After consuming nearly a cow’s worth of smoked meat in the hills east of Austin, my brother, father and I needed something sweet. We all remembered Jo’s, an outdoor cafe on trendy South Congress that supplied us with satisfying fried pies, kolache and Iced Turbos in 2006. Named for owner Liz Lambert’s mother, Jo’s is situated in Hotel San Jose’s parking lot and across from The Continental Club, a locally famous live music venue.
Behind the whirling blades of the ceiling fan sits Jo’s menu. To the left of the menu, out of frame, hung a photo of Jo sporting a white T-shirt with the café’s circular red logo.
Jo’s management isn’t shy, laying claim to the title of “the best coffee in town.” The ever-packed patio certainly backs up their boasting.
Since we arrived mid-afternoon on a weekend, Jo’s was sold out of most of their interesting baked goods, including the Danish-like Czech pastries known as kolache. There were other attractive baked goods, like muffins, peanut butter cookies, chocolate brownies, walnut-studded banana bread slabs, and fried pies.
If there’s one beverage that lives up to Jo’s self-proclaimed “best coffee” title, Iced Turbo is it. On another visit, the countergirl revealed the drink contains whole milk, half and half, sweetened condensed milk, coffee, espresso, chocolate and hazelnut, “which is why it’s so delicious.” No argument. Jo’s also offers the Belgian Bomber, half Iced Turbo and half cold-brewed, unsweetened Iced Coffee.
Three-inch apple pies featured a light glaze and were filled with cinnamon-tinged cubes of apple. Jo’s fried cherry pie couldn’t generate the wattage of the fried chocolate pie that we engulfed in 2006, but it was a nice pastry.
Amazingly, after my large Iced Turbo, I was still exhausted. I walked from the hotel to a new mixed-use development on 2nd Street, which I knew housed a second branch of Jo’s. It has a large sidewalk patio with handsome wood furniture. There’s an ordering window out front, in case people can’t muster the strength to walk the extra ten steps to the indoor counter.
Jo’s expanded downtown menu features sandwiches like pulled pork and the griddled 3 cheese, plus salads. This location also offers a more focused drink menu.
Jo’s blackboard provided four good reasons to “Save room for dessert”: coconut cake, apple cranberry pie, Coca Cola cake, and buttermilk pie.
Next year, when my father, brother and I converge in Austin to subject our stomachs to another barbecue buffeting, I’m sure we’ll return to Jo’s to counterbalance the salt with sweet for a third straight year.