The most important meal of the day served alongside the best java in town
By Nick DekkerPublished March 1, 2011
The aroma of roasting coffee beans surrounding Café Brioso is enough to awaken your senses before you ever take a sip. The rich, smoky, woody scent is a meal in and of itself: an olfactory stroll through a dense fog of caffeine.
Our local coffee shops perk us up on our way to work, to school, or to just get us going around the house, like pit stops along the route of our marathon days. They’re quick, they’re easy, and they’re reliable.
While coffee shops may specialize in jolting your veins with java, some of the best breakfast food in the city is delivered right between the stack of morning newspapers and the cream and sugar.
Most coffee shops offer some pastries to go with your coffee, but a few of our local joints know how to step it up a notch. Matt Wagner, kitchen manager at Café Brioso, greets his customers with scones, muffins and rolls made in-house, from scratch, every day. These delights rank heads and tails above pre-packaged biscotti. The scones come in sweet or savory varieties. The sweet usually features a mix of fresh fruit, while the savory options include bacon and cheddar or the bruschetta, with fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and basil. The muffins are likewise loaded with delectable fruit combinations like blackberry, strawberry/banana, or pear/strawberry – and, of course, the ultimate blueberry muffins. The muffins are so popular, Matt says, that customers would probably revolt if they were taken off the daily menu.
Caffé Apropos and Luck Bros’ Coffee House feature more traditional savory breakfast dishes in addition to the baked goods. Anton Wood, owner of Apropos, creates a menu of breakfast sandwiches made on their Panini grill. You can do the traditional breakfast with eggs, cheddar, and meat on a bagel or English muffin, or go European with their Swiss Alps: Nutella, bananas, and strawberry preserves. Luck Bros’ is known around town for their breakfast bake, a casserole-esque dish of eggs, cheese, hash browns and smoked kielbasa, with a little touch of Bisquick. The crew whips up the bake from scratch, using a family recipe from owner Andy Luck.
To top it all off, there’s the coffee itself. Brioso, Luck Bros’ and Apropos all pride themselves on crafting coffee the right way, all the way though: from sourcing and roasting, to brewing, serving and enjoying. Stop by Brioso on the right day, and you’ll find owner and roastmaster Jeff Davis himself hard at work, pumping that luscious fragrance out onto High Street.
These coffee shops also place a high premium on executing proper coffee service. Baristas are trained to pull just the right shot of espresso, and foamy drinks are adorned with exquisite latte art. You can also experience the unique brewing methods available to allow you to taste coffee “The Way It Was Meant To Be.” Luck, for instance, features a Brew Bar with pour-over specialty coffees in his shop. Order your coffee by the cup and watch as your brew is hand crafted from start to finish to maximize the true flavors of the varying selection of gourmet beans. “No machine is going to be able to brew a cup of coffee like a knowledgeable, skilled person can,” Luck points out. Handmade, all the way.
The love of coffee in these establishments goes beyond just caffeinating the locals. These baristas are committed to bolstering Columbus’ reputation on the national coffee scene. For example, the business card of J.J., Operations Manager at Brioso, reads “Coffee Evangelist,” and he’ll gladly get in your face about the exceptional quality of their coffee. He’ll tell you how Columbus coffee culture is often overlooked, though local roasters rival famous brands like Intelligensia in Chicago or Stumptown in Portland. Both Brioso and Luck Bros’ have hosted barista jams that draw coffee artists from all around, and Brioso also offers free latte art instruction to any barista who asks.
Even downtown, where most clientele don’t live nearby, Brioso’s loyal customers still call it their local coffee shop. Over in Grandview Heights, you’ll find diligent studiers packed into the quiet corners of Luck Bros’, leaning over their laptops. Apropos fills up with Ohio State grad students by mid-morning. Billing itself as a “European Espresso Bar,” Apropos offers you the chance to start with breakfast and work straight through to happy hour, when you can grab a beer or a glass of wine.
You’ve got the food. You’ve got the coffee. You’ve got the community. If the cold is getting to you, make one of these spots your regular morning hangout – spring will be in full bloom before you know it.