Restaurant: The Pfunky Griddle, Nashville, Tennessee
As a gluten-free vegetarian, sometimes eating while on the road can be a challenge. Fast food joints don’t work for me. And I’ve never been big on fast food regardless. This often means, especially when I travel to visit my family, that finding a restaurant to stop and eat is a priority. Thankfully…in this brave new world of smart phone apps, there is an app for that.
Find Me Gluten Free.
If you have not put this app on your phone…do so now and then continue reading this blog. I’ll wait.
Okay…congratulations! Your dining life just got a lot easier. Trust me.
The midway point between my home and my parents home is…Nashville, Tennessee. There is no shortage of places to eat in Nashville. There are also plenty of places that have gluten-free options. Normally, we’d probably make it easy and stop off at Taco Mamacita or even go to McCreary’s Pub in Franklin, Tennessee. But…while I know there are things I could eat at either one of those places (McCreary’s does not have a gluten-free menu, FYI, but Taco Mamacita does), I just wasn’t feeling the usual haunts. So this necessitated a search.
And naturally…I find a place that specializes is…breakfast and brunch.
When breakfast is your favorite meal of the day…this is one hell of a find. It had brilliant ratings on Find Me Gluten Free, so my roommate and I decided we would stop there on the way home and dine on some pancakes for lunch. Breakfast for lunch. Yep…my favorite way to eat.
The Pfunky Griddle is located on Bransford Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a quaint neighborhood with houses done up into businesses and offices. My kind of area. Parking, however, was a nightmare. We arrived sometime just after noon and there were already parties of people standing around outside. No parking was available in the lot, so Cathy dropped me off to go check on the wait time and she went to circle around and see if she could find somewhere to park. I ducked into the building and stood in a short line at the front where the coffee drinks were being made. I asked about wait time for a party of 2 and was told it would be about 25 to 30 minutes. That wasn’t unreasonable, so I put my name in and went to go see if I could find Cathy and tell her. She had just managed to find a parking spot, so we stood around outside for a moment before I asked if she’d like some coffee while we waited.
Caffeine while on the road is never a bad thing. And…The Pfunky Griddle has almond milk. Could I love this place any more already? Is it possible? After giving it a little bit of thought, Cathy agreed that caffeine might be a good idea (DUH!) so I told her I would treat us to our café order. She went with a Peppermint Mocha with skim milk ($3.75). As for me…I went with something that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. Stepping away from my order of a Cafe Au Lait for a moment, I opted for what they call a Honey Child Latte with almond milk ($3.75). The Honey Child Latte is a double shot of espresso, combined with honey, cinnamon, vanilla and your steamed milk of choice. Never heard of anything like it…but it sounded epically delicious. So, I had to have one. Besides, I can get cafe au laits anywhere. This was something I had only seen here. Why not go for it?
The coffee orders were backed up, so it took around five minutes to get our actual drinks. No worries though, Cathy and I weren’t in any hurry. And it gave both of us time to stand in line to use the bathroom before getting seated. Her peppermint mocha was up first, and she commented on how awesome it smelled when I passed it off to her. My Honey Child Latte was up next and when I received it…I couldn’t wait to try it. Photos first…then the taste test.
One sip and I was in love. The combination of the rich espresso worked so well with the spice from the cinnamon, the sweetness of the honey, and the smooth vanilla after tones. It all just meshed so well. Love at first sip. I even made Cathy try it and even she commented on how delicious it was. Smooth, dreamy, and sweet. Just how I like it!
I was about halfway through my latte when my name was called. We eagerly followed the hostess to our table in the back room near the window. The table was outfitted with a griddle in the middle because at the Pfunky Griddle…you flip your own pancakes, bitches! Sorry…but it’s a really, really awesome concept. As we were handed menus, I looked at Cathy and said, “I don’t know what they are going to do, but I need this hot griddle completely cleaned…or I can’t eat on it. Cross contamination.” She nodded and went back to the menu…and lo and behold…there at the bottom was a note that said if you were a Celiac, a special griddle would be provided for you.
I admit…I smiled. I smiled a lot. I was already feeling better about the situation. Our waitress came over to take out drink orders. As we both still were downing or pre-game coffee drinks, we opted for water. Cathy went ahead and told her that I was a Celiac…so the waitress said she would send someone out with a new griddle for us. A few moments later, one of the other employees was flipping off the griddle in the center of the table and putting a new griddle across our table. He had it wiped down and left it there. I felt a whole lot better.
And, when eating at The Pfunky Griddle…you get something you put on that griddle. Cathy and I already had our mind made up. They have an all-you-can-eat pancake deal going. So, we opted for that. We got the gluten-free pancakes ($6.99 per adult per person, including 1 topping each). Cathy chose chocolate chips for her included topping and added walnuts for another option ($0.75). For my included topping, I went with blueberries, then added bananas for an additional choice ($0.75). As we were really hungry, we each got a side with our pancake order. Cathy opted for the 2 biscuits ($1.00), which came with butter and jam. As for me, as it was labeled gluten-free, I stuck with the potatoes ($3.00). Order in.
I noted that our griddle wasn’t turned on, so I went ahead and turned it on, giving it some juice. I wasn’t sure how high to set it to cook, so I opted for around 300 degrees, because I didn’t want to burn anything, so I figured a little extra time on the griddle wouldn’t hurt anyone. Not one bit. Our waitress came out with a a bowl that had packets of ketchup and hot sauce in it. And soon…or food followed.
