Coffee Houses

518. The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream – August 12, 2021 – Royal Oak, MI

I’m primed for a revisit of The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream! Fickle fate cut short my original visit to The Royal Oak location of this family-owned coffee brand.

Actually, fate wasn’t so much to blame for my premature departure as technology. I couldn’t get my work computer to connect to The Proving Grounds’ guest wifi (the laptop’s security protocols didn’t seem to like the way it was configured). Alas! I had to abandon The Proving Grounds’ inviting, rustic-chic interior for home (where the interior is less chic but the wifi connection is generally reliable).

At least I had the parting gift of the iced lavender latte I ordered before I left – which was definitely not a consolation prize. The rich espresso laced with creamy milk and subtle floral sweetness was delicious!

When I return to The Proving Grounds, I’d love to try another of its lattes. The coffee shop offers that iconic combination of espresso and steamed milk in a variety of flavors, including Beetroot, Caramel Maple, and Activated Charcoal (that last one has my mind going all, “???! I must try it!”). Other compelling items on The Proving Grounds’ coffee menu include the Cafe Miel (espresso infused with steamed milk, honey, and cinnamon) and the Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. These drinks are made from The Proving Grounds’ roasted-in-house beans.

Also made in-house is fresh, flavorful-sounding food. The Proving Grounds’ menu includes breakfast fare, salads, and sandwiches such as the Pere Marquette (turkey breast layered with radishes, roasted red pepper, a vegan garlic-and-roasted-red-pepper mayo, and McClure’s Sweet and Spicy pickles) and the James Cracked Cheese (a grilled cheese made with gruyere, cream cheese, and sourdough bread). Pastries are offered from Fenton’s Crust Bakery. And, as The Proving Grounds’ name suggests, there is ice cream! It’s from locally-owned, artisan ice cream makers Brown Dog Creamery, so you know it has to be good.

As you can see, there’s a lot for me to return to at this delightful indie coffee shop. May fate – and the technology gods – smile upon my next visit to The Proving Grounds!

417 S. Washington Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

(With an additional location in Milford)

www.provinggroundscoffee.com

510. The Congregation – May 22, 2021 – Detroit, MI

When I think of The Congregation, I think, “Magic!” And also, “How have I not been back there yet???”

This Detroit-based business is truly special. It’s a coffee house/bar built in a nearly-century-old restored church building. And it has these magical vibes.

Those vibes are due to the wonderfully welcoming staff, the delicious food and drink, and the killer ambiance. And also, there just seems to be a signature je ne sais quoi to the place. That’s a common sentiment among visitors to The Congregation, according to one of the baristas with whom I shared my good-vibes feels.

I visited The Congregation on a Saturday in late May – a warm, sunny Saturday that totally felt like the origination of summer. A friend and I enjoyed food and coffee drinks on the elevated deck, which overlooks The Congregation’s backyard lined with picnic tables and strung with twinkle lights. Guided yoga, a weekly farmer’s market, food trunks, and other fun happenings grace that yard regularly. The Congregation regularly hosts events such as these and others, varying from children’s ballet classes to a weekly house music night.

I was intrigued by The Congregation’s full bar. It boasts an extensive beer menu (including locally produced brews), a selection of wines by the glass and bottle, and signature cocktails.

I’m super appreciative of those signature cocktails – not only because the drinks sound amazing, but because nearly all of them currently cost $8. Can you think of the last time you paid $8 for a signature cocktail? I can’t – and both me and my wallet are admittedly fatigued from paying $14 to $16 for one drink. So I’m super excited to see accessible prices on thoughtfully crafted drinks such as The Congregation’s Burning Bush (lemon-flavored vodka, orange liquor, Campari, orange juice, jalapeño, and lime) and Blessed Bean (Baileys, Kahlúa, and milk infused with cinnamon and topped with The Congregation’s Nitro Cold Brew coffee).

Yes, all of The Congregation’s signature cocktails have names inspired by church (Devil’s Marg is my favorite – though I also get a kick out of Collection Thyme and Pastor’s Swizzle). And yes, a selection of its signature cocktails involve coffee and/or tea! I’m already dreaming about cozying up with the warm version of The Day Cometh (coffee spiked with Jameson, Baileys, RumChata, coffee liquor, and cinnamon) come winter – though I could totally enjoy it iced right now!

I didn’t opt for booze during my visit to The Congregation. I was feeling caffeine. So I started with the iced version of its Lavender Latte. This was one of the BEST coffee drinks I’ve ever had! It had such a wonderfully rich espresso flavor and subtle, floral sweetness. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

I also had The Congregation’s iced version of its London Fog Tea Latte, which was quite tasty, too. It’s Earl Grey tea infused with steamed milk and the same house-made lavender simple syrup that the Lavender Latte has.

