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.

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 shop this week. One that blew enough customers out of the sky to get voted 2014's Best Coffee Shop in Cleveland Scene Magazine. And despite having a second location in Rocky River, this award is directed at the coffee shop at 2057 East Fourth St., in downtown Cleveland.

Matt's ready for a Backstreet Boys music video. 
Now I know what you're thinking. If Simon doesn't say 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 what's my favorite coffee shop before and I never have a straight or easy 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, lets 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's making another appearance 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 I should 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. And what's even more remarkable is Erie Island's weekend hours: opened 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. This stuff is unheard of for a downtown Cleveland coffee shop.

Matt and I were starving so heard 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. Looking out to 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 iced 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-space interior filled with mounted art, wall-reflected light and a nice bar-stool area near the windowed 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 cool
Tchotchkes to their shelves. I am going to need one of these
for my desk.
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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Monday, May 19, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Charleston Coffee House in Downtown Lorain

Hold The Coffee steps foot in Lorain County for the first time this week with a review on a popular coffee destination in a not-so-popular downtown district.

Now if you look close enough, you can see that Amy's foot
is in the corner of the frame. I don't leave people out of 
Quite fittingly, that's the coffee shop profile I love most--ones that tries to steer their neighborhood versus fitting into them. Charleston Coffee House has such a unique atmosphere that it draws people like myself, Andrew Cass, Amy Popik and boyfriend Matthew Sellers to carpool 42 miles west of Euclid for a cup of coffee on a Saturday.

Not exactly true. All four of us had been planning a trip to nearby Sheffield Village Saturday, May 10, to watch a community musical and, like always, no adventure of mine is complete without a visit to an unfamiliar local coffee shop. (The musical we went to see, "Sunday in the Park with George" at TrueNorth Cultural Arts Theatre, was featuring the talents of friends Devon Turchan and Kate Atherton. I would include a link on how to buy tickets for the show, but their season wrapped up last Sunday.)

We were also drawn out to Lorain County to meet Morning Journal Reporter Jon Wysochanski (I call him Wyso) and his wife, Casandra.

This portion of Braodway Avenue looks like dyed brick, 
but it is actually stamped asphalt.  It's still beautiful.
Our group had a roundtable discussion over this issue.
But most importantly, this trip to Lorain County was finally the excuse I needed to visit Charleston at 630 Broadway Ave. My former managing editor Laura Kessel told me about this place soon after I started my blog, glorifying its interior and its role in a possible downtown revitalization.

That Saturday, I got a first-hand account to this coffee shop.

Location: Lets be honest, I don't hear many good things about Downtown Lorain. In fact, I've never heard anything good about it. A person of high trend authority told me nearly a year ago Downtown Lorain is like an expanded version of Downtown Willoughby, but with plenty of abandonment and little vitality. That sounds like potential waiting to happen, but I am not so sure on how far along its leaders are from meeting that potential. I found this promotional Youtube video on Lorain's revitalization movement before our groups' visit, and when it highlights the city's dining scene, it shows footage of an Applebees. Yes, an Applebees, and I don't think it was done in irony.

Gorgeous coffee mugs, but our group was impressed 
in the least over the staff's use of Stryofoam instead of a glass.
We need to be thinking green!
My group and I didn't really see much of any downtown restaurants during our visit, at least not ones that were open on Saturday. I am relieved to see Charleston has pretty lively hours on Saturdays, not a common thing to see among coffee shops in downtown areas. I hope some entrepreneurs in retail, dining and apartments can join forces to revive Downtown Lorain's beautiful and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Food and Beverage: Charleston provides plenty of the familiar beverage items seen at neighborhood coffee shops. And on top of that, Charleston's menu offers sandwiches, bagels and soups.

That Saturday, Matt and I ordered a large coffee, a large coffee cafe (which I thought was just coffee at first) and a plain bagel with cream cheese for $7.

This is the Atrium one resident showed us during our tour.
Most of these doors are apartments and hidden out of the
frame are four small birds that call this atrium home. All
of this sits behind the coffee shop.
Space and Atmosphere: If you know me, you already know one of my favorite buzzwords is "mixed-use." I am not talking about a Target with a Starbucks inside. I am talking retail or eatery on the first floor and apartments or offices on the floors above. Maybe even with underground parking or a parking garage.

That Saturday, our group had the pleasure of a getting a tour of Charleston's two stories by a resident. (Somehow Wyso had worked his magic to get this done prior to our group's arrival.) It was a magical tour, but I'll let one photo do the talking.

The coffee shop itself, however, is magical to see as well. Not many people are attracted to mismatch furniture, but I am. It's colorful, personable, unique, green and I want to see more of it from coffee shops.

