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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Gypsy Beans & Bakery in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District

Hold The Coffee ventures back to the west side of Cleveland this week as it highlights a coffee shop in the Gordon Square Arts District.

In case you can't read it, which I know you can't, Shauna's
T-shirt reads "I <3 BSR," as in Black Squirrel Radio, a
Kent State-based online radio channel. I <3 student media.
Since launching the blog nearly 10 months ago, a few of my friends have urged me to visit Gypsy Beans and Bakery, a sweet and coffee destination in between the famous Cleveland Public Theatre, The Capital Theatre and the soon-to-be completed Near West Theatre.

After finishing a Gay Games assignment on Cleveland's west side for the News-Herald on Aug. 7, I finally had the chance to visit Gordon Square and Gypsy Beans. Since then, I've made two other trips to the coffee shop and arts district with my boyfriend, and blog editor, Matt, (Thankfully this blog is not-for-profit; otherwise I'd be accused of nepotism.) Aug. 30, and my friend Shauna, Aug. 22. (She's the cute girl in the photo. She graduated with me at Kent State University and now lives in Lakewood.)

Location: Gordon Square is very much the economic engine to the greater Detroit Shoreway neighborhood--just like how Waterloo Arts District is North Collinwood's economic development engine on the east side. Of course, Gordon Square is a couple years ahead of Waterloo as far revitalization goes.

This bar stool area is perfect for up-close people watching.
Of all of the Cleveland neighborhoods I've visited, Gordon Square is possibly the most attractive I've seen. It charmed Matt, so much so he's considering it as a potential place to relocate come winter.

It's not terribly congested with commuters, it has quick access to Route 2 and downtown, The housing is affordable and it has a nearby beach, Edgewater Park. In addition, the Gordan Square area has a wide array of eateries and shops, bike lanes, and is public transit-friendly. It's an wholly livable neighborhood without being a tourist hotspot like East 4th Street, Ohio City, Tremont, Little Italy or University Circle. If I actually worked in Cleveland, I would consider living in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood myself. Instead, I am strongly encouraging Matt to move there.

Matt was pretty impressed with the neighborhood when we visited Gordon Square that Saturday, and I think a portion of that goes to Gyspy Beans. Just like the neighborhood, the coffee shop reflects the neighborhood's eclecticism. It's easily accessible by walkers and drivers.

One thing to be aware of, iced-coffees come in only one
size. I am not sure how I feel about that.
Food and Beverage: I usually don't talk about the taste of anything in this blog because taste is subjective and there are more important things to talk about like whether the coffee shop has exposed brick walls or organic toilet paper. I have to make an exception with Gypsy Beans. This place has the most moist and sweet muffins I have ever tasted. I mean ever, and I am a big muffin man.  Like, I almost studied muffins in college. On my Aug. 22 visit, I ordered an iced coffee, which only comes in one size, and a chocolate-chip muffin for $5 and change. It was so good, I encouraged Shauna to order a cranberry muffin when she arrived a couple hours later. I ate most of that muffin. On the latest trip, I even persuaded Matt to order a muffin. (He says manipulated.) He put up a strong protest at first, citing the troubles against consuming too many carbs and sweets. (He's a diabetic who can be really sensitive about it to the point of being pious.  "Besides," he said, "If I'm going to consume sugar, I would like it through a cocktail or beer, not a pastry.")  He eventually felt guilty and sheepishly looked up from his ipad, and whispered, "Simey, we can get a muffin if you really want one."  I shrieked with glee and we decided upon apple cinnamon.  Matt agrees, it was the best muffin ever, despite his not being a muffin man.  

I have to say, if I lived in Gordon Square, I would probably have self-control issues.

Love the paint, love the art, love the exposed ventilation. 
Nevertheless, a room is never perfect without exposed brick.
Space and Atmosphere: It might not have exposed brick, but Gypsy Beans definitely knows how to decorate a coffee shop. Mixed in with its wooden tables, furniture and floor is a beautiful bar stool space against its window toward Detroit Avenue. Beneath the glass-layered bar counter are pictures and maps of Paris and it's Catholic-rich history. Although we didn't sit there, the bar stool area was definitely a coffee-shop highlight for Shauna.

But what sticks out most at Gypsy Beans--and Matt agrees--is the locally-inspired art hanging around the coffee shop's walls. These mammoth-sized pieces aren't just merely pictures of Cleveland's historic architecture, they display the different epochs of Cleveland's development, ranging from the earlier Gothic to the postmodern glass and steel high rises.   I don't know much about art, but I think it generates a similar emotion that all of the abandoned-mall porn gives, offering glimpses of the grittiness and past struggles of Cleveland and its recent ascension. (Speaking of which, I am surprised no coffee shop owner is framing pictures of abandoned-mall porn in their spaces.  Matt can't get enough of abandoned pornography.  Stay tuned for the Dr. Phil intervention...)