Food-wise, I opted for The Congregation’s Turkey Sandwich, which was utterly delicious with its addictively soft sourdough bread loaded with smoked turkey, mozzarella, fresh mixed greens, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a richly flavored basil pesto. The Congregation’s food menu includes a selection of other sandwiches; salads; and breakfast items such as pancakes and its Smoked Salmon Bagel.

The coffee section of the menu is – as you’d expect – extensive. It includes traditional coffee-house offerings (cappuccino, espresso, and hot tea, for example), plus signature drinks such as the two I enjoyed. I want to return to The Congregation to try another of those signature coffee concoctions, the Spicy Mocha, which sounds fantastic with its espresso, steamed milk, cayenne-cinnamon simple syrup, and chocolate. That drink is just one of the many, many reasons I want to return to this magical place!

9321 Rosa Parks Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48206

www.thecongregationdetroit.com

508. Milwaukee Caffe – May 8, 2021 – Detroit, MI

What a delight it was to visit Milwaukee Caffe. Out of this tiny coffee shop based in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood comes big style, friendliness, and flavor!

According to Milwaukee Caffe’s website, its shop is styled after an Italian coffee bar. Its cozy-sized interior is meant to encourage conversation between patrons and baristas.

I adored the café’s ambiance. Its sage green color palette, menu spelled out in gilt gold letters, profusion of potted plants, and vase of colorful flowers feel like a sophisticated, retro-tinged version of spring. And just like that fair season, Milwaukee Caffe is serving up beauty and possibility – not in the form of spring blooms, but carefully crafted coffee drinks.

If customers had been let inside Milwaukee Caffe the day of my visit, it would’ve meant a handful of people being able to stand comfortably inside. As it was during these COVID times, ordering was possible only from the walk-up counter facing the street.

I was happy to queue up to that counter and order based on the recommendation of the kind barista who served me. I got a Maple Rosemary latte and savored its herbal, subtly sweet flavor. Of course it tasted delicious – how could it not with Milwaukee Caffe sourcing its beans from local roasters Anthology Coffee and Sabbath Coffee Roasters?

447 E. Milwaukee St.

Detroit, MI 48202

www.milwaukeecaffe.com

496. Coffee First Cafe and Bake Shoppe – January 30, 2021 – Sterling Heights, MI

Coffee First Cafe and Bake Shoppe knows that hot beverages and tasty treats can make an experience!

The Sterling Heights-based coffee shop enhanced one of my winter highlights: a friend date at Dodge Park (a.k.a. social outing: COVID edition). It was a beautifully sunny day – but still, it was January. Hot beverages and sugary sustenance were in order. So I prepared for the wintry walk by gathering provisions – coffee drinks and cheery-hued macarons – from Coffee First.

It was a delight to soak in this cute coffee shop’s vibes while ordering from the friendly barista. The cappuccino she prepared was fantastic, richly flavored and such a treat to take along on the park trails. And the macarons were tasty complements to me and my friend’s conversation.

Ah, these simple joys of life, cookies and coffee and conversation with a good friend! I’m grateful that places such as Coffee First exist to facilitate such experiences.

38373 Dodge Park Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48312

485. Lula’s Café – November 5, 2020 – Shelby Township, MI

Yay for Lula’s Café!

The Shelby Township-based restaurant/coffee shop serves an assortment of caffeinated beverages and meals that are both healthful and decadent (see the Buddha quinoa bowl with its goat cheese, egg, and assortment of veggies and the “Chocolate” Pudding made from avocado, cacao, and maple syrup). It boasts breakfast-centric items such as the goodness-laden Acai Bowl and hearty Breakfast Burrito, plus protein-and-plant-packed bowls, salads, wraps, and smoothies.

The café’s interior is minimalist-chic with its predominantly black-and-white color palette and exposed-bulb lighting, but it also manages to feel cozy and welcoming, with homey touches such as chalkboard menus and a profusion of potted plants. The staff member who assisted me augmented those welcoming vibes with her kind and conversational demeanor; she made me feel at home at Lula’s, even though I was there for only a few minutes.

I contemplated lingering longer when I saw Lula’s patio. With its cheerful lime-green chairs and strands of overhead lights, it enticed me to sit and stay a while. I almost did! But after hours of running errands, my home’s pull exuded more power.

My lunch from Lula’s, the Southwest salad (sans cheese), was AWESOME with its ample chunks of tender grilled chicken, turkey bacon, corn, diced red onion, and avocado on a bed of fresh spinach and drizzled with creamy chipotle dressing. This was my second time eating the salad; a friend had brought me carryout from Lula’s back in September. Because somewhere doesn’t count as a new-place visit unless I go there myself, I had an excuse to again eat from Lula’s – which I’m more than happy to have done!

