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Who wants to cook? Let’s go out to eat. See where News-Herald staff members dined and where they go to unwind in our area. You might just find a new treasure in your own neighborhood.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hold the Coffee @ Dog Ears Bookstore & Cafe

EDITOR’S NOTE: To read the latest posts on Simon’s coffee shop adventures, visit his blog at

This week I am broadening my hunt for indie coffee shops to include a secret gem on the city of Buffalo's south side.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I am born and raised in Buffalo and I make infrequent visits to the Queen City to meet family and check out all of the up-and-comings in the city. Throughout the months, you'll see a few blog entries dedicated to indie coffee shops in Buffalo.)

Yes, that is my younger brother Adam
pictured in the blue hoodie.
Dogs Ears Bookstore & Cafe, at 688 Abbott Road, is part-bookstore, part-coffee shop and all not-for-profit goodness. It shocks me more coffee shops haven't applied for 501c3 status. I know I am not speaking only for myself when I say people love patronizing coffee shops that invest in civic matters versus profits.

For Dog Ears, all of the proceeds from the coffee shop go directly to support the Enlightenment Literary Arts Center, located upstairs in the building, according to their website. (I don't know what the center does, and quite frankly, I don't care. The name sounds wonderful.)

I visited the coffee shop with my younger brother, Adam, Nov. 27, during my trip back home to Buffalo for Thanksgiving week. It wasn't my first time at Dog Ears. I've shared a meal their once before this summer with a friend who is a producer for one of Buffalo's TV news stations, and I also visited the place a couple times when it had a different owner and was called Caz Coffee Cafe. That shop closed down in 2012 and the bookstore took over the entire building some months afterward.

Here's part of the bookstore in the back,
but half of the bookshelves are woven incredibly well
into the coffee shop's dining areas.
The new management hasn't taken down or altered the old sign above the door, which could fool people into thinking it is still called Caz Coffee. At least that was what I thought that Wednesday when I was searching the place on my phone.

Below is my breakdown of the coffee shop:

Location - For those who don't know Western New York--South Buffalo and especially this portion along Abbott Road--is not often a highlighted destination for young, hip people to hang out. Buffalo's Elmwood Village, Allentown, Hertal Avenue, Chippewa Strip and more recently Canalside, Amherst Street and Larkin District are the spots people scope out for a good time. (And I haven't been to half of those places, of course.)

Dog Ears is one of a few businesses nestled between residential streets and in close proximity to a major park and hospital. That's part of the charm of Dog Ears. It's a very walk-friendly destination for the thousands of nearby residents and employees in South Buffalo. It works well with neighborhoods, even when patrons--myself included--are forced to park along residential streets because Dog Ears has no parking lot.

Look at these massive monsters!
Food and Beverage - Dog Ears offers a wide range of lunch-time meals and hot and iced beverages for coffee and non-coffee drinkers. Most importantly, the beverages come in gargantuan mugs. So gregarious, that the camera on my smart phone couldn't stop shooting photos.

Not to be overly pious about the "not-for-profit" status, but my brother only spent 20 bucks and some change for both of our quesadillas and our 16-ounce chai latte and cappucinno. That's pretty affordable cuisine for an urban indie coffee shop.

Space - In addition of adding more seating in the back of the building, Dog Ears made some noticeable interior improvements to the coffee shop since Caz Coffee left. It integrated its bookshelves nicely with the cafe's tables, fostered more open space, and most importantly, introduced me to the art of eco-friendly design: turning used doors into tables.  They are both beautiful and reused.

Why don't I see this more often?
Yes! Those are indeed coffee beans inside the
rectangular indents of the door. Groundbreaking!
Despite the added seating, I would advise to bring no more than three friends with you to Dog Ears, especially when the outdoor tables are unavailable because of a blustery Buffalo winter.

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