We received a pitcher of gluten-free pancake batter and little plastic containers that contained our toppings of choice. The waitress set this heaping bowl of potatoes down in front of me and told me to cook them for three minutes on each side. I could handle that. With that…we were left to our own devices to cook up our meal at our table. FUN!
Cathy poured her first pancake and went to sprinkle just her chocolate chips over the top. I would have thrown the nuts in too, but she kept them to just sprinkle over the top after her pancake was plated. I got a couple of spoonfuls of potato working on the griddle then poured my own pancake. I poured way more than I expected and had this monster to start off with. I went ahead and tossed some blueberries and banana slices onto it and let it sit to brown on the one side. The heat was definitely too low as both the pancakes and my potatoes were taking awhile to cook. Cathy went ahead and dived into eating her biscuits, really enjoying the flaky, lightness of them. I turned the heat up slightly, which helped. Soon I found myself flipping her pancake and my own because her first attempt was pretty much a fail. But, I cook pancakes on a griddle at home…so I’m sort of a master.
With the other side working, I went ahead and tried the potatoes.
Oh. My. GOD! No, these were honestly some of the most amazing breakfast potatoes ever. Laced with a delicious garlic flavor, these mashed up spuds were crispy from the griddle on the outside, soft on the inside…and really freakin’ fantastic. The flavor was awesome. I told Cathy she had to try some, and she said she intended to. She went ahead and scooped some up for herself to get it working on the griddle while I plated our first pancakes and poured more batter for our next round. We threw on toppings and then settled in for our first taste.
The batter cooks up beautifully. We each achieved this gorgeous golden color on our pancakes. My bananas even caramelized after I flipped my pancake over and the toppings began to work into the pancake itself. I love a light pancake. Nothing is worse than eating one pancake and feeling stuffed. And here, you can make them as big or as small as you want. You can add one topping, both, or more. Whatever your whim…it’s yours to create. And these pancakes really hit the spot. They were sweet, without being overly sweet. And thin. And light. And just plain delicious. The batter wasn’t heavy at all, making the pancakes almost as light as air when I removed them from the griddle and onto our respective plates. And those potatoes. Oh…hell yes!! Those potatoes were one of my favorite thing. Cathy and I both enjoyed them, getting them golden on each side then moving them to the plate. I added hot sauce to mine, just a dab, which only enhanced the amazing flavor. All together…a carby, delicous, amazing, happy dining experience. One of the best gluten-free pancakes I have ever tasted…and I eat a lot of gluten-free pancakes.
This may be a new go-to place in the near future when passing through Nashville. Very happy. I never felt like I needed to worry about my food. The spatulas were rubber, not the metal ones other tables got, so I am certain they were for gluten-free foods only. I felt completely safe, and completely satisfied with my experience there. I’d go back and stuff myself silly with more of their gluten-free pancakes and potatoes.
For the record, they also have gluten-free bread, so you could have one of their sandwiches, or even French toast if your little heart desired it. The point is…this is a business doing gluten-free right. And I am forever thankful for them. And I’m also glad we stopped in and ate here. On the way out, I even purchased a bag of their gluten-free pancake mix for $5.50. So now I can make some at home too.
My gluten-free joy knows no bounds. Doing flips over everything at The Pfunky Griddle.
Love in brunch form!
Restaurant: Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck, Louisville, Kentucky
Food trucks are amazing things. They are just so…cool! Let’s face it…street food is huge right now, and thankfully, Louisville, Kentucky is quite the foodie town these days. One of the best things to come of this…have been the growth of the food truck presence in this city.
A year ago, I attended the Food Truckus Ruckus…and sadly couldn’t eat anything offered because there was nothing for a gluten-free vegetarian. I was bummed out and ended up with grocery store sushi. Not what I wanted…but it worked for the time. I was hungry and needed some form of sustenance. And since the food trucks couldn’t help me out, I had to turn to the next best thing…on the go…
And so…to be fair…my roommate never mentioned food trucks again.
The next peep about food trucks came…from me!
Because, thanks to a post from the local allergen-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café, on their Facebook, I discovered that there was a new food truck in town. And this time…it was geared toward people like me!
Enter to the Louisville street food scene…Sweet ‘N Savory.
Sweet ‘N Savory is a local food truck that offers gluten-free crepes (pardon me while I shad a few tears of absolute JOY!), Carpe Diem Smoothies, gelato, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea! All of their crepes are gluten-free and dairy-free, made with local, free-range eggs. Their ingredients also incorporate as much local meats, cheese, fruits, and vegetables as possible. You gotta love a local business that tries to keep it all local as well. I appreciate that sort of care with ingredients and pride in the products that come out of this area.
Friday evening, after getting off work, my roommate and I had plans. And they involved food trucks. From Sweet ‘N Savory’s Facebook page, I learned of an event that that they were attending, along with other food trucks. It was the Louisville Street Food Alliance and they were putting on the LSFA Rocks Your Friday Night! event at Apocalypse Brew Works in Louisville, featuring seven of Louisville’s best food trucks: Lil Cheezers, Holy Mole, Grind, French Indo Canada, Bluegrass Brick Oven Pizza, Johnny’s Diner Car, and, of course, Sweet ‘N Savory. These food trucks all have their specialty types of food and it sounded like a great event. So, following a day at the office…my roomie and I set out across the river to hit up Louisville for dinner that night. She had her eye on a grilled cheese from Lil Cheezers, the Legalize Marinara (Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Sliced Tomatoes with a touch of Garlic), FYI, with a side of sweet potato fries and curried ketchup ($8.00) with a soda for a drink ($1.00).
