Starbucks Won't Be Bringing Booze to Houston, But Who Cares?

Photo courtesy Southside Espresso
"These are a few of my favorite things..."
Starbucks recently announced that it would be adding beer and wine, as well as an "evenings menu," to select locations around the country, after testing the plan in 26 markets during the last several years. The bad news? Starbucks booze isn't coming to Houston anytime soon. The good news? We don't need it.

Houston is home to a number of bar/coffee shop hybrids -- something I hadn't really seen anywhere else before moving here. But the fact that Houstonians want both alcohol and caffeine in one convenient location just makes me love this city even more. News outlets across the country are reporting on this Starbucks story as if it's groundbreaking.

Coffee and wine? Together?!

Please, people. We're way ahead of you, Starbucks.

Here are the best places in Houston to get your drink on and caffeinate, too.

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France à la Houston

Photo by Catherine Gillespie
The Tempting Pastry Case at French Riviera Bakery

When translated from France to America, the culinary capital of the world's traditions often amount to starched white table clothes and stuffy service. Houston is luckier than most cities, as there are a few places in the Bayou City to get a great croque madame or a delicious foie gras torchon. In order to recreate the real magic of a day in Paris here, however, you'll need to spend some time in Rice Village, travel to The Heights, and traipse around the Menil's lawn.

The French phrase for breakfast begins with the word "petit." Keep that in mind when kicking off your day. Instead of going overboard with a brunch-style morning meal, stick to the basics at Croissant Brioche or French Riviera Bakery. The former is a homey place good for a quick croissant (or brioche), Americano and glass of juice. The latter has a generic interior -- don't expect to see any clay roosters or decorative plates -- but the pastry case is anything but. Don't miss the cream-filled profiteroles or delectable eclairs.

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First Look at Boulevard Coffee: Top-Notch Mocha Lattes and Blueberry Scones

Photos by Molly Dunn
Boulevard Coffee is now open and serves some killer pastries and desserts.
Remember Waldo's Coffee House on Heights Boulevard? The casual coffee house with an outdoor patio and casual indoor seating perfect for lounging, studying or chatting with friends closed last summer, but if you regularly pass by the intersection of East 11th Street and Heights Boulevard, you might have noticed some remodeling and construction, and a "Now Open" sign for a different coffee house, Boulevard Coffee.

The same folks behind Waldo's Coffee House bring you Boulevard Coffee. Same location, same owners, just a different name. Ron Lopes is the owner of Boulevard Coffee which features more outdoor patio space, and what seems like more indoor seating than Waldo's. You can still come and relax with a cup of coffee and a muffin, or enjoy a casual concert throughout the week. But, it's not a replica of Waldo's. Boulevard Coffee also has a kitchen, in which chef Steven Hernandez a chef prepares a variety of foods for breakfast and lunch.

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The Honeymoon: Just What Downtown Needs

Photos by Molly Dunn
From left: Matt Toomey, Charlotte Mitchell and Brad Moore -- business partners establishing The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar.
If you work, live or just spend all of your time downtown, you've probably noticed there aren't that many places to grab a quick bite to eat, sit down for a cup of coffee, or enjoy a casual dinner and dessert before or after a theater performance. Sure, there are lots of restaurants such as The Grove, Batanga, Artista and Sambuca; and there are lots of bars, such as Flying Saucer, Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Reserve 101. But, there's one thing missing from the downtown dining scene -- a casual place to grab a coffee, cocktail and bite to eat.

Let's face it. If you're searching for a laid-back coffee shop in downtown, or along the rail line, you'll be searching for a while. But, that problem will soon be resolved when The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar opens at 300 Main this spring.

The Honeymoon is a partnership between Matt Toomey and Charlotte Mitchell of Boomtown Coffee and Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse of The Corinthian Bar Group (Goro & Gun, Lei Low Bar, OKRA, Bad News Bar, Big Star Bar and Grand Prize Bar). The foursome believes that this establishment will assist in the revitalization of downtown.

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Caffeine Crawl Hopes to Make a Splash in Houston on Saturday

Photo by Molly Dunn
Caffeine Crawl comes to Houston, and it's all about the coffee.
In Houston, we have experienced our fair share of pub crawls, but there's one drink we haven't gotten to crawl for, and that's coffee.

Missouri-based boutique marketing company The LAB created Caffeine Crawl in 2011. The event spread through the country, reaching a variety of cities (Kansas City, Denver, and Springfield, Missouri) in 2012, followed by Boston and San Francisco in 2013. Now The LAB's Caffeine Crawl is coming to Houston on Saturday, February 22, and will showcase the incredible talents of seven coffee shops: Boomtown Coffee, Blacksmith Coffee Bar, Southside Espresso, Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails, Catalina Coffee, Eatsie Boys Cafe and Paper Co.

