May 20, 2010

100 Cups of Coffee - The Grand Tour of Denton's Coffee Houses

Any Fans of Futurama reading? If you are, rest assured I'm not going to drink them all in one day, but I am embarking on a multi-part series of reviews of the coffee houses of Denton, Texas.
Are you thinking, "So soon?" (Those of you unfamiliar with sarcasm can read that as, "What took you so long?!")

I know; I know; it's time. Coffee in Denton has come up several times in your comments and has brought feedback in Twitter. Plus, as anyone with eyes (or a nose) can tell, Dentonistas and Dentonistos must love them some coffee. We've gone from having oh, one coffee shop - anyone remember the Karma Cafe? - to having, at my count, six straight-up coffee houses (not counting the 2nd Jupiter House or any of the Starbucks). And, of course, there's any number of places you can get a latte or just a decent cup of coffee. In fact, we've had coffee houses around long enough to morph into other things, like sushi cafes - where you can still get a cappuccino.

So what was the hold up? I'll tell you. As a graduated student and current working commuter, I don't have a routine that includes time reading, writing, studying or socializing at coffee houses, and believe me, I'm sorry I don't. However, I can't continue to ignore this vital part of Denton culture and commerce. So aided and abetted by a friend, M, who is a long-time student, writer and author, we set out to hit all the coffee shops we could think of, and maybe talk to some regulars along the way.

I should tell you too that I'll try to stick to the same thing at each stop – A regular old cup of coffee. I mean, what’s the worst cappuccino you ever had? Add enough frothy milk to any random blend of coffee and you still come up with a ‘big cup of love’ as a friend and former boss is wont to say. So, I’ll be trying their ‘best, dark roast’, letting whoever’s behind the counter decide, in either decaf or half caf. That’s right. I figure if an establishment cares enough to make a good cup of decaf, they’re going to be able to deliver everything else. M? She can have anything her little heart desires.
Today we'll be covering/discussing/reviewing:
And, on my own:
Jupiter House
I'd give you a Web link, but their site is so outdated, it's just not worth it. (Update! They updated the site, and now it's useful: here.) Located on the Square (with a newer satellite on Carroll Blvd at University), Jupiter House is the Big Daddy (or silver back) of Denton Coffee houses. It was the first that opened big (I believe) and opened 24 hours, though not anymore.

Where?106 N. Locust St.
Open 24 hrs?No. 6a to Midnight
What did you drink? Small, Tocano Ultra Violet Vacuum water process decaf
Kinds of cupsIcky Styrofoam to take, but regular mugs for in house
Milk/cream/half&half? Skim/Soy/Almond/H&H - Where's the whole?
PriceHard to find, since they're not posted - $1.75
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?!Honestly? Kind of bitter
What did your friend M get? An Integrated Mocha (Decaf).
That's half white chocolate, half dark chocolate, all delicious
Was it good? OMG! Dessert in a cup
How much? $4.25
Bring Your Own Cup Discount?Yes
Loyalty Card?No
Food or Pastries?Muffins, Breads, Bagels (Breads baked at Ravelin!)
Atmosphere?Exposed brick, soft lighting, lots of tables
Crowd/Scene?Totally mixed. All ages. LOTS of laptops
Study or Socialize?I saw both on a Saturday a.m.
Tea too?Yep
Sidewalk seating?Yes
Live Music?Every Saturday Night
Anything else?Smoothies and Milkshakes!

Jupiter House on Urbanspoon

Hydrant Cafe
The Hydrant is a relative newcomer on the scene, and they already have loyal fans. Comments to the blog and Twitter have alerted me to their presence, and I was happy to step in here on a recent Saturday. I have to say, I'm a fan now. I think this was my favorite joint, on this review cycle.

Where?208 W. Oak St.
Open 24 hrs?No. M-Sat; 7a - 1a
What did you drink? Small, whatever decaf they were slinging
Kinds of cupsIcky Styrofoam to take, but regular mugs for in house
Sugar/honey/raw?Yes/Yes/Yes/ and the Pink/Blue/ Yellow stuff
Milk/cream/half&half? Cream. Asked for whole; they were out. Got 2% from Glen, the owner. Very nice guy
Hard to find, since they're not posted. Again. What's up with that?
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?!Good, not great
What did your friend M get? Hand squeezed lemonade
Was it good? Another winner. Oh man was that good!
How much? $ 2.39
Bring Your Own Cup Discount?Yes - 10%
Loyalty Card?No
Food or Pastries?Breakfast and Soup and Sandwiches. The grilled cheese they were cooking smelled so good, we had to have one. We're not sorry about it either
Atmosphere?Victorian, six-sided white tile, red walls and some really great fire fighter related photos. You have to see it.
Really comfy booths downstairs; couches, upholstered chairs upstairs
Crowd/Scene?Seemed like regulars.
Seems like it would be easy to become a regular too
Study or Socialize?Socialize more, I think. But you could totally study here too
Tea too?Yep
Sidewalk seating?A little
Live Music?Oh yes, and lots more. We came in at the end of a Coffee Lab! (Some sort of tasting clinic.) Check out their calendar. There're even plays going on here!
Anything else?Well Glen made my coffee fresh, with a ceramic over head drip cone. That's pretty cool

Update - I'm sorry to say they're closed. However, Denton Square Donuts has taken over their space, and you might like to try that.
Hydrant Cafe on Urbanspoon

Here's another business that doesn't seem to care about maintaining a Web site. What's up with that? I hope they get it fixed soon. Anyway, we walked right across the street from The Hydrant to Banter. Now, in fairness, I haven't really ever thought of Banter as a coffee house, but M has spent a fair amount of time here drinking coffee and studying, and it was close, so why not?

