This is the original Doughnut Vault that my friend Phillip recommended to Amanda and me as the source of the best doughnuts in Chicago. A small (almost) hole-in-the-wall operation in River North around the corner from my hotel, we visited during our “polar vortex” trip to Chicago. Although there is batch-brew filter coffee here for $1 a pop (takeaway only, so don’t forget to bring your own cup) we came specifically for the doughnuts, so can’t comment on the quality of the coffee.
Just like the bigger, coffee shop version of the Doughnut Vault on Canal Street, the doughnuts sell out quickly. However, unlike the Canal Vault, where the coffee shop has set hours and stays open selling coffee long after the doughnuts are gone, once the Franklin Vault sells the last doughnut, it closes. The good news, however, is that, unlike the Canal Vault, it opens at weekends, with a more civilised start time of 09:30, which is how Amanda and I managed to get up in time for the last of the doughnuts!
I first came across Sarah’s Caring Coffee towards the end of 2017. What piqued my interest more than anything was that it’s based in Holywell, the North Wales town where I was born and brought up, where my father still lives and where I am a very frequent visitor. On further investigation, it turned out that Sarah’s Caring Coffee had been set up to generate income, by selling coffee on-line and at various local markets, for The Cariad Project, a charity which helps disabled people in Africa.
I met the eponymous Sarah, who is behind both Sarah’s Caring Coffee and The Cariad Project, at the start of this year, and was given a bag of her Ethiopian Sidamo to take with me on my travels around North America. It graced my Aeropress from Providence to Phoenix, via cities such as New Orleans, and was a lovely coffee.
I was therefore delighted when I heard in May that Sarah had opened The Coffee Bean in Holywell, providing a permanent retail outlet for Sarah’s Caring Coffee, as well as a community hub and flexible meeting space. Naturally I took the first opportunity I could to pay Sarah and The Coffee Bean a visit.
For over 20 years, attending a day’s play of the Lord’s Test Match has been part of my summer ritual. Sadly, for almost as long, this has meant putting up with not particularly great coffee or going without. However, this changed in 2011 when London stalwarts, Kaffeine, were brought in to make coffee in the Harris Gardens behind the pavilion.
The Harris Gardens offers sit-down breakfast and lunch on match-days, with Kaffeine providing the coffee. However, before the start of play, takeaway customers are also welcome, making it an essential first stop when you get into the ground. Once play has started, though, you’re largely on your own, although I find that if you were really nice to the baristas when buying your morning coffee, you could dodge past the waiters at lunchtime for a cheeky flat white. Knowing Peter, Kaffeine’s owner, probably also helps.
This year I made my annual pilgrimage for the third day of the Pakistan test, but, delayed on my way to the ground, play was already underway when I reached the Harris Gardens. Disconsolate, I resigned myself to the vagaries of the coffee bars around the ground. However, my mood brightened when I saw some familiar faces behind the espresso machine…
Timmy Green, the latest addition to the growing Daisy Green/Beany Green collective, opened at the start of the year. It was, from the beginning, a fully-fledged restaurant as well as a rather splendid coffee shop. When I visited and wrote about Timmy Green in March, it was only as a coffee shop. This Saturday Supplement is going to redress the balance and consider Timmy Green as a restaurant.
Layout-wise, Timmy Green is much the same as ever, although there have been a few changes since I was there in the spring, which has made the downstairs feel even more like a restaurant than a coffee shop. The grand piano in the corner has gone to make way for more tables, while the window-bar and high tables to the left of the door have suffered a similar fate.
When it comes to food, Timmy Green serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, complete with desserts, wine, beer and cocktails. And, of course, Roasting Party coffee. Not that Daisy/Beany is a stranger to food. The original Daisy Green, plus the Paddington and Liverpool Street Beany Greens, have a reputation for innovative brunch menus, but in Timmy Green this has reached its logical conclusion.
When I used to stay in downtown Chicago, my hotel was just around the corner from Tempo Café, an amazing 24-hour diner in Chicago’s Gold Coast (I say “used to stay”: it was all of three times!). However, I loved the place and made sure I visited for breakfast at least twice on each trip. Therefore, when I was back in Chicago as part of my coast-to-coast extravaganza last year, and unexpectedly found myself north of the river, I made a beeline to Tempo for a late brunch.
Tempo, along with Boston’s Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, is one of my favourite American diners, although compared to Charlie’s, it’s a very different place, slightly more upmarket in layout and feel, but still great value for money. All the usual diner staples are there, but you can also get full meals and everything is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Comfort food at its best!
I first discovered L.A. Burdick in my pre-Coffee Spot days, after a recommendation by some Boston friends. It sounded so awesome that I had to seek it out when I was looking around Harvard. I must confess, I was not disappointed… When it came to starting the Coffee Spot, L.A. Burdick was one of the places I wanted to write about, but, of course, in traditional Coffee Spot style, I first visited L.A. Burdick’s New York City branch, plus the branch in Boston’s Back Bay, before finally getting around to a return visit to Harvard at the start of my coast-to-coast trip last summer.
