There are several local coffee roasters in town. Handlebar is the most recent to join the scene and have become a top pick for locally roasted and lovingly prepared artisan coffee. You know, the new age of cafes with hyper-perfected beverages and latte art.
The roaster and cafe also has a serious cycling vibe. With the name like Handlebar, would you expect anything else? Moustaches, perhaps? There can be both.
I love that the spot shares an outdoor seating area with the sandwich deli next door. Once you start looking, you will see a boundary between the two shops defined by the different tables and chairs, but nobody has ever given me fuss for sitting on the deli side with a cappuccino, or sitting on the cafe side with a sandwich. And what a cappuccino it is!
Is this not a beautiful beverage, worthy of some adoring gazes and happy sighs before sprinkling on a little sugar? My confession is that it’s a decaf cappuccino and the folks at Handlebar didn’t even laugh at me or refuse service because of my request. Yes, I KNOW decaf gets some unapproving looks at many cafes. But whatevs, I’m sensitive to caffeine. My point is that they make beautiful drinks. I was here with some good food friends, we sat outside for an after-lunch coffee, had a proper catch-up, and made plans for the next adventure.
We conclude a pleasant afternoon of brunch with friends, a walk through the Museum of Art, running into more friends at the French Press. Amazing what you can do even when it’s pouring rain out, just grab a brolly and a good jacket and you’re good to go. Just warm afterwards.
Our warm up potions were a cafe latte, and a cafe au lait.
The French Press
Coffee Cat is one of those iconic places that locals remain fierce loyalty to, partly because it’s not a corporate fourbucks that’s becoming more and more prevalent downtown, partly because people can sit and work in there for hours upon hours without getting hassled by the staff, and partly because of the semi-dependable free wifi. The cafe is large, with an open floor plan, making it easy for individuals to work, or to clump together spontaneously for group meetups.
Oh yeah, and coffee! Nobody complains about the coffee, it comes from a local fair trade purveyor, Green Star. The coffee’s not for bay area or portland style purists that can whip up some latte art blindfolded, but it’s solidly dependable, and the Cat gang make crepes, too.
Juicy tidbit: they sell plain boiled eggs. A very cheap, fast, and nutritious snack, although I recommend a breath mint afterwards.
Some Fishbon planners and I met up here this morning to discuss an upcoming project, divide up some tasks, and write up some action plans. It was John who ordered the food.
This is a pesto and goat cheese crepe with a side salad. Nicely done, good tasting, John offered a bite as a polite person does, but he did a good job of packing it away.
It’s a remote work afternoon, and the other gals and I met up at Muddy Waters Cafe, as it was a good place for 3+ people to work, it had free wifi and Rebecca was really missing the tuna sandwiches from there.
Left: tuna sandwich on wheat bread with a side of tortilla chips.
I got the toast and avocado, I think it was a great deal.
This is reputed to be on the site of the oldest coffee shop in England, around 1650 (according to Pepys’ diary), although the Grand Cafe itself isn’t of that era. But that’s close enough for us, and since it’s there, and we’re nearby with time to spare, why not stop in for a coffee.
For its history, the cafe is unassuming enough on the high street. It’s not in a busy foot traffic area. Well, it kind of is, but there aren’t many shops on either side, so most pedestrians seemed more to be passing by, especially the tourists. Perhaps that’s because they. don’t. know. But we had the Dodo Guide to Oxford, which is cool, quirky, and lays out the facts quickly. Thanks for the loaner, Rog!
We had a caffetiere of coffee – that would be a French press to you Yanks – with hot milk and sugar lumps. Sat at the bar, catching up on the news via the Guardian and Independent.
One of the details I really liked about the Grand Cafe was by the door. To make the door gently close, it was counter-weighted with a metal teapot on a chain. When the door open, the tea pot would lift up, then slowly come back down, gently pulling the door closed. Hey, I want something like that.
For spending nearly four years at Kew, I rarely ate at the Orangery, not with the student wages.
Coming back for a holiday is different, because now I’m a tourist. We met up with some old friends who’re still working at the Gardens and Greg treated us to coffees. I got a cappuccino.
Somewhere along the line the interior of the Orangey got an Ikea makeover, but in the process the espresso drinks got a lot prettier. Tasted fine as well, which is the main thing.
Fortified with caffeine and a catch-up with friends, we spent the rest of the day wandering the Gardens.
The French Press is a great place to stop off on the First Thursday tour of galleries downtown. There is always interesting (and often affordable) art on the walls, there is sometimes musical entertainment, and more often than not, there’s some nibble or sip to sample.
This evening, they had all three – art, music and coffee. The coffee was Panama la Esmerelda Geisha. It sells at auction for $100+ . They were offering free tastes of it, freshly pressed!
It was indeed light, fruity, citrusy. Not at all what you’d expect with a roasted coffee. Very interesting. Like orange coffee without a dark, heavy burnt feel to it. Reinforced with caffeine, we plowed onwards to the rest of First Thursday.
Post-market coffee and nibbles with Nicky, we hit up le French Press for a change of pace. Ran into Ove in the back patio seating area and had an invitation to join him and his daughter for a pastry, but we opted to sit out front and discuss massage plans.
I had a cappuccino, with lovely foam art, a signature of the French Press’ espresso drinks. Like their simple espresso, I was well wired on the caffeine within 15 minutes of my first sip.
For food, I had the cafe’s Daily Toast: four toasted slices of baguette with organic jam and butter, for $1.50. Awesome price for a simple and very delicious snack.
Btw, this cafe had only been open for about half a year when it had garnered the local awards of Best New Restaurant and Best Cafe. Good for them.
The French Press
Oh man, what a slog the day was. I have to say, the public transportation in Vegas is horrid. We thought we were doing a Good Thing by using public transportation that day. The monorail is some kind of mafia boondongle, the Deuce (tee hee!) is good if you need to catch up on some sleep. Generally, it’s just better to take a cab and be done with it.
After a massive schlepp from the Rio (fail hotel) to Mandalay Bay via the monorail, our feet, and some kind of other rail system, only to find the burger place we wanted to go to was closed (fail), which resulted in us being so hangry we ate at Red Square (fail), followed by an attempt to take the Deuce (tee hee!) up the strip, but being sent to a bus stop that was closed (fail) and during the walk to another stop we missed three buses, but by the time we reached the stop no bus came for another 20 minutes (fail)…
…that by the time we collapsed through the doors of the Peppermill I was practically walking on feet worn down to the nubs and my brain was lying somewhere on a casino floor.
We had coffee. Served by the quart it seemed. After drinking the seemingly bottomless mug, they offered additional cups to go.
Really, this portion thing is ridiculous!
Photos by Ted Mills.