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, December 9, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Rising Star Coffee Roasters in Cleveland's Little Italy

Hold The Coffee returns to another Rising Star Coffee Roasters this week--its second and far more spacious shop that is.

If you look closely enough at Amy's pants, she is indeed
wearing printed sailor anchors. It's the new fashion
symbol these days.
I reviewed Rising Star's home shop in Ohio City this past spring with Devon Turchan, and although I was blown away by the shop's vibe, location and friendly baristas, I think everyone agrees it lacks room for a group of friends to harbor inside from a snowstorm or work in a quiet space.  ("I can direct you to a homeless shelter, Simon," says Matt, my editing boyfriend.  He has more uses than editing, mind you.) That's why I was super excited when Rising Star opened its Little Italy shop at 2187 Murray Hill Road in early October. Using my unscientific counting ability, I estimate the Little Italy shop has four times the seating as its Ohio City home.

News-Herald colleague and friend, Amy Popik, joined me on a visit to the shop Saturday, Nov. 22. It was her first visit to the shop, and my second. (I made a third visit this past weekend, but lets not get into that yet.)

Location: Sitting inside a three-story mixed-use apartment building at the corner of Cornell/Edgehill and Murray Hill roads, Rising Star's shop is something to celebrate. It's in a pretty dense part of the neighborhood with a bike shop, a bed and breakfast, and a couple of restaurants only steps away. But it's also not crazily congested like nearby Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue.

A new Rising Star sign had been installed on the buildings
industrial awning since this Nov. 22 photo was shot.
Don't be fooled by the parking lot behind the building--that's only for residents upstairs. As anything in University Circle and Little Italy, finding street parking isn't easy. That's why I nowadays use RTA's Healthline or Redline via Route 30 to get to the neighborhood from my apartment in Euclid. (Hopefully, that'll be easier when or if the transit agency expands rapid through Collinwood and Euclid.) I would've forced Amy to tag along with me in a public transit adventure, but she was on her way to Parma to see her boyfriend so she settled on driving. She somehow managed to find a parking space only a couple blocks away.

Food and Beverage: Rising Star focuses its time on serving mostly coffee, with baked good like cookies and bagels on the side. That's the way it should be considering how many eateries are nearby. After our visit, Amy and I got lunch at Algebra Tea House, which, despite focusing on the tea side of things, deserves its own blog post here.

At Rising Star that Saturday, I ordered a house coffee and a sea salt bagel with cheddar-chive cream cheese for $6 and change. I meant to save Amy part of my bagel, but I arrived 40 minutes earlier than she and I lacked enough self-control to keep it on my plate for that long. I couldn't even nurse my coffee. Instead, I just ordered another round of coffees for Amy and I at $7 and change when she arrived. (Sadly, there's no discount on refills.)

Just like the one in Ohio City, this Rising Star includes
some of the best presentation of coffee. It made me second
guess once on whether to order a coffee to go.
The menu of coffee and espresso at Rising Star is rather sophisticated, highlighting the coffee bean origins and other attributes. This and the Ohio City shop definitely belong on a coffee trail, if Cleveland had one. For anyone like me who dilutes coffee with sweetener, cream and milk and doesn't know what they really like, it's a good idea to ask the barista for suggestions.

Space and Atmosphere: The Little Italy shop's seating does more than allow people to camp out, work and socialize indoors. Rising Star staff has also used it to host coffee/roasting/cupping workshops. Over the last couple of months, my newsroom's travel editor has passed me two press releases about upcoming workshops there. (I didn't even know independent coffee shops produce press releases.)

The larger space isn't the only difference between Rising Star's Little Italy and Ohio City shop. The new place has more of a cozy and less industrial vibe, too--with a more subdued color pallet and dimmer lighting. My favorite part of the place is certainly the three low bar stool counters that surround the barista station and the building's central brick column.

It's hard to covertly sneak in photos of the place when
so many baristas work at the shop. All three times I've visited
I've seen four people working here.
The Little Italy shop is still very new to the neighborhood, but it's already grown into a popular spot for workers, residents and tourists. On my latest visit Sunday, the shop's seating was nearly filled up by the time I left for lunch. I am not an economics professor, but I would point to that as an example of how increasing supply also increases demand.  ("Actually, that's not how supply and demand works at all, but you're still really cool and I find your optimism extraordinarily endearing," says Matt.)

