Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
Zero Post Office Sq
Boston, MA 02109
Neighborhood: Financial District
Review originally published on Yelp.
Some coffee shops thrive off the location, and Sip Cafe is one of those shops. Located right in downtown Boston’s Post Office Square, an adorable park compliments the experience of enjoying a coffee. This shop thrives in the warm season, but thanks to a loyal customer base, they do just fine all year round.
I bought a small (8 oz.) coffee on my first visit. Sometimes a small is 8 oz, I get it, especially when the coffee is quality, which it was. They offer a drip coffee as well as a Daterra Southern Italian espresso, which is pretty, pretty nice. Of course, they have teas and other beverages too, as well as a great selection of tasty edibles if you’re hungry.
Go in, get something nice, and take it outside. Sit in the park and watch the city move and breathe around you. I do that on every occasion, as the indoor scene is hard to adjust to.
Big Bear Cafe
1700 1st St NW
(between N Florida Ave & N R St)
Washington, DC 20001
Review originally published on Yelp.
As a tourist to DC, I relied on my friend to show me around, and while there, I made him aware of my fascination with coffee. He said to me, “before you leave here, I’ll take you to a great coffee shop.”
Big Bear Cafe is that shop, and I have to agree with him on that. Every bit of the experience prior to ordering reminded me of other truly organic independent cafes across the country. The place feels warm and old fashioned. The casual, intellectual vibe existed both inside and outside, where we ended up enjoying our cups of direct trade brew. They know how to prepare a good cup of coffee, and they do it with a smile.
The coffee was great – strong, well balanced, a perfect pick-me-up after a morning at the farmer’s market. They get their beans from Counter Culture Coffee, a well-known distributor in the area that prides itself on all things coffee. I take that as a promising sign, and the staff at Big Bear agree.
I felt like a regular sitting outside, drinking and chatting with my friend the day before I took off to continue my cross-country trip. I took a button from them that had they’re adorable “Big Bear” logo on it, a memory distilled, even after several future experiences of coffee consumption.
Next time I visit DC, I plan to revisit this place.
Stell Coffee & Tea Company
1580 Barton Rd
Redlands, CA 92373
This place is what independent coffee shops are all about. They roast locally, and distribute locally. And while I only got a cup of the usual on my brief visit to Redlands, I could taste the quality – strong, aromatic, and full of body. It’s a simple operation they have over there, and they’ve perfected the process.
They roast their beans inside the shop, and it gives the place a hearty coffee smell. It’s an adorably small and welcoming atmosphere, half inside and half outside. Their staff is very friendly. Their edibles are pretty appetizing, especially the chocolate chip cookies and panini sandwiches. They put time and effort into their product, and that’s enough for me to buy a bag before continuing on my cross-country trip.
Tryst Coffee House Bar & Lounge
2459 18th St NW
(between N Belmont Rd & N Columbia Rd)
Washington, DC 20009
Tryst is one of those coffee shops that feels like home to locals, and hell to tourists. I was a tourist, but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere. Granted, there’s no pleasure in hunting for a seat at peak hours, but the payoff is in the traditional cafe experience.
Small tables with chairs, couches and coffee tables, places by the fireplace (do they work?) where you can read a book, write a book, or talk with others. I was there to write a book, and enjoy a coffee. Waitstaff bring your orders straight to you, lest you lose your seat, and they don’t mind you camping for hours. Just be sure to tip them.
Their coffee is great, and that’s with options. You can have a house drip or their french-press, whatever your pleasure, and I like that. And, if you want to get drunk, then good news! It’s a bar as well.
Their food menu is really… bohemian. They didn’t serve eggs, which is less than ordinary, but they have black forest ham, and honey, and tasty bagels, among a wide variety of healthy items. I made my own sandwich, and the waiter actually took it down as a possible item to add to their menu. No matter, be prepared to try something different. Their baked goods looked good.
I was well-cared for, and definitely would make that a regular hangout if I lived in DC. My fondest memory of that experience was when I reached the end of my stay. A trio was hovering around me, sensing my departure. One of them was wearing a legitimate sports racing jacket, and when I started to collect my things, he jumped on it like a tiger on it’s prey. Expect that when no other seats are available.
Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea
2231 N Mesa St
El Paso, TX 79902
Independent coffee shops in El Paso are hard to find. I found myself really searching the local scene for this one, and I was satisfied with the results. Oddly enough, it’s right across the street from a Starbucks, and yet it survives the fierce competition.
Kinley’s House has established itself in the UTEP (University of Texas, El Paso) area for having great coffee, tea, and food. Much like any proper coffee house, their place is open and inviting. They have an outdoor seating area as well, which is great. They have an extensive variety of teas and espresso drinks that are worth trying, but not by me (this time). I got a cup of their fair trade organic roast and relished in the experience by the windows facing North Mesa Street.
The coffee was quality: smooth, bold, and aromatic. I sat there for close to an hour, watching the customers come and go, listening to them talk and ultimately drive back into the sprawling panoramic of El Paso. I left feeling satisfied; I would go there again on my next visit.
Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea
53 W Jackson Blvd
(between Wabash Ave & Michigan Ave)
Chicago, IL 60604
Coffee lovers can’t tour the country, stop in Chicago, and leave without visiting Intelligentsia. This place is, without a doubt, a premier destination for coffee in Chicago. Known for their diverse variety of robust offerings, Intelligentsia is a luxury brand that few can stack up to.
It’s not surprising that their coffee house in Chicago looks like a modern art gallery. The ambiance is cool and well-distributed with photography and fine art. People sit and conduct work like any other coffee house, but something seems different, more refined. I almost feel unworthy to be there.
A slew of coffee drinks are available, and while espresso seems like caviar, I decided to try a slow-pour cup of coffee, a large (for once), and watched the barista grind the beans and prepare the slow pour with steaming hot water, all the while chatting with me about their beans and technique and the history of the shop. They have it down to a science, and it shows in their product.
Anyone who loves coffee will do good to visit an Intelligentsia coffee house in their lifetime. Experiences like this are not common, and while they do distribute nationally, you simply can’t get the same feeling without visiting the source.
Bloc 11 Cafe
11 Bow St
Somerville, MA 02143
Bloc 11 is a great coffee house in the heart of Union Square. They have an eclectic menu of sandwiches and salads. Try a scone if they’re available. They care about their coffee, and where it comes from. They get imports from Intelligentsia and Stumptown, two very serious coffee makers, and rotate their offerings daily.
Their drinks vary in complexity. I stick to simple cups of coffee, but they have a variety of espresso drinks to choose from. Try their Vietnamese coffee, a blend of sweet and smooth. Try their edibles. I’ve had some of their sandwiches, and a lot of people are on the fence about it. Not many places make a “spicy curry tofu salad sandwich” with apple slices and avocado.
Tell you what, go there and try their egg sandwich with prosciutto and cheese on rosemary foccacia bread, and then tell me what you think! It’s my favorite.
Their walls are usually decorated with cool, local artwork. The music is mild and doesn’t distract the scores of locals who hangout with books and pads and work to be done. It’s a great place to talk, and you can have privacy in the back if necessary. In the evening, they host a variety of live music events. What else could you ask for?