Blogs > Hold the Coffee

Every week, New-Herald Reporter Simon Husted camps out at a local neighborhood coffee shop reviewing its scene, menu, location and its space functionality. In an unusual twist, he reviews everything but the coffee.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hold the Coffee @ Dewey's Coffee House in Cleveland's Shaker Square

This week's Hold The Coffee post isn't only featuring a visit to an unfamiliar coffee shop, but I"m also chronicling my first voyage on RTA with my friend and co-worker: the insatiably indie, Andrew Cass.

Andrew peers pensively into the universe.  Soon after, he began to
shake in Shaker Square.

Has Simon, the wannabe-hipster who complains all day about how too many cities are designed for the car-worshiping lifestyle, has never used public transit? For the most part, yes. Except I did use Portage County's public transit off and on when I was a Kent State student. On several occasions, Matt and I have used Columbus' public transit because we got exhausted walking along the Short North all day.

But yes, I never once took bus or rail in Cleveland's RTA. (Nor can I say I've done the same in Buffalo, either.)
I'll talk more about my transit experience later in this post, but let's talk Dewey's Coffee House, a place about which I've heard plenty, but never had the privilege of visiting. It is sort of out of the way from where I live in Euclid, but certainly worth the trip. A visit to Shaker Square requires a free Saturday, and luckily, on August 9, I was able to pull Andrew away from his record collection and bro crush for Chris Pratt to join me.

According to this sleeve, a new lease at Shaker Square
Apartments gets you a free month of coffee at Dewey's.
If only Shaker Square wasn't so far from where I work...
Location: Originally, Andrew and I had planned to drive to the Shaker Square neighborhood that Saturday, but leading up to the weekend, I remembered the stressful time I had during my first Shaker Square commute two years ago. I was a public radio intern back for Northeast Ohio media outlet, WKSU, and I was joining reporter Vivian Goodman to do a feature on the head chef of fire food and drink. (You can listen to the story and my multimedia piece here.)

I remember being impressed by the Cleveland neighborhood's pedestrian-friendly beauty, but I was also stressed out by how to get around the square's traffic patterns and where to find free parking. I was stressed out so much that I left my keys in the unlocked car's ignition during the entire 90-minute assignment. (I am happy to report that I haven't done anything as stupid as that since then.  Matt, my boyfriend and almost-nurse remarked, "Just think of how your carbon footprint could have been prevented if you'd popped an Ativan."  *snorts*)

Andrew ate a piece of his muffin before I had a chance
to shoot a photo. I made sure he wouldn't be doing that
again by verbose scolding and a hand slap.
Thinking of it nowadays, it seems silly to drive to Shaker Square with its connections of bus routes and rail lines. Shaker Square is one of the most accessible places to reach by public transit, and it is an excellent example of a high dense population well-served by public transit. If it wasn't so far from where I work, I would flirt with the idea of moving to Shaker Square. But since it is not, I will stick with flirting with the idea of Matt moving there.  (He remarks, "Geez, Simon.  You certainly flirt a lot in these blog posts.  Should I be worried?")

Food and Beverage: Dewey's has plenty of things to snack and fuel-up on, but its menu is not very different from an ordinary neighborhood coffee shop--If such a thing as an "ordinary" neighborhood coffee shop even exists.

On that Saturday I bought a 20-oz iced coffee and a chocolate chunk, maple, pecan cookie for $5 and change, and Andrew bought a 16-oz dark roast coffee and a blueberry muffin for $3 and three quarters.

This is the popcorn-shop-side of Dewey's in Shaker Square.
One thing that sticks out at Dewey's is its partnership with Popcorn Shop Factory in Chagrin Falls, which has been sharing the same owner for the last three years. In the Shaker Square venue, one side sells coffee and the other side sells popcorn, with flavors like Cajun and Chicago-style caramel-corn and double-cheese. I didn't buy any popcorn that Saturday because I still had a third bag full of honey mustard popcorn stashed away under my bed from a Chagrin Falls adventure a week prior.