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, November 30, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Stauf's in Columbus' German Village

Hold The Coffee this week returns to the Columbus Coffee Trail... at least one of the trail stops for now. Matt and I covered the Columbus Coffee Trail in October for a News-Herald travel piece and although we saw a lot of cool places and things worth sharing in the blog, the whole trail adventure was too overwhelming to dedicate a post to each of the seven shops like I normally do.

What a good boyfriend. Matt is wearing the Cleveland
hat I bought him to stay warm!
Since Matt lives an hour away from Columbus in Mount Vernon, I plan to revisit and feature as many of those shops in a post as possible. The first revisit is Stauf's in the German Village neighborhood. Stauf's is a coffee shop and roasting company with two other locations: a vendor-size shop at Columbus' North Market and its founding shop in Grandview Heights, an inner-ring suburb. (Actually, it's hard to say Columbus even has a ring of suburbs because the city often land-locks it's neighbors with is sheer land mass.  Upon editing, Matt Googled this image to prove there was an obvious ringed structure to Columbus. "If the ring were any more obvious, Google would have conjured this image.")

On Sunday, Nov. 16, Matt and I met up with Mark Swanson, president of Stauf's, at the 627 S Third St., shop. I also had the chance to meet the owner and founder, Tom, who named the brand after his mother's maiden name.

As much as I have an unwritten policy of never telling coffee shop owners / managers that I am featuring their shop in a post, I made an exception for Mark because we bonded quite closely during my Coffee Trail reporting. (Also, you always share with a gentleman who offered us a free bacon and cheddar scone, according to Matt.) Quite fittingly, Mark was raised in Madison--the township, not village. I probably type the word Madison in my News-Herald stories more than any other noun.

Lovely space, but it was too cold to drink coffee outside.
But Mark, Matt and I blew through a lot more topics than Madison in our brunch-hour visit. I think most of the passion in our discussion was dedicated toward examining the lack of rail transit in Columbus. Not even Amtrak runs through Columbus.

Location: Stauf's German Village shop is the brand's newest location. So new, Mark told me the shop was still awaiting facade painting and signage as of that Sunday. The place's seating area also was awaiting some mounted artwork then too.

German Village is a very vibrant neighborhood filled with brick roads, brick buildings and even brick parking lots. (But their small lots, thankfully) You can walk within minutes between downtown Columbus and most places in the neighborhood, including Stauf's. Matt and I made the foot trip that Sunday to exchange a Columbus Coffee Trail T-shirt for a different size. It was a brisk walk, but we sort of risked our lives crossing the Interstate 70 overpass that divides the two neighborhoods.
Not that it is a competition, but the bacon cheddar scone
totally be the slice of banana nut bread in taste and

You can still find some ironies in the neighborhood, like the Starbucks that sits a block away from the Stauf's. What might be more ironic, however, is that the Stauf's used to stand as a Cup O'Joe and MoJo, a coffee shop and cafe eatery that Swanson's company bought 15 years ago. Stauf's still operates plenty of Cup O'Joes and MoJos around the Columbus area. They both serve Stauf's branded roastings, but there's a few differences between the coffee shops. One difference is that a Stauf's location does in-house coffee roasting. Mark said that's why the German Village location made the brand transition.

Food and Beverage: Unlike a MoJo's/Cup O'Joe combo shop, Stauf's doesn't have much of a lunch menu, unless you want to fill up on baked goods.

The plan is to eventually host bakery workshops where the
three girls are sitting.
On Sunday, Matt and I bought a slice of toasted banana-nut bread and two medium mugs of coffee for $7 and change. Later, Mark bought us a bacon-cheddar scone for a non-verbal agreement that we'll only say nice things in this blog. (Just kidding, but it would've been an effective bribe.)

Just like the coffee, the German Village shop does its baking in house. Mark told me the head baker also has plans on holding baking workshops at the shop. ( I certainly would force Matt to go on a workshop with me.)

Space and Atmosphere: A lot of the coffee shops I've visited in Columbus have had pretty remarkable spaces, but nothing has stood out more than the German Village Stauf's. It has a relatively large retail area near its barista counter, outdoor seating near the sidewalk, plenty of natural lighting, exposed brick, and plenty of indoor seating with a fireplace.  Matt enjoyed the space because it was crisp, clean and offered a warm space to read a book with quiet and few distractions.

