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Top Five Coffee Shops in San Marcos

todayOctober 13, 2015 9

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by Daniela garcia
Blog Content Contributor

Photo by Dylan Lochridge-Fletcher

Here I have tried different coffee shops I have become aware of around San Marcos, and evaluated their pros and cons.

Wake the Dead

Located past the San Marcos Cemetery on Old Ranch Rd., Wake the Dead greets you with a gorgeous intertwining plant work on the fence that embraces a large patio area. This area holds a convenient amount of tables that sometimes provide shade by an umbrella and are comfortably spaced out for privacy with the occasionally whizzing by of cars on the road. This establishment is more private.  With two entrances, Wake the Dead offers convenience for handicapped patrons by a ramp leading directly to the front door and multiple handicapped parking spaces. Inside you can find a good selection of beers, some wine, and of course coffee. Along the menu options are smoothies, Italian cream soda, tea, pastries, sandwiches, tamales, and tacos. Off to the side rests a bookshelf that holds homemade jewelry, hand/body soap, and other interesting knickknacks.

A go-to coffee beverage for me is their White Mocha Frapp. with substituted almond milk and an added shot of espresso (white mocha doesn’t include a shot). It’s a sweet drink with a neutral coffee taste that always gives me a good kick to get started on whatever project I’m working on.  Sometimes the beverage will be sweet enough to satisfy a sugary craving. Another favorite of mine off the menu is their sourdough bagel vegetable sandwich with a veggie patty and cheddar cheese. This is accompanied by a side of chips and a sliver of pickle. Yum!

Wake the Dead also has a couple of study rooms aside from the large patio outside. The main floor holds a couple of sofa chairs and coffee table. Two  two-seater tables are available here with a conveniently placed set of outlet. The next room is more a quiet study room except for when it hosts movie nights where they will draw the curtains and turn off the lights. Lastly there is a performance room where a stage rests at the southern area by a large window. About five small tables sit in this room but are often reserved for special meeting arrangements unless a band is performing for which the staff will ask you to keep the exit door closed. This is my favorite coffee shop to visit because I always feel  welcomed by the staff’s friendly and knowledgeable welcome. The musical environment varies depending on what Barista is on the clock but it is always nice to hear different tastes and expand that listening horizon. Best times to go throughout the year are Fall and Spring because coffeehouses do tend to get a little on the warm side or cold side as well as busier otherwise (Summer & Winter) but I wouldn’t refrain from visiting anyway because it’s always a pleasant experience.

Pros: Great specialty drinks, welcoming staff, good seating options, events, music, peaceful environment, good sandwiches, offers alcoholic beverages

Cons: Drip coffee often cools in the bin, a little on the pricey side, not easily found


Tantra’s location seems to be a bit busier with a subtle buzz surrounding their patio area. Tantra sits in front of San Marcos’s smaller HEB location located closer to campus. Their menu options are similar to that of Wake the Dead’s the Jo’s Cafe off of Mary’s street (in front of Sanctuary Lofts). However, Tantra does have drink specials on Wednesdays where they offer a half pint starting at 9 o’clock for $3.50. This comes along with the usual bluegrass band that performs out on the patio stage for a larger crowd. Both Tantra and Wake the Dead have a board displayed with different flyers offering all kinds of services for locals and the like which is always interesting to look aside from the ever changing artwork displayed on their walls. Wake the Dead also shares this trait, normally promoting local artists and their work available for purchase with a brief description of their piece. Food wise, Tantra has some tasty versatile options for meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike. I enjoy their bean and cheese tacos over a flour tortilla and some red salsa.

Pros: location, large patio, several rooms for studying, friendly staff, great food, great drinks

Cons: noisy street area, tends to be a bit stuffy in the summer indoors and a bit too cold in the winter

Jo’s Cafe

Similar to Wake the Dead and Tantra Coffeehouse, Jo’s Cafe off of Mary’s St. off West Campus is at a closer location and just as quaint. This shop consists of a good-sized open room with a wooden floor for that classic coffeehouse feel and windows that line up beside the two-seater tables against the walls. Next to some of these tables sits a comfy couch where people often sit down and use as a relaxing or chatting spot. My favorite drink from this house is their Moon Mocha which is a large iced chocolate and hazelnut coffee beverage. It’s on the chocolatey side but not unbalanced in my opinion in terms of too much chocolate or too much coffee. I always ask their baristas to prepare it with almond milk which I think further neutralizes the strong flavors and not to mention saves a cow. The food menu is also similar to Tantra’s offering breakfast tacos around the clock and select sandwiches.

Pros: close to campus, interesting ambiance, good tacos, great drinks, friendly staff

Cons: on a hill, early closing hours

Jo on the Go

Located off of University Dr. and Moon St. , Jo’s Cafe sits in between a couple of shops on a plaza near our university’s performing arts center. Jo’s Cafe is undeniably tasty and also has similar food options such as breakfast tacos, occasionally tamales, muffins and pastries. Here they provide oatmeal, cereal, Kombucha and other good in between class snacks that you can grab on the go. Jo’s on the Go’s atmosphere is comfortable but seating is limited, even with their patio seating. However, their quirky sticker collage that seems to be the establishment’s most prominent theme is something I look forward to reading every time. My favorite from here is their Nutty Irishman hot drink with some added sweetener. This drink has a definite kick to my day and doesn’t lack taste either, although I would say it is more of a stronger drink for avid coffee-consumers.

Pros: convenient location, fast

Cons: small establishment, limited seating

Mochas and Javas (N. LBJ)

As some of you may already know, Mocha’s and Java’s is not exactly a large establishment but has a great study environment for students seeking a caffeine kick and the focus they need. Mocha’s offers a selection of food and coffee but a good choice from here are their blueberry bagels. In terms of atmosphere, Mocha’s seems to be more of the studious ambiance than a place to hang out with your group of friends. Although their music selection varies in taste, it is usually appropriate to maintain the focused environment. Mocha’s tends to draw more of an eclectic crowd so there will be a mixture of some spiffy-looking business people as well as students who just want to enjoy some down time while upping their energy. Mochas and Java’s has pretty adequate seating with one big room and a tiny nook  that remains pretty open to the rest of the place. A good beverage to try here is their Apple pie spice latte.

Pros: location, study environment

Cons: Sometimes seating is difficult to come by, pretty packed, music selection could be better.

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