After being spoiled in Breckenridge by the excellent coffee (not to mention the view) at Cool River Coffee House and Bakery upon my return to Breckenridge where I discovery that changes have been afoot at my usual Starbucks. The complete turnover of staff, the discovery that one of my favorite regulars is about to move to another state combined with the redecorating that have made the place noisier and less comfortable than it used to be have all contributed to my decision that it is time for a change. So I have set forth on a quest for a new local coffee house.
Here is my criteria:
- Should be within 5-10 minutes by scooter from my house.
- Speaking of “by scooter” there must be a good place to park the scoot preferably within sight of where I’d be sitting. Parking on the patio is one of the perks of the Starbucks I’m looking to replace.
- The ambiance has to be friendly and welcoming, preferably conducive to leisurely conversation. A welcoming group of regulars would be a definite plus. One of the biggest reasons I’ve kept going to the Starbucks up the street for so many years isn’t the coffee but the group of regulars.
- Not too noise, aka no great echoing spaces with hard surfaces that make conversation and/or concentration difficult. By the same token I don’t want someplace that is library quiet either.
- Comfortable seats, armchairs not required but appreciated. I’d like to be able to sit with my sketchpad and draw interesting bits of the room, garden or whatever not just use a computer or a book. Covered patio, atrium, or other outdoor space would be a great too.
- Good strong wifi connection that isn’t over burdened by bandwidth hogs.
- Good coffee should go without saying though frankly if the coffee is decent but it meets every other criteria then I can live with decent but never with bad coffee.
- An interesting and good tasting selection of bakery and other food stuffs for those days when I want or need something to go with my coffee. I have to admit to a fondness for Starbuck’s Classic Oatmeal so similar would be good as well. I’d really like someplace that offers beignets but both of the places within 10 minutes of my house have either closed or moved when their shopping center was relocated. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any place closer than the west side of town near the Beltway 8 that has beignets anymore.
Where to Start? Croissant Biroche French Bakery Cafe
Probably wouldn’t surprise you to discover I started with Google/Bing searching for articles on the best coffee houses in Houston.
I decided to start with the highest rated coffee closest to me – Croissant Brioche French Backer and Café. First issue is the same as there always is in Rice Village – parking. I took this picture with the Vespa in it parked where if I left it more than a few minutes it was likely to be towed. That’s not a deal breaker since I know quite a few places including one across the street that I can tuck the Vespa in without any problems.
Second was that that there is no wifi. The external tables do meet my comfort and interesting things to look at criteria but there are only a few of them. The inside has that echoing box vibe going, enough said.
The other bark against it is the lack of wifi. If you need wifi this isn’t the place for you. It is also very crowded inside the small shop with tables so close together the gentleman at the table behind me had so little room to get out that I had to stand, move to the side of my table and push the chair I was sitting in under the table to let him out.
There did appear to be lots of conversations going on but each pair or group was very much self contained with no interactions not caused by the tight quarters between the tables. Chairs were straight backed dining table chairs so I wouldn’t think you’d want to linger inside though the outside chairs were more comfortable looking.
Coffee was excellent. Probably one of the best lattes I’ve had in Houston, strong with a rich flavor but not bitter. I tried their mocha muffin which was good though there were so many others as well as croissants, brioche, pan au chocolat and other French goodies that are so tempting. While I will definitely go back it won’t become my regular haunt because of the crowded noisy environment and lack of wifi. For a cup of coffee and chat with friends it is definitely someplace I’ll go back to though I’d want to snag one of the outside seats.