Of course English teachers would gravitate towards a coffee shop named Story Café for a coffee-drinking marathon early on a Saturday morning. We arrived right at 9 when the Café opened and were the only people there for a while. After ordering, I received a lesson in patience: it would take fifteen minutes for the coffee maker to warm up. I was a bit dismayed at first – how isn’t it warm already?! But it was worth the wait – the employees brought our drinks right to our table and kindly asked if we needed sugar. Lisa’s review was short and sweet: “Mocha…yum.” My sixteen ounce dark roast was the perfect temperature and came in a solid, substantial mug. Unlike chain stores that only serve coffee in disposable cups, Story Café serves its drinks in mugs that make you feel like you’re back in college, hanging out at a cool older friend’s apartment.
The ambience was great for our discussion: light classical music in the background, paintings on the wall, a bookcase behind us filled with hardcovers about art, cinema, and history. I appreciated the large sturdy table as it afforded enough space for spreading out lots of books, notebooks, and my laptop for taking notes. We could easily hear each other, and this would be a great place to read if light music in the background doesn’t bother you. It might not be a super-happening place on a weekend morning, but that can be ideal!
Check out Story Café on 444 Leonard for more than just caffeinated beverages; they also sell antique furniture and host a variety of community gatherings.
I’m a sucker for strong coffee and interesting art, so when PaLatte Coffee & Art opened a couple years ago, I couldn’t wait to try it. Located on Fulton just west of Jefferson, PaLatte feels like a cafe inside an art gallery. Each time I go, I enjoy sipping my tea or coffee surrounded by paintings by local artists.
Just blocks from GRCC, our mid-August meeting spot was convenient for Tom, Rachel, and me to plan our third year of reading and blogging. Rachel and I had lattes that, as you can see, were liquid works of art; while Tom enjoyed a strong cup of Sumatra.
Lantern Coffee Bar and Lounge, located at 100 Commerce SE in downtown Grand Rapids, is a hidden gem. The upstairs entry is sleek and modern. Once you place your coffee order, you descend into a comfortable lounge area, replete with soft lighting and interesting art.
Lisa, Tom, and Rachel met there at 9 on a Saturday morning, and what a way to start a morning. The coffee was delicious–a far cry from the Biggby and Starbucks on every other street corner. The brand is Populace and the coffee is made using the pour-over method. One orders a particular bean, for example Sulawesi Pango Pango, with notes of Caramel Apple, Floral, and Dark Chocolate or Kenya Kiruga, with notes of Green Apple, Cherry, and Sugar Cane. You can just forget about your sad, tired Skinny Vanilla Latte or Pumpkin Spice whatever. There is a small menu of baked items. We all had the raspberry scone, and it was everything a scone should be: buttery, tender, crunchy, and sweet. Don’t be dissuaded by the size–you can eat it all. I promise.
Next time you’re planning an intimate assignation or a collegial meeting, think about Lantern. Just bring a handful of quarters for the parking meter–you know what parking downtown can be like.
The Sparrows Coffee, Tea, and Newsstand, located at 1035 Wealthy St SE, is an English professor’s dream come true. Wide wooden floor boards creak gently as you browse the indie magazines (Think Ms. and Lucky Peach as well as tried and true lit mags like Paris Review, Glimmer Train, and The Normal School. I know). The atmosphere has a quiet buzz; maybe it’s the caffeine, or maybe it’s the locals’ intellectual conversations. The coffee menu is spare, but it still features treats such as The Papa Toe (an almond coconut mocha) and The Behemoth (sweetened condensed milk poured over a shot of espresso).
At 9am on August 20th, these bloggers met to plot out our next year of reading and writing. We went for simple endless cups of the medium roast and cafe au laits (this blogger’s fave). The coffee was absolutely delicious, and the company was divine (as always). Lisa P. tried a scone. We think it’s from Wealthy St. Bakery–always a win.
I would always pick The Sparrows over Biggby or Starbucks, but I would even choose it over Kava House. It just has a nicer vibe. So next time you’re down Wealthy St, and you need a hit of coffee before attacking your pile of grading, try The Sparrows. You won’t be sorry. Unless it’s closed.