However, I finally got to enjoy the Louisville street food scene now too. I immediately bounded over to Sweet ‘N Savory, inquiring if they were serving yet. We had no traffic on the bridge and got their quicker than anticipated. They were, so after eyeing the menu for a little bit…I decided to have dessert for dinner…opting for a sweet crepe. My choice? The Nutty Banana Crepe ($5.00), which is sliced bananas smothered in Nutella, wrapped up beautifully in a delicate crepe. To accompany that on a very chilly and windy April evening, I got a small cup of hot tea ($1.25). The best part was…I got to stand right there and watch it all get made.
First of all, my tea order sort of blew a fuse in the truck. Whoops. So, while they attempted to figure that out, truck owners Ricky Giannini and Ashley Giannini got my crepe working. Ricky was on crepe duty. I watched him pour the batter and spread it around to cook. Then, with great precision, he folded it over, added the banana, then poured over delicious Nutella. As he was letting it finish, he joked with me about the sweet crepe spoiling my dinner. I told him it was my dinner. The dinner of champions! I mean…banana and sinful Nutella…oh yes. That can be dinner any night for me.
He laughed. And I watched as he folded the crepe the rest of the way, dusted it with powdered sugar, and then plated it for me. They said they would bring me the tea as soon as they could figure out their generator. That was fine. I was holding a very warm and fresh Nutty Banana Crepe at the moment…and I was ready to dig into it and devour.
The last time I had a gluten-free crepe, I was in Denver, Colorado. It was the only other place I have ever found them…and it means I often crave but can do nothing about it, until my annual pilgrimage to Denver. Not so anymore. And let me tell you…I am in love with this food truck. Absolute love.
The crepe was light and delicious…a thin pancake surrounding an amazing filling. I mean, I am not only a Nutella fan, but huge on banana as well. And Sweet ‘N Savory doesn’t skimp on either. This crepe was busting with it. I loved the play of the banana with the sweetness of the Nutella and the crepe itself. Add to it the dusting of powdered sugar…and dinner was epic and sweet!! I was in love with every bite. I did share one bit with my roommate, because she had to try it herself…and she agreed…AWESOME!
My tea arrived just as I polished off the crepe…perfect timing.
Thanks to food trucks making a surge here in Louisville, I have become quite proud of the foodie status this city had received. But, now, thanks to Sweet ‘N Savory…I can indulge in the street food scene as well. And for that…I am forever grateful.
I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to eat from their truck. I think I might give a savory crepe a try. I’m already eying their Caprese Crepe.
Next time can’t get here soon enough.
Sweet ‘N Savory…you are a welcome addition to my gluten-free world.
Restaurant: Highland Coffee Company, Louisville, Kentucky
Awhile back, I lost my favorite local coffee shop in Louisville, Kentucky. I went there every weekend and enjoyed a delicious latte or mocha made with almond milk. They diligently knew what to leave out because they knew I was lactose intolerant. And then…without warning…they were closed. Gone. And I have had a coffee void in Louisville ever since.
That changed. In a big way. Today.
I knew of Highland Coffee Company. I drove by it every time I headed down to Bardstown Road. They used to have this amazing sign…until Urban Outfitters moved in. But, that hasn’t kept people from this little gem. Sign or no sign, this place was packed when we showed up. I can see what all the buzz (get it…coffee…buzz…heh heh…) is about.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we strolled in. I just knew what the locals were saying. And it was all good. Since the sign came down, there had been an outpouring of support from local businesses on both sides of the river because, let’s face it, Highland Coffee Company is sort of off the beaten track. And to anyone unfamiliar with the area…you could drive right by it and never even know it was there.
Sad. Honestly. Because it’s nothing short of awesome.
After a moment of looking over the menu board, both my roomie and I were already set with what we were going to get. She ordered first…a small mocha with skim milk and some of their homemade chocolate whipped cream ($3.45). As for me…I first asked if they had almond milk…and they did. And I jumped up and down with joy for a moment. And with that happy bit of knowledge, I ordered a small pumpkin spice latte with almond milk ($4.00). And as we were being rang up at the register, Cathy spotted the gluten-free goodies on the counter. Gluten-Free Brownies and Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread. The gluten-free pumpkin bread ($3.50) was screaming my name…so Cathy and I decided that we would split a slice of it.
Let me start by saying this…I loved that they had the gluten-free items away from the regular stuff in the case. These were out and tightly wrapped on the counter. Much appreciation for that. That means they are taking extra care to make sure no cross-contamination happened. And for this gluten-free girl…I love that.
The pumpkin bread was unwrapped and placed on a plate for us…with two forks. It looked moist and awesome. I was just too happy about it. I thanked them and took the plate to a table while Cathy went and waited for our drinks. While I was waiting, I went ahead and sliced the pumpkin bread in half. And then…it looked so amazing, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I took a bite of my half.
For anyone who thinks that gluten-free baked goods taste funny, are heavy, or have a strange texture…then they are eating in all the wrong places. For real. This Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread was moist, light, and simply delicious. I love pumpkin and this had the right amount of flavor and spic without being overdone. It was a great treat to enjoy as a late-morning snack.
Then…our coffees came up to order. Cathy got hers first and came to set it on the table. Mine was being remade because the barista realized after she steamed the milk that I ordered almond milk and she did whole milk. That would have set my stomach into a tizzy, yes? Anyway…they got it straightened out and my almond milk pumpkin spice latte was up in no time.
