Great espresso-based drinks are not always easy to come by in Northeast Mississippi, so I was thrilled when I heard about the new AC’s Coffee in New Albany. The attractive little coffee house is located at the head of the new Tanglefoot Trail, a walking and biking trail from New Albany to Pontotoc that follows the right-of-way of the old Kentucky, Ripley and Ship Island Railroad built by Colonel William Falkner (whose son would add a “u” to his name and become a famous writer). On my brief stop at AC’s, I tried a breve latte, and was quite pleased, and was told that they also have frappes, some baked goods, and occasionally live music as well. AC’s has an address on South Railroad Avenue, but there is actually no such street, although it appears on maps. It fronts onto the Tanglefoot Trail, a block south of Bankhead Street, and can best be accessed by parking on Bankhead or North Railroad, and walking down the Tanglefoot Trail until you see the coffeehouse on your left.
Each year on a Sunday, usually in August, the Satchmo SummerFest sponsors a second-line that runs from the St. Augustine’s Church in the Treme neighborhood to the Old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter, featuring Indian tribes, brass bands, the Baby Dolls and various social aid & pleasure clubs. This year’s second-line was scheduled to start at 12:30, and I thought it would start on time, so I felt I didn’t have time for a leisurely breakfast down in the city, and I grabbed a quick breakfast near my hotel at the Tic Toc Cafe in Metairie. With the parking situation so expensive and limited in and around the French Quarter, I decided to park my car up in Treme, close to the start of the parade route, and, fortunately, I had no problem finding a place to park near the Treme Coffeehouse. It was already extremely hot outside, so I grabbed an ice coffee from the coffeehouse, and then started walking down towards the church where the second-line would be starting. Like many other mornings when I had been in the neighborhood before a parade, the Treme was calm and quiet, but with a sort of eager anticipation in the air as well.
When I left out of Pearlz Oyster Bar, I was thinking of how nice it would be if Columbia had a dessert cafe that was open late at night. Looking across Gervais Street, I saw a small cafe with an outdoor sign that was flashing pictures of different kinds of desserts. It proved to be a place called Nonnah’s, which is actually a full-service restaurant in its own right, but the desserts are made in-house and truly amazing. Although they had coffee, with it being so hot, I chose a cold drink instead, and tried the Key Lime Pie, which was very unusual, but very good. Rather than the yellow-green custard type of pie that one usually sees with key Lime, this one was a light, airy whipped pie made from cool whip, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice in a homemade graham cracker crust. A number of other tempting desserts were visible in the glass case. Nonnah’s is open until 11 PM on weeknights, and until 12:30 AM on weekends.
On Friday June 27, I flew into Columbia, South Carolina to be a panelist at the Vocalis Music Industry Conference which was being held over the weekend. With no conference activities scheduled for the the Friday night, I headed downtown to the city’s entertainment district called the Vista. Unlike Memphis’ Beale Street, the Vista District is a large neighborhood, about three blocks wide and perhaps six blocks long along the Broad River, and differs from other entertainment districts in that it has an equal number of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. While there are certainly plenty of live music venues, and liquor is available, there are also plenty of ordinary, family-friendly restaurants, frozen yogurt and dessert shops and boutiques. The place is also extremely attractive, and has little of the rowdy, drunken behavior that other cities often have in their entertainment districts. I decided to eat dinner at the Liberty Tap House, as I remember enjoying it in Myrtle Beach some years ago, and I have to say that I was quite pleased.
New Orleans is absolutely loaded with coffee houses and breakfast restaurants, and somehow I’ve always ended up missing the Who Dat Coffee Cafe. I had never managed to drive past it, and somehow, when I saw it in lists of restaurants, I suppose I always thought it was just a coffee house with maybe a few sandwiches. This time, I read the Yelp reviews, and came to realize that the Who Dat Coffee Cafe serves full breakfasts, and tremendous full breakfasts at that. And like all of the Crescent City’s better breakfast places, it has the charming interior decor, and the sidewalk seating as well. Of course the coffee is first-rate as well, and there are salads and lunch options too. Be sure to pay Who Dat Coffee Cafe a visit on your next trip to New Orleans.
Lafayette is probably second only to New Orleans when it comes to great cuisine, and the city has lots of breakfast choices. But I was especially intrigued by a downtown restaurant called The French Press, which has been called one of the best breakfast restaurants in America. The relatively small cafe occupies a historic building in the downtown area, and has an attractive and inviting atmosphere. Swamp pop music plays from the speakers overhead. The menu is New American and rather trendy, with few traditional breakfast options, opting rather for benedicts, chicken and waffles and grillades. I’m not a huge fan of boudin, but I tried the Cajun breakfast sandwich and it was for the most part really good, although I could have done without the aioli that came on it and that wasn’t mentioned in the menu. As one might expect from a place called The French Press, the coffee was absolutely incredible. Prices are not cheap, but not outrageously expensive either. Altogether it is a trendy and experimental spot for culinary adventurers, but not the place if you just want bacon and eggs or an omelette.
With its late hours (open until 3 AM on weekends), Halcyon is the quintessential coffee bar in downtown Austin, popular at any time, and stuffed to overflowing during South By Southwest. Its location near many of the music venues is part of the attraction, as is its menu, featuring everything from smores and other desserts to breakfast sandwiches and paninis. They play great music too, if you can hear it, but Halcyon is almost always crowded and always noisy, even at 2 AM. But that’s a lot of the fun, as you begin to realize that everybody had the same idea you did…to hit up Halcyon after the last showcases were over.
TOMS began life as a shoe company, making a modified kind of Argentinian shoe for the North American market, and giving a pair of shoes to needy kids abroad for every pair purchased. This “one for one” business model proved popular, and in 2011, the company expanded to eyewear, making eye care and glasses available to the needy. Now, they have expanded again into coffee, with beans imported from Rwanda, Guatemala, Peru and Malawi, making clean, pure water available in developing countries for every pound of beans purchased. The TOMS Roasting Company shop on South Congress Avenue had been closed on Wednesday, but fortunately, on Thursday it was open, and although the line was long, it moved rapidly. Not all the menu items were available, but I was able to try a latte, which was delicious. As it was South By Southwest, a live band was playing on the back patio.
TOMS Store and Cafe
1401 South Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 350-2115 http://www.toms.com
It is possible to find free parking during SXSW if you don’t mind a fair amount of walking, so I parked over on the Eastside, north of 11th Street, and walked down the hill beside the Texas State Cemetery. When I got to 7th Street, I was in the mood for a latte, so I stopped at Vintage Heart Coffee before continuing my walk further down to East 6th Street. There, beside La Perla Bar, I noticed that the Rolling Record Store from Jack White’s Third Man Records had set up on the food trailer lot where the Sailor Jerry’s showcase was going on. I hung out there for a minute, and then walked further down to the Eastern, where a hip-hop showcase was supposed to be taking place.
Back on the downtown side of Town Lake, there were a lot of things going on, particularly a lot of events associated with the Interactive part of the South By Southwest conference. Unfortunately, the Samsung exhibit, which I had hoped to get a look at, was closed for a special private party. I walked around, considering several different places for dinner, and finally settled on one I encountered on Congress Avenue called Annie’s Cafe, which turned out to be part coffee bar and part restaurant. I opted for a bacon cheeseburger, and while my order took awhile because of how crowded everything was, the burger was really good, and the surroundings pleasant. Annie’s menu was somewhat limited, but I did notice that they feature a complete breakfast menu in the mornings.