You may not know it yet, but you are currently living right in the middle of the coffee wars. Things are pretty crazy right now and it’s only going to get worse from here. Hypnotic Donuts/Cultivar Coffee will be opening early next year, and we've already heard rumors of two more coffee shops on their way to downtown Denton. We’re here to prepare you for the onslaught of beans, grounds and spoiled milk that will soon alter life as you know it in Denton County. This is the first in an ongoing column entitled Coffee Wars, in which we aim to guide you through the throes of caffeinated war here in Denton, TX. Future columns will cover things such as local roasters, baristas, etc..., but today we're talking about ambiance. Coffee isn't always the most important thing a coffee shop has to offer. Oftentimes, the reason someone patronizes one of these stores is to find a place in which their can either get some work done, talk with a friend or just sit down and read a book. We're definitely the type of person who is able to get more work done in front of a screen/book/stack of papers in a coffee shop than we are in front of a screen at home. Thusly, we took it upon ourselves to sort through the debris and do some research to see just what Denton has to offer as far as coffee shop ambiance goes. Read on for more and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Shift is the new boy in town and they are pretty legit. The beans are from Ft. Worth’s Avoca and the technical know-how behind the bar is also great. (You’re in luck if you see the white dude with the hair - You’ll know him when you see him.) While the tables are slightly small and aren’t that great for working on a laptop. It’s a cozy little spot and everybody there seems hard at work. And after-all, isn’t that what you want in a coffee shop - peer pressure to get your stuff done? You might even see some people reading books on structuralism or Wittgenstein. This is a great place to pretend to read Infinite Jest.
Zera can be hit or miss as far as ambiance goes. Of course, a lot of your coffee shop experience depends upon your barista. Zera has a unique employee situation due to the fact that many of the workers here are actually in a Christian recovery program. Sometimes that can work out pretty well, other times, however, it doesn’t. If you’re looking for a place to join in a religious discussion or a place to have your next small group meeting, Zera is great. However, if you’re just looking for a place to sip on some good coffee while you work your butt off, look elsewhere.
The reigning king of Denton coffee shops. Y’all remember when this place wasn’t owned by city councilman, Joey Hawkins? While Jupiter House’s coffee might not be our favorite, this is still a great spot to stop by if you and a friend are looking for some caffeine on the square. Many use this place as their office space (in fact, it gets so crowded, during finals you might not be able to find a table), but we find it fairly difficult to get anything actually accomplished. Jupiter House’s tables are best used for socializing, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, if you’re single, you can probably delete your OkCupid account and just hang out here for an evening. That said, they’ve got a pretty good setup if you do decide to post up here and get some work done. Lots of electrical outlets, great music and plenty of light help the matter. If you’re smart, you’ll nab yourself one of the tables with a little light fixture on it. It makes you feel powerful for some reason. Beware of sitting at a table facing the front between the hours of 4 and 6pm, lest you enjoy staring directly at the sun.
Seven Mile Coffee
While we’ve given Seven Mile Cafe a hard time before, we’re pretty big fans of their coffee shop. Now that they’re complete with their own roaster, too, we couldn’t be happier. The tables are large and the coffee is good. It’s rarely too crowded, the chairs are comfortable and the baristas are always pleasant. The soundtrack can waver anywhere from The Smiths to Coldplay, though, so either pack some headphones or come prepared for anything. Too bad they close well before the witching hour. If you’re a daytime coffee shop worker, this is the place for you.
Close by to what was once the late, great Kharma Cafe location, Big Mike's shares a similar clientele. Slightly granola people looking for a place to hangout and drink coffee. Big Mike's is the only of these spots that is open 24 hours. So, if you've got a large project or paper that you need to bang out, you can grab a spot and a bottemless cup of joe at Big Mike's and hope that you finish before the sunrise. The atmosphere itself is a bit grungy, but isn't that just kinda Denton?
While we dig this place, you really should only be going here if you live south of Guyer High School. If so, you’re in the clear. It’s still Denton County, but it's in Highland Village and not the actual city of Denton. Do y’all read this blog over there anyway? Like Shift, Roots is another trendy, nicely decorated third-wave coffee shop in the middle of a non-assuming strip center. The difference between this place and Shift, however, is lots and lots of money behind the set up, but that may just be the main difference between Denton and Highland Village in general. If you dig chalk board walls and light fixtures inspired by Anthropologie, this is the set up for you.
Does a fro-yo place deserve to make our list of coffee shops when we’re discussing ambiance? When said yogurt shop deals in Intelligentsia beans, it sure does. That, coupled with one of our favorite baristas in town makes Yogurt Fusion a contender. Add the fact that you can sit down and let your kids play games on the store’s Wii while you people watch the awesome, older crowd headed in to see Urine Town across the street at the Denton Community Theatre, and you’ve got a fun place to hang. It’s bright and there’s lots of windows, too. Good for conversation and kids, but bad for working.
The White House
A year ago, this location was Art Six. Then, it was 2 B's and a V for a while but that name conjured up too many images of Total Recall. Now, they're called The White House. The decor in this eternal coffee shop is a little bit too Hobby Lobby or Michael's for us, but it's a cool, old house and the backyard is great. We suggest bringing headphones and finding a cozy corner where no one will possibly find you.
Denton Square Donuts
UPDATE: While we haven't confirmed this yet, we've heard that Denton Square Donuts has stopped using Bookish beans in their coffee and espresso beverages.
And, of course, Denton Square Donuts should be on this list, too. What was once home to Denton’s coffee shop The Hydrant, Denton Square Donuts has had a roller coaster couple of years. If we’re correct, they’ve seen three different sets of owners since their inception. During the vast majority of that time, though, they’ve been one of the town’s go-to spots for another one of our favorite local roasters, Bookish Coffee. While in the past, we’ve complained about the lack of donuts at Denton Square Donuts, we’ve heard rumors that DSD has recently changed their menu and that actual, honest-to-goodness donuts are on sale here now. However, today we’re discussing ambiance - not food. Don’t be fooled by Denton Square Donuts’ ground floor. Make your way to the back and up the stair case to get to the second floor, one of our favorite hide outs on the square. While it can sometimes be a little to quiet, this brick-walled room is a great place to zone out and finish that novel (it is National Novel Writing Month, after all) or grade that fat stack of papers.