Cathy brought the drinks over to the table…and it was go-time. I took my first sip and have to say…anything Starbucks does, Highland Coffee Company does better. WAY better. I fell in love with their pumpkin spice latte. Simple flavor. The pumpkin wasn’t overdone or overpowering. It was just pure flavor with a great shot of espresso. The pour was perfect. No bitterness. And definitely not too weak. It was love at first sip.
I think I found my new favorite coffee spot in Louisville, Kentucky. For real. Because they cater to people like me. They have dairy-free options. Gluten-free options. Amazing employees. A great atmosphere. And really good food and coffee. I’m once again in love with a local coffee shop in Louisville.
If you haven’t found Highland Coffee Company yet…get down to Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky. Look for Urban Outfitters. Turn into the lot and walk into the place under the giant coffee cup. You’ll feel right at home. And, much like me, you’ll anticipate your next visit and already be thinking of what to try next.
Happiness does come served in a cup. At Highland Coffee Company anyway.
Restaurant: Alterra Coffee Roasters (5th Ward Foundry), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
If you do a search for the best coffee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the name you’ll continue to see in your search is Alterra coffee. That being said, I knew that was the place I needed to check out while I was in town. My roomie and I make it a point to go to a local coffee house and a local ice cream shop on each trip. And Alterra certainly didn’t disappoint.
I had just finished running the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon and after downing some water, Cathy and I decided that it was time to hit up a coffee shop for a much-needed caffeine pick-me-up. Alterra was on our list…the big question was…which coffee house were we going to visit. There was one not too far from the Summerfest grounds, so we decided to see if we could make our way there and fulfill our need for caffeine.
It wasn’t hard to get to at all. And when we walked in, we could immediately smell fresh roasted coffee, hear the grinder, and get that quiet buzz you tend to find in coffee houses. Yeah…I immediately felt at home.
We took a moment to examine the boards and decide on what we wanted. For the first time ever, Cathy went with a small iced white mocha ($3.50). I was shocked. This woman never gets her coffee iced. And I went with a small, soy, sugar-free raspberry latte ($3.50).
My raspberry latte came up, but it wasn’t soy. So they gladly remade it for me the proper way without any complaint, eye-rolling, or attitude. LOVED that. I appreciated that to no end. And within moments, a proper iced soy raspberry latte was placed on the counter for my sipping pleasure.
I love testing fruity syrups in a latte. Raspberry tends to be one that pairs overly well with espresso. And this was no different. The raspberry syrup wasn’t too heavy-handed. In fact, it was the perfect amount to give the flavor to the drink without taking it over. And the espresso was a perfect shot. Oh yes. Smooth as silk. It wasn’t bitter, no harsh aftertaste. Perfect espresso pour. And the soy milk was icy cold, and delicious. I was one happy runner at that point to not only have something cold to sip on, but also have something so fantastic.
I also loved that their true small size was an 8 ounce portion. YES! You know, 12 ounces is all fine and good, but 8 ounces just seems like the perfect amount. And the usual price of about $0.50/each was applied for my change to soy milk and my added flavor. Couldn’t argue with that. It’s about what every coffee shop does.
Both my roommate and I walked out of Alterra quite content, with iced drinks in hand and smiles on our faces. Our drinks were the perfect strength and made just the way we wanted them. I was impressed with the atmosphere, the service, and the product at Alterra Coffee . I would go back in a heartbeat. Or visit one of their other locations throughout Milwaukee.
So raise a glass…and caffeinate yourself next time you find yourself in Milwaukee. Trust me…coffee is much better for you than beer, which is mostly what Milwaukee is known for.
Don’t let the name fool you! The Bad Waitress serves up amazing, organic, local food in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Restaurant: The Bad Waitress, Minneapolis, Minnesota
If you happen to be traveling through Minneapolis, Minnesota…and you really need a fantastic place to eat…ask a local. That’s what we did. And had we not, we would have missed out on this unique, fun, amazing little diner off Nicolette Avenue. After finishing up some good shopping at a local record store known as The Electric Fetus, we asked the man behind the counter for any good places to catch a bite to eat. He immediately said to hit up Nicolette Avenue, referred to as “Eat Street” by the locals because of how many restaurants line it. And his suggestion…The Bad Waitress.
So…why is it called The Bad Waitress?
When you step inside, you are greeted by the look and feel of an old-fashioned diner. What makes this place unique are the wall hangings are old horror/sci-fi movie posters. Antiques, bought locally, line the walls and the nooks and crannies. You seat yourself. Pay attention to which table you are sitting at…this will be necessary when you place your order. My roommate and I came here with my aunt the first time (yes…we went back…because I forgot to take pictures of my food) and then we returned, happily, on our last day in town. Totally worth each trip. The first time we visited, we sat at the Thor table. On our return visit, we were at the Mister Fantastic table.
Why is this important? Because at The Bad Waitress, you are your own order taker. The menus are located on the table. Pick one up and peruse at your leisure. Located on the table with the menus is an order form. Put the name of your table on there and fill out the order form with what you want to eat. Be specific about any changes. Include your drink choices at the bottom. Then, when you finish with that, you take your order to the register and pay for your food ahead of time. You will receive your drinks then…unless like me you order tea. That will be brought to you by one of the awesome staff members.
