While walking around downtown Charlotte, I happened to notice Bar Cocoa, a swank dessert bar adjacent to the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Lured inside by the beautiful cakes in the window, I had a hard time choosing between cupcakes, gelato, truffles, macaroons or slices of cake. I ultimately settled for a chocolate cupcake and a cup of coffee, which I took down into the lobby bar, where a smooth jazz/neo-soul band called 5th and York was playing. Deciding to hang out awhile, I ordered another cup of coffee from the lobby bar, and was amazed (and thrilled) to see it brought in a french press. Altogether, my evening at Bar Cocoa was very pleasant, and from what I could tell, there is a food menu as well.
201 East Trade Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Even the best things end eventually, and Monday morning was my last morning in Atlanta before going back to Memphis. A3C was over for the year, but I called my homeboy Fort Knox and invited him to breakfast at a place called ADios Cafe, which I had seen during Flux Night. The cafe is affiliated with the No Mas Hacienda and Cantina, which is a Mexican housewares store and restaurant in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, so the cafe, which sells coffees, desserts and breakfasts has a pronounced Mexican theme. Nevertheless, they do sell traditional American style breakfast items as well, but the interesting things are the dishes with a slight Mexican twist, such as blue corn pancakes. The coffee is imported from Mexico, very delicious, and available to take home ground or in whole bean pound bags. It was too early to try desserts, but they looked absolutely incredible, and the ADios Cafe also features fine chocolates under the brand Chocolate of the Gods. The cafe is open every day from 8 AM-10 PM.
When the jazz band had finished playing on the rooftop at The Reserve, I walked back down to Noni’s Village and caught the shuttle back to the Melia Hotel, intending to head to the Quad, which was trending. But A$AP Ferg was performing there, and 2 Chains had tweeted that he intended to perform there, despite not being on the schedule, and the crowds that showed up resulted in hundreds of people milling around the Spring and 4th Complex entrance, and six Atlanta police cars parked out front as well. So I changed my mind and drove to Cafe Intermezzo for a late night cup of coffee and slice of dessert. With the weather so pleasant, I was able to sit out on the sidewalk promenade, and one of the improvements at the new location is the extensive amount of front outdoor seating. There’s really no better way to end a day in Atlanta.
Finding espresso and cappuccino has never been easy in the Mississippi Delta, but it is getting easier thanks to the opening of new coffee bars like Crave Bistro in Cleveland, Mississippi. As the name suggests, Crave is not only a coffee bar, but also a full restaurant open for breakfasts and lunches, and it also features a selection of sweets and desserts, including cupcakes. I tried a chocolate one, and found it irresistibly delicious, if a little messy (eating them in your car is NOT advised). Crave closes at 5 PM, so get there early!
I have discussed Clarksdale’s superb Yazoo Pass coffee bar elsewhere, so here it is sufficient to report that they have added a full dinner menu that includes steaks and hamburgers. During any Clarksdale festival, the Yazoo Pass is the place to be. During Juke Joint Festival, it was a refuge from the unseasonable cold, and this weekend, during Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Fest, it was a refuge from the heat, with both frozen coffees and frozen yogurt as well.
I was not at all thrilled when I heard last November that Atlanta’s Cafe Intermezzo would be moving from its long-time location in upper Midtown on Peachtree to a location in a hotel closer to downtown. Ostensibly, the move had something to do with lack of parking at the traditional location, but I imagined that parking would be even more cramped (or expensive) in the area near Peachtree and 10th they were moving to. After visiting the new location last weekend, I have to be honest and admit that there are some things I like about the new spot. They validate parking, so parking is free for the first two hours (but it is $20 afterwards, so beware!). The new location doesn’t seem quite as cramped, and while there is no back patio, there is plenty of outdoor seating in true European coffeehouse style. The dessert case seems smaller at the new location, and there seem to be fewer dessert choices, but the drink menu hasn’t changed a bit, and while the new location seems more crowded (the popular Vanquish nightclub is across the street from it), the atmosphere is pretty much the Intermezzo I’ve always known. So while I will always miss the original, I’m not as disappointed with the new location as I expected to be. As always, Intermezzo is a must-visit when in Atlanta, and is open until 3 AM on weekends.
Until I visited Calle Ocho in Miami, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as Cuban ice cream, but it was really hot on the Saturday we were there, and we saw a place called Azucar Cuban Ice Cream that we had to try. So what is Cuban ice cream? To me, it’s a lot like gelato as far as texture, but with a lot of unique tropical flavors. It was very good and very refreshing on such a hot day.
Anyone who goes to the Florida Keys probably wants to try key lime pie. The delicacy is ubiquitous throughout the keys (and far beyond them, these days), and if a sign is to be believed, the pie was invented in Key West in 1856. Indeed, the dilemma in Key West is not finding a place to get Key Lime Pie, but rather deciding which one to try. With no scientific method available to me to aid in making my choice, I resorted to the handy Yelp app on my iPhone and picked a spot based on which one had the best ratings on Yelp. Totally unscientific, of course, and subject to tampering by owners and employees, but that method resulted in me going to the Key Lime Pie Factory, and their key lime pie seemed very good indeed. They also have key lime rum cake (which they let me sample), and just about anything else that can be made with key limes (even key lime craft sodas). It’s a really cool spot, and worth a visit.
Hey Cupcake is a fleet of cupcake-selling food trucks that offer a really sweet break from the serious party or music business of SXSW. Many Austinites claimed there were better cupcakes in town, but those at Hey Cupcake were large, fresh and satisfying, and there’s also something to be said for convenience. I’ve seen at least three Hey Cupcake trucks in Austin, one that’s usually on Sixth Street in the thick of the party, one in the food truck lot south of Cesar Chavez Street near the Rainey Street entertainment district, and a third in the trendy SoCo neighborhood on South Congress. There is one down side to Hey Cupcake, which is that when flavors sell out, they seem to be unavailable until the next day (and this happens frequently). Particularly vulnerable to this is the “Michael Jackson”, a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing that is both sinful and addictive. When in Austin, pay them a visit.
East St. Louis native Terreon Gulley is a highly-regarded young jazz drummer based in Atlanta who often plays with his fellow Eastsider trumpeter Russell Gunn. However, Gulley rarely plays in Atlanta, so it was a real treat to catch his all-star group of friends and associates at the Apache Cafe in Atlanta on Friday January 4. Gulley’s super-band played a style of jazz that is ostensibly straight-ahead, but clearly informed by hip-hop, gospel, soul and other contemporary styles. The best and brightest of Atlanta’s young jazz scene also came out to sit in. As for the Apache Cafe, there’s always something worthwhile going on there, so visit them at http://www.apachecafe.info/ to check their schedule, hours and menu. Let me add that the oreo cheesecake is to die for, as is the french-pressed Nicaraguan coffee infused right at your table.