I am not certain what all this is, but it look wholesome,
artisan-like and cool.
And that brings me to the shop's unique twist--having a hallway that separates almost all of its seating from the barista counter. I certainly like it. I often get distracted at coffee shops, and sometimes it's because I am looking at who is walking in and out. The hallway kind of adds a layer of isolation between the hustle of a coffee shop operation, and the quietness of a study room and social gathering place.

If you're looking for a nice weekend getaway, try Columbus' German village.  It coalesces (Matt's verb, not mine) urban and small town Americas very well.  Take a bus or bike from the downtown and spend the day exploring Stauf's or The Book Loft, within walking distance.

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, November 25, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Scribblers in Geneva

Hold The Coffee steps into Ohio wine country this week with a visit to a special coffee shop in the city of Geneva.  Clevelanders' first impression of Geneva is probably the handful of vineyards that sit on the outlying townships. (That and probably Geneva-on-the-Lake a few miles north of the city.)

Most people actually take the side entrance, but that wasn't
nearly as attractive as the front entrance.
I am here to report that there is more to find in Geneva than local wine and summer carnivals.  (As my boyfriend, Matt, was editing this piece, he shared that he attended church camp as a youth in Geneva and partied hard as a twenty-year-old at several bars at Geneva-on-the-Lake.  The area offers both Jesus and gin, according to Matt.) The city has a healthy downtown with some neat shops, some wonderful western reserve-era homes and most importantly, the city has a local coffee house and roaster. 

That place is Scribblers Coffee Co., at 388 South Broadway. My Madison friends MaryAnn Froebe and Terri Wagoner joined me in a blog visit to the shop Saturday Nov. 8. It was my second time visiting Scribblers. Sadly, my reporter beat area is just shy west of the Geneva boundary. If I did cover Geneva, I would probably be at Scribblers three or four times a month.

Location: Yes, many cities have their own coffee shops, but finding a shop that does its own in-house roasting in a small city of a little more than 6,100 people is a pretty remarkable feature. (It's also open daily until as late as 7 p.m., another rare feature.)

Nope, that's not a picnic shelter. That's the nation's shortest
covered bridge and it is right next to Scribblers.
Scribblers' one-story building and side gravel parking lot is embedded in a fairly industrial neighborhood near downtown Geneva. It neighbors a car service shop, Old Mill Winery and rail road tracks. A few steps from Scribblers is Liberty Street Bridge, the nation's smallest covered bridge.  (Upon editing, Matt exclaimed, "What the $%&@ is wrong with these people?  I'm sure that money could have gone to the library system!") It's a cute neighborhood, but nothing can settle for a coffee shop in downtown Geneva.

I am not asking, nor would I expect, Scribblers to move from its current home to fill a bottom-floor commercial space in one of downtown's mixed-use buildings. Besides, Scribblers is less than a half mile south of downtown. That's not much of a walk or bike at all.

Food and Beverage: With a full kitchen, Scribblers is definitely a lunch-hour coffee shop. The traffic at Scribblers was fairly soft when I first met up with MaryAnn and Terri at 10 a.m., but by 11:30 a.m., the crowd had grown significantly larger. Not only that, but I estimated four-fifths of the patrons I saw had sandwiches, salads and soups. It was less about filling up on caffeine and more about filling the stomach.

Nothing beats a table full of freshly baked and roasted
carbs, sugar and caffeine. 
While meeting the Madison gals, I got a ginger cookie and a 12 ounce cup of coffee. I lost my notes and I can't remember how much the cookie cost, but the coffee was $1.59, and it came with free refills, of which I took advantage twice. I love when coffee shops do that and it works nice here because the place keeps a selection of six roastings for patrons to pour themselves. The first one I tried was their Covered Bridge Blend.  (Matt crankily inserted, "What does a dwarfish covered bridge taste like in coffee form?")

I stayed for a few more hours after Terri and MaryAnn left and ordered an Applewood Smoked BLT for $6 and change. I was one of a few people that day who camped out at Scribblers to work and I am not ashamed to say that. After all, I did drive nearly 50 minutes east to check it out.

