High Five Coffee Bar is one of my all-time favorite coffee shops (and it’s a good thing, too, since I live in Asheville now). Why? Because it’s a great place for locals to hang out, get some work done, and enjoy some high-quality beverages and small bites. My favorites are the hot chocolate (not made with syrup — a rare find for most coffee shops, but often a good indication of the best ones out there) and the fruit + granola bowl.
The afternoon I arrived in Portland, Maine, I stopped by a cute little cafe called Mornings in Paris. I just wanted a light snack and a refreshing beverage, so I picked a mini cupcake out of the case — a chocolate cupcake with strawberry frosting made from real, fresh strawberries (above). To complement the cupcake, I ordered a Green Tea Frappé (below), which was light and airy. The cafe itself was super cute, with bright table cloths on all the tables, tin ceiling tiles, and eclectic decorations. Even though I was only there for half an hour, this was a really great little place that I could see myself spending long hours in if I lived nearby.
The new Cup O Joe and MoJoe Lounge in downtown Columbus, Ohio, is a great place to do some work and eat some quality, inexpensive grub. I have been bringing my work there on Fridays, and have found the staff to be friendly and laid back, and the food surprisingly good. I ordered the house salad (which comes with a wonderful lemon vinaigrette dressing that’s the perfect blend of sweet and tart) on the side of a grilled cheese. The salad was light and refreshing, and not skimpy like some side salads can be. The sandwich was made with three kinds of cheese (none of that weird American cheese junk), and was pleasantly non-greasy — a difficult feat for some grilled cheese sandwiches. The lunch rush isn’t too bad, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and clean & contemporary decor (see some of my photos of the place here) makes it a pleasant place to while away those workday hours.
On the way from San Francisco to Tahoe, I popped in to the Bella Bru Cafe in El Dorado Hills, California. I was just looking for a quick, simple breakfast and was really excited when I found that they had more than just bagels and muffins. The fact that they use natural and local ingredients was an added bonus. I ordered their Huevos Rancheros (pictured above), which came complete with eggs, corn tortillas, black beans (they’re hiding under the tortillas in this photo), salsa, avocado, and potatoes. It was cooked to perfection (the eggs weren’t at all runny, but they were also not overcooked or chewy), and the service was incredibly fast. I also ordered a white tea and an apricot scone for the road (pictured below), both of which were delicious as well. I actually forgot about the scone for a day or two, and when I got around to eating it, it was still fresh and flavorful. This was, by far, the best surprise-meal of the trip!
I purchased and ate this delightful cupcake from the Global Gallery coffee shop in Columbus, but it was made by Melissa’s Incredible Edibles across the street. The frosting dissolved on my tongue and was the perfect balance of sweet/tart, and the cupcake itself was fluffy and light. It was a delicious treat, and was super-reasonably priced. If you get the chance to try out Melissa’s Incredible Edibles, you should go for it. I’m glad I did!
The Global Gallery Coffee Shop in Clintonville is a fair-trade, ethical coffee house and gift shop. They have the best hot chocolate in at least a 5-mile radius — it’s light and airy, and has a delicious milk-chocolate base. Their food is also healthy and lite, and a step up from the usual coffee shop fare. I tend to order the house-made granola with vanilla yogurt (plain if they have it in stock, but this is something they do to accommodate my specific preferences — they’re very willing to do what they can to please their customers) — it’s a hearty treat that sits lightly and keeps me going for hours.
Travonna Coffee House is one of my favorite places to study (especially in the winter, when the dark interior provides a comfortable shelter from the bitter cold outside. Their hot chocolate is made with milk chocolate, and has that perfect sweetness that I love so much. They top it off with whipped cream and a light dusting of chocolate powder, and serve it up in a tall, thin glass that makes it feel as elegant as it is delicious.
They also offer food, and since I was in for breakfast, I had an asiago cheese bagel with a dollop of cream cheese. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but was tasty and filling nonetheless. Not to mention it was brought out to me quickly by the friendly waiter who took my order at the counter. Travonna is a nice little haven for anyone looking to study or relax for a little while. They have free wi-fi for their customers, and their staff is friendly and kind.
I’ve been hearing about Cafe Brioso for a couple of years now, and I finally made it to this downtown coffee shop for an early morning treat. The staff was friendly and upbeat, and upon the recommendation of one of the guys behind the counter, I tried the blueberry muffin (pictured below). It was amazing — the blueberries were fresh and juicy, the crust was thick and near-crispy (just how I like it) while the inside was fluffy and light. Couple that with the yummy hot cocoa (pictured above) — complete with its heart and leaf — and this was a delicious and light breakfast. The prices were fantastic, and the atmosphere was low-key and great for types like me who visit coffee shops and stick around to work for a few hours. The high ceilings give Brioso a roomy feel, and the cycling art adorning the walls betrays the interests of many of the staff.
Some friends of mine took me to Stumptown Coffee, a neighborhood favorite in Portland, Oregon. This was the most unusual cup of hot cocoa I’ve had — it didn’t have that bitterness that Starbuck’s hot chocolate has, and it was sweet and flavorful without being saccharine. Not to mention the design of the foam and whipped cream was really cute, and only added to the appetizing nature of the beverage. Along with my hot chocolate, I had a delicious raspberry and hazelnut scone.
This scone was really delicious — the combination of fresh raspberries and chopped hazelnuts was really scrumptious (of course, I’m a huge fan of hazelnuts, so it’s hard to go wrong when they put them into the scone) and I think I can honestly say that this is the best scone I’ve ever had. You don’t get that many unique flavors in scones, but this one was a new twist on a more traditional fruit scone. Delicious!