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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hold the Coffee @ SPoT Coffee on Elmwood Avenue

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

Simon is back this week, and I am reviewing another coffee destination in my home city of Buffalo.

My boyfriend, Matt, and I visited my parent's house for a three-day weekend earlier this month. More important than meeting my parents, I wanted to introduce Matt to some of Buffalo’s cool, hip assets. On Saturday Jan. 4, Matt and I scouted through the famous Elmwood Village. It's not actually a village, but a vibrant commercial district in northern Buffalo filled with locally owned shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes.

I tried to fit SPoT Coffee's sign in the frame,
but if I backed up any farther into the street,
I am sure car would've hit me.
Matt and I spent more than two hours at SPoT Coffee at 765 Elmwood Avenue. I have to confess, SPoT is actually a publicly traded company with nine locations and blurs the lines between indie and corporate. Despite being headquartered at its Toronto location, the company has most of its cafes in the Buffalo area. Three are in the city, two in nearby suburbs, two in Upstate New York cities and one in coastal Florida.

I am sure some people might accuse SPoT of being a big corporate chain, but I don't think their size is that out-of-control, and from what I've seen, each location is very different from one another and tries to emulate a neighborhood coffee shop. (Granted, I've only visited a SPoT once before my visit to the Elmwood location, and that was a quick stop at the one on Delaware Avenue.)

Instead of reviewing SPoT, the company, I am dedicating this post specifically to the Elmwood Avenue location. (Expect the same treatment for other regionally chained coffee shops. I am looking at you, Pheonix Coffee and Erie Island.)

This beautiful mural of Elmwood Village was the
first thing to greet our eye's at SPoT Coffee.
Location:  Elmwood Village a place founded by hipsters, and taken over by college students and rich single people. It's the kind of place you meet someone for a day-long date and by the end of the day, you'll have sworn you walked a half-marathon. What's more, a strong portion of the shops and restaurants are located inside renovated and repurposed old homes and mansions.

Despite being located inside a one-story, single-use building, SPoT's high roof and streetside facade blends well with its surrounding buildings. 

Nearby curbside parking can be hard to find In Elmwood Village. Not so much the case at SPoT. There's actually two public parking lots within walking distance of the cafe. Parking lots might grind my gears, but they do serve well in accommodating commuters, much like myself.

Because the lighting was so dim where we were eating,
I lit the food using my second smart phone's flash.
Food and Beverages: SPoT carries the traditional wide range of caffeine beverages, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and breakfast items, but it's also known for its selection of gourmet pizza, which presents a valuable option for a group of young hipsters who want to hang out together on a tight wallet.

Matt and I didn't order a pizza. He got a bagel with enough veggie cream cheese to clog someone's sceptic tank,and I ordered a hummus wrap, which you can imagine contained enough hummus to do the same. Together with two 16-ounce coffees and a side salad, we spent a little more than $15 and two quarters.

I am in love with those glass jars on the left.
They have packets of sweetener in them.
Space and Atmosphere: Matt and I were thrown off our feet when we first entered SPoT that Thursday evening. Like most coffee shops we visit, we were expecting a calm and personal atmosphere. What we found was pretty much a crowded date night with colorful walls, bright lights and music almost as loud as a college town bar. We don't normally go to coffee shops after 5 p.m., and I am sure that played a big reason for the unsettling atmosphere. 

We first sat at a small table adjacent to a woman and man of our age who were clearly on a first date. (I think it well because later I saw both walking together toward Downtown Buffalo.)

Don't be fooled. Nearly half were playing video games.
After several minutes, Matt and I found more welcoming space at a a bar stool area near the windows. The seven or eight people sitting there were all on laptops. The softer music, dimmer lights and nearby wall outlets allowed Matt to work on his online test for nursing school and me to therapeutically creep on people walking between stores outside. I've never seen a seating area at a coffee shop so blatantly designed for work. 

Unlike most coffee shop's I visit, SPoT's volume of seating and tables can accommodate groups of up to a dozen people. I know that Saturday I saw one group of nearly ten people crowded comfortably around a large table.

With SPoT's large space, it is no surprise I saw flyers for an upcoming open mic night posted around. (Too bad it was scheduled two days after Matt and I returned to Cleveland. Would've loved to try my stand-up comedy one more time.) 
SPoT keeps a Ken and Barbie doll posted on the women's
and men's restroom doors. Groundbreaking! 

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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