Space and Atmosphere: Although hardly anyone was on a laptop that day, Scribblers does have a conducive environment for work with stable WiFi, small tables and nearby wall outlets. It's also a great place for gatherings of four to seven people, which I saw plenty that Saturday.

I love the white support beams. It definitely reminds me of
the local wineries here.
Scribblers has a lot of seating and tables, and possibly too many. That day I was knocking into one or two people every time I maneuvered back and forth from my table.

Scribblers' white painted columns and polished surfaces remind me of the local wineries I've visited near Geneva like Ferrante, Grand River Cellars and Debonne. Scribblers shares more than just a similar interior to the local wineries. The community group Connect534 (named after state Route 534) actually has a special deal this month and December where people can win a gift card by visiting and ordering a $5.34 lunch at eight of 17 partnered businesses. Most of the places are nearby vineyards and wineries, but Scribblers is also one of them. It's fitting that an area known for making wine has a place also making its own coffee.

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, November 10, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland Height's Cedar-Lee District

Hold The Coffee stops at its second Phoenix Coffee location this week with a visit to the newly renovated Cedar-Lee shop in Cleveland Heights.

Doug make his modeling debut on the Hold The Coffee blog
It seems like anytime I go to a Phoenix-branded coffee shop, I run a good risk of finding nowhere to sit--or at least comfortably sit. I figure it's probably because every young, wannabe hipster like myself goes to Pheonix with the same idea in mind: camp out for a few hours, work on a blog post, and spend a couple more hours reading news sites and blogs about what's the newest and greatest neighborhood development coming to Cleveland/Columbus/Buffalo.

Sure, over-crowding happens at a lot of coffee shops, but Phoenix, which is arguably Cleveland's most popular local roaster and brand, has the best track record I've seen around here. I remember the Phoenix in Cleveland Height's Coventry Village was once so unbearably packed my boyfriend and I got coffee to go and drove to Arabica Coffee House in Willoughby for our morning chit-chat. I am not saying overcrowding is a bad thing and shop managers should do crazy things like cut WiFi or ban computers. It just means the supply of independent coffee shops in a neighborhood hasn't met the consumers' demand.

Devon Turchan, friend and News-Herald co-worker, is
actually a barista at this Phoenix. He and his dad carved this
sign together as well as an identical one outside in the shop's
back patio.
I'd argue that is why there are two Phoenix Coffee shops less than two miles apart in the same city of Cleveland Heights.

Fellow News-Herald colleague Doug Vehovec and I ventured to Phoenix at 2287 Lee Road Sunday, Nov. 2 for an afternoon chit-chat mostly about blogging, comic books, news-writing, and the dichotomy of Cleveland's east and west side.

I've featured Phoenix's Coventry location in a previous blog post, and I plan to sometime feature the brand's Ohio City shop, which opened up this summer. (I also want to feature Phoenix's downtown shop, but it may need to expand it's weekend hours first.)

Phoenix has some lovely mugs. To bad I can never walk
still enough to keep the coffee from spilling.
Location: Cleveland Heights' Cedar-Lee District is a moderately dense neighborhood but isn't really considered a downtown, Nevertheless, it is well designed for pedestrians and cyclists with street and back-lot parking, and the neighborhood does include some multi-story, mixed-use buildings. The district's Phoenix is only in a one-story, single-use building like much of its neighbors.  This structural feature may not improve urban density, but at least the building doesn't have a frontal parking lot.

Keep in mind, however, that the municipal lot behind Pheonix is metered at all times and only accepts quarters. The city should consider expanding free weekend parking that at the moment is exclusive only for special seasons?

It didn't really matter much that Sunday, however, because I parked a half mile from Phoenix--like I always inexplicably do at coffee shops.

There's too many good things to say about Phoenix's interior.
Food and Beverage: Like most coffee shops, Phoenix on Lee Road is not a place you're going to want to relieve an empty stomach unless you don't mine filling up on bagels, scones and cookies.  (Diabetics beware!)

In addition to its menu of coffee and espresso drinks, which includes either pour-over or drip coffee, Phoenix also has an extended menu of teas at its counter.

That Sunday, I ordered a large drip coffee for myself and a medium sized cup of cappuccino for Doug at $6 and change.

