It must have been almost midnight when I wandered past the new Courier Coffee on SW Oak on Monday. Though the rest of the small shops on the block were shuttered, the lights of Courier Coffee were on and blazing. A woman was behind the counter, baking away. The shop was closed, but a note written in quirky English hung on the door and I stopped to read it:
While I peered at the note, the woman from behind the counter came around and unlocked the door. "Can I help you?" she asked. When I turned out not to be insane she let me in and invited me to look around while she went about baking the next day's goodies.
I spent a lot of time at the shop under its old form, Half and Half, and their surprise closure last spring broke my heart a little since I have a handful of good memories of sitting at their tiny tables surrounded by beautiful people eating pie. The new occupants, local roasters (and Half and Half's suppliers) Courier Coffee, have big shoes to fill if their shop isn't going to be just a sorry reminder of a great little cafe that isn't around anymore.
Courier has made Half and Half's cramped little cafe into a spacious-feeling space. A menu hand-written on a random scrap of brown paper sits on the long, gorgeous oak counter.
The baker, whose name is Leala, chatted with me about her favorite cookbooks and how it's spooky to work through the night in a storefront that feels like an aquarium once the sun sets. She makes the cafe's pastries from scratch and mixes up the menu daily, baking what she feels like at night after pulling an afternoon shift around the corner at chocolate shop Cacao.
I've had Joel Domreis' Courier Coffee before (he roasts it locally and delivers it by bike, hence the name) but I'm terrible at describing food, so I'll just say it was "good." It tastes like "coffee." The menu has a couple fun items—I went back in the morning to try the affogato, a scoop of ice cream covered in espresso. It's delicious. While I sipped the hot vs. cold, creamy drink and bit into a perfect pecan bun, I felt like hanging around for a while.
UPDATE 8/13: Since putting up this post, Courier Coffee has made some changes to make baking safer for Leala. The cafe is putting up curtains and Leala says she will no longer be in the cafe working all alone late at night, but have a friend or a coworker with her.