The first time I walked into LDU Coffee on Fitzhugh Avenue, I knew this coffee shop was something different. The cashier asked for my name and from then on everyone who worked there seemed to know it. A personable touch is baked into the Aussie coffee shop’s culture. Since opening in 2017, LDU has expanded its friendly footprint across Dallas. First, to the Park Cities, and most recently to 9005 Garland Road — the latter spot, with its easy access to White Rock Lake, debuted just a few months ago.
Brothers Mark and Adam Lowes opened LDU just two years after arriving in Texas from Australia, where they had run coffee shops in Perth. The duo paid visits to Austin and Houston, ultimately landing on East Dallas for their new home, but there was something that bothered the brothers about local coffee spots. “Australians would think it’s weird to have WiFi in a coffee shop,” Mark says.
In Australia, Mark explains, it’s also more common to have a bunch of independent coffee shops in one neighborhood. “You hardly see a Starbucks anymore,” he adds. As of 2018, there were only 39 Starbucks locations in the whole country. In addition to a killer flat white, the Lowes brothers came to Dallas with the intention of bringing their style to the city, and challenging the convenience (which, unfortunately, often outweighs taste) that places like Starbucks tempt consumers with.
Their idea is simple: don’t be pretentious. It seems easy enough, but the no-frills attitude is a change of pace amid the current trend of self-proclaimed “third-wave” coffee shops with intimidating, sci-fi-looking siphons where you feel like you need an encyclopedic knowledge of bean varietals just to place an order. I’ve worked in one of those coffee shops. It eventually went out of business. At LDU, you only get two questions: do you prefer your coffee strong or smooth, and what kind of milk do you want?
Besides the stellar coffee, the place is just fun. From creative sandwich names like the Yolk O Oh No Grilled Sandwich (a delicious egg, bacon, tomato, and cheese sandwich melted on Empire Baking Co. bread) and the Sunbeam Me Up, Scotty (a sweet potato sandwich with feta and candied pecans) to drinks called Magicman, Machoman, and Captain America, everything at the shop has a quirky touch.
Each shop, all intimate, lived-in spaces featuring only a few spare tables, are filled with tchotchkes and knick-knacks the brothers find entertaining. Their merch, featuring inside jokes and pop culture references, has taken on a life of its own. The two even created a fictional LDU owner called Leroy who supposedly lives back in Australia. When they put out “Latte Leroy’s” tees to sell at the shop, they sold out immediately. You can still find the shirts on their website to purchase.
“We want it to be sassy,” says Mark. A vibe I think they’ve definitely accomplished. I think other regulars of LDU would agree.
A 2022 LDU Catch-Up With Co-Owner Mark Lowes
PC: Business actually increased during the pandemic. What did you guys get right?
ML: Covid challenged our service model which has always relied on face-to-face interaction. In order to pivot successfully, we set up online ordering and did everything we could to make that experience align with our standard in-store one. We made and continue to make a point of ensuring the online service is easy and fun. We make it easy to pick up the order, and we are very vocal about thanking those who come into the shop for pickups. It’s been a great success and we feel we have stayed true to our original intention of providing exceptional service at all times.
PC: LDU is as great to grab-and-go from as it is to hang out with friends. How did you nail that vibe?
ML: The punk-post-Italian espresso culture of Australia coffee has always been fast, vibrant, and incredibly social. We don’t separate those elements. LDU buzzes all morning purely because there is a lot of movement and a lot of loud conversations and music. It all is part of the whole. They are all one!
I think many fast-casual or online-based grab-and-go food outlets have no intention of their establishment being social. We believe you need the social, the service, and the vibe to balance the transaction itself.
PC: Why White Rock Lake as the newest location?
ML: We love the lake! My family and I live in Casa Linda and we just love the community around us. We have been looking for a spot along Garland Road for a couple of years and were lucky enough to secure the shopfront we have. It’s easy to see, easy to park, and is surrounded by other great businesses and independent operators. Along with our fellow independent coffee shops, we feel East Dallas stands strong in the face of larger brands.
PC: What’s next for LDU?
ML: Opening next door to Starbucks. [A coffee] Pepsi Challenge?