Space and Atmosphere:  The first time I visited the Cedar-Lee coffee shop was earlier this summer, a few weeks before Phoenix began its interior renovation project. Apparently, work is still finishing up, but I was amazed Nov. 2 just how different the space was since my visit a few months prior. Luckily,I shot a couple photos of the interior before the project started.

This is the before photo from early August. Ew, I just can't
stand to look at it. (My photo skills probably don't help either.)
I may know nothing about interior decorating, but the space now just screams contemporary design with its white walls and ceiling, wood-style tile flooring, small ceiling light fixtures and three new bar stool areas geared for laptop workers. (The two waxed-finished slabs of wood are really cool.)

With WiFi as reliable as any Starbucks location and hours that go as late as 9 or 10 p.m., the Lee Road Phoenix is just the perfect atmosphere for getting work done. With the exception of a few groups, almost everyone I saw that Sunday was studiously "working" on their laptops or tablets. You couldn't really hear much chatter. It's a good thing the shop's speaker system plays only timeless rock hits.

Doug and I didn't have much trouble finding a small table when we met around noon. It was a far different story when I returned by myself at 3 p.m., to work on a blog post. Initially, I wasn't sure if there was anywhere I could sit, but I ultimately found some space against the window facade, which was blaring sunlight in my eyes for the first hour.

Here is the packed crowd from Nov. 2. People were on top
of one another.
I should probably note that I returned to the Cedar-Lee Phoenix the following Sunday, Nov. 9, and for the five hours I was there (don't judge me) finding a place to work wasn't a problem. Although it was still non-stop busy.

I'm sure Cedar-Lee's interior makeover is part of the reason for these enormous crowds. (As well as the excellent customer service and coffee.) Larger than that, however, is the fact that only a handful of independent coffee shops serve the area. I believe this need will be on its way to being satiated when Coffeehouse at 185th and Bright Coffee Bar open this fall and spring in Collinwood, and when Coffee Phix Cafe re-opens its new shop in South Euclid sometime this year.

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, November 3, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Gathering Grounds in Wooster

Kailey, a counselor in training and militant feminist, was 
opposed to modeling initially, but I convinced her to cease her 
Feminine Mystique-thumping and counseling angst-laden
 youth long enough to smile and pose. (This caption
was written by Matt.)
Hold The Coffee makes its first blog stop in one of my all-time favorite small cities--Wooster! I know I say that about a lot of cities in Ohio, but Wooster has a special place in my heart. It has a vibrant downtown--whether it be a weekend or a weekday, it is home to two college campuses, and is designed well enough to preserve high quality farmland in Wayne County while managing a growing population.

The last attribute I needed to lock down was whether the city had an exceptional neighborhood coffee shop. My friend, Kailey Bradley, (whom I adopted from my boyfriend, Matt) and I decided to answer that question Oct. 25 while visiting Gathering Grounds. The coffee shop had its official "grand opening" earlier that week, but truth be told, it has actually been open since late summer. (So many businesses these days are abusing what a "grand opening" means.)

Kailey and I were met with grand showmanship and hospitality by Gathering Grounds' owner, Stephen.  His coffee intuition must have alerted him of the conspiring blogger in the room.

I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the
sophisticated pour-over coffee workshop by diluting the
coffee too much with creamer and  sweetener, so I drank
my coffee black to blend into the environment.  Needless
to say, I won't be drinking my coffee like that again any time
Location: Gathering Grounds, which was formerly Woo's Brews Cafe & Coffee House, is tucked in a small alley off of North Market Street. It's tucked away so well that it took Kailey a few minutes to find the shop from her car that Saturday afternoon.  (Mind you, says Matt, she has an iPhone with a GPS and her tardy behavior was entirely unwarranted.)

The quiet alleyway is rather attractive, especially for people who prefer to drink their coffee outdoors.  Despite being quiet, the shop is only a block away from the intersection of Liberty Street, where all of downtown Wooster's activity is centered.

Although Gathering Grounds' location is a balance of serenity and excitement, its hours leave plenty to be desired. On normal weekdays, it is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday, it's 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I've seen coffee shops with worse hours, but those coffee shops don't have two neighboring college campuses. Granted, it's a new business, but judging by Saturday's large crowd, I have a hard time believing there's not enough traffic to support expanded weekend and weekday hours.

