Caffeinate Me, Cleveland!

Monday, September 28, 2015

I'm a longtime fan of Starbucks. I know, I know, a lot of folks have a lot of disdain for the corporate caffeine monster, but I've just never been one of them. I understand their complaints - expensive, overly corporate, not as high-quality as they claim to be, etc. etc. - but you can't help who you love.

Unfortunately, my new neighborhood is a Starbucks desert. (There are a couple nearby downtown, but parking is too big a burden to bother.) Many a hipster Clevelander has raised their nose to me & declared that the dearth of Starbucks in our fair city is because the 216 is above having a big-name coffee shop on every corner, "like in some cities." They remind me that local coffee shops abound, & that I would be a better citizen of the CLE if I would give my patronage to them instead of to The Man.

So I do, albeit somewhat grudgingly. As I said, I like Starbucks. It tastes the same in every state, & I'm a big fan of getting a free drink after every dozen. Without a good nearby location, though, I've begun exploring indie alternatives to my favorite caffeine source. Here are my local likes so far.

The Root

15118 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
The Root was my first Cleveland-area coffee love, & it's still my favorite. It's just down the street from my boyfriend's house, which is, alas, a bit of a schlep for me now, but it's worth the 15-minute drive to get to this sweet little cafe with hippie vibes & delicious vegetarian food. Their beet pizza - yes, beet pizza! - has my heart, & because I can stay there unobtrusively for hours and order lunch, it's an easy place to spend an entire day.


2366 W 11th St., Cleveland
This coffee shop next door - like, 20 steps away from my place - is perfect for a quick caffeine fix when I'm working from home. At first, I felt like it was a less-than-ideal spot for camping out because although the prices are low, it just doesn't seem like a place you're supposed to stay for very long. I once heard a crotchety barista lamenting that "All our generation knows how to do is stare at a computer!" - which was not exactly welcoming of a millennial staring at a computer 12 feet away. Now, though, I'm on good terms with all the baristas & stay for hours, regardless of whether they want me to or not. Civilization, I love you.


2180 W 11th St., Cleveland
This place doubles as a record store & a ticket vendor for shows at the Grog Shop, & I like it a lot - but I just don't think I'm quite cool enough for it. Somehow, whenever I walk through the doors of this hipster haven, all I can think is, "Oh, God, have I ever been cool?" And then I feel convinced that the answer is no. It's the second-closest coffee shop to my house, though, & they have amazing lighting, so when the weather is nice & the sun is out, I choose Loop over Civilization so that I feel like not-a-hobbit.

Phoenix Coffee

3000 Bridge Ave., Cleveland
I've never tried the downtown location (again, parking) but the Ohio City location is a gem. It has a seriously trendy vibe but somehow also manages to be cozy & welcoming, which is probably due in large part to its uber-friendly baristas. It's great for people-watching and for dog-watching, since it allows canine companions to accompany their caffeine-seeking owners inside, & even though the space is small, the staff doesn't seem to mind - & in fact seems to welcome - laptop-toting millennials like me.

What does it take for you to count a coffee shop among your favorites? And if you're a Clevelander, I'd love to hear which local cafes (or accessible Starbucks locales!) get your vote.

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