Chef K., owner of MyGi's Bakery Cafe, shapes cakes into giant Ramen packets, plates tapas, and serves gourmet lunches and dinners. Glittering candy buffets coat tables with sweetness and sparkle, and her specialty cakes personalize birthdays. Chef K. sometimes infuses her food with Caribbean influences, but her skill set spans the globe: students can choose to craft sushi, for instance, or cook their food in a Scandanavian hot spring. Chicago native and Ladha Catering owner Chef Tammy joins Chef K. in spreading the joys of international cooking and entertaining in pallet-expanding classes. Whether teaching a novice to perfectly grill a steak or serving brunch to some hungry weekend patrons, the chefs' passion for food and sense of artistry guide their endeavors.
Owner Donna Smith-Grice describes her father Jimmy Smith as drinking his coffee the way he lived his life: "strong and sweet." Inspired by the wafting aromas of his daily coffee pots drifting up from her childhood memories, she opened her own coffee shop and borrowed his first initial to complete the name of the newly born Lazy J Coffee.
In keeping with its homey origins, the café's interior seems more like an eclectic living room than a restaurant, with well-worn leather couches facing a faux fireplace and a small wooden buffet topped with old-fashioned candleholders. Amidst this domestic comfort, baristas steam mugfulls of the shop's signature grind and specialty espresso drinks or fill cups with fruit smoothies that, like recovered cyborgs, are entirely organic.
With such labels as fair-trade, organic, direct-trade, and the like slapped across what seems to be every bag of coffee, it can be hard to determine what’s what. At Crooked Tree Coffee House, however, the game is pretty simple—the shop gets its beans from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, who in turn purchases them directly from growers in such locales as Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. No matter where they're from, the beans are always organic and top-notch; a promise the rosters keep by visiting the plantations, paying a premium for the best beans, and enforcing a rigorous quality-control check before a single bag is sent to Crooked Tree. Back at the shop, a handwritten chalkboard menu of the day's freshly roasted beans hangs over Crooked Tree's counter, letting customers know exactly where their latte, macchiato, or cortado came from. Served in big ceramic cups, the drinks—and the homemade scones and croissants—are meant to be enjoyed within the living-room-like shop, which is fittingly housed inside a renovated cottage. Loveseats, couches, and chairs are scattered across the space's dark wooden floors, surrounded by brightly colored walls and a rotating display of local artwork. On Friday and Saturday nights, the art comes alive in the form of live music performances and paintbrush séances.
It takes a lot of confidence to call yourself the best at anything, and even more to do so with a huge sign. Yet, Oak Lawn Coffee—previously known as Old Dog Coffee—does just that, directing passersby to its shop with a wall-scaling arrow that reads “Best Iced Coffee in Dallas.” It does happen to be cold-brewed from a seasonally changing selection of coffees from the likes of Brazil, Rwanda, Honduras, and Nicaragua—anchored by a spectrum of flavors from lemon drop and salted caramel to orange and rose—so the the claim is likely not far off. Customers can cool off with their iced concoction, or any other of the shop’s fresh-made offerings, atop a wrought-iron chair on the outdoor patio, or lounge on a velour loveseat or armchair amid the renovated space’s display of local artwork. Regardless of where customers sip, Oak Lawn Coffee will give a portion of every purchase back to the neighborhood by donating 10% of its profits to local organizations.
Beams of sunlight filter in through the lush vegetation that surrounds Garden Cafe?s outdoor patio and garden. Such a setting seems almost designed to inspire poetry, and it?s hardly a coincidence that the caf? hosts a regular poetry dinner that pairs a five-course meal with open-mic poetry readings.
If poetry isn?t your thing, Garden Cafe still has you covered with an all-day breakfast and lunch served out on the patio. Popular menu items include house salads, sandwiches, and omelets made with organic and free-range eggs. Though the options are varied, the chefs don?t skimp on any of them. One case in point is the french toast, which is covered in real, organic Vermont syrup and topped with a miniature beret.
Fat Straws isn't making fun of its drinking implements—its straws have to be wide in order to suck out the large tapioca pearls resting at the bottom of the café's bubble teas. The traditional beverage made from Chinese black tea, creamer, and sugar teems with firm, never sticky tapioca balls that infuse each sip with a chewy surprise. For those who prefer a smooth texture, the café creates a slew of artisan teas available hot or iced, along with smoothies, slushes, and shakes, such as the Green Tea milkshake's blend of Japanese green tea and green-tea ice cream.