Space and Atmosphere: Dewey's space is filled with cantaloupe-colored walls, framed art and wooden floors. Compared to the Chagrin Falls popcorn shop, which also serves Dewey's coffee, the Shaker Square location has plenty of seating area for small groups of four or five. And it has small tables and bar-stool areas for people who want to camp out on their laptops and exploit the Wi-Fi.

And here is the cozy corner in Dewey's.
Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

P.S.: As far as using RTA for my first time, everything went pretty well. Andrew and I never got lost, but we did arrive roughly 40 minutes early for our first bus stop onto Route 94. I lost my $5 day pass only once during our stay, and at only one time did a random woman approach me to rattle about how I need to stop stuffing things in my pockets or someone is going to rob me. It went so well, I used RTA the next day in a small mini-adventure to Ohio City.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top Four Neighborhoods Missing a Coffee Shop

Hold The Coffee is doing something different this week. Instead of highlighting a great coffee shop in a great neighborhood, I am highlighting neighborhoods that are missing great independent coffee shops. All of these neighborhoods share a couple attributes: They're filled with relatively historic, mixed-use buildings, are pretty densely populated and are hungry for greater commercial investment--something coffee shops are known to spur. (That is my expert opinion anyway.)

Neighborhoods like these are scattered everywhere across our nation in small cities and villages and low-income urban centers. I am surprised no one has launched a non-profit to provide low-interest loans, professional advice and networking contacts to entrepreneurs considering opening independent coffee shops in areas designated "Indie-Coffee Shop Desserts." (Coined after USDA's "food desserts.")

For half a year, I've been wondering how the Waterloo Arts District has survived without a coffee shop, and luckily one entrepreneur, Kimberly Homan, is changing that this fall when she opens Bright Coffee Bar in a rehabilitated building on the corner of East 161 Street and Waterloo Road. In addition Loudonville, a small Ashland County village near Matt lives, is also getting a coffee shop called MUGS. It's even going to be a non-profit one. I can't wait for Bethany Paterson to finish the coffee shop's interior work and open it up.

Let's hope more entrepreneurial spirit burgeon these neighborhoods below as well.

185th Street in Cleveland and Euclid

I am keeping a close eye on the exciting developments in
this neighborhood.
I know, the Waterloo Arts District is less than two miles from the East 185 Street District, and many people lump the two into the same North Collinwood neighborhood, anyway. But, guess what? Many dense neighborhoods have more than just one neighborhood coffee shop. (Think of Tremont, Ohio City, Lakewood's Detroit Shoreway and Little Italy, especially when Rising Star Coffee opens up its second location at the corner of Murray Hill and Edgehill roads.) The same can be done for North Collinwood.

It was only a few years ago when a coffee shop was sitting across the street from LaSalle Threatre. It closed a few years back. Since then, the space has been home to a chocolate candy outlet, and soon a gourmet fruit bar shop.

I am hoping a new business development initiative by Northeast Shores Development Corp., might get a new neighborhood coffee shop on its feet.  

Fairport Harbor's High Street

Fairport Harbor - There's plenty of exposed brick to love.
Maybe it's because I cover the village of Fairport Harbor for the News-Herald, but I know plenty of people who desperately want to see a coffee shop open in this pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and beach destination. In fact, I know some residents who are more obsessed about a coffee shop in this neighborhood than I.

Now there are some challenges, or so I've learned. For one, only a few of the vacant storefronts here come equipped with the plumbing and utilities for a working kitchen, requiring plenty of capital investment. Secondly, the village's outsider traffic dramatically falls when beach season ends. But those are two obstacles I've seen other communities overcome.

Fairport Harbor this summer hired an economic development coordinator with some long-time experience in marketing. If Kathie Pohl is reading this, I think a coffee shop with expanded Tuesday evening hours could make a great first priority in the village.

Downtown Painesville

This is a stretch of Main Street, beginning from Sidewalk Cafe. Right now,
the street is full of construction.
Although downtown Painesville has its own unique obstacles with urban renewal, I include it in the same circle as Fairport Harbor, and possibly because they're such a close drive away from each other.