As well as being the hot chocolate equivalent of a coffee shop, L.A. Burdick sells chocolate (and chocolates), the retail space usually being of equal size to the café part. There’s also tea, coffee and a wide range of sumptuous-looking cakes. However, for me, the whole purpose of coming to L.A. Burdick is to indulge in the amazing, rich and, above all, chocolaty hot chocolate.
Be warned: Harvard is smaller than the other two branches. You’ll often struggle to get a seat, having to wait for a one to become free before putting in your order.
Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, the quintessential family-run American diner, had been in the Manjourides family since it opened in 1927, serving the people of the South End from 429 Columbus Avenue. I discovered Charlie’s in 2003 and when, in recent years, I started to stay in the South End, it became my go-to breakfast place, dishing up my favourite staples of poached eggs, home fries and griddle cakes.
I wrote about Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in 2013, visiting again in 2014. However, towards the end of that year, I heard troubling rumours that Charlie’s had closed. It was only when I returned to Boston in June 2015 that I was able to confirm it for myself. I swung by in the vain hope that it would be open but it was well-and-truly shut, although deep inside I heard sounds of construction. Disappointed, I went on my way, ending up in the nearby Render Coffee.
However, when I returned this year, I was once again walking down to Render, and, instead of finding the empty shell of Charlie’s, or something new in its place, there was Charlie’s itself, looking superficially very much as it had year after year. Intrigued, I stepped inside.
Anthony’s Italian Coffee House, on 9th Street, is a slice of culture/history in Philadelphia’s Italian Market district. Recommended (once again) by my friend and guide, Greg Cohen (of Coffee Guru App fame), Greg comes to the Italian Market to do his shopping. After taking me around several old-fashioned grocers and delicatessens, themselves a delight to visit, particularly if you like Italian food, he abandoned me at Anthony’s (“left” would be a more accurate statement, but abandoned has a more dramatic quality to it, don’t you think?).
Anthony’s is an old-fashioned (in style; Wifi being just one of the concessions to the modern age) Italian-American espresso bar/café of the type that I love. Less grand than say Boston’s Caffé Vittoria or New York’s Caffe Reggio, it has more in common with Soho’s Bar Italia. This, I feel, is much more in keeping with Philadelphia’s working class, blue collar roots.
Don’t come here looking for the latest third wave coffee experience though. The espresso is good, but you won’t find any single-origins or fancy hand-crafted pour-overs (although there is the obligatory bulk-brew filter). Instead, come for a slice of character and history, plus to put your feet up after all that shopping!
I first came across L.A. Burdick exactly three years ago after a tip-off from a friend in Cambridge (Massachusetts, not UK). I tried the branch there and loved it, but was a little put off by how busy it was. Even late on a weekday afternoon, I still had to wait 20 minutes for a table, such was its popularity!
On my trip to Boston a year ago, I learnt that there was a branch on Clarendon Street in Back Bay, around 10 minutes from my hotel. Although excited, I nevertheless approached it with some trepidation, expecting crowds. However, I needn’t have worried: it was an oasis of tranquillity in comparison. It might have helped that it was gone six o’clock on a freezing cold Tuesday evening, but I wasn’t complaining.
The main draw of L.A. Burdick is the hot chocolate and the Back Bay branch is no exception. However, there’s also coffee, tea and a range of cakes and pastries. And, of course, chocolate. L.A. Burdick is definitely at the luxury end of the chocolate market and both prices and décor reflect this, making L.A. Burdick one the more sumptuously-appointed cafés you’ll visit.
When I originally started the Coffee Spot, the intention was to write about places where I liked to have coffee. Although it’s evolved a lot since then, this original motivation is still very much at the heart of the Coffee Spot. On that basis, I present today’s Saturday Supplement, The Java Room. Located in a small plaza on Littleton Road in Chelmsford, you might be mistaken for thinking that this represents my first foray into Essex, but this happens to be Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Confusingly, the New England version of Chelmsford is in Middlesex County. Go figure, as my American friends would say.
The Java Room offers pretty standard coffee-shop fare. There are no flat whites and piccolos here, no single-origin beans or micro-lots, just large lattes, cappuccinos and espresso, along with bulk-brewed filter coffee and various iced and blended beverages. Where the Java Room really scores is in its atmosphere. It’s a lovely spot, the perfect, small town, neighbourhood coffee shop, friendly, relaxed and welcoming. I’m kicking myself for having been to Chelmsford many, many times and not discovering it before last year.
March 2015: Correction. I popped in one Monday in March (since I was literally passing by) and there are indeed flat whites to be had at The Java Room. Naturally, I had to have one and it was very fine.