45271 Market St.

Shelby Twp., MI 48315

www.lulas-cafe.com

483. The Gathering Coffee Co. – October 6, 2020 – Detroit, MI

October 6 was a day worth celebrating. Not only was it my birthday, but with my jaunt to The Gathering Coffee Co. in Detroit, it was my first coffee shop visit in over eight months! Adoring indie coffee houses as I do, this was a Cue-the-Confetti! moment.

You know I had to celebrate my special day with a trip to the D! And what could be more special than visiting a coffee shop that dared to open this summer amidst a pandemic?

According to its website, the Milwaukee Junction-based business is a “philanthropic missioned coffee company, seeking to use storytelling and gathering tables as key components to create and promote unity within the local community and city; standing with the belief that together, we are capable of more than we ever could do alone.”

It’s certainly cultivated a beautiful space from which to carry out that mission. Gathering’s interior is industrial-chic with its concrete floors, wood-beam ceiling with exposed ductwork, walls of brick and stark white, and gracefully curved barista counter constructed from grainy wood. Vases of fresh flowers grace tables, and potted plants hold state. Portraits, presumably of local community members, collage one wall, while a striking mural – a sketch of several sets of closely-gathered hands grasping plants – dominates another. Both art displays aptly encapsulate the coffee house’s community-centered focus.

I wanted to immerse myself in that space, to sit in it and admire it as I sipped my beverage. Alas, my COVID protocol excludes indoor dining! So I was happy to see that Gathering had tables set outdoors, in the strip of grass facing its storefront.

I took the iced oat milk latte with a house-made maple whiskey syrup that I ordered from the cheerful barista out to one of those tables. Full disclosure: I lasted less than 10 minutes in the nippy wind and shadows. But the drink was delicious; the espresso in it was on point, richly flavored, and the oat milk was nice and creamy. My birthday was officially a flavorful one thanks to The Gathering Coffee Co.

2831 E. Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48211

www.gatheringcoffee.com

462. AWAKE Café – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020AWAKECafe1 (2)January2020AWAKECafe2 (3)~Indie coffee house alert!~

I’m a sucker for locally-owned coffee shops, so you know I’m excited to post about my visit to AWAKE Café!

Warm and welcoming: that’s the impression this coffee house based in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit left on me. From its kind staff to its delectable food and drink to its aesthetically pleasing, cozy environs with soothing instrumental music playing in the background, AWAKE Café encouraged me to make my visit a several-hour sojourn.

Sitting at a window-facing counter seat, typing away on my computer and savoring first a bold-flavored cold-brew iced coffee, then a beautifully nuanced, pine-infused hot tea (potentially weird-sounding, I know, but it was delightful) and one of the ooey, gooey, oh-so-tasty house-made cinnamon rolls, I felt thoroughly comfortable and at home at AWAKE Café. It’s a wonderful working environment, conducive to creating that in-the-flow momentum that makes work feel almost effortless.

Not only does AWAKE offer coffee and tea drinks and baked goods, it also proffers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. Yay to offering square meals!

And about that coffee: by purchasing it, AWAKE Café is helping to support an organization called Evangelistic Faith Mission, which runs a coffee farm in Honduras that employs locals and benefits their economy. So when you frequent AWAKE Café, you can drink delicious coffee AND support a good cause – a definite win-win in my book!

4224 Third St.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.awakedetroit.com

456. Cairo Coffee – December 31, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019CairoCoffee1 (2)December2019CairoCoffee2 (2)I know New Year’s Eve harkens to champagne in terms of liquid imbibing, but it was a cozy cappuccino that was in order during my afternoon jaunt to Cairo Coffee on the last day of 2019 (the bubbly stuff came later).

The coffee house occupies a nook of Savvy Chic, a shop that sells fashionable clothes, accessories, home goods, and gift items (and which I need to revisit to explore! It wasn’t open for business on the day of my visit) that’s based in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Detroit.

I would classify Cairo Coffee as the tiny-homes version of coffee houses, occupying as it does minimal space with its barista counter and two tables. But it’s small-yet-mighty, this coffee shop! And as with any tiny home worth its salt, Cairo Coffee makes good use of its allotted space, offering a variety of beverages, including pour-over coffee and espresso- and tea-based drinks, plus baked goodies.

The barista working Cairo Coffee’s counter on the day of my visit was pleasant and welcoming and made me an EXCELLENT cappuccino, well-flavored and delicious to savor. I sat at one of the tables and read a book I’d brought while I sipped it.