I've heard stories of downtown Painesville actually once having an Arabica coffee shop. I am sure those times were incredible, but I am tired of hearing about what Painesville once and doesn't anymore. I am far more focused on what it could have. Painesville still has some very unique and historic buildings along Mentor Avenue, State Street and Main Street, a steadily growing population and some organized momentum to set it on the right direction for being an arts destination between Ashtabula's Bridge Street and downtown Willoughby. Not to mention, downtown Painesville also has the Morely Library--the most beautiful library my eyes have yet to grace.

Downtown Ravenna

Photo courtesy of John Ridinger of Wikipedia. Yeah, I decided not to
drive an hour south to take a scenic photo of downtown Ravenna.
Studying at Kent State University between 2008 and 2013, it's no secret how downtown Kent has grown from a rust-belt area freshman and sophomores avoided to a shopping and eating destination the university's marketing leaders are proud to brag about.

The same fortune has not reached downtown Ravenna, a neighborhood that is approximately five miles away from my college town. I am not suggesting downtown Ravenna should morph into downtown Kent 2.0, but entrepreneurs should consider leveraging traffic from Ohio's second largest university and start a coffee shop. City leaders should try to do the same if they aren't already.

Ravenna is a small Western Reserve city and I see so much potential. I have a few friends, even post-college friends, who prefer living in downtown Ravenna versus downtown Kent.

Do you know of a neighborhood that needs an independent coffee shop? Post below.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Erie Island Coffee in Cleveland's East 4th Street

Hold The Coffee is featuring a very special coffee destination--voted 2014's Best Coffee Shop in Cleveland Scene Magazine. Despite having a second location in Rocky River, this award is directed at the downtown Cleveland location at 2057 E. Fourth St.

Matt's ready for a Backstreet Boys music video. 
Now, I know what you're thinking... if Simon isn't saying it, Scene must be wrong--or at least the people who voted in the poll. Does it agree with my opinion, though? That's hard to say. People have asked me that very question before and I never have a simple answer. (But don't worry, I will be doing my own "Best Coffee Shop" post sometime around this blog's one-year anniversary.)

For now, let's focus on my latest experience at Erie Island Coffee, Saturday, July 5. I visited the East 4th Erie Island once before in September to meet up and catch up with my friend, Quara Gant, a Kent State graduate who now lives in Wooster.

I hadn't seen her since that meet-up. When she told me earlier this month she was planning another cameo in downtown Cleveland, I arranged another meet-up at Erie Island (This will have to become a regular pattern between us.) This time, I brought my boyfriend, philosopher and editor, Matt, and she brought her friend from Pittsburgh, Sonay, who after a couple years studying at Kent State decided to take her talents outside of Ohio.

Pictured here to the right is Sonay's and Quara's legs. 
I didn't know they were watching my photo shoot 
with Matt at the time.
Location: This was Matt's first time in downtown Cleveland's East 4th Street, an area that reminds me of photos of the French Quarter in New Orleans. It's a cultural gem where pedestrians comb the brick street and vehicles are banned from entering. Like almost anywhere in downtown, finding free parking within a 30-minute walk is very difficult, which is more reason to flirt with the idea of public transit.

East Fourth Street is mostly filled with bars and restaurants people go to after a professional sports game, so Erie Island gives a new variety to the mix. What's even more remarkable is Erie Island's weekend hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. This flexible is unheard of for a downtown Cleveland coffee shop.

Matt and I were so famished, we didn't even try to
make the food presentable.
Food and Beverage: Similar to the Rocky River location, Erie Island on East 4th offers plenty of lunch and breakfast items. Preparing for a long day ahead, Matt and I ordered a Caprese Crush sandwich, a peanut-butter bran muffin, a 20-ounce iced coffee and a 16-ounce drip-coffee for $12 and change. Matt wanted to steer toward a more extravagant caffeinated beverage, but the barista behind the counter told us the espresso machine was out of order. (I could sense deep pain felt throughout the coffee shop.)

Space and Atmosphere: Erie Island has a narrow, gallery interior filled with mounted art, wall-reflected light and a nice bar-stool area near the glass door. It's perfect for lonely bloggers like myself who want to camp out on someone else's WiFi during cloudy days.

This photo is actually from my first Erie Island visit back in 
But it doesn't take a downtown Cleveland expert to know what makes dining on East 4th Street special: its outdoor patio area. It's a lively, decorative, historic, and best of all, car-free.