And then…it’s all up to the kitchen. You supplied your order the way you wanted it…so now they execute it…just as you instructed. This is why you have to be specific. The first time I ate there, it was the day before I ran the Minneapolis Half Marathon. So, I went with an omelette for the protein and for safety measures. I got it with their American Fries, which was a chopped up red potato (organic!) that was sauteed up to perfection. And they offered gluten-free toast as a bread option…and it arrived with a buttery glaze that was to die for. The omelette I ordered that day was the Death Valley Veggie Omelette, a 3-egg omelette that had gruyère cheese, red peppers, basil, and garlic tucked inside ($11.00). Cathy got their Hamburger on a wheat bun and topped it off with some goat cheese ($10.00) and substituted the chips and salsa for the American Fries ($1.75). And my Aunt Jan ordered the Tomato-Basil Tortilla Wrap with Grilled Chicken, keeping the chips and salsa as the side ( $8.50). I got an order of their green tea with lemon ($2.50). And after a little bit of a wait, which I never mind as it means things aren’t prepared ahead of time, but to order, our food was brought to our table and we dug in. Literally. I was hungry and forgot to take pictures. Trust me when I say…our food was amazing.
Happily though, my roommate and I returned to enjoy lunch there on our final day in Minneapolis. My aunt had an appointment to get to and the rest of my family headed out for a little journey together. Cathy and I had some loose ends to tie up in town, like a few more bookstores and record stores to hit, so we stayed behind, borrowed my aunt’s car, and made the rounds. Lunch time rolled around and we had decided that we couldn’t miss the chance to eat at The Bad Waitress again. So…we did.
This time our orders didn’t change…too much. With camera ready, we wrote down the order and placed it. This time, I didn’t stray too far from the breakfast menu. Why? Because breakfast is awesome and I’d eat it all day if I could. So…I opted for a change of pace and got another omelette, this time the Flying Saucer Omelette, a 3-egg omelette served with organic mushrooms, spinach, thyme, and goat cheese. I stuck with the gluten-free toast, but this time chose the hash browns as my side ($11.00). Cathy loved her burger so much, she tried it again, this time pairing it with gruyére cheese ($10.00) and keeping the chips and salsa as the side. I went with tea again as my beverage…the green tea with cherry ($2.50). We wrote the order up and paid at the register. Cathy came back with her Diet Coke, but I had to wait for a moment while they brewed up my tea. It was brought to my table on a fun little tray. Love the diner feel of this place.
We had a bit of a wait again for our made-to-order food. But it arrived in good order and everything once again looked fantastic. And this time…I snapped pictures.
The omelette was fantastic. Stuffed with sauteed mushrooms, goat cheese, and seasoned with thyme. The flavor combination was divine. The goat cheese added a rich creaminess to the eggs, the mushrooms gave it bulk, and the thyme added the seasoning. I dashed it with some hot sauce and tucked into it. Amazing. And the hash browns…cooked to perfection. The top layer was a crispy brown, but beneath was the soft shredded potatoes. Just how I like them. And, just as before, the gluten-free toast was done to a buttery crisp. No need to add anything. It was delicious that way. I was in love with the food there. The menu is loaded with options and served the entire time they are open…so if you want breakfast at 5 p.m…write it down and you will get it
Next time I’m in Minnesota, I’m totally getting back to The Bad Waitress. The atmosphere, the concept, the food…all beyond my expectations. It looks like a greasy-spoon diner on the outside, but inside is a business that is supplying customers with organic and local food that is prepared to perfection and delicious with every bite. You’ll clean your plate. Even if you feel like you can’t take one more bite…you will.
For places to eat in Minneapolis, Minnesota…this one sits at the top.
Restaurant: Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, St. Louis, Missouri
Late to bed. Early to rise.
That’s my usual mojo, right?
Kind of. The late to bed thing doesn’t really work well for me anymore. In fact, if I go to bed late, I still end up waking up early. So, now my sleep pattern is off and I’m probably a little more cranky than usual.
Know what makes that better?
Caffeine. Usually in latte form.
This was what was needed when my roommate and I set out to St. Louis on Sunday morning after having breakfast with her aunt. Along the way, I noted that coffee might not be a bad idea, so I whipped out my iPhone and punched in where I might find some delicious coffee that Sunday morning.
I was directed to Northwest Coffee Roasting Company. We stopped at one in Clatyon, MO on our way to a few destination stops in St. Louis before hitting up a pub for lunch. We found it…a nice, quint little shop. We parked on the street and dashed inside. I knew my roommate was going for her usual…white chocolate mocha (or here, a Mocha Bianca) ($2.80). I was a little bit more difficult when it came on settling on a drink.
No almond milk here (bummer), which is too bad. I wish more cafes would offer almond milk because soy milk sometimes doesn’t agree with me. But…with the whole lactose intolerance thing, I went with soy as opposed to cow’s milk in the end. What I ended up ordering was an Almond Caffe Latte with soy milk ($3.40).
With our drink order in, we awaited the completion of the drinks. And soon…our order was up. Then we had to wait around a moment to pay. Our barista took our order, but didn’t ring us up. We probably could have walked out of there without paying, but we are honest people and got someone to ring up our order.
After having that amazing latte in Denver, Colorado, and having my delicious latte drinks at my go-to place in the area, I found my first sip to be really, really strong. I mean…bowl-you-over strong on the espresso. My roommate said her drink was much the same way. In fact, she couldn’t even taste the white chocolate. Which…is a cardinal sin for her as she hates the flavor of esspresso/coffee on its own. However, we both discovered that the more we drank, the more flavor we found. To me, that means the barista might have not mixed the flavor shots together as well as it should have been.