Kailey was a pour-over virgin.  Unlike me, she's no stranger to
black coffee.  She's quite an earthy woman, says Matt.
Food and Beverage: Like almost every coffee shop visit, I intended on only buying the cheapest drip coffee that Saturday afternoon, but since drip coffee was not offered on the menu, Kailey and I ordered the shop's pour-over coffee. (I later found out that the place does offer drip coffee.) With an apple cinnamon muffin, Kailey and I spent $9 and change. Somewhat pricey, in my opinion, but when one purchases coffee in the pour-over method, one is also paying for the process, too. In case you're wondering, Gathering Grounds contracts its roasting with the Columbus-based, Crimson Cup.

Kailey and I were expecting a nice, quiet afternoon of catching up and gossiping about Matt.  Contrarily, Kailey and I received our $9's worth when we were met with a detailed demonstration of the pour-over method and a conversation of its impact on the taste and culture of coffee. I swear, this owner should lead workshops all of time! Not only did he dedicate 10 minutes talking to us like a good bartender, (for the record, "barista" actually means, "bartender") but also gave us and every patron in the shop, a complimentary freshly-baked cookie. (There was a catch, however: we had to like his business on Facebook. Little does he know, I've liked every neighborhood coffee shop's Facebook page between Columbus and Buffalo--whether I've visited them or not.)

Here is the owner, Steven, giving out cookies for Facebook
likes. As of Nov. 2, Kailey still has not liked Gathering
Grounds on Facebook.  She owes Steven a cookie...
After that, Steven wielded his guitar and played some music. He should win an award for most dedicated coffee shop owner.

Space and Atmosphere: Gathering Grounds is a perfect interior design guidebook poster child for making an attractive neighborhood coffee shop. It has wooden flooring, plenty of natural light, an elongated space, an exposed brick wall on one side with warm, mocha walls elsewhere. Gathering Grounds' wooden and tiled counter at the coffee bar was the most aesthetically striking feature. I am not often eager to sit at bar-stool areas like Matt, but as soon as my eyes caught sight of the counter table, I knew there was no better place to sit.

It's a shame that I may never have a chance to show my boyfriend the majestic bar counter due to Gathering Grounds' restrictive weekend hours, and Matt even stranger nursing hours. If Steven is reading this post, which I know he must be, I urge him to consider expanding the coffee shop's hours.  :)

You can see part of the beautiful coffee counter!  
Pour Cleveland in downtown Cleveland expanded its hours earlier this year. I'm not saying my blog post was the ground breaker for their decision nor that I possess psychic powers, but the change did happen just days after it was posted online.  Coincidence? You decide for yourself...

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, October 30, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Columbus Coffee Trail

Rest in peace, Short North Cup O'Joe. None of my blog
readers will ever know just what superficial opinions
I had about you.
All I can say is I tried to feature a coffee shop on Columbus' Coffee Trail, but irony won the battle at the end of the day. Matt and I spent two nights, Oct. 9-11, in Columbus covering the city's coffee shop trail, with an end-goal of featuring at least one shop in my Hold The Coffee blog.

Little did we know the coffee shop Matt and I chose to visit for the blog, Cup O'Joe in the Short North neighborhood, was closing soon. In fact, five days after our visit, I learned it's last day of business was the Sunday we visited. I shared the unfortunate story with Mark Swanson, who is president of the company. He apologized and told me the company chose not renew the shop's lease partly because the coffee shop's sister brand and roaster, Stauf's, opened a location in the North Market, located a little ways across the street.

Yes, I wear a bike helmet every where I go. It gives the
impression that I bike more than I do.
Although the Cup O'Joe's we visited had some neat furniture and a very friendly barista behind the counter, there's no point talking about it here in the blog.

I did go to seven other coffee shops on the trail, but that was while I had my journalism cap on. I was busy taking notes then about how the coffee trail was formed, how sourcing, equipment and technique impacts the taste of coffee and how cold brew coffee and iced coffee are not the same thing. The shops' atmosphere and location blew me away, but I didn't really have a chance to walk in with a friend, sit down for some coffee and evaluate the experience at each shop like a costumer--which is the premise behind each post. I do intend to gradually visit and feature each shop in a blog post. Matt and I certainly don't mind visiting Columbus whenever we get the chance. 