Despite the good weather, I steered my group to sit inside that Saturday because it was a bit too lively and loud outside and I always prefer tranquil, calm conversations.

I am not going to declare Erie Island on East 4th to be Cleveland's best coffee shop, but it does make me wish I had an RTA bus membership and that the transit agency would finally expand its rail service to Euclid.

Since my last visit, Erie Island staff have added these
"locally made" art, according to Matt. There was an alleged
sign posted about it, but I didn't see it. I am skeptical, but
we'll have to trust his word. 
Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

P.S. to all of the loyal readers who follow my blog: I am sorry about the spotty postings this past month and a half. I got caught up in "The Walking Dead" craze, but I am now recovering. Lets hope it takes a while for season 4 to get to Netflix.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Mocha Joe's in Stow

Hold The Coffee this week is featuring a coffee shop that I am quite embarrassed to say I never knew existed despite living 10 minutes away from it for nearly five years when I was a Kent State University student. (For the record, I CAN read, CAN write.)

In fact, I drove by Mocha Joe's Coffee House more than a dozen times as a college student and didn't notice. Nowadays, my nose perks whenever I am in a block's length of a neighborhood coffee shop, but back then in college I was a different man. I cared far more about reading comic books on clearance and following the latest video game industry news than scouting coffee shops in every Ohio city and village.

Luckily, I have friends like Nicole Stempak, a journalism school graduate who is finishing up her Master Degree in Library and Information Sciences this summer at Kent State. Nowadays, she's one of a very short list of friends who keep me connected to my alma mater. Having lived in Kent far longer than I, Nicole also knows of more coffee shops in the area--including Mocha Joe's.

There's plenty of metal tea pots here to share!
On Saturday, June 14, Nicole exposed me to Mocha Joe's for our irregularly scheduled chit-chat-after-church-minus-the-church.

Location: I take no joy in saying this, but if you've never been to Stow, you're not missing all that much. It's a Summit County suburb between Kent and Akron that resembles any typical suburb in Northeast Ohio. Does it have an Applebees? Check. Does it have a Target? Check. Does it have state routes filled with shopping centers for businesses? Absolute check.

In fact, Mocha Joe's sits inside a shopping center at 3707 Darrow Road near Graham Road.

While parking, Nicole and I debated whether Mocha Joe's is considered to have what I consider America's greatest pitfall and attack on pedestrian-friendly streets, the frontal parking lot. I argued that Mocha Joe's parking lot might not be considered frontal because there's no parking between the state route and the building--A similar situation for the Erie Island Coffee Shop in Rocky River. But Nicole countered my argument by pointing out the shop's entrance faces the parking lot--therefore the building is really facing the parking lot.

Sure the sandwiches looked great, but the colorful mugs
are what stole the show!
In the end of the day, it doesn't matter all that much whether it's a frontal parking lot or side parking lot. Every community needs a neighborhood coffee shop, and if a community subscribes to a car-worshiping lifestyle, it doesn't make it less deserving of a nearby neighborhood coffee shop.

Food and Beverage: Mocha Joe's offers more than just Joe. Breakfast and lunch are offered also. With a mostly empty stomach, Nicole and I ordered lunch. She got a Vanilla Custard Macchiato and a turkey panini for $11 and change and I bought a large mug of S'mores flavored coffee and a cowboy panini for $9 and change. Nicole asked me why I don't order more signature coffee beverages when doing this blog post. I told her I have a tight budget, but truth be told, part of the reason is because I don't often know what I am ordering beyond anything more than an iced coffee, and whenever I try to experiment, I somehow end up ordering nothing more than steamed milk and two shots of espresso. (Upon editing this post, my boyfriend Matt exclaimed 'What's the problem with steamed milk and two shots of espresso?')

