strikingly unmemorable; there was nothing extraordinarily good or bad.