Houndstooth Coffee @ Sylvan | Thirty

Behind the Bar

Houndstooth Coffee at Sylvan Thirty in Dallas, Texas.

Sean Henry took inspiration for the newest installment of Houndstooth Coffee from a long-standing Texas tradition: waiting in line for barbecue.

“At my favorite places you’d wait in line for a really long time, but then they’d cut the meat right in front of you,” the Houndstooth founder says. “They’d ask if you wanted it fatty, or meaty, or if you wanted burnt ends.”

Henry liked how engaging the barbecue line was for the customer, and wanted to replicate that dynamic in his new Dallas location (Houndstooth has another shop in Dallas and two more in Austin).

Located in a mixed-used development just west of downtown, the space was the perfect opportunity for Henry to build out a 360-degree coffee bar—a vision he’d been dreaming about for years. Stools line half the circular bar, allowing customers a front-row seat to the action.

“We can talk to people from all kinds of angles, and they watch us work,” Henry says. “Some people in the morning sidle up to the bar and just watch things, and that’s great. That’s part of waking up.”

Houndstooth worked closely with Official Design to create the café, drawing design inspiration from nature. A floating wood volume hangs above the bar, which Henry affectionately refers to as the “cloud.” Light fixtures represent the sun, and expansive windows fill the spacious café with natural light, providing direct views to rows of plants outside. This design aesthetic carries over to the cocktail bar adjacent to the space, Jettison, where a dark color palate represents cascading moonlight.

While Henry likes that customers can sit and take their time at the Houndstooth bar—paying for their tab at the end of their stay, much like any other bar—he also recognizes that many customers are in a hurry. “You just want to get your coffee and get out sometimes,” Henry says. “It’s being able to take both of those and apply them to our milieu there in the new store.”

The result is a dual-service model café, where customers can direct themselves by sense of urgency. Those wishing to sit and stay awhile can take a seat at the bar and wait for a barista to serve them. Customers wanting coffee to-go can line up at the point-of-service and order like they would in a traditional café service model.

“We’re still figuring it out—we knew it’d be a new service model for us, but it’s also exciting, and the goal was to create an approachable guest experience,” Henry says. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we’re not trying to do what we’ve done before. We’re trying to keep ourselves interested and challenged.”

The interplay between bar and café (including the neighboring Jettison) has been a huge success for Houndstooth. Official Design collected the 2016 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Dallas Built Design Honor Award for the concept.

Houndstooth Coffee at Sylvan Thirty in Dallas, Texas.
Top, Above: Houndstooth Coffee Interior. (Photos: Robert Yu.)

1) Three’s Company: Three Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinders hold the shop’s espresso beans: the house blend, a single-origin or alternate offering, and decaf.

2) Eagle’s Nest: Houndstooth has many callouts to its other locations, including the three-group Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle Gravitech (in white, of course). A small set of cups keeps warm on the machine; the rest are kept on the back bar.

3) Tapped Out: Customers can choose from seven or eight beers on tap, or from beer and wine selections displayed on shelving that hangs from the “cloud.”

4) Sexy Seraphim: Four Curtis Seraphim pour-over stands take pride-of-place near the point-of-sale (water towers are stored underneath the counter). Henry says he opted for the Seraphim version of Curtis’s Gold Cup technology because the stands “look a lot sexier.” Coffee brews into Ball jars for a classic, Texas touch.

5) Sidle Up: Customers seated at the bar are encouraged to pay at the end of their visit. Houndstooth founder Sean Henry says the setup is intended to “create engagement literally all the way around the bar.”

6) Retail Greeting: The café has doors on opposing walls of the 360-degree bar. To help direct traffic, customers entering the parking lot–side door are greeted with a retail display, encouraging them to continue on to the barista manning the point-of-sale.

Houndstooth Coffee at Sylvan Thirty in Dallas, Texas.
(Photo: courtesy of Houndstooth Coffee.)

1) Grind It Out: A Mahlkönig EK 43 grinds bulk coffee, as well as beans for by-the-cup brewing. Houndstooth offers coffee from Tweed, Counter Culture, and Roseline.

2) Keeping a Low Profile: Henry says they store most supplies underneath the bar, keeping the countertops clean and neat. This includes stacks of pre-stamped to-go cups, pre-folded towels, bulk coffee, and espresso machine cleaning tools.

3) Condiment-nation: Lids, sleeves, cream, sugar, water, napkins—they’re all here, along with a bus tub and trash bin.

Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup‘s editor.