Dear coffee shops around the world, please provide 
chess boards. Thank you.
Space and Atmosphere: Despite all of the jabs against Stow and Stowians, Mocha Joe's has a trendy and vibrant interior with its exposed ventilation, big windows, and a neat fireplace near its seating area. With plenty of open space and seating, a large gathering of friends can enjoy themselves without imposing their loudness on other. The shop also has a remarkable collection of vintage metal tea pots and kettles along its walls. They sparked some nostalgia in me. So much so, I wondered where the brainless scarecrow and cowardly lion were hiding.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Coffee House at University Circle

Have you ever visited a coffee shop where you can't find seating? Not such an uncommon problem, but at one coffee shop in University Circle, you'll be hard pressed to come across anything close to that.

No one can probably tell, but two hours ago, Kelly was
in the midst of manual labor as part of a volunteer church
group. What an outstanding Samaritan.
For this week's Hold The Coffee post, I am featuring my latest visit to Coffee House at University Circle, one of a handful of neighborhood coffee shops that are within a 20-minute drive from my Euclid apartment.

I've been to Coffee House at 11300 Juniper Road two times before, and I made a third visit Saturday, May 30, to catch up with my college friend Kelly Petryszyn, who's an associate editor at Cleveland Magazine.

Whenever I have a story or blog post to type up, I often drive to a nearby coffee shop or library. It's never perfect. At coffee houses, you risk entering loud crowded rooms with plenty of distractions and less-than-ideal seating. Libraries--more specifically the Euclid Library--often eliminates that risk, but in exchange there is often no cafe available to order coffee to keep me caffeinated. At Coffee House, you get the good of both worlds. (I'll extrapolate more into this point later.)

Coffee House is one of a handful of places that sell
this catchy apparel. I am waiting for the "Paris is my
Cleveland" line to come out.
Location: In case the name wasn't obvious enough, Coffee House is in the University Circle neighborhood. More specifically, it's situated in a big, mansion-sized house within a short walking distance of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Case Western Reserve University's campus. It should go without saying that a lot of college students congregate to Coffee House to work on class projects or at least pretend to do so while creeping on a classmate Facebook profile.

Like most of University Circle, free parking is tough to find. Kelly parked her car a long walk away from the coffee shop, but that was before she was reminded that Coffee House has a parking lot behind the building. It's a small parking lot, and its often full, but most importantly, it's not in front of the building and doesn't disrupt the walk-ability in the neighborhood.

Despite the parking situation, Juniper Road is significantly more quiet than other parts of University Circle, which makes dining on its outdoor patio something magical.

Are you keeping up with your daily intake of cookies and
iced coffees?
Food and Beverage: Coffee House offers salads, sandwiches and other dishes, but that Saturday I stuck to the sweets and caffeine. (I don't even bother making excuses anymore.) With an hour and a half before my chit-chat-after-church with Kelly, I ordered a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie the size of my hand and a large glass of iced coffee for $4 and change. (I later ordered a refill on the iced coffee when Kelly came.)

A rather unique thing about Coffee House is that they serve see-through glass mugs--making it easier to measure the composition between cream, milk and coffee. (And often, glass mugs reduce the risk of date-rape.)

Space and Atmosphere: I spent the first half of my visit inside Coffee House because my 7-year-old personal laptop can't stay alive for more than an hour without a wall outlet.

So much lovely wood...
Coffee House's interior has a very vintage, warm and oak feel to it. (I used "oak" because there's wooden floors and furniture everywhere.)

But the one thing that stands out greatest at Coffee House is the amount of seating. I counted approximately 36 chairs in the room I worked in. That doesn't include the two other seating rooms down stairs, two rooms upstairs and the patio seating outside. It's enough seating to have a Pokemon convention at Coffee House--an idea that just might be worth exploring.

Another thing about Coffee House's atmosphere is its quietness. You can hear the sound system's soft jazz music playing clear as a full moon because almost everyone sitting inside is typing up a paper, finding their newest distraction on Buzzfeed or quietly conversing with a tutor on how unfair their professor grades projects.

Enough table space for a college student to set up camp.
Despite the upstairs being designated for quiet study, it almost seems rude to have loud social gatherings of six or more people at one of the bottom floor's long tables. (Which I did once a little than eight months ago.)

