A Triptych of Coffee Counters
Check out the mugs on these guys
By Maren Tarro
Screw Starbucks. That’s right; I said it. Granted, I’m probably the billionth person to say it, but it bears repeating again and again. As coffee shops go, Buckies has little to offer to the true java junkie. Mediocre coffee paired with packaged pastries and likewise canned service just isn’t worth your hard-earned dollars.
Rogue coffee shops are the way to go. They don’t answer to guys in suits or cater to novices who wouldn’t know a good cup of joe from a guy named Joe. They rarely have catchy logos or matching aprons, but they do have little things that make them unique, usually without trying.
Michael Thomas Coffee
This tiny shop is located on Carlisle, nestled in with several businesses who aim to perk up both body and mind. Michael Thomas doesn’t simply pour coffee and pull shots; it works from the bean up.
Peek behind the counter, past a collection of mismatched mugs, and you’ll see and smell a roaster turning away, bringing those beans from green to every roast, light to Spanish. The aroma made my head spin.
Grab a well-made cup of your particular poison and head out to the courtyard. I went with a mochaccino that was as frothy as they come. Each sip offered up a perfect mocha-espresso ratio that let the beans shine.
Drip coffee also pleases the senses. Free refills allow you to try each daily grind, and I suspect you’ll want to.
Baked goodies are brought in from Santa Fe’s Chocolate Maven, so while they aren’t fresh from the oven, they’re local. Try a muffin or a slice of fruit-studded tea bread—the portions are perfect for sharing, and since they’re packaged, they can easily be stashed for savoring at a later time.
The Roasted Bean
Some might think coffeehouses are gathering places for the artistically or intellectually inclined. You know, socialists and others living on the fringe. Not so at The Roasted Bean.
This shop is like a dormitory lounge. At first glance it seems like someone’s well-meaning mother volunteered to decorate: pastel-upholstered furniture arranged for ultimate conversation purposes around a sensible coffee table. But once you notice the gaming console and TV, you’ll realize this place is designed for comfort.
I was served by owner Scott, who, as he himself observed, is a born salesman. Before I knew what had happened, my quick coffee break turned into a meal, complete with dessert. He convinced me to order a doctored cup I usually make fun of—a drink so long in name I can only recall it started with about three different words for "chocolate" and ended in “frappuccino." Tasty, but I couldn’t make out any coffee in the girly concoction.
“The aroma made my head spin.”
Paninis are piled high with all the fixings then squashed flat so I could fit it in my modest mouth. Very filling. With German chocolate cake for dessert, I was heading toward a diabetic coma, but I dug in anyway. The cake was rich but served too cold.
All the while, Scott kicked back on a sofa and played video games. If you stop by, I’m sure he’ll let you take a turn, too.
If you need a break from the daily grind of city life, take a drive out to Cedar Crest. There’s more than just gorgeous green scenery in this mountain burg; there’s a sweet spot for brewed beverages and homemade eats.
Everyone at Wooby's is on a first-name basis, and just stopping in for a chat appears to be the special. Beyond its quaintness, there's the menu. From espresso to blood-orange Italian sodas, Wooby's refreshments earned an A from me.
Cinnamon rolls with a circumference that rivals our moon and muffins that put parts of my anatomy to shame greeted me counter-side, while two doting owners greeted me from the back. Once again, I found myself ordering from each section of the menu.
Sandwiches are huge and, except for some breads, all their ingredients are freshly prepared. Chicken salad (my favorite) had chunks and creaminess in all the right places.
What really got me came in a bowl. Tomato basil soup with a touch of cream made me curse the Campbell’s I was reared on. Sweet and pungent, cool and rich; it was everything a liquid meal should be. More than worth the drive.
Named for a precocious pug (may he rest in peace) and packed into a bustling shopping center, this homey shop is cozy and welcoming beyond all expectations. Wooby’s is a cup above the rest.
The Alibi recommends:
* Michael Thomas for freshly roasted coffee
* The Roasted Bean for coffee and video games
* Wooby’s for coffee, personal service and mountain views
Michael Thomas Coffee, 1111 Carlisle SE, 255-3330. Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Price range: $1.70 (cup of joe) to $5 (fancy cup). Ambience: bustling and friendly. Credit cards accepted.
The Roasted Bean, 3120 San Mateo NE, 837-BEAN. Hours: Every day 5 a.m.-8 p.m. Price range: $1.59 (cup of joe) to $3.99 (fancy cup). Ambience: bachelor pad. Credit cards, X-Box 360 with 200 games, delivery.
Wooby’s, 2220 State Hwy 14 N, Cedar Crest. 281-2000. Hours: Tue-Sun 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Price range: $1.50 (cup of joe) to $4.50 (fancy cup). Ambience: just like mom’s. Credit cards accepted.
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