I live in a neat little neighborhood in St. Louis City. Known to me as the CWE, known to everyone else as the Central West End.
In the epi-center of this hip, quaint but eclectic little fun-hole in in my hood, (Ha. Oh that sounds just borderline inappropriate…) there’s what we call Maryland Plaza. It’s a couple blocks of shops and restaurants; I’m pretty much in love with this place.
But one thing that has always baffled me is how two coffee shops can exist literally across the street from each other and do so incredibly well. They both are busy all the time. For the longest time I was a huge Starbucks brat. I seriously would turn my nose up at anything other than a white chocolate mocha from February to September but then October through winter I switch it up between a white chocolate mocha/peppermint mocha/pumpkin spice latte. My baristas at the CWE Starbucks always have my name on my cup the second I walk through the door and have my days almost pegged down…giggle. I think that solidifies that I’m adult and have a legitimate addiction to frilly coffee drinks.
Starbucks is where I get the majority of my writing done. There’s just something about the environment of that small little nook with lots of windows and not enough seating. I have to get there prior to 9 am on the weekends if I’m going to find a spot complete with two outlets for my phone and computer charger. Any later, outside I go. Which, when it was warmer, was not bad. Several passers-by, tourists visiting the World Chess Hall of Fame (I know, WTF?) and hung-over party animals stumbling in to try and wake up and start the day. Inspiring in a very simple and unique kind of way.
One night I was at my favorite little bar doing some research, aka downing a shot of patron and a tall blue moon and asking very personal and invasive questions to boys as they watch football. The things I do for my hobby and the things boys will tell you when they are in their environment and see a pretty girl with glasses and no filter. (Blog post to follow) Anyways, I left the bar and I really wanted a coffee. It was about 9:30 p.m. so I needed to go the decaffeinated route. I saw the awning to Coffee Cartel and I thought, “You know what, I’m gonna check this place out”. So in I went. I ordered a Raspberry Truffle Mocha and a Chipotle Chicken Wrap because I was suddenly extremely hungry. The atmosphere was definitely a night and day difference to Starbucks. Hipster College kids cramming for tests, Hipster artists huddled around a table discussing who knows what and random personalities taking it all in on a Thursday night. Neato.
Ok. So Starbucks has plenty of hipsters and studying college kids but just follow me here. It’s my nature to analyze and take stock of my surroundings so I was highly entertained and stimulated. I’m also a professional people watcher and I was in research mode so I was paying extra close attention. I grabbed my coffee and wrap and sat down. The wrap was incredible, the coffee was even better. I”m a sucker for raspberry anyways, I may have been biased, but it was the perfect night cap.
Coffee Cartel is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. UM….yeah. The nights I wake up at 3 am and can’t sleep I can shuffle myself down here and write. Which I did a few nights ago. My roommates are out of town, I was feeling hella lonely and my mind was full of crap that I needed to get out. So at 2 am I threw on some sweats, didn’t brush my teeth and trucked it on down.
Sorry Starbucks, you lose points there. Though I love your inviting, acoustic and low lit environment, I love the fact I can plug in at Coffee Cartel anytime I want. Which is precisely what I’m doing this very second.
It’s a Tuesday and I got here at 5 am. I had a SHITTY day yesterday and needed to decompress. I tried to last night with a woodchuck and hand writing some interview questions but I was irritated and needed to sleep off the funk. When I opened my eyes this morning, there was only one thing I wanted to be immersed in. Well actually two. The other thing is 3.5 hours away…
Since that night, I’ve been switching on and off between Starbucks and Coffee Cartel because I love them both for what they have to offer. Here’s the list:
Waiting in line: I LOVE waiting in line in Starbucks. The music, the conversations of people in front of and behind me, watching the neurosis come out in some people if they have to wait too long or if the Barista accidentally puts whipped cream on their coffee. Oh giggle.
The Coffee: Duh. I appreciate Starbucks in its original format. That means I take mine with whipped cream, whole milk and a smile.
The patrons: The people that come through Starbucks are definitely much better to conversate with than the overly stimulated college kids over at Coffee Cartel, plus the Baristas know me by name and coffee order and it just makes me feel super warm and fuzzy.
The Food: Yum. Enough Said.
Saturday afternoons: There is something about Saturday afternoons there. Book Clubs, young housewives sharing recipes and war stories, families catching up on the week. It’s perfect madness.
Hours: Open 24/7.
Alcohol: Who can’t appreciate a coffee shop that sells specialty coffee drinks with alcohol? Exactly.
Though I have a special place in my heart for both, I will remain Switzerland on who’s coffee is better and will continue to enjoy the smile that each place brings to my face.
This Raspberry Truffle Mocha and being the only kid in Coffee Cartel at 5 a.m. is a pretty good start for a Tuesday.