I’m proud to call San Antonio my home town. It’s a large and ever-expanding city with a laid-back attitude on just about everything. The people are friendly and we’re all bonded together through our love of the Spurs. There are so many wonderful places to eat and there really is quite a bit to do in town if you look. Despite these things, it is no secret that San Antonio is overshadowed by the hippie haven that is Austin. In fact, it was not long ago that I ran into an Austinite attending college in Virginia like myself. I was delighted to meet a fellow Texan who wasn’t from Dallas thinking it gave us an easy common ground. However that feeling was quickly squashed when I told him I was from San Antonio and he replied, “I’m sorry.” Time heals all wounds I suppose! I will concede that Austin is a pretty neat little town. A “vibrance” of sorts can be felt everywhere, from the Drag downtown all the way to the sleepy neighborhoods tucked away from MoPac highway. It is a metropolis independent from the others through its Texas spirit.
I say all this because Austin is full of restaurants, cafes, and bars that have more atmosphere than the moon. That’s how all of Austin is-off beat yet progressive. San Antonio is more conservative, heavily influenced with the Hispanic culture, and generally lacking in indy whole-in-the-wall, “the place to be seen,” restaurants. There are a few white whales to be found out there though, especially given the restoration of our historical districts downtown over the years. The King William district that neighbors the River Walk encompasses streets of beautiful old homes that are slowly being fixed up by new owners. You might not think to look for a tea house in an old neighborhood comprised of colonial homes lined with bright crape myrtles.
|Madhatter's Tea House|
|Beauregard Street of the King William district|
But that’s exactly where Madhatters Tea House and Cafe is located. In the heart of downtown lies said tea house that boasts the funky characteristics of an Austin cafe with a flare for tea. Conveniently located for college students, River Walk tourists, and the few that actually live in the downtown area, Mads sprawling multi-room house is a welcoming hideout. The walls are painted a warm yellow and covered with awards and articles by critics praising the establishment. The worn wood floors and collection of mismatched tables speaks for the longevity of Madhatters relaxed attitude over time. The main and largest room holds the ordering counter, glass dessert cooler, and tea cup shelf. It welcomes the hungry and Sunday brunchers. Two smaller rooms sit opposite the main room on the other side of the building. Their scattered coffee tables and club chairs are occupied by readers and students who work over the company of a pot of tea. Unlike the eclectic design of the main room, these two rooms are better channeled towards the theme of Alice in Wonderland.
Madhatters cannot be fully experienced in one visit. The menu is so extensive with options for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, and dessert that I had to bring help for entree tasting while I focused on tea. A Darjeeling Darling mustn’t forget the objective to accomplish all because of overwhelming food menu options. An overwhelming tea menu though? I welcome it. Mads offers a wide array of black, green, red, herbal, and oolong teas accompanied by traditional and non-traditional tea sandwiches, scones, and petit feures. As I studied the menu, I wondered what tea would pair with smoked jalapeño tuna salad sandwiches. Perhaps only a cup of cream to put out the fire.
|Entire tea selection|
It’s such a disappointment to plan to try an item off the menu and find that the restaurant is out of it for the day. This is especially true if it’s still within the lunch hour. I like to think this was because my selection was especially popular and not sold out due to poor planning. Regardless the final order of a turkey-bacon club, cinnamon rolls, chocolate, peach, and raspberry petit feures, a blackberry scone, a pot of blackberry sage tea, and a pot of raspberry quince tea proved to suffice as a sample of what Madhatters had to offer. The sandwich was tasty and both tea selections paired nicely with the desserts that were just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Which is to say that the menu alone is not necessarily the reason to visit here. It’s Mads funky atmosphere, mis-matched style, and consistent tea/food basics that make it the recherché place for repose that it is. Why struggle to fit your books, papers, laptop, and tea on a parlor-sized table at Starbucks when you could spread out on library-sized study tables at a place like Madhatters? Free wifi included!
|Tea, blackberry scone, petit feures, and cinnamon rolls|
|Turkey bacon club sandwich|
|Welcoming the readers, studiers, and tea drinkers|
Needless to say, Madhatters Tea House and Cafe is a noteworthy hideaway due to the comforts it offers as well as eats and drinks. Like many “tea houses” today, Mads shies away from the traditional English tea room by putting their own spin on menu staples, sweets, and treats. The Darjeeling Darlings give Madhatters two thumbs up and the promise to return for further menu exploration as a Regular.