While I was on my very lengthy Christmas vacation, I had the chance to something I love. I got to do quite a bit of it too. I frequented the coffee shops in Hutch. I think one of my favorite moments of the whole experience has to be the moment I step inside and breathe in the pungent fragrance of good coffee. Somehow, there is nothing quite like it.
Coffee shops blend some of the things I love in life into one great experience. Music and other art somehow seem to enjoy hanging out with coffee. I like when those things hang out together. It seems that they like each other and I’m glad they get along.
The inspiration came after I had some very bad coffee. It was from another coffee shop in Hutch that I won’t bother going back to. I got a white chocolate mocha from Cool Beans, a hippie coffee/sandwich shop, and drove down town on Main Street where I sat down to read on a bench. Cool Beans is decorated pretty cool if you want to know, especially if Jimi Hendrix, the Alman Brothers, and Bob Dylan make you feel nostalgic, but I’m not going back. The coffee was horrible. They also closed at 2:00 p.m. that day so that was lame as well. Now it doesn’t really matter to me when they close.
When I go to a new coffee shop, I like to get the white mocha because it’s usually pretty good no matter where I go. This one was so bad that I dumped it onto the pavement before I was done with it. And I tried to drink it. I really did. I think I was almost half done, but in the end I couldn’t accept something so much worse than mediocrity. I’m pretty convinced that it wasn’t just a fluke because I had one from the Cool Beans in Sterling and it tasted almost as bad as this one. Honestly, it was worse than the coffee that gets brewed at the shop where I used to work. And that’s saying something.
The three coffee shops in Hutchinson that I most often visit are Metropolitan Coffee on the corner of 17th and Loraine, Starbucks on 17th just down the road from Metro, and Brooks on Main. The tradition of going to coffee shops, for my friends and I, started one Friday evening when there was really nothing happening. I wanted something to be happening.
I called up some of my friends to see if they wanted to go to a coffee shop to just hang out and talk. We decided to go to Brooks, a coffee shop on Main Street that had recently opened. The reason we decided on that particular one was because Metro often had live music on Friday nights. I love live music, but we all knew that if the main reason was to talk and enjoy each other’s company, live music would only be distracting, and ultimately, a little frustrating. Thus began a tradition of hitting Brooks on Friday nights.
We had so many good times there and talked about so many things. We laughed a lot, of course, but we also had many good discussions about life. We grew pretty tight as a group of friends and some of the people in the group varied quite a bit occasionally. There were four of us, however, that were nearly always there.
Afterward we would often walk Main Street and find interesting (sometimes stupid) things to do. This involved exploring dark alleys and walking down the sidewalks watching the interesting things that people do later at night. All this to say, coffee shops have a way of bringing people together in a very enjoyable way. I like the way its atmosphere seems to inspire discussions. The people that come in, and the interaction I see between them. There is really nothing like good coffee, especially on a cold, wet day.
I have decided to write a short review on each coffee shop that I frequent or have at one time frequented. Along the way, I will remember some stories. Even though, it would be cool, I won’t even pretend to be a coffee critic. I know a few things about good coffee, but I don’t consider myself a seasoned critic.
First off, Brooks on Main is a pretty small coffee shop. It is located on Main Street among other quaint shops and fits the “quaint” profile itself. It has ornamental and fairly old decorations. I like it because the place itself feels old. Brook has made itself an outlet for artists to be able to show off some of their art. So even though the building is old, a lot of the art on the walls is pretty modern.
The coffee is good. I confess I have tried very few things there. The first time I went, I tried a Shot in the Dark, which is a cup of brewed coffee, with two (?) shots of espresso in it. It’s shocking and very bold, to say the least, but it was way better than I expected. In fact I liked it a lot and I never deviated from it all the times that I went there.
I have problems getting anything else when I find something I really like. Jared liked to dis me for my lack of variety or willingness to try something else, but it never did any good. Whenever I thought about trying something else, I couldn’t help but thing how much I would miss my Shot in the Dark. I have tried other people’s drinks that they ordered though, and they were all tasty. When I go to a certain place and have good memories attached to it, I tend to get the same thing, again and again, etcetera. One of the downsides is that they sometimes have odd hours so that can be a bit of a pain.
