Following up on a not-so recent post (sorry I’ve not been diligent lately about posting) about a trip to the Jacksonville/Saint Augustine area, here’s a report on another trip, this one with my family over the holidays to Sarasota. The trip included catching up with old friends, a day trip up to St. Pete, interesting museums, beach time, and, of course, lots of coffee.
In the past few months I’ve made a couple trips to Florida, and been pleasantly surprised to find some terrific coffee shops. Here’s my report.
PART ONE: ST AUGUSTINE & JACKSONVILLE
On this trip, four coffee shops visited, and each one earned the Coveted Asterisk of Quality.TM
I flew to Jacksonville’s airport for a weekend mini-reunion with some college friends in nearby St. Augustine, America’s oldest city. I had an early departure so my first stop after getting the rental car was for coffee. I had very low expectations for Jacksonville itself, as it’s always reputed to be boring and bland, but I was glad to find myself in the Five Points neighborhood at BREW Five Points. Great coffee, friendly people, and on a cool street with what looked to be a lot of cool and quirky restaurants, bars, and shops. I managed to resist these treasures in the window of the antique & junk shop next door.
If you find yourself in Western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, stop by Bittersweet Cafe in Farmington to see if they’ve got their blackberry pie available. Goodness me is it delicious; fresh, dense, fruity, not too sweet. Coffee’s not bad, either.
Then go visit Fallingwater. Lives up to the hype and then some.
I got to San Francisco’s airport early this morning, and after passing through security I saw a reflection in a nearby window of the word CAFE. Wandered over to see a small coffee kiosk, but on closer inspection it was a Café X, ‘manned’ by a robot. Ugh.
I was going to bypass it on principle alone, but I felt an almost journalistic imperative to try it, and was made to feel slightly better after using the QR code to open the menu, where I saw the beans were from Intelligentsia. So I gave it a chance.
Verdict: you will love this if you have the patience for a very fiddly website that makes the payment process painful, enjoy watching a robot wave at you and dance around instead of just giving you your coffee, and/or like a completely watered down, neutered, tasteless coffee. Otherwise, give it a hard pass and find an actual human being making your drink on an espresso machine instead of a pile of wires and bolts grabbing you a sadness cup out of a basic fully automatic coffee maker. What a waste of good beans.
And tell those kids to get off my lawn.
That reminds me, I need to give the folks at Old Glory Insurance a call to update my policy.
In my recent post about exploring new coffee shops away from home, I neglected to mention one place in particular. Not a problem, as it’s deserving of its own story.
The name Eric LeGrand may jog your memory; if you are of a particular age and from New Jersey, you definitely know his story. A Garden State native, LeGrand played football at Rutgers until he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a 2010 game which left him paralyzed. His fight to recover, build a new life, and help others has been a tremendous inspiration.
Among his many endeavors, LeGrand founded a coffee business, LeGrand Coffee House, which began life in 2021 as a single-origin roaster, and in May 2022 opened a bricks and mortar café in LeGrand’s hometown of Woodbridge, New Jersey. They encourage people to have a “Daily Cup of bELieve,” the last word one that LeGrand has used in his philanthropy and the title of his autobiography.
I’ve been fortunate enough in recent months to do some travel within the US and have experienced some great coffee, here’s a few deets.
The Steel City
Not too long ago my daughter and I took a quick drive up to Pittsburgh, one of my favorite cities and a great place for coffee. On the way we stopped like every other traveler at one of the rest areas in Breezewood, PA, and the young woman working the counter at Dunkin’ asked if I wanted a macchiato, “like on your shirt!” Anyhooo……..
November 23 is national espresso day here in the US. Glad tidings to all who celebrate.
If you’re looking to joyfully slug back some of that dark brown nectar today, here are some cafés I highly recommend (basically, all those places that have received The Coveted Asterisk of Quality from my guide):
After Portland we headed down to Eugene, so my son could attend first year orientation at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks). We had a nice time here as well, getting to know the town, staying at a nice cottage. However, we may have chosen the wrong places, but frankly the food and coffee were underwhelming.
The second leg of the trip was in Portland, Oregon. The city is still scarred from a year of political violence, and there was a sense of uncertainty of when or if some kind of normal will return, and what it will look like. But the attractions of the Rose City are still clear.