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Sparta Restaurant and Coffee in Downtown Newark

Hold The Coffee takes its first look inside Licking County and its county seat, Newark, for this week's blog post. For those counting, this marks the 22nd county I've visited or driven through in Ohio. (Holmes and Erie counties: you'll be next.)

Matt is holding an energy drink because he and I had 
to wake up relatively early to visit the place before it 
closed at 2 p.m.
Despite that Newark is only a 40 minute-drive from Mount Vernon where my boyfriend and blog editor Matt lives, we've been hesitant on making trips down there because their YMCA is reportedly unfriendly toward outsiders wishing to take advantage of their, "Y Away From Home" feature. Luckily, we're able to thwart that problem as a Planet Fitness opened up a few weeks ago on the city's north side and I own a premium black membership with guest pass privileges. (Yes, technically Matt and I own two gym memberships.  Matt says, "Why doesn't my physique show it, then?")

With plans to visit the gym and Matt's friend, Shelby, Sunday Aug. 17, we made a stop down at Sparta Coffee Shop and Restaurant in downtown Newark.  (Shelby sat next to Matt in nursing school for a whole calendar year, five days a week.  I was slightly jealous and felt threatened by her exposure...)

Before I dive into all of the myriad details I love jabbering about pertaining to coffee shops, I think it's worth explaining why I was drawn to this place. It wasn't simply because its downtown Newark's only coffee shop. This place stood out because of the story of it's owner: a former personal trainer from LA who wants to go beyond owning a business that serves coffee and use it to turn around impoverished neighborhoods. I encourage everyone to read this Columbus Dispatch story sometime. I did, and with the exception that the owner doesn't like disclosing his age to news reporters (I just hate when people do that), I find him very inspirational.

Even with the drive-thru, this is the best McDonald's I have
seen in Ohio.
Location: For those who haven't visited downtown Newark, it is an expansive town square with mostly three-, four- and five-story buildings surrounding a pocket park and courthouse-like building in the center. (A similar style to Chardon and Medina.) It's pleasing to the visitor on foot and their eyes, but like so many town and village squares, they offer very little to do on Sundays, save attend one of the many churches.

Sparta at 16 West Main Street is not a house of worship in the traditional sense, but is open on Sundays... but with a closing time at 2 p.m. (Strangely enough, that is its closing time every day of the week.)

I am not an urban planner (yet), but re-purposing and building more residential space in downtown is known to create livelier urban cores.   More mixed-use apartments seem to be needed in downtown Newark.

We really bought all of this just for the photo, sadly. We
did finish the coffee and latte at least.
If you look through my earlier blog posts, you'll find Relax in Mansfield, Ohio.  Despite having a larger downtown and a seemingly more artsy crowd of people, Mansfield resembles quite closely to Newark.  Leaders in both cities are trying to revitalize their downtowns and steal the attention away from each area's corporate next-door-neighbor. (That's the City of Ontario in Mansfield, and the City of Heath in Newark.)

Food and Beverage: Much like its hours would suggest, Sparta's menu caters greatly to the brunch and after-church folks.  (Neither Matt nor I were harangued to convert to anything, for the record.)

On that Sunday, Matt and I ordered two large mugs--one with coffee and one with a latte (you can guess by now who ordered which,) for almost $4. Despite eating a big breakfast, we ordered two veggie wraps with fries for $6.95 each. We never finished the meals.  The coffee was certified Fair Trade and is sourced by Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, based in Champaign County.

This is me sneaking photos while Matt was in the restroom.
Space and Atmosphere: Sparta is a re-purposed diner: it has a stool-bar area, tile flooring, and booths lined up along one side of the wall. The space is furnished in winter white, crimson and dark wood. Despite the restrictive hours, I could tell this place aims to expand beyond the diner boundary. Aside from Matt and I, the patrons there were a very mixed crowd. I remember a mother and her twin daughters sitting at one booth, an older gentleman next to Matt and I at the bar, and one man in his 20s focused on his notepad and books.

My words probably won't do Sparta as much justice as this video produced by the Downtown Newark Association will. Give it look. It even features a worker who is recovering from drug addiction. (That just melts my heart!)


Downtown Newark Association: Featured Member - Sparta Restaurant from Earthwork Productions on Vimeo.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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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.
GASP!!!!

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 email--shusted@news-herald.com--or 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 email--shusted@news-herald.com--or 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 
September.
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 email--shusted@news-herald.com--or 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.)

I see a DOUBLE RAINBOW!
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 email--shusted@news-herald.com--or 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 email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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