You’ve no doubt heard of a pub crawl. The plan is to hit bar after bar with a friend. Schlep from cocktail to cocktail to cocktail. Eventually the sidewalk tilts, forcing you to crawl home and worship the porcelain god and look up hangover cures on Google. This was fun in my twenties, but now? Not so much.
My amazing husband scheduled a surprise excursion for me on our anniversary. It wasn’t a pub crawl, though. It was a coffee crawl! (He knows and loves me SO well!) It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things we’ve done this year, and the expenditures didn’t break the bank. If you’re fortunate enough to live in any big city or large suburban area, a coffee crawl adventure is a delicious way to spend the day. First, a few pointers to get you started.
We love the internet. (How did we figure out anything before “Google it” became The Way To Learn Stuff?) You will want to find recent and trustworthy customer reviews on coffee shops in your area. Why? You don’t want to waste time, money and taste buds on a crappy cuppa Joe. Visit websites such as www.yelp.com or www.tripadvisor.com or https://foursquare.com/, enter your city of choice, and make a list of the highest rated shops.
All coffee shops are not created equal. Eschew the local Starbucks chain. Don’t even think about adding Dunkin’ Donuts or Caribou to the list. The goal here is to find a great brew as well as a unique and intriguing atmosphere.
Is there a highly rated café nestled in the back of an art gallery? Go for it! Is there a hidden gem serving a quality roast in the local record store? Put it on the list. One of our favorite shops was located inside a large public library downtown. Another favorite was found in the back of a hipster barber shop (not kidding!).Visit the café’s website and/or Facebook page to get a feel for the atmosphere. Make note of the shop’s specific hours. And plan to go to parts of the city you wouldn’t normally frequent. Be brave, dear mocha lover. Be brave.
Again, we love the internet. Google maps (or Bing maps or whatever online mapping tool you like) makes planning your coffee crawl a cinch. Use the web to plot out the most logical order for your particular adventure. You don’t want to waste precious gas (or public transit fare, or your aching feet) by criss-crossing the city multiple times. Start from the east and mosey toward the west, or plan to travel in whatever direction makes the most sense given your city’s highways and transit options.
Take a buddy or three. Or go by yourself if that’s how you roll. Take some photos, and share them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and your Snapchat story. Make your friends jealous.
Be sure to drink plenty of water between stops. And remember that decaf is always an option! Start with the leaded variety for the first couple of visits, and then switch to unleaded for the remaining beverage orders. You’ll still have to pee all throughout the day, but you’re far less likely to get the caffeine-shakes or a caffeine-induced headache.
Many cafés offer fantastic pastries, artisanal breads, and snacks. Try something new! Did you encounter a cornbread cupcake filled with lingonberry preserves? Yes, please! Find some baklava with a dusting of pistachio? Yum! Skip the traditional blueberry muffin or scone and try something completely different. You just may discover a new favorite! (Note that unless you’re drinking only black coffee and can withstand the temptation of baked carbs, a coffee crawl could be a hard sell to your dietitian. Maybe you can forget to tell her until it’s over.)
Be sure to leave a review of the shop on Facebook, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, too. Small business owners appreciate thoughtful, honest feedback.
Coffee Crawl, Nashville Style
With a city population of roughly 680,000, it’s no wonder there are more than twenty independent coffee shops that dot the Nashville landscape. We visited five of them.
First Stop – Sam and Zoe’s
Eclectic artwork is the first thing I noticed when my husband and I entered this cute shop. Much of the original artwork all over the walls was made, incredibly, from slivers of duct tape (seriously)!
The owners also take laughably bad art from thrift stores and rummage sales, and add their own hysterical artistic details. Picture a dime-store painting of a sunflower in a vase augmented with a dinosaur or a cuddly gremlin.
Since we were there for the inaugural morning cup, I went old school and just had a regular cup of brewed coffee with half-n-half. It was rich, full-bodied, and not bitter; a solid A on the flavor. My husband had a cappuccino, and we each enjoyed a freshly baked pastry.
Second Stop – Crema
Oh. Em. GEEE. There is a reason this café is consistently ranked #1 in all of Nashville. If you’re looking for incredible flavor and a wide variety of beverage options, Crema is your go-to place. They even roast beans right inside the shop, and the manager was kind enough to give us a brief tour during a busy morning. The shop also sells accouterments from Chemex systems to a standard French press, along with the latest and greatest gadgets.
Along with some delectable macarons (not to be confused with macaroons), I enjoyed a pot of delicate elderflower tea. I do love tea, and it was quite tasty. But to be honest, the tea paled in comparison to the Cuban coffee my husband ordered. Espresso and sweetened condensed milk is a match made in heaven, and hubs graciously let me slurp more than half of his.
Crema includes a lovely outdoor seating area. If weather permits, or if you don’t mind a little rain or fog in the brew, the deck offers nice views of the city.
Third Stop – Provence Breads and Café
I am a book nerd, and I love libraries almost as much as I love coffee. Score! This particular location is attached to Nashville’s enormous public library. It was somewhat pricey in the food arena, but it offered a wide variety of delicious artisanal breads and unique dishes. Dining choices ranged from eggs to oatmeal to soup to hummus. I ordered a pot of mint and jasmine tea, which was complex and flavorful.
The wide open windows afford ample people-watching opportunities. There is no shortage of interesting characters that regularly pass by on the busy downtown streets of Nashville.
Fourth Stop – Steadfast Coffee and Roastery
This café is eye candy for java lovers. I indulged in a decaf butterscotch latte and a cornbread muffin filled with fig preserves. Both were sublime. My husband went for the traditional espresso and a streusel-topped pumpkin muffin. Sleek, modern, and bright, this Germantown shop has clean lines and a menu worthy of a Food Network show.
The outdoor tree-laden patio offers pleasant seating on sunny days, and the seasonal menu includes wine, beer, and coffee-themed cocktails.
Man-buns and beards are optional, but warmly welcomed.
Final Stop – Eighth and Roast
Our final café of the Nashville adventure was nice, but the other shops we visited previously overshadowed this one in décor, options, and flavor. I had hoped their Cortado Con Leche would be as good as The Cuban from Crema; it wasn’t. The beverage was good, but I wasn’t unduly impressed with the overall experience. My husband enjoyed his iced latte, and we were too full by this time to sample any more foodstuffs.
Their beverage menu is not quite as expansive as some of the other shops we visited, but they do offer freshly roasted whole bean and ground coffee for home brewing, along with accessories from kettles to Chemex.
Have you orchestrated a coffee crawl? Tell us about it in the comments. And before you dash off a peevish note to the administrator, I admit that there are a number of wonderful cafés in Nashville that we simply didn’t have time to visit. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be forced to do a Coffee Crawl – Part Two. If there’s a great Nashville shop that I simply must include next time around, let us know in the comments section.
Thanks for reading!
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