Unfortunately, tickets are sold out, but there is a waiting list for any no-shows.

LAB team member Emily McIntyre explains that InterAmerican Coffee, a sponsor for this event, reached out to The LAB to shine the light on coffee offerings in Houston.

"So that was our initial awareness of Houston's coffee scene, but we have been fans for a while," McIntyre says. "And visiting and enjoying the coffee shops and talking with people, we feel that Houston is a city that deserves attention. It has a strong coffee/specialty beverage culture that deserves recognition."

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Top 5 Cappuccinos in Houston

Categories: Caffeine, Top Five

Photo by Molly Dunn
This cappuccino is from Paris, but you can find frothy drinks like this in Houston.
When I go to a coffee shop, nine times out of ten I order a cappuccino. To me, it reflects the true talent of a barista -- getting the foam-to-espresso ratio just right; making sure the java is strong enough to ensure a caffeine boost; and guaranteeing every sip is warm, smooth and comforting. It's quite a difficult task.

Because I am not equipped with the necessary tools (or talent) to make a cappuccino at home, I venture to several Houston coffee shops for my coffee drink of choice. Here are my five favorite places to get a perfectly executed cappuccino in Houston.

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First Look at The Nook Cafe, UH's New Coffee Shop

Photo by Molly Dunn
UH's newest coffee shop is an excellent place for studying and relaxing during the day, and enjoying drinks with friends at night.
Every college campus needs its own special coffee shop -- something other than Starbucks, at least. For me, it was Common Grounds at Baylor University. Just on the outskirts of the campus you could find a crowd of students sipping on the signature Cowboy Coffee made with the Daily Joe, half-and-half and a sweet "secret sauce," or a White Fang, hot powdered chai with caramel and vanilla. While the wide variety of coffee drinks at Common Grounds were a major draw for college students, the relaxing, hipster scene kept them there for hours upon hours.

There's something about a cool coffee shop that attracts college students, and University of Houston has opened its very own on-campus coffee shop, The Nook Café, created by Sam Wijnberg and UH alumnus Derek Shaw.

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First Look at Espresso Rescue: The Coffee Truck

Photo by Molly Dunn
It's not a medical ambulance, it's a coffee ambulance.
With the influx of food trucks to the Houston mobile dining scene, we seem to be missing one type of truck. The city is blessed with numerous trucks that will satisfy the late-night munchies, the sugar cravings in the afternoon and everything else in between, but we don't have enough trucks to jump-start our mornings. I'm talking coffee trucks.

A little more than a month ago, Houston's first coffee truck, Espresso Rescue, rolled into the area, and since then has been offering up caffeinated drinks throughout the day at various food parks. We decided to check out this espresso ambulance and see if its drinks and snacks were up to par with other local coffee establishments. Hint: It surpasses all expectations.

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Inversion Coffee House: Your One-Stop Shop for Inventive Caffeinated Holiday Drinks

Photo by Molly Dunn
Traditionalists should order the pumpkin pie latte from Inversion.
Recently, I wrote about the pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and McDonald's, and a few of you wanted to know about seasonal beverages available at local coffee shops.

While some places are serving their versions of pumpkin spice lattes, such as Dirk's Coffee and Bite Macarons, others have seasonal syrups, such as the sweet potato syrup from Southside Espresso, or the homemade pumpkin syrup from Boomtown. But one coffee shop is pulling out all the stops for the holidays with five seasonal drinks -- and each is wonderful.

Inversion offers a festive drink for any palate. Whether you enjoy a classic holiday coffee, warm apple cider or a unique seasonal dessert drink, Inversion's got you covered.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Throwdown: Starbucks Versus McDonald's

Photo by Molly Dunn
Which PSL is the best?
I have always been a fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL, from Starbucks. It's the first seasonal beverage to arrive after a summer of iced coffees and frappuccinos, and it always gets me in the spirit of fall.

However, this fall, another contender might be giving Starbucks a run for its money with its version of a pumpkin spice latte. Yes, my friends, the PSL challenger I speak of is McDonald's. Crucify me all you want, but McDonald's knows how to make a good cup of coffee. The McCafé drinks (hot and iced) always satisfy my caffeine cravings. No, it's not the best cup of joe, but it sure is a good one.

After seeing a commercial for the new McDonald's pumpkin spice lattes, I decided to find out who makes the best PSL: Starbucks or Mickey D's.

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