I did enjoy my strong latte, though. The almond flavor was one I hadn’t tried yet, and I found it to be a nice mix with the espresso. My drink was steamed to perfection, reaching the perfect drinking temperature. My roommate says hers was too hot to drink right away, but while she won’t drink iced coffee, I think she lets her coffee cool to room temperature before she finds it just right. I can’t base anything off of her coffee temperature gauge.
I found the people at Northwest Coffee Roasting Company to be very friendly. And our drinks were done as we ordered them, with any additions and substitutions per our usual mojo. I just wasn’t blown away by the drink itself. But, it did it’s job…woke me up…and got me ready to take on St. Louis.
So…win on atmosphere…and a so-so on the drink.
I love my caffeinated beverages as much as the next one, but I want a perfect pour. And this…just didn’t cut it for me.
Restaurant: Espressolé Caffe, Greenwood Village, Colorado
Nothing makes me happier when I am out and about than a latte, cappuccino, or a mocha from somewhere local. Granted, Caribou Coffee (YUM YUM) and Starbucks will do in a pinch, but there is something so amazing and special about independent, local coffee houses.
So…I tend to seek them out.
(For the record, I sought out Caribou Coffee at the Denver airport upon flying in and before flying out, LOL!)
Just up from the Denver Marriott DTC there is this little shopping center. And in this shopping center is this really amazing cafe called Espressolé Caffe. Attached to this little coffee shop is a cooking school. If I lived in the area, do you realize where I would be, like, all the time??!! Well, I wasn’t there to attend the cooking school that Sunday morning…I was there for some caffeine.
It turns out that Espressolé has been voted the best coffee in Denver. Seriously. And considering how many coffee houses exist, that’s no easy task. That being said, my roommate and I ducked inside that morning to sit in some chairs, relax, and have a morning coffee boost. She ordered a white chocolate mocha with a hit of hazelnut (one of her favorite things to order). I got the Maple Latte with almond milk. (YES!! Almond milk is in every little local cafe in Colorado it seems, making me one happy coffee drinker.)
It took a moment for the drink orders to be made, and I never mind waiting around in coffee shops. We were taking these to drink there, so they would be in mugs and everything. Awesome. Cathy’s White Chocolate Hazelnut Mocha was up first and I went to retrieve it. It smelled awesome and she was quite happy to sip from the foamy top for a moment and savor the taste. She said that it wasn’t bitter at all (perfect espresso pour!) and that it was just rich and creamy and yummy. Yes. Yummy.
My Maple Latte with almond milk was up next. The latte art was very pretty. I love latte art. And the foamy top was done to a frothy perfection. Foam is one of my favorite things on an espresso or cappuccino so I love it when it’s done to perfection. I was hooked on this drink. I wish more places offered a maple latte because this was beyond delicious. It was sweet, without being too sweet, with that little maple flavor that reminds you of fresh syrup on pancakes. The espresso was a perfect pour, very smooth. And it all came together in a caffeinated beverage that I wanted to savor for as long as I possibly could. I did so too, until it started to cool down and I knew that I needed to polish it off before it got cold.
YUMMY!! No…for real. I can see why Espressolé Caffe has been voted the best coffee in Denver. It’s honestly the best coffee I have had…anywhere!! In addition, their pastry case even offered quite a few gluten-free breads/pastries/goodies. WOOHOO! I was gearing up for gluten-free crepes later that day, so no gluten-free goodies this time, but I intend to be back next year and perhaps I’ll indulge then…with another amazing maple latte.
Oh, if I lived in Denver I would be in SO much trouble. Believe me when I say I’m hitting up Espressolé Caffe every morning next time I’m in Denver. It’s just a short walk from my hotel and a whole lot of caffeinated goodness…so close to my home base.
Best coffee…ever. Fact!
Restaurant: Folsom Street Coffee, Boulder, Colorado
If I were to choose another place in this country to take up residence…it would be Boulder, Colorado. Hands down.
Not only is it a hip, happening place, but it is so healthy and full of energy and life. It’s a little piece of Bohemia up in the mountains. And I love every moment I am there.
This year when I ventured over to Boulder, Colorado, I was meeting up with someone. And as she knows the area, she chose to meet up for coffee at Folsom Street Coffee. Now, we all know that I am a coffee addict. So, a little non-chain, independent coffee place is always high on my map. She chose well.
My roommate and I arrived early and settled in to wait. But, soon we were eagerly contemplating what type of drink to get. And before you knew it, we were placing our order at the counter.
Cathy went with a simple mocha, which, mind you, is prepared with chocolate milk. WHAT a concept. Honestly. And the chocolate…Ghirardelli. YES!
I was feeling a latte that day, and went with a strawberry latte made with almond milk. Oh yeah…almond milk abounds at these little coffee shops in Colorado, and I am so thankful for that. Unfortunately, they were out of strawberry syrup, so I changed my order to a blackberry latte made with almond milk. No harm, no foul. Still berry-licious in a latte type way.
We could see our drinks being prepared as we sat there and just sort of drank in the atmosphere. When our order was up, I went to retrieve it, admiring the beautiful latte art in the process as well.
And at first sip, the mix of the berry flavor with the awesome espresso shot was a perfect combination for me that morning. I loved the way the espresso played with the sweet undertones of the blackberry syrup. And the almond milk frothed up beautifully and gave me the perfect foam that I love on a latte. So delicious.