(To read more about the trail and my experience, read my travel piece appearing in the Nov. 9 travel section, or online at

But in the meantime, I'll map out where Matt and I visited over the three-day trip. (Make sure to click on each icon for photo and additional inforation.)

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, October 16, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Something Sweet Coffee and Bakery in Delaware

Hold The Coffee stepped foot in Delaware this weekend--no, not the state, the county seat that sits virtually in the middle of Ohio.

Matt Sellers... in fall fashion
For nearly two years, my impression of Delaware and the county that bears the same name was nothing more than a large Columbus suburb Matt and I needed to cut through to get to Columbus' trendy neighborhoods and downtown YMCA. I intended to erase that perception Saturday, Oct. 4, as Matt and I cleared our schedule to explore downtown Delaware and its highlighted coffee shop, Something Sweet Coffee and Bakery. (We also went the city's YMCA, and were shocked by all that it offered. It might indisputably be the best YMCA center Matt and I have ever visited.)

A fun fact: Something Sweet at 2 N Sandusky St., used to be called the Mean Bean Coffeehouse until a couple purchased it in late 2011.

Location: I sometimes tell people my favorite thing about a neighborhood or downtown district is its potential of what it can be. That doesn't work for downtown Delaware because it's clearly met that imaginative potential. Almost none of the retail spaces along Sandusky Street are vacant and the ones that are have signs saying something is coming soon.

Something Sweet has a few of these really neat columns
inside the shop. It's very neat how the mismatch colored
glass is scattered throughout the concrete. 
Much of the downtown eateries, bars, attractions and shops in Delaware are gravitated along Sandusky and Winter streets and although it's not geographically in the middle of downtown, Something Sweet sits virtually in the middle of the activity being only a block away from the Ohio Wesleyan University campus.

Something Sweet's two-story building sticks out among most of the buildings downtown with its mismatch brick and stone facade. Something Sweet also doesn't have a dedicated parking lot, but it didn't take long at all for Matt and I to find street parking that Saturday a couple blocks away.

Best of all, Something Sweet maintains steady hours throughout the week with even 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours on Sunday. These days, I am never surprised to see a coffee shop closed on Sundays, or if not then, Mondays.

A coffee shop visit is never complete with an emotional
novel like Paul Auster's "Sunset Park." Matt actually
100 pages in our 1.5 hour visit that Saturday.
Food and Beverage: Something Sweet's menu is everything the name conveys--muffins, donuts and pumpkin rolls--all baked on-site. Matt and I exerted some self-control that Saturday and ordered only one pumpkin muffin. (We've been siding with a lot of pumpkin-flavored pastries lately.) Together with two large brewed coffees with daily flavor shots (so much for self-control on the sugar) Matt and I spent $7 straight--or as straight as two gay men can.

The place also serves sandwiches, but like almost every coffee shop, it's not a place to go to with an empty stomach. That's not a big deal though, considering all of the nearby pubs and restaurants downtown like 1808 American Bistro, Bun's and Amato's Woodfired Pizza. That Saturday before going to Something Sweet, Matt and I ate lunch at Chandra's Bistro, an Asian bar and restaurant my coworker Elizabeth Childers recommended, who is an Ohio Wesleyan alum. While there, we met owner Chandra and she told us that Saturday was the restaurant's last day because she is temporarily moving to Louisiana to take care of her sick son. A new owner is going to open another Asian-style bistro at the space, she told us. To say we weren't expecting to hear that is an understatement.

The ceiling here is oddly low, but as any good coffee shop,
you do best with what you have.
Space and Atmosphere: Something Sweet's mocha-shade colors and simple metal furniture brings a very chill and casual atmosphere. An ideal place to open a laptop and study before class.

The male and female baristas there we're also very chill and friendly, considering that I walked into the shop with a Tim Horton's logo on my jacket unknowingly. (I am not really sure why it has a Tim Horton's logo. My sister gave it to me last spring, however, she says I stole it.)

No one seemed bothered. In fact the male barista asked me inquisitively if I just came from work at the Tim Horton's two blocks west. I laughed. Oddly enough, he told us he knows a worker who does just that.

I am not surprised. With its quiet, comfort space and diabetic-endangering pastries, I would do the same.

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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