Thankfully, it was a sunny beautiful Saturday and when Kelly arrived, we veered our chatter and my obnoxious laughs and gasps to the outdoor patio.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Uncorked in Coshocton's Roscoe Village

Hold The Coffee is time-traveling back to Erie Canal's prime time this week with a look at a coffee and wine bar in Cochocton. (Don't I just come up with some of the most riveting blog intros ever?)

Matthew Sellers,
Boyfriend. Soon-to-be-Nurse. Philosopher. Ohio State grad.
My boyfriend Matthew and I embarked on an hour-long road trip Saturday, May 24, to visit the historic district Roscoe Village in the city of Coshocton. He's been to the tourist attraction and neighborhood a few times before, but this was my first visit to Roscoe. We originally had planned a visit around a friend's upcoming wedding next weekend in Coshocton, but those plans fell through--not the marriage thankfully, just our plans. Since we hyped each other over the visit anyhow, we settled on spending our Saturday, which is famous for its significance along the Erie Canal. We did a lot of things Saturday, including visiting the less exciting downtown Coshocton, but on top of the itinerary that Saturday was a stop at Uncorked Coffee and Wine Bar.

Uncorked is similar to Treehuggers in Berea: both have waitresses and blur the lines between coffee shop and sit-down restaurant. Difference is, Uncorked is not set behind a large parking lot inside a strip plaza.

No big bad wolf is going to blow this village down! Boom!
Location: Roscoe is like Erie Canal meets Vera Bradley. (That was one modern-day brand Matt and I spotted inside a local merchant's shop.) Roscoe is very quaint and rich with historic buildings and homes, but it doesn't have the same vintage flare as an Amish village. (Not that I've ever visited an Amish village, but I have my own idea of what one would look like.)

Most of Roscoe Village's pedestrian-filled liveliness sits along North Whitewoman Street--a terribly offensive name considering there is no Blackwoman Street.

Uncorked sits in a three-story brick building in the center of all the activity, and is adjacent to Medbery Marketplace--my second favorite place in Roscoe after Uncorked. Throughout the day we visited the market twice and bought bacon cheese, dry-roasted okra, sweet corn relish and BBQ beef-jerky--all sourced from Ohio.  Medbery is like a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, but without the dirty corporate association tainting its benevolent image.

Matt two-timing wine with coffee... and later beer. "I do it
for religious reasons and for the flavonoids," he said. 
But the most impressive thing about Roscoe is the prevalence of exposed brick everywhere. Even the sidewalks are brick.

Food and Beverage: As I said earlier, Uncorked definitely blurs the lines between coffee shop and sit-down restaurant... and I would dare to add nightlife bar scene into the mix. In addition to all of the caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, Uncork serves sandwiches, salads, gourmet pizzas and appetizers.

To fuel up after our gym workout, Matt and I ordered a 12-inch gourmet chicken ranch pizza, a Jamaican Red Stripe beer, a Red Diamond Merlot, a large hot coffee and a large iced coffee. Altogether, we spent $27 and change. (And by "we," I really mean Matt.)

Our friendly waitress asked if we needed a box for leftovers. 
Who doesn't finish their pizza in one sitting?
Space and Atmosphere: I think it's fair to say I've never featured a coffee shop that gears itself so closely to a night-time bar like Uncorked. It's interior is dimly lit and filled with plenty of LED lights, tall chairs and stools and a bookshelf of wine bottles. It's outdoor patio, which provides roughly double the seating than inside, also has a nightlife persona. But on a sunny, calm Saturday, it also works for an afternoon lunch.

I had some doubts featuring Uncorked in this blog as a coffee shop, but not long after Matt and I left Uncorked, we spotted a bearded young hipster reading a book by himself while sipping on a hot cup of coffee in Uncorked's patio. Now while Matt has admitted of doing the same thing at bars, I firmly believe that such lonesome activity reinforces the idea that Uncorked is indeed a coffee shop. It might be various other means, but it's definitely a coffee shop, and a great find for anyone looking to add history into their dining culture, or someone looking for a neat place to have coffee off of Interstate 77.

This bookshelf of wine bottles would make Belle from
"Beauty and the Beast" jealous.
Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Open Door Coffee House in Madison

Hold The Coffee is finally featuring a coffee shop I've been visiting in Madison Village since my very first day on the eastern Lake County beat in March 2013.