Interesting to note that Folsom Street Coffee is Boulder’s only zero waste coffeehouse. In addition, it is family owned and operated as well. I love independent shops. And let me tell you, this place was packed. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, and people were still coming in as the time we spent in there talking ticked away. Yeah…it was a perfect coffee experience in the perfect city in my view. If you find yourself near Boulder, Colorado, I encourage you to stop in at Folsom Street Coffee. Treat yourself to something delicious and caffeinated from this awesome little coffee shop.
Restaurant: Hillbilly Tea, Louisville, Kentucky
Most restaurants go into a slight panic when I turn up. No, I’m not kidding. Unless they are equipped with a gluten-free menu, my preface to an order usually begins with, “I want to let you know that have a gluten allergy…and I’m also a vegetarian.” Usually, and sometimes unsuccessfully, this relegates me to the SALAD portion of the menu.
This was not the case for Louisville’s own, very eclectic, fantastic Hillbilly Tea.
I know, the Yankee (I was raised in New York) in me balks at the name. But for this Appalachian-style tea café offers up all the comforts of home, in a trendy, comforting setting. It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with the rustic style within the walls of this café in downtown Louisville. The wooden tables. The variety of chairs. The tables adorned with simple flowers in small individual vases, so as not to interfere with your conversation across the table. It’s a beautiful setting for a fantastic dining experience.
Hillbilly Tea defines itself as a trendy tea café, which offers a variety of fresh, organic whole leaf teas, which they mix and pair themselves. Additionally, the chef is cooking up Appalachian comfort food, sourced from local organic farms. It’s a dining gem in the hart of Louisville, Kentucky (located right across the street from the First Street White Castle, FYI). It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s what is inside that generates the magic.
I had just finished up the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday and was absolutely starving. On a lark a couple weeks back, I had gone ahead and purchased a Groupon for food and tea at Hillbilly Tea. As we were already downtown, and famished, my roommate and I headed over to Hillbilly Tea for brunch. And it was already bustling at 9:30 when we finally parked and ducked inside.
We were greeted warmly by the front of house and shown to a table near the back. I fell in love with the rustic decor, how no tables were clothed, how the silverware was served wrapped in a napkin and held together with a clothespin. Yes…I was already in love with this place before even settling on food and a tea to try. We were given menus and left with them to mull over for a moment while he went to seat other patrons heading in to eat as well.
Tea was the first thing on my mind as it had been a very, very cold morning and I was still chilled from my 3.1 mile run in shorts in 30 degree weather. I settled on hot herbal tea ($3.50), choosing the Sweet Dream variety, which is a delicate mix of chamomile with a hint of peppermint and lemon. My roommate, who is just learning the wonders of tea, opted for a black tea ($3.50), whether it’s because it would have more caffeine or what, I don’t know. She chose the Morning Dew, which is billed as brisk and bold, begging for milk and sugar. Actually, she chose it because it sounded like the Irish Breakfast tea that I fell in love with in Ireland (Bewley’s…in case you were wondering). We put in our tea orders and then turned our attention to the food portion of the menu.
On Saturdays, brunch is served at Hillbilly Tea, although throughout the week they have a menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The brunch menu is a conglomeration of all of them, I think, scaled down, and perfect for a Saturday crowd. You see, Hillbilly Tea, on Saturdays, serves food from 8 am – 4 pm, so the brunch menu is honestly ideal. I had finally settled on what I was going to get when the hot tea was served at our table, just freshly put in the infuser. I was told to let mine steep for 5 minutes, my roommate for 3 minutes. Instructions well received and followed. Our waiter then was ready to take our order for brunch.
I led off, giving my usually spiel about my food allergies and vegetarianism. Without hesitation. Without even blinking an eye, my server said, “We have a fantastic gluten-free menu. In fact, with the exception of (named off dishes here), everything else is gluten-free or can be made without the bread or scone to accommodate.” A knowledgable staff…this is not something I am used to. I don’t like the guessing game when it comes to what I might be eating or what might be in my food. And this…this put me right at ease. So, I ordered the Breakfast Platter ($7.00) without the toast and with a side of the Pit Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($3.00). My roommate opted for the Eggs and Biscuit and Gravy ($8.00) with a side of the Corn Pone ($3.00). The order was in and we settled in to enjoy the atmosphere, conversation, and some fantastic hot tea.
I was quite happy with the food when it arrived. It looked and smelled amazing. My meal actually consisted of three scrambled eggs, which looked to be seasoned with fresh herbs, and served with a potato and mushroom hash. The Pit Roasted Sweet Potatoes looked like healthy, ungreasy, sweet potato fries. Not what I was expecting at all.
My roommate’s plate was a delicious looking platter with house-made hearty biscuits, smothered in a vegetarian gravy that is made up of shitake mushrooms and thyme, and then topped with two perfectly poached eggs. It was actually the first time my roommate ever had a poached egg (and for this, I don’t know whether to blame Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain), but she figured she can’t say she doesn’t like something if she never tries it. And, with the exception of a taste of biscuits and gravy at Nat’s (a divey diner in Los Angeles, CA), she never had biscuits and gravy either, just always said she despised them on their looks. But, she went out of her dining comfort zone again and took a chance. For her, it was victory. She fell in love with poached eggs and raved about the dense biscuit and how it paired well with the gravy on top. As for the corn pone…well, she loved how it wasn’t sweet, it was perfectly scored with grill marks, and was ideal to sop up the remaining gravy from her plate. Brunch success.