You know what else I love seeing? Exposed brick. Charleston doesn't have any exposed-brick walls, but it does have exposed brick floors. Ground. Breaking. If I was allowed to swear in this blog, I would've added a hyphenated expletive between those words. I've visited more than 35 local coffee shops in my life--a good chunk reviewed in this blog--and this is the first one I've seen with a brick floor. (Or at least one that is so noticeable.)

Look at that floor. Wood-panel and exposed brick. Can
anyone top that?
Despite the risk of this brick floor causing some unintended bleeding among barefooted patrons, I would love to see more of this from local coffee shops and interior decorators in general.

A place like this can change people's perceptions on Downtown Lorain, much like Amy's opinion on Charleston changed throughout our stay at the coffee shop. (I think she was impressed by the table all six of us we sitting around--a re-purposed door.) At first, she expressed queasiness over the coffee shop's non-matching tables and chairs as well as the doors and door frames mounted around the walls of the shop.

Charleston Coffee House: a "door to a re-purposed world."
That queasiness turned into appreciation of art near the end of our visit as she told me: "It is like opening the door to a re-purposed world!" That's success in action, folks.

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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Monday, May 12, 2014

Hold the Coffee @ Coffee Proper in Lakewood

Hold the Coffee returns to Lakewood to review another local coffee shop on Detroit Avenue--this one hardly even a mile west from the last coffee shop I featured in the city. (I wish Euclid/Cleveland's east side/Lake County had these many neighborhood coffee shops nearby.)

This photo should definitely jump-start Andrew's 
modeling career.
On our way to a Lakewood house party Saturday, May 3, News-Herald reporter Andrew Cass and I made a stop at Coffee Proper, an espresso bar and tea lounge at 17823 Detroit Ave. We needed to fuel up on caffeine before we started our two-hour marathon of Cards Against Humanity, and most importantly, I was eager to try an unfamiliar neighborhood coffee shop on the west side.

Location: Coffee Proper's location isn't very different from what I wrote about in my blog post of Root Cafe, also the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. There's a lot of mixed-use buildings with dense housing and a total lack of frontal parking spaces. 

What's different with Coffee Proper than your typical Lakewood coffee shop is that is connects right inside to the Beck Center for the Arts--something I admittedly knew nothing about until my visit Saturday with Andrew.

Table art is included in the price, I assume.
I actually asked the barista at the counter if Coffee Proper had an expanded art gallery in the back. How embarrassing.

Food and Beverage: News-Herald Reporter Liz Lundblad introduced me to Coffee Proper's existence and website a few months ago. Not all coffee shops post their menus and prices online, but Coffee Proper does, and both Liz and I were a bit taken a back by the numbers. A six-ounce Latte for $4? Yikes! No matter what you order, you're going to at least spend $3 on coffee. It's like buying desk tchotchkes at an art museum.

I later noticed that Coffee Proper contracts its roasting with Rising Star Coffee--a popular local roaster with premium-level prices. I guess that's the justification.

I asked everyone to clear the room beforehand. Haha. 
Just kidding
That Saturday, I ordered a large iced coffee (which I can only assume was somewhere around 12 ounces) for $5 and Andrew ordered a pour-over coffee for $3. I also purchased a Yawp bar for $3.

I was a bit disappointed by the selection of sweeteners. Coffee Proper seemingly doesn't support the artificial stuff, nor does it offer Stevia. On Saturday I had the choice of unbleached sugar or "simple syrup." Considering my terrible relationship with unbleached sugar in the past, I sided on trying simple syrup. (I was relieved to find no chunks of sweetener at the bottom of the glass, but it still wasn't as good as my dear Stevia.)

Space and Atmosphere: Coffee Proper's interior includes more than four-digit-priced wall art. It has a waterfall mounted on a wall beside its counter, wooden flooring, and plenty of ceiling and natural lighting.

Three photos featuring Andrew? He should feel so lucky.
What blew my head out of the sky, however, was the arcade machine sitting near the entrance of the shop. It was a small table unit with approximately 60 different arcade games like Pac-Man. The unit even had an option for two-player modes.

What blew Andrew's as well as my minds even more was the pile of quarters laying near the machine. Andrew counted more than $5 of quarters. We didn't ask questions, but I would like to think Coffee Proper's staff left the quarters for patrons to play. If so, that's deserving of a good-Samaritan award.

There was no way Andrew and I were going to pass up a chance of playing Pac-Man. I gave a valiant attempt at beating the game--as soon as I quickly figured out that the goal in the game is to avoid the ghost avatars, not chase them. Andrew's valiant attempt ended far shorter. He lost all three of his Pac-Man's lives within a minute, but he'll tell you I am exaggerating and it was actually four minutes.

And through that back hallway is the Beck Center, I learned.
There's no way around it: Coffee Proper is pricey, too pricey for my earning power anyway. But it has plenty of attractions that separate it from the competition, and if I was suggesting profound sites for first dates in Cleveland, Coffee Proper would be one of a few topping the list.

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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