It’s so cool when online friendships become offline meet-ups, particularly when they happen in fabulous new places. Our Twitter pilot friend PJ just happened to be flying from his home town of Houston to Austin to see Alton Brown when we were in the area. PJ suggested we have dinner at Searsucker.
Searsucker is one of the newer eateries in the Warehouse District, and the 7,000-square-foot space fits in beautifully with the other eclectic offerings. The decor is vintage Americana meets Anthropologie, and I just wanted to move right in. I’m already figuring out how I can translate the style to our RV!
Our small plate selections included Lobster Mac & Cheese and Spicy Shrimp & Cheddar Bacon Grits.
Chef Brian Malarkey is a “Top Chef “finalist and is currently a judge/mentor on ABC’s new cooking competition show “The Taste” along with Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre. His New American menu at Searsucker is innovative and interesting. The “small” plates are actually full-size meals, something PJ and I wished we realized before we ordered four of them! (Mike, a less adventurous eater, stuck with steak and potatoes.) Everything was delicious, and the service was attentive and friendly.
Dessert was the King Sundae. We skipped the caramelized bacon but thoroughly enjoyed the PB Cup ice cream, bruleed bananas, whipped cream, and Cracker Jack bits.
PJ was super excited when Chef Malarkey strolled by our table. He’s apparently not always in the house. We asked our waitress if we could meet Chef, and he came out soon after our request, shaking hands and posing graciously for pictures. PJ was thrilled! Between meeting Chef Malarkey and seeing Alton Brown later in the evening, it was quite a night for him! We were glad to part of the whole thing, especially getting to know PJ in person and enjoying an amazing dinner in an amazing city.
Winter in Milwaukee is never a treat, and with a polar vortex descending on the city not once, but two times, this winter’s been worse than ever. The coffices in town have done a great job of making their places even more welcoming to compensate for the dismal conditions outdoors. Urban Joe Café, in West Allis, for example, serves warm apple cider that takes the chill off as you sink into a cushy, overstuffed chair – after plugging in and connecting to the free Wi-Fi, of course.
With only 50 seats, Urban Joe’s is small, but the thoughtful layout and muted earth tones make it feel spacious. Owner Joe Tairi is very friendly. If it’s not too busy, you might just find him tapping away at his own laptop across from the counter. Come for lunch as well as work because the sandwich selection is excellent, including vegetarian options. Everything is made with fair-trade or organic ingredients as much as possible.
West Allis is named for Edward P. Allis, who ran a late 19th century Milwaukee manufacturing firm. From Urban Joe’s giant windows, looking through the falling snow, the historic facades of the Greenfield Avenue business district create a softly blurred picture of the city in Allis’s time. If you squint, you can almost see men in top hats and women in bonnets strolling by the shops.
Urban Joe’s is exactly what a coffice is supposed to be: a comfortable place to work with good food and drink and a refreshing view. Well done, Joe. Well done.
Las Vegas’ independent coffee shop culture has been growing, and Grouchy John’s is a great example of that. Grouchy John’s began as a mobile coffee truck. In late 2011, namesake owner John Ynigues opened up a brick-and-mortar location in Henderson, complete with a drive-thru, and Grouchy John’s was promptly voted Best New Coffee Shop in 2012 by Las Vegas WEEKLY.
Like many of these independent shops, Grouchy John’s firmly believes in community partnerships. So, the coffee is brewed with beans from Colorado River Coffee Roasters in Boulder City, and pastries come from neighborhood bakeries. The idea is to support good people and local businesses so the money stays in the community. That’s one of the primary reasons I like to work in these places.
Of course, ambiance is just as important as what’s in the cup, and Grouchy John’s is definitely a creative gathering space. It’s very homey. Games and books are available for your entertainment. If you need to pick up a gift with your latte, Grouchy John’s has pieces from local artists on the walls that are available for purchase. If you’re a social media passionista, following Grouchy John’s on Facebook or Twitter will make you privvy to specials and give you glimpses of shenanigans going on at the store.
Those wanting to use the free Wi-Fi can plant themselves at a high countertop by the window or at one of the small tables. Those looking for conversation can relax on leather couches. Grouchy John’s an excellent place to get away from the chain experience and give your hard-earned dollars to a locally owned neighborhood shop.
Even though we were in Vegas to celebrate Christmas and the new year, there was still work to be done. This time, though, I knew exactly what coffice I wanted to work at. I’d first visited The Beat Coffeehouse when I was the City Leader for CRAVE Las Vegas, a coffee table book project for women entrepreneurs, and I’d attended lots of meetings there. The vibe is relaxed; you can perch your laptop on the counter while you eat or grab a couch and get comfy. As a bonus, it was within walking distance of our temporary home at Main Street Station.
The independent coffeehouse at Sixth and Fremont, just two blocks from The Fremont Street Experience, is a gathering place for those who live and work in downtown Vegas. Along with the requisite free Wi-Fi for customers, The Beat has small menu with eclectic food, coffee drinks and a nice selection of beer and wine in the evening. The space in the Emergency Arts building includes a vintage store and creative businesses, including galleries and artist studios.
My favorite munchie at The Beat is the Slap & Tickle sandwich, a hipster twist on the classic PB&J with peanut butter, homemade jam, crisp bacon and optional jalapeño slices to kick things up a notch. Paired with some iced tea, it’ll take you through your afternoon to-do list. And, you can easily take quick breaks to people watch out the window while you’re getting things done.
If you’re ever in Historic Downtown Grapevine, Texas, be sure to stop for lunch at Tolbert’s on Main Street and have an order of Donkey Tails: two all-beef hot dogs, stuffed with cheddar cheese, wrapped in flour tortillas, lightly fried and served with Tolbert’s salsa and mustard sauce. Yum-o!
It seems that all the great artists have a cocktail or drug of choice. Hemingway had his martinis. Andy Warhol had his Obetrol. Hunter S. Thompson mixed things up with Chivas, Dunhills and acid.
Not to put myself in the same category as those famous ones, but I, too, have an obsession – with caffeine. For this Coffice Girl, the current delivery mechanism is a Skinny White Chocolate Cappuccino. There’s plenty of buzz to fuel my work, and I keep the calories low with non-fat milk and sugar-free syrup. The white chocolate flavor adds a touch of indulgence, making me feel like I’m splurging.
What’s your fave treat to make your workday productive?
A dreamy five-course Alsatian dinner at Rêve Patisserie and Café celebrates “The Art of French Pastry” and inspires an amateur baker. Read all about it over at Moxie Girl Productions.