Starbucks on 17th: so good, yet so commercial. They have preppy and modern decorations on their walls but in spite of all that, you can’t shake the fact that it still feels like it’s part of a large chain that circles the world, and that if you were to go to any other Starbucks, you would likely even find the same wall decorations and paint patterns. I like coffee shops to have a personality of their own and Starbucks just doesn’t have that. Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t make so their coffee any worse. In fact, their coffee is fantastic. A white chocolate mocha from Starbucks makes me salivate as I think about it.
I have had great times with friends there, but Starbucks falls very short on atmosphere. Part of it is the crowded interior. Coffee shops should have an atmosphere that makes you want to stay there: to grab a book, chat with friends, think about life, write a little. The atmosphere in Starbucks lacks inspiration. It seems like they would rather sell you a lot of overpriced merchandise than make good coffee.
My opinion is that a coffee shop must have good coffee and have good atmosphere to be top notch. They have done a fantastic job of making a world-wide chain, and that works if you don’t have the time to sit there and actually enjoy the coffee shop’s character along with your coffee. But that’s why, if I have a choice, I usually go just down the street to my favorite coffee shop, not to mention one of my favorite haunts in all of Hutchinson, on the corner 17th and Loraine: Metropolitan Coffee.
Part of what makes Metropolitan so great is its excellent facility. They have a lot of room to put nice furniture (big chairs, soft couches, and they have spacious walls with a lot of room for art, which makes the place look excellent. The part of the shop that is closest to the coffee bar is mostly tall tables and chairs.
The room is divided roughly in half by a wrought iron fence or barrier that looks very classy. This part of the floor is also raised and carpeted so it has a bit of a different feel. There are tables in this part too, but the cool thing about this section is that it has a lot of nice big chairs close to some large picture windows. Also in the farthest corner is a fireplace with chairs and couches surrounding it. The are in front of the fireplace is usually cleared away when live music events are being held there. The electric lights are usually pretty low because there is quite a bit of natural light from the windows.
Metropolitan has changed management several times and the latest managers seem to be doing a very nice job with the place. Their baristas are friendly and do an excellent job with the drinks. They seem to have a good amount of business as well. I have also had their loose leaf tea a couple of times which is tasty as well. The first time I drank it I didn’t really know how to use the little brewing pot/pitcher/apparatus/container thing, which I later learned is called a loose leaf tea strainer, and ended up looking like a dufus.
The pony-tailed barista had gone back to his work and had his back to me. I didn’t feel like interrupting him just to tell him I was stupid. Apparently I decided by default to stand dumbly there while trying to figure it out in the meantime. He saw me standing close to the coffee bar, and I suppose I had that “I just ordered something about which I’m clueless” look on my face , as I stood there trying to figure out how, or if this thing would actually be giving me tea.
“Oh! Sorry, have you every used one of these?” he asked.
I assured him that I hadn’t, nor had a clue how to run one of them. I didn’t have a license for it either. Anyway, he explained it to me and then it was easy. You really need to use one sometime just because of how cool they are–even if you don’t like tea.
It made me feel sophisticated to walk over to my friends with my strainer pitcher of brewing tea and my insulated cup into which I would then strain the tea because I think they were all drinking coffee. Don’t ask me to explain why because I don’t know, but it just made me feel superior having loose leaf tea brewing in a strainer instead of the normal coffee. Maybe it was the way they looked twice at what was in my hand when I walked over. It’s fun to feel sophisticated sometimes, even if you aren’t.
Anyway, Metro has been the scene of many good times with my friends. I like going there when I want to hang out with people, be by myself with a book, or blog a little. The place feels warm and friendly, and can be really busy, or very relaxed and lazy with barely anyone showing up, depending on what time of the day you are there. It is also open until 11:00 p.m. which is also very cool.
I think, of all the coffee shops in Hutchinson, Metro has the best combination of atmosphere, coffee, and location. It is nice and close to a lot of the other places I go in town, so that is another great thing about it. Of course, if the best coffee was all the way across town, I would go there to get it anyway. What else could I do? It’s a matter of principal.
Photo Credit: Aaron Mast (Patrick Dugan’s Coffee House, Garden City, KS)