Speaking of books: Cairo Coffee has its own lending library from which patrons can check out items (again, this business is making the most of limited space – see the bookshelves built into the barista counter in the photo above!).

Friendly vibes, fresh-brewed caffeinated goodness, AND a library? Now THAT is a swoon-worthy combination for this coffee house-loving bookworm!

2712 Riopelle St.

Detroit, MI 48207

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.cairocoffeeblog.wordpress.com

452. Lucky Coffee – December 15, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019LuckyDetroitCoffee2 (2)On a Sunday afternoon back in mid-December, I visited (without consciously planning it) two establishments with the word “lucky” in their monikers: Pho Lucky and Lucky Coffee.

Probably I should have bought a lottery ticket that day, with all that coincidental emphasis on the word lucky hailing from the Universe. Well, I missed that opportunity, but I still feel like I hit the jackpot that day, because I discovered how lovely Lucky Coffee is!

The Corktown-based coffee shop is on the second floor of Detroit Barber Co. To get to Lucky Coffee, you enter the barber shop and go up a flight of stairs near the front door, then navigate through a suite of barber chairs on the second floor. The coffee house is beyond them, in its own room.

Once there, you feel like you are in another world, a cozy, bygone world. Lucky Coffee has an antique-saloon feel to it – except that coffee, tea, and espresso drinks are being slung instead of vodka, scotch, and whiskey. (Baked goodies are available, too.)

Speaking of booze, Lucky Coffee does offer a vanilla bourbon latte, which I ordered during my visit. It was rich and sweet, a delight to savor; it reminded me of toasted marshmallows. According to the barista on duty when I remarked on that to him, I was the only one to have theretofore made that flavor-profile comparison (I hope he knows I meant it as a compliment; it was tasty!). If you visit Lucky Coffee and get that vanilla bourbon latte, you’ll have to share in the comments section below whether you agree with my assessment!

Because I enjoyed hanging out so much at Lucky Coffee, soaking in its brick walls and plank floors and grand wood-fronted counter and crystal chandeliers and strings of bare lightbulbs and old-timey memorabilia (a mounted moose head; a striped barber’s pole; a rusted tin sign advertising prescriptions) and the sunshine streaming in from the window I perched near, I opted for another drink after I finished that vanilla bourbon latte. Consulting with the barista over tea lattes, I ordered the Earl Grey latte that he recommended; he said he’d concocted the syrup himself.

What beautifully nuanced flavor that latte had! I love Earl Grey tea, but I’ve noticed how the flavor profile varies from brand to brand; the bergamot flavor isn’t consistent, and sometimes I find it to be too weak. This latte had the perfect amount of bergamot flavor, in my opinion, as well as a nice sweetness.

My visit to Lucky Coffee left me buoyed by caffeine and contentment – and certainly feeling fortunate that I’d discovered another awesome indie coffee shop in the area (no lottery win required for those good vibes!).

2000 Michigan Ave., 2nd Fl.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.luckydetroit.com

450. Detroit Sip – December 7, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019DetroitSip1 (3)December2019DetroitSip2 (2)I love the spirit of Detroit Sip, exemplified by the motto emblazoned on a wall of its interior: “Uniting the community one sip at a time.”

When I visited the Detroit-based, independently-owned coffee shop near the University of Detroit Mercy campus earlier this month, I definitely felt welcomed into community by the owner, who was working the counter that day. She was lovely, chatting with me about the shop and her background and asking me questions about myself as she made my cappuccino, while a man who was visiting with her joined in on the conversation.

I spent about an hour at Detroit Sip during that visit, settled into a comfy armchair near the windows. Soaking up the warm sunlight streaming in, the delicious, caffeine-infused richness of the cappuccino, and the overall cheery vibes of the place made configuring my monthly budget MUCH more enjoyable (here’s to making tedious tasks pleasant with a change in scenery!).

While I loved this prime window perch, I appreciated Detroit Sip’s other, ample seating options, including at brightly-painted tables splashed with uplifting sayings. Festive holiday decorations festooned the walls during my visit, while a Christmas tree graced one corner.

Besides offering tasty coffee and tea drinks, Detroit Sip serves fresh-baked goodies and snacks from beloved local vendors, such as Germack and Faygo. Handmade jewelry for sale is also on display.

In today’s world, community can feel difficult to find – but as I was reminded of by my visit to Detroit Sip, a sense of community is really not hard to foster. Simply visiting somewhere new and engaging in conversation with the people you find there can make the world a much more friendly, connected place. Thanks, Detroit Sip, for reminding me of that!

7420 W. McNichols Rd.

Detroit, MI 48221

(Open Thursdays through Sundays)

www.detroitsip.com