The old Cultivar Coffee, not far from White Rock Lake. Photography by Melody Asgari

Coronavirus

I Miss Dallas Coffee Shops

All of them. And I want them to survive, because they're much more than just where I spend my work days.

I don’t know if you’re from around here, but I’m the guy they point you to when you’re trying to figure out where you want to grab a cup of coffee in Dallas. That’s not because I know much of anything about coffee, but because I’ve spent more time in coffee shops over the past eight years than most baristas (six days a week on average).

You know those people who write blogs explaining how much money you could save if you stopped buying coffee? Those people are my enemies. I too know how math works, and, sure, if I hadn’t spent all that money on coffee over the years perhaps I’d currently be wealthy. I’d be a wealthy shell of a man.

Coffee shops all over Dallas (and the country) no longer allow anything but takeout, and while my personal plight is nothing compared to what millions of Americans are going through, I won’t pretend it hasn’t turned my life upside down. I can run through just about everything I’ve ever written and tell you which coffee shop I wrote it in. I’ve sat, over-caffeinated, in ergonomically irresponsible chairs and weathered heartbreaking rejections, celebrated career breakthroughs, and stared blankly at Microsoft Word documents whispering, “I hate you.”

I’ve people-watched every version of a Dallasite. I’ve witnessed countless pyramid scheme recruitments and humored a few of them myself out of boredom. Coffee shops are where I feel comfortable. They reset me. They’ve provided me stability and reframed the uncertainties in my life as possibilities. I can’t quite articulate why I think that being slightly hungover and throwing on a hoodie to walk to a coffee shop on that first cold day in Dallas is better than Christmas morning, but I do.

A former barista myself, I legitimately consider the baristas and managers at various coffee shops to be my colleagues as much as I do any writer or editor. I could tell you their names. Or what some of them are studying in school. Or their pet’s names. I’ve been scolded for not noticing when one dyed their hair (I’m colorblind).

I can make my own coffee, and I’m writing this sentence from home, so it’s clearly possible to write under shelter. But some percentage of the dread that I’ve felt every day for over a month stems from the fact that I’m worried about my colleagues. I want them to be OK, and for the most part, I don’t know that they are. I want their coffee shops to survive.

My version of normalcy isn’t the priority right now, but everybody misses something. I miss those weird little coffee shops that let me hang out for the price of one cup of dark roast.

Beyond supporting these establishments by purchasing takeout from them, you can donate to the TX Restaurant Relief Donation, which distributes grants to independent restaurants, or to Furlough Kitchen, which provides meals to people furloughed due to COVID-19. And there is a GoFundMe to help shore up the losses sustained by your favorite baristas.

I miss Murray Street Coffee in Deep Ellum because…

…the way the upstairs area is designed makes feel like you’re hanging out in the loft of your cool friend who hasn’t quite grown up. If you get up there before anyone else then whoever walks up afterwards has to give you this awkward look of permission that you return with a nod. That bonds you for the rest of the afternoon.

Ascension Coffee.
Matthew Shelley

I miss Ascension Coffee in the Design District because…

…it has the vibe of a place where two people would have a meeting “just to go over the fabric choice one more time before we place the order” and then eat a kale salad. It’s more or less as affordable as any other cafe, but I feel very powerful and important when I have lunch there.

I miss Cultivar Coffee in Oak Cliff because…

….you can sit there and drink your coffee and imagine Lee Harvey Oswald getting dragged out of The Texas Theatre, which, depending how much coffee you’ve had, can really take you down a crazy rabbit hole.

Photo by Matthew Shelley.

I miss Houndstooth on Henderson because…

I met with an editor there about a true crime story I was working on and we had documents spread out on a table, and when I realized someone was eavesdropping on us I said, “I think this might go all the way to the top,” even though it didn’t remotely apply to what we were talking about.

I miss Mudsmith on Greenville (which closed in 2019) because…

…it’s one of those places where you walk in and think, “I bet there’s some wild stuff written on the bathroom wall of this place” and there totally was. Few places have had such a way of encouraging you to hang out for eight straight hours, drinking coffee for the first six and beer for the last two and then walk onto Greenville at night too wired and inebriated to make a decision.

I miss the Starbucks on Knox-Henderson because…

…I briefly dated someone who works there and she once told me that I could “probably pull off wearing anything because people are either in on your personality or they aren’t.”

Wild Detectives
Wild Detectives
Matthew Shelley

I miss Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff because…

…it’s like a hipster paradise. If you’ve ever wanted to wear a corduroy blazer and jot things down in a little notepad while sipping an IPA until someone gives you attention, then this is your spot. I also bought a Philip Roth novel there that I really loved.

I miss Commissary downtown because…

…they have a sourdough toast called “Young Elvis” with almond butter, banana, and agave, and honestly at this point of shelter-in-place, I’d probably pay $5 just to watch someone eat that.

I miss Magnolias Sous Le Pont near Victory Plaza because…

…it looks like the type of place where they’d see me walk in and say, “Sir, the bathroom is for customers only,” but it turns out they’re actually really nice there.

I miss the BuzzBrews in Deep Ellum because…

…I once passed out there at 3 a.m.

I miss the Cafe Brazil in Deep Ellum because…

…I once passed out there at 4 a.m.

I miss Sip Stir in the West Village because…

…they call their snacks “provisions” and I find that very endearing.

I miss Davis Street Espresso in Oak Cliff because…

…honestly sometimes I just want to be in Oak Cliff, and their coffee is a good enough reason.

I miss Brewed & Pressed in West Village because…

…they sell something called “activated almonds” and I’ve always been too scared to order them.

I miss Gold Rush Cafe in East Dallas because…

…I had lunch there with Ken Bethea of the Old 97s, which was, and I can’t stress this enough, extremely cool.

I miss AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum because…

…I don’t know if any place is epitomized more by people who found themselves in Deep Ellum because the rest of Dallas wouldn’t have them and made it their own.

I miss Community in Richardson because…

…when 5 p.m. hits someone presses a button and a full bar begins to lower from the ceiling at a painfully slow pace, which is both exciting and hilarious.

 

I miss Merit Coffee Co. because…

…I also miss the original Lula B’s antique shop that once stood in this same spot and every time I’m drinking a coffee in Merit I think, “There used to be so much wildly useless stuff in here and I loved it so much.”

I miss the Starbucks in West Village because… 

…I’ve probably spent more time there than any place I haven’t lived or attended school. It’s the second-largest Starbucks in the country (behind one in Seattle) according to some random person who told me that (when I emailed Starbucks to fact check this, a representative named Sarah asked what this was in regards to and when I told her—you aren’t going to believe this—she did not respond).

I tried to calculate how much money in free coffee I’ve received from here and settled on somewhere between $200 to $300. I just counted how many people, baristas or fellow patrons, I met there that I could name and came up with 24.

A fellow writer and I call it our “West Village office,” and I remember when we grabbed a burger at Village Burger Bar next door and he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding (and now they have an adorable little son!). This same publication arranged for me to get my teeth whitened to see if it would help me raise my social stock in this particular Starbucks. I just miss it.

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