I'm a coffee drinker. There are no two ways about it. My coffee pot must have a timer so that the pot can be brewed by the time I wake up. I'll drink some Folgers or some Maxwell House if it's what's around. I'd prefer to be drinking some Paul deLima or something roasted at Recess.
It turns out coffee is a comfort food to me. It's not the caffeine.
I discovered that this morning when I drank an Xtreme Shock. I like this stuff as a pre-workout drink. It's essentially a high dose of niacin and caffeine.
And after my workout, I just had to have a couple of sips of coffee. I'd certainly had enough caffeine to avoid a withdrawal headache, and indeed I was buzzing a bit. But I wanted that warm drink, I wanted the flavor.
In the film "Mean Girls," Lindsay Lohan's character says that she likes math because it's "the same in every language." I'm beginning to feel that way about coffee. Even if people are drinking decaf.
I sat down with Tracy recently and she reminded me that I needed to do another post about places I like. So, here are some of my current favorites.
Cafe at 407
I've written about 407 before. I'm actually sitting in the cafe writing this blog post, staring at the real whipped cream on top of a hot chocolate a child is drinking while waiting for the singer-songwriter to start playing. In fact, I'm sitting in an overstuffed chair on the wifi with a cup of coffee on the side table, remembering that this place raises money for a non-profit called Ophelia's Place, which deals with eating disordered youth and adults. There's a conference room in back, next to the employees' cubicles and an outpatient clinic. It's in the village of Liverpool. Go there.
Recess Coffee is celebrating their fifth anniversary this week. The cafe was packed the other night (that's where I had the aforementioned get-together with Tracy), and they are not going anywhere any time soon. Best hot chocolate in town (York, Almond Joy, peanut butter, and more), and a few really good whole-bean roasts.
Farmshed CNY is a web-based app (that is, you go to the website, you don't download it) that will find you farms, farmers markets, restaurants, breweries, dessert, bakeries and more in Central New York. The idea is to have you buying local foods, drinking local beer, and considering where you're sourcing your stuff. And also it helps you find it, by determining your location by GPS. It's awesome.
Small Potatoes Marketing
Maybe it's weird to recognize a marketing firm, but Marty at Small Potatoes works hard to get Central New York food producers distributed into bigger venues. He started as strictly a shoe leather business, and eventually let himself be talked into a blog and Twitter account, both of which he's done really well with. Look for Better Brittle, Recess Coffee and Brooklyn Salsa at the CNY Regional Market thanks to Small Potatoes, and he's worked with a bunch of other locals you're starting to see more and more places, too!
Laci's Tapas Bar
You've probably heard of Laci's by now; they've been around a couple of years. Tapas is a food presentation that features appetizer-size portions of really beautiful, frequently creative food. The menu is excellent, the service is wonderful, and they're over in a part of town you never go to. Try them out!
Over at Outspoken the other day, Lisa Barone wrote about some etiquette for working at coffee shops. Basically, it's how to grab some focus while not being a jackass to other customers, and, more importantly, to the business you're patronizing.
You should read that post, then come back; I'll tell you my favorite coffee shops to work from in the Syracuse area.
1. Recess Coffee.Recess is tucked in the Westcott neighborhood and is open late. There's free on-street parking within a block, although during the school year it can get tough to find parking since the students who rent in the area are stuck parking on the street. They roast their own coffee, and it's clear they're coffee drinkers, because the coffee's really good. They also have creative hot chocolates that bring a lot of people back. They don't have a ton of electricity, so bring a fully charged laptop. And bring headphones; the music can sometimes get a little loud.
2. Freedom of Espresso, Franklin Square. For me, this is the most comfortable of the Freedom stores to work from (and one of two to make my top five spots in town). It's comfortable, has electricity all the way along one wall, and, with the exception of the fact that without fail someone will make or take a really loud phone call during the day, it's the quietest cafe in town. The wifi is stable, parking is plentiful, and if you need a little inspiration, there's a statue of Benjamin Franklin across the street and the CreekWalk about 50 steps in the other direction. There's also a hot dog cart at lunchtime. Word.
3. Funk 'n' Waffles.Funk has the strongest coffee in town, and really good food. Seriously, where else in town can you get fried chicken & waffles? They have overstuffed chairs, plenty of electricity, very stable wifi...the only thing that makes me shy away from going there is the parking. It's on the SU hill, so you're either going to pay a fortune for parking or walk a mile. It's great for consolidating trips up there, though.
4. Cafe Kubal.Kubal is another place that roasts its own coffee and clearly is run by coffee lovers. They also make brilliant sandwiches. It's open before 8 a.m., which makes it a winner for me, since I like to get going early. There's plenty of free parking, too. Unfortunately, it's tiny, the machines can get loud, and it can get crowded. The electricity per capita is really good, if you can get a seat.
5. Freedom of Espresso, Fayetteville. The only real problem with this Freedom store is the wifi is iffy. They have plenty of large leather chairs, and a long counter space in front of the window that is meant to be workspace – it has electricity for every seat, and a space between the counter and the wall for cables. Plenty of free parking next to the store and in the back.
Tomorrow, it being Friday, we'll get your happy hour on with my favorite bars to work from.
There were over 20 people at the Syracuse tweetup Thursday at Recess Coffee. There is no science to setting up such an event, and getting people face to face is not brain surgery. Here's how this one came about.
Picking a date and time. Ask on Twitter. People seemed generally to think Thursday would be a good evening for them, and some mentioned specific dates. You're not going to please everyone, so you have to just pick a date. Most people get out of work between 4 and 6, so 5:30 seems like a good starting time, figuring that some people will arrive early and some people will arrive late, but nobody has to go home and urge themselves out the door after they've kicked off their shoes.
Picking a place. Again, you're never going to please everybody. But there are things everyone wants in a location: parking, something to eat and/or drink, and – something we learned from the last tweetup – someplace where they don't have to shout over loud music and loud dinner conversations. Since Recess Coffee is smallish, I called them three weeks ahead of the date and asked if they would mind if something on the order of 20 of us showed up (the worst thing we could do for them would be to scare away anyone who would normally be there, if we were going to show up once). They said sure, and most people bought coffee (or peanut butter hot chocolate), and we're good to go back, as long as we give them some notice.
Why? We're already connected on Twitter, why do a tweetup? Personalities and ideas tend to germinate in person, especially when people get to talk for several minutes and exchange business cards. And when great minds get together and create great things, everybody wins.