Restaurant Review

I like most coffee shops.  I enjoy hard-care coffee purist places, where they have a menu of different single-origin coffees, a few blends, and all of them roasted on site.  But nothing else.  Valhalla’s coffee roaster/espresso stand on 6th ave. fits that bill – and it is some pretty amazing coffee.  I’m also a somewhat frequent patron of starbucks – I always appreciate that there is a drink there for everyone in your party, and while you can do better than their chicken panini, you can do far worse.  And each starbucks is pretty much the same, which is not wholly a bad thing.  But what I really love is the neighborhood hangout coffee shop.  Someplace with above average coffee, food made from scratch, and tables to puzzle over the bridge column in or have an informal meeting with friends.  The Mandolin Café was my go-to location for years.  It wasn’t quite in my neighborhood, but no too far out of the way.  I spent some serious time in that coffee shop.  Sadly, they loss their lease, and the neighborhood staple evaporated.  My current go-to café is the Red Elm – on 1114 MLK Jr. Way.  It has a vibe that I really enjoy.  There are always people there, but not so many that you can’t get a table.  Service is honest, pleasant and quick – no forced cheery greetings or passive aggressive judgements on my coffee of choice (yes, I’m having decaf – don’t be a hater).  The menu is fun – a mix of waffles and grilled sandwiches.  If you’ve not had a Waffle Dog there, you are missing out.  I’m pretty sure they are Belgian-waffles-because-they-have-big-holes and not Belgian-waffles-because-they-use-a-yeast-batter, but they are still great.  They have good salads and all that, too.  The space is pleasant, with lots of room hanging out or for meetings.  There is a community meeting room, which can seat probably 10 or 12 at a large table, and you can reserve that.  I know quite a few folks (I’m certainly not looking at you, Greg), who use the space as their office – something they welcome (well, as long as you keep buying their coffee, I suppose).  They have a nice area for the kids, too.  I almost never visit the Red Elm when I don’t know at least one person sipping a coffee at a table, and that is a nice feeling.  The shop is owned by three sisters, who are all about making their community a better place.  Anyway, when you need to schedule a meeting with someone you met at our fine weekly provider meeting and you want to escape the office for a bit, the Red Elm will give you that little oasis you need.

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