I make a lot of promises to myself with the goal of self improvement –
I’m going to run more.
I’m going to wake up earlier.
I’m going to make my bed every morning.
Despite my best intentions, most of these goals are either not sustained for very long or fail immediately (what can I say? I hate making beds). But one promise to myself I’ve been making good on is to read more often. I love reading and used to have an insatiable appetite for books. But between working, traveling, working out (ha), etc., I fell out of the habit.
Though I’ve been getting back in the swing of things, and since I’ve been on my reading kick, I’ve also been on a coffee house kick. This is because if you really want to enjoy a good book, I think a good environment is critical. It should be free of distractions, cozy, and preferably able to deliver a great cup of coffee.
One of the places I love the most is Catalina Coffee off of Washington, not just for coffee, but also as a place to read. One the reasons I love it so much is because it doesn’t have wifi. That’s right, NO WIFI!
While you may gasp in horror, I settle a little deeper into my chair against the exposed brick wall and bask in the mid-afternoon sunlight (quite different from the bluish glow of laptop screens) and enjoy the gentle din of couples, friends, and families discussing the goings-on of the world (who are chatting because they are not distracted by irrepressible desire to check facebook).
Sometimes I will bring a computer if I want to get actual work done, knowing I’m safe from the black hole of wasted time that is the internet.
But the other reasons I love Catalina Coffee is because the baristas are really friendly and, most importantly, make a fantastic espresso. For the past couple years, Catalina Coffee has been recognized as having the best espresso in town, made with carefully selected and roasted beans, by expert baristas. If espresso isn’t your cup of tea, have a cup of tea instead. Catalina has a really nice selection of loose leaf tea that changes from time to time, as well as pour-over and French press coffee.
I’ve had many different drinks from Catalina, but love the cortado in particular. Cortados are somewhat similiar to a macchiato, except the milk is steamed, not foamed. I first tried a cortado when I visted Buenos Aires last year. Cortados are very popular there and the caffeinated drink of choice in the afternoon (cafe con leches are for the morning).
While I was in Buenos Aires, I typically had at least one cortado a day, and was sad to leave them behind. Most coffee shops I’ve been to don’t have cortados, so when I first saw them offered at Catalina, I was really excited. And the cortados at Catalina are delicious, better than many I had in Buenos Aires.
Another coffee shop I’ve been frequenting recently is the new Blacksmith, which opened up on Westheimer in Montrose this January. The crew behind Blacksmith is the same behind Anvil, and beside the similarity in name, both are tirelessly dedicated to making great drinks.
When I went to Blacksmith this Sunday morning, it was packed to the gills, as it has always seemed to be since opening. I saw two people with laptops who looked like they were attempting to study. But this seemed an impossible feat given the relentless noises coming from the espresso machines and the kitchen, and the chatter throughout the small space. The walls of windows and stained cement flooring only amplified the noise.
But that’s what I like about Blacksmith. Where Catalina is warm and quiet, and a great place to chat with a friend or read, Blacksmith is bustling and good for bringing larger groups. But even if you’re by yourself, like I was this Sunday, it’s a great place to stand at the bar and make conversation with the barista, while thoroughly enjoying the macchiato I had ordered to start the day.
The macchiato was one of the best I’d had in a long time, and even had a lovely design in it, which I rarely see done with macchiatos since one requires so little milk.
Blacksmith also has great food selection (though I’ve only tried the breakfast items, none of the sandwiches). The menu is small, but the variety is substantial.
If you prefer your breakfast the French way (espresso with a pastry), there are great chocolate, chocolate almond, and regular croissants (among other baked goods) made fresh every morning. Or, for a more American breakfast, how about a latte and breakfast sandwich on house-made biscuit? I didn’t manage to get a picture of the biscuit this time around, but I assure you, they are fantastic, and one of the signature items of Blacksmith. And the next time I’m in the mood for a really hardcore breakfast I’ll have to try Blacksmith’s steak and eggs, served with chicken liver pate and crusty baguette.
Perfect for: wasting away the Sunday afternoon hours with book and coffee in hand
Perfect for: meeting up for breakfast and great coffee with friends