Coffeehouse Love I am not an avid coffee drinker but I have a thing for local coffee shops. Seriously. Accordingly, I have just completed my own little tour of St. Louis coffee shops. I’ve checked out at least one new spot weekly since January and come to the following conclusion – A great cup of Joe has more to do with the environment – the baristas, interior, vibe and the art on the walls – than anything else. Good tasting coffee is just icing on the cake. Barista Did I mention that baristas are kind of a big deal? They are on the front line of an enjoyable coffee dining experience. They are what I like to call starters of a great day. Just think about it. Have you ever gone into a coffee shop and the person at the counter was meh or blah? I haven’t. “Hi” and “What can I get for you today” are automatic, standard operating procedures yet sincere and genuine. Which is great of course. However, I have found that baristas at smaller, local coffee venues take things a step further by engaging in conversation, eagerly wanting to answer any questions about coffee or the brewing process (they really know their stuff) and even remembering to refer to you by name. Last month at Comet Coffee, for instance, the barista came by my table and said,”I figured that your latte has gotten cold so I made you a fresh one. The flavor is the most robust when piping hot. Enjoy.” Wow! Talk about great customer service. Interior A coffee shop has got to be aesthetically pleasing on the inside if I am going to give them my hard earned cash and to stay for a while sipping a latte or whatever the drink of choice. With that said, St. Louis coffee shops get high marks for their interiors, which provide the ambiance that I enjoy. For the lovers of all things (and interiors) retro, eclectic and vintage, check out Restituo, which is Latin for “refresh” and “renew”, located in Tower Grove. It is really a trip down memory lane with the mismatched array of seating. There is a red school bus bench, a plush, mustard yellow, velvet wingback chair, and some colorful aluminum table and chair sets that were all the rage in the 70s. Add the oodles of art (I mean from floor to ceiling) and you have basically stepped back in time. It is a really cool spot that you should experience for yourself. There is nothing plain nor ordinary about this brewhouse and each cup of coffee is served in a handcrafted ceramic mug made by the owner, Nicole McCormack. No wonder it was voted #1 coffeehouse in St. Louis in 2015 by the Riverfront Times. Vibe Blueprint Coffee in the Delmar Loop has the best vibe. Hands down. It is trendy, hip, and cool. As the name suggests, it is decorated with a sea of blue tables and accent artwork. It’s not too noisy and has the best background music hands down, so much so that you would think that there is a DJ somewhere in a corner. In fact, trying to not dance out of my seat or to sing out loud is a challenge whenever I dine in. Art Being an artist myself, I may be a bit biased but my coffee experience is never complete without artwork, and the St. Louis coffee shops are great in that they pride themselves on promoting local artists. Take a look at Living Room, a popular coffeehouse in Maplewood. It support local visual artist by showcasing their artwork on the walls and even hosting small openings. They work exclusively with the art studio right next door called Living Arts. Living Arts is a wonderful, creative space/studio for people with disabilities to create works of art to sell. The artwork currently for sale and on display at Living Room is by Gus Mclean. They are nicely framed mixed media (watercolor,oil,pastels,pencil and sumi ink)abstracts. There will be an opening for him later this month.