So, how did the Breakfast Platter fare? Well, this was the first time in a very, very, very long time where I didn’t top off my eggs with hot sauce. And, these eggs, honestly, didn’t need it. They were scrambled to perfection, so that they clumped together, but were still soft. No cheese (loved that part!) was added to bulk it up or flavor it out. It was very nicely seasoned with the fresh herbs folded into the eggs. It didn’t need anything else. Perfect flavor and I didn’t even miss my hot sauce (and that’s saying something!). The potato and mushroom hash was divine. Honestly. The potatoes were seasoned to perfection and cooked to a nice light brown. The mushrooms weren’t watery or overcooked, and folded in perfectly with the potatoes. I was in carb heaven. Add to it the delicious Pit Roasted Sweet Potatoes and my dining experience was beyond amazing. What I loved about the sweet potatoes was they weren’t salted, they weren’t fried. They were sweet and roasted to perfection so that they held up when forked and were tender yet on the inside. It was the best sweet potato anything I ever got anywhere…and I order sweet potatoes a lot.
We each polished off our plates and sat to finish up our tea. The check was brought over but we were told not to rush. We did have a lot on our plate today, so we paid, bid adieu to this fantastic little restaurant, and headed out with the promise that we would come back for a lunch during the week sometime and also try it out for dinner another time. Not only is the food great, but most items on their menu don’t even hit the double-digit mark. Upscale, organic food at an affordable price…I’m beyond okay with that.
If you happen to live in the Louisville, Kentucky area or might be passing through or in town for some reason, do make an effort to stop by Hillbilly Tea. They serve up some of the most amazing food in the city from this little unassuming place in the heart of downtown. It’s comfort food taken up a notch and served to perfection. I can’t wait to return and bring a couple of friends with me. While it’s tempting to keep this place all to myself, I can’t stop myself from wanting to share it with others either. Therefore, it’s best to bring in a fresh crowd and get them hooked as well. Places like this need to stay open for a long time to come. Healthy, delicious comfort food…right in the heart of downtown Louisville. No joke…this place does exist. And it goes by the name of Hillbilly Tea.
Local coffee shop, City Girl Farm Coffee serves local ingredients, local roast, and delicious coffee
Restaurant: City Girl Farm Coffee, Louisville, Kentucky
Baby, it’s cold outside!
In fact, today it didn’t get above freezing. Brrrr.
Do you know what that means? Yep. It’s the perfect day for a hot, steaming, cup of coffee. Keeping true to my promise to try places outside of our local Starbucks, I stumbled upon a fantastic local coffeehouse on Shelbyville Road in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, it’s not but a stone’s throw away from Puccini’s (see previous review) and our new Trader Joe’s.
Location – ideal!
I had no idea what they were brewing up inside but couldn’t wait to find out. We approached the counter, eyeing the large chalkboards listing their coffee, espresso, smoothie, tea drinks along with flavors and all. I almost went for a peppermint mocha, but then my most favorite thing in the world leaped out at me from their drink listings…a Salted Caramel Mocha. We have a winner, folks.
I stepped up to the register to place my order with the friendly barista there. But first, I inquired as to whether or not they had either soy milk or almond milk…or whatever. He promptly said…”We have both!” I think I squeed with delight. I prefer almond milk in my drinks as not all soy milks work with me. (Take note all you other coffee shops that might be reading this…please start carrying other non-dairy options (almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk) for drinks as people can’t always have soy either!). My order was in for a small Salted Caramel Mocha made with Almond Milk ($3.40 plus $0.50 for almond milk). But wait…the staff got even more awesome. Since I was asking about non-dairy beverages, the barista immediately picked up the caramel they use in the drink and noted that it had dairy in it. They, instead, put a shot of caramel syrup in my drink instead to keep it dairy free. Now, how many coffee shops would note that? I was beyond impressed.
My roommate got the small White Chocolate Mocha ($3.40) with a shot of hazelnut ($0.50), made with 2% milk, no whip cream.
I waited for the drinks to come up. My mocha was first and the barista making the drink told me that if there wasn’t enough caramel flavor in there, to let her know and she’d fix it. Again…beyond impressed. The other mocha was created and handed over and we settled in in two very comfortable chairs near a small round table.
DELICIOUS! Now, I raved for moths over Starbucks Soy Salted Caramel Mocha. Guess what? This was SO much tastier. The espresso was perfectly poured. The almond milk was deliciously steamed and frothed. And the dark chocolate used as the base was sheer perfection. The substituted caramel syrup was a nice, light hit that actually balanced everything out so well. A dusting of the salt on top and we were in business. As for the White Chocolate Mocha with Hazelnut…well, my roommate looked completely happy with it. She said it was the perfect temperature and rich. The sweetness of the white chocolate giving the right amount of balance to the espresso. Yeah…we were happy, coffee-drinking fools.
And you know what else is great about this local coffee shop? They use local ingredients that come from their own City Girl Farm, as well as other farms in Kentucky and Indiana. Local business using local products from local farms. You gotta love that. Additionally, the coffee that they serve, a brand called Argo Sons, is from a Louisville-based roaster. Local caffeinated goodness too. The shop also carries locally produced honey, jams and other products.
And…something I intend to indulge in next time…a gluten-free cookie (like…monster-sized amazing looking cookie!) in their pastry case. Not only do they serve up scones, muffins, cookies and such, but also soups and sandwiches as well.
The ambiance is fantastic. The service is great. And the drinks…out of this world.
Go to Louisville, Kentucky…amble over to Shelbyville Road, and duck into City Girl Farm Coffee. You’ll just get what makes this local coffee shop a local treasure. One to be bragged about. One to be shared. So bring a friend or two. Indulge. Enjoy. There is something for everyone! And local to boot!