During his nearly 15 years in the bean-brewing business, James Linton has learned precisely what it takes to beat out the larger, corporatized chains and their assembly-line lattes. "What separates us is customer service … really getting to know your customers, their families, talking to them," he says, recalling a daily customer who lengthens her morning commute substantially just to stop in for her cappuccino. A&J Coffee Shop's baristas prepare their premium lattes and cappuccinos, customizable in 70 flavors, out in the open, allowing the customer to note the care and blown kisses that go into each cup.
James estimates the café's favorable location, within the University of Louisville Health Care Outpatient Center's lobby, generates foot traffic of 3,000–4,000 passersby each day, many of whom stop in, intrigued by the complex aromas of top-shelf espresso beans and fresh café fare. Catering services include a mobile coffee bar that encompasses every coffee drink permutation possible and, all served on elegant, delicate china.
The atmosphere of Bluegrass Blends percolates with the energy that radiates from fresh-brewed coffee drinks and healthy shakes packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Friendly baristas chat with customers as they pull fresh shots of espresso, which form smooth, creamy lattes when topped with steamed milk or frothed with a soprano saxophone. All-fruit smoothies brim with colorful blends of berries and bananas; peanut butter, soy milk, or whey powder hop into the mix to create hearty protein shakes. The café’s libations find sweet and savory counterparts in a menu of baked goods such as muffins, bagels, and all-natural oatmeal.
The menu at Life Bar is designed to keep bodies humming at optimal levels?whether increasing energy, shedding a few pounds, or looking for a vitamin boost. Starting with 100% plant-based super-food smoothies, staffers blend a healthful mix of coconut milk, raw honey, and all organic produce such as ginger and organic pineapple. Add on individual boosters for an extra kick of antioxidants, proteins, or vitamins; bee pollen to promote longevity; and hemp-seed protein to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Customers on the go may use the online app to pre-order drinks.
Inside the cranberry-colored walls of Main Street Coffee and Deli, glass cases brim with house-cured meats that the staff shapes into sandwiches under the supervision of Chef Laurence Agnew. House-made chips accompany handhelds such as the Cuban with black-forest ham or the corned beef with braunschweiger, swiss cheese, russian dressing, and slaw. Aromas of house-roasted coffee beans also fill the café, inspiring diners to sample fresh house cups or contemplate the possibility of patenting a coffee-based cologne.
Nestled inside Mall St. Matthews rests Smoothie Q, a one-stop shop for smoothies and healthy eats such as wraps, salads, and paninis. Whether looking for a low-fat alternative to fast food or grabbing a smoothie on the go, guests can pick up Smoothie Q’s drinks and sandwiches before hitting up retailers such as the Body Shop or asking mall visitors for hair samples.
Between the open mic nights, art shows, and caffeine-fueled student study sessions, you might say there's a bit of a buzz at Blend Coffee. But that's nothing compared to what goes on in the cafe's kitchen. There, chefs spend hours perfecting dishes that are made entirely from scratch and with local ingredients. Morning see the staff whipping up breakfast popovers, maple wraps, and muffins while lunch brings their focus to the crafting of paninis, barbecue pork tacos, and bacon-encrusted fried zucchini sandwiches. A few specialty items even take all day, such as the raspberry chipotle wings, which staff brine, smoke, and sauce in-house. Of course, between all this, the baristas never stop brewing up premium cups of coffee, which helps ensure that the shop's chefs, patrons, and espresso machines stay productive.