Where?219 W. Oak St.
Open 24 hrs?Nope. 10a - 12 Midnight
What did you drink? Small, regular house coffee. Why?
Cause they don't-have-decaf!
Kinds of cupsRegular mugs for in house
Sugar/honey/raw?Yes/ Yes/ No/ Pink stuff/ Yellow stuff
Milk/cream/half&half? Cream
Price$1.00 A dollar!
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?!Good, not great.
What did your friend M get? Iced Green Tea
Was it good? Very refreshing
How much? $1.75
Bring Your Own Cup Discount?No
Loyalty Card?No
Food or Pastries?Breakfast - all day, Lunch and Tapas - Thurs thru Sat.
We tried another grilled cheese, the Jilled Cheese, to be exact.
Cheddar, Bacon, and horse radish mayo panino. Fancy.
Honestly, not as satisfying as the plain Jane version at The Hydrant
Atmosphere?Exposed brick and stuccoed pine with school-house surplus chairs and lots of tables. Couches too.
Humid the day day we were there, with the doors open.
Crowd/Scene?Younger. Students and hipsters
Study or Socialize?It was quiet. Study and work
Tea too?Yep
Sidewalk seating?Yes
Live Music?Yes. Poetry readings too, M tells me. Oh M!
Anything else?You know what? I'd say they're less coffee and more Beer or Wine and food, and that's not a bad thing . Might be nice to grab an adult beverage and park it on one of the couches.
Happy hour 4-7 every day

Banter on Urbanspoon
Big Mike's

Well M had to motor, but I did want to add Big Mike's to the inaugural lineup. Big Mike's is the newest venture of Mike Sutton. Located in the space his Voyager's Dream shop used to occupy, this coffee shop seems to be a going venture. You know I love recycling. And you know I love local (and independent) businesses, so I'm really happy to tell you about Big Mike's coffee.

Where?1306 W. Hickory. Near Voertman's, at the edge of UNT campus
Open 24 hrs?Yes
What did you drink? A small half caf
Organic?Organic, fairly traded, locally roasted coffees!
Kinds of cupsStyrofoam, but paper is coming... Mugs for in-house
Sugar/honey/raw?Yes/Yes/ Yes/Yellow stuff/Pink stuff
Milk/cream/half&half? I had to ask for whole milk, but the nice employee passed me his gallon jug, over the counter with no trouble.
Price12 oz of coffee for $1.28
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?!Wow! This was a really good cup of coffee. I got a 12 oz., half caf coffee (which turned out to be, the regular brew and some decaf Espresso Americano, "Decaf's not really popular around here.") To which I added a bit of raw sugar and whole milk and passed on the plastic lid.
I finished that bad boy as I was browsing silly birthday cards from The Onion - at Voertman's. I have to say, my morning was much the better for it
Bring Your Own Cup Discount?Yes. And you definitely want to, so you can give the Styrofoam cups a pass! Regular mugs for in-house drinking
Loyalty Card?No
Food or Pastries?Organic bagels!
WiFi?Yes. And, it's secure. Ask a barista for the network key
Atmosphere?A little grotty, honestly.
Playing some interesting and dirty, lo-fi rock, when I was there. Like Hendrix joined Iron Butterfly.
Crowd/Scene?Mac-toting students and hippies!
Study or Socialize?Oh both, I'd say
Tea too?Yes, locally crafted no less
Sidewalk seating?No, but a bike rack!
Live Music?No, but you're very likely to hear local artists being played
Anything else?Smoothies, a free community meeting space, and twice-filtered water!

Big Mike's Coffee on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Thanks for correcting! :)

On a side note, you are doing a lovely job. And yes, I'm perfectly fine with you not publishing either comment. :)

-Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista said...

LOL! It's true my dears, this anonymous commentor helped me correct a point on my review (and cost me a good joke, too, damnit)!

Thank YOU Anonymous for taking the time AND for reading! Any suggestions for my next stops?

kelsnotchels @ said...

Awesome reviews, and GREAT blog! :D

I'm happy to be reading!

I had no idea big mike's place turned into a coffee shop. (I haven't been to fry street since graduation) :D

Can't wait to try out the Hydrant and Big Mike's after your recommendations! :D


-Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista said...

Thank YOU for reading, Kelsey! Feel free to let us know what you think about the coffee you drink.

Shelley said...

I'm not in Denton, but sometimes in Dallas....and coffeehouses seem to me one of the most civilized institutions on earth!

LewisvilleHounder said...


I am into teas so I was curious who does the locally crafted teas they sell at Big Mike's??

-Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista said...


Good question. A woman named Mary Smith - if you can believe it - and if you drop by, they sell it in bulk!

Christine said...

Hi there,

You are the Denton ambassador, for sure! Thanks for all the reviews, and also sharing them on Urbanspoon!

As Urbanspoon's new community manager, I'd like to invite you to claim your blog on the site. It'll pave many ways to greatness :)

Feel free to email me christine {at} urbanspoon {dot} com if you have any questions. Cheers and happy spooning!