Terri Wagoner,
Mother. Artisan. Civic activist. Reads her local newspaper.
I've lost count on how many times I've opened the door to Open Door Coffee House at 26 West Main St., and for a long time, I've been meaning to feature the coffee shop in my blog. On Saturday, May 17,  I drove nearly 35 miles east of Euclid to join faithful Madison reader and friend Terri Wagoner for some coffee, chit-chat and doughnuts. Terri goes to almost every Village Council Meeting as well as many Township Trustee Meetings and other civic gatherings in Madison. She's one of a handful of people I know who can fill up a radio talk show program about all-things Madison. (And quite frankly, she is one of the few friends I have who care listen to me talk about Madison.)

Probably like almost everyone in Madison, she's visited Open Door plenty of times in the past. 

Beautiful tree mural behind the counter. I am happy to say
this was not lost in the "renovations."
As irony would have it, during the weekend of writing this blog post, I saw that Open Door had undergone "renovations", according to its Facebook page. It figures, but I am not holding this post off any longer.  

Location: Open Door is one of more than a dozen shops and eateries that sit along Main Street's strip across the street from Madison Village Square Park. On one side is a line of one-story and two-story mixed-use buildings, and on the side of the park sits old mansion-sized homes that have been re-purposed into businesses. This Main Street is a bit livelier than most other small villages, thanks to its close proximity to I-90. Most of the storefronts are occupied with neat attractions like a brewery, sushi bar, martial arts studio, vintage doughnut shop, toy store and of course, a coffee shop.   

I have visited a lot of small villages and cities while living in Ohio, but downtown Madison remains one of my favorite communities in Northeast Ohio.   I’m not just trying to flatter nor charm the Madisonites into befriending me, mind you. 

Yes... That is a Styrofoam cup in the frame...
Food and Beverage: Although most of my Open Door visits have only entailed recharging quickly on some caffeine and carbs, Open Door does offer lunch and breakfast dishes like soups, sandwiches and wraps. They also serve ice cream and smoothies. That Saturday, I remained faithful to tradition and ordered a bagel with cream cheese and an iced latte for $5 and change. I typically order iced coffees, but Open Door prepares their iced coffees with a cup full of ice to be filled with hot coffee. That puts a lot of pressure on balancing the right amount of ice versus coffee in the cup and I usually can't help but overwhelm my coffee with ice.

Open Door's menu is pretty light on the wallet, something I like to attribute to its non-profit status.

For good or bad (but mostly good,) the alternating painted 
strips have been removed at Open Door.
Atmosphere and Space: In case you're wondering, Open Door is a non-profit because of its religious affiliation with North Gate Ministries. (I couldn't find a web site on the group.  Apparently there is a plentitude of ministries sharing the same name. A worker told me last week that the ministry is a network of home-based congregations.)

It's really no surprise the coffee shop is religiously-affiliated. Throughout its interior, the coffee shop has framed posters of a divine figure (some would call Him God--or Her-- as Matthew, my boyfriend, offered.) and bible verses like Isaiah 43:1 - "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

Some might ask if this brings a rather indoctrinating mission to the coffee shop, but I view it as a rather quiet, contemplative space for chit-chat after church or reflection.  I admit to being raised Lutheran-turned-skeptic with little knowledge of the Bible, but even so, Open Door provides a space for any human being looking for a great cup of coffee and a place to think. The same isn't so true for Matt, a rather pluralistic, confused Episcopalian and self-learned biblical scholar and humanist, tends to criticize the space, claiming it distorts biblical context. However, he's always happy to join me for coffee whenever we visit Madison together, as long as I pay.

Found this little surprise when I was in the restroom last
week. I was doing a number two so it didn't affect me.

People can see all of the coffee shop's new changes on its Facebook page, but I'll keep my opinions on hold until I have a chance to fully examine the new interior..

With that said, I will say I am a fan of the exposed brick and wooden-painted floor at Open Door.

I often tell people how disappointed I am over the lack of neighborhood coffee shops in Lake County. For a county more than double the size of Geauga, it seems to only have just as many neighborhood coffee shops.  I am just glad one of them is Open Door.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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