Coffee Shop Quest


Historically, many authors were cafe habituates. Think Paris. Think Sartre, Fitzgerald, de Beauvoir, Baldwin. Today, writers and coffee shops are similarly symbiotic. The same can be said for many readers. While most book aficionados are not writers, I defy you to find a serious writer who is not a serious reader. (For my recent favs, see below.) Go to any coffee shop and observe latte sipping writers hunched over laptops or notebooks, readers lost in a book, be it hardcover, paperback, or ebook, seated amongst duos sharing stories of breakups or exotic travel destinations.

Unless you are reading aloud to someone, or tandem writing in person, writing and reading are solitary endeavors. For those of you who are far along on the introvert scale, days spent alone toiling away on the evolving masterpiece or latest great novel must sound like unmitigated bliss. For those (including me) who swing more to the extrovert side, spending day after day in one’s own company is a recipe for derangement. The LONG commitment of writing a book with no assurance of publication is scary enough, without the additional stress of too much alone time.

Solution? Find a harmonious coffee shop.

I have three favorites, all in NE Minneapolis. They are: 1) Mojo Coffee Gallery, 2) Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, and 3) Anelace Coffee. Both Diamonds and Mojo have yummy baked goods. Mojo has good brunch/lunch food and the consistently best coffee of the three. Anelace is aesthetically pleasant, with coffee of varying quality, and non-appealing treats (to me). But Anelace offers free sparkling water. Both Mojo and Diamonds rank high on the retro-artsy scale, with Mojo displaying engaging artworks and pottery. Diamonds is just plain old funky fun. Anelace has the best restroom.

Coffee shop people–where do you hang out? Why? What are you reading?

My recently read and highly recommended fiction: Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, The Idiot by Elif Batumen, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tovarczuk

Until next time, be of good courage.

The cover of my journal.

Anelace Coffee, 2402 Central Avenue NE


My visit to Anelace Coffee is abruptly cut short by the impending arrival of a thunderstorm, combined with the realization that windows are open at home. Prior to departing I bus my half-full coffee cup and empty water glass to the counter. The young man at the counter answers a question and leaves me needing more info. But time is short. A sudden wind burst swirls leaves and debris down Central Avenue.

“What does ‘Anelace’ mean?” I ask.

He looks slightly surprised. “Anelace. The dagger. The name of the dagger is Anelace.”

I had imagined it to be the name of the owner’s daughter, or an amalgam of two names, although what those names might be had not been well considered. Anel and Ace? Ane and Lace? An and Elace? Nope. It’s a dagger, begging the next question–why name a coffee shop after a type of medieval dagger? I will need to return to find that out, as their website gives no clue, and a bit of research uncovers no connection with coffee.

848459501861863A cup of the brew of the day is my order, and I am offered a glass of still or sparkling water. Nice touch. “Sparkling, please.” Scanning the pastry case, I see a single dark chocolate cookie, a single croissant, a single scone, many bagels, and several squarish pastries with almonds on top. I inquire and learn that they are a type of brioche. Morning, maybe. Afternoon, no. I stick with the beverages.

The seating spans the length of the south side of the space. On the right is the service area and counter seating. A wooden bench against the wall spans three tables. As a view of the proceedings is essential to my work, a seat at the bench is in order. The back is quite straight. Good posture, Gail. Seven solo patrons focus on laptops or phones. No conversation is happening at Anelace except between the two workers, who also spend a lot of time involved with their phones.


The decor is spare with a provisional feel. White subway tile, black fixtures. Not much in the way of decoration. The building is old, evidenced by the back wall of rough brick and the substantial oak door.

img_3690.jpgMy reason for choosing a coffee shop today is the need to complete some online training for work and to write an agenda for the upcoming gathering of a group I facilitate. Problem numero uno–the training requires listening and I didn’t bring earbuds. Problem numero dos–the coffee, dispensed from a thermos pot is not super-hot, and tastes stale. Why this is a distraction I am not certain. But it prevents me from getting settled in and comfy.

Then comes the storm. Have you noticed that you can feel a storm as it approaches? I don’t mean when you are standing outside in the wind being pelted by small stones and plastic debris, I mean within yourself. A tingling vibrational awareness of atmospheric change. Yes? I feel it and look out the large front window. Gray-white swirls and rags and globs of cloud speed across the sky.

I visit the restroom (when in doubt, go) and ask the workers, who are looking at their phones, if a storm is coming. “Yes!” My marching orders arrive and I pause only to ask about the name “Anelace”.

Hence the half-cup left upon departure.

Back soon…


Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, 1618 Central


Picture a warren of high-ceilinged rooms with mismatched thrift shop furnishings. This hipster/artist coffee shop haven is the stylistic and vibrational opposite of your average Starbucks. The coffee is well above average and available in a bottomless cup. Mine was served in a friendly mustard-colored ceramic mug. The menu offers soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and pastries. I went for the black bean burger. It was served with a generous helping of kettle-type chips and a dill pickle wedge. The burger was a bit mushy, and the bun was not structurally up to its task. But I ate it with relish (actually with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, ketchup, and mayo). The guy who took the order and delivered the food fits the vibe of the clientele—youngish, with tats, introspective, efficient, not chatty, at least not with me. And that’s OK.

I chose the room just to the right of the entrance, made cozy with a couch and chairs, a small table, several plants that appear to be barely hanging onto life, and a 25-cent vending machine filled with multi-colored Smarties, proceeds going to the American Red Cross, although the sign is suspiciously faded.

The overriding theme of the place is motorcycles—motorcycle magazines, motorcycle art, etc.—which I am trying to connect with the name “Diamonds.” And I also wonder how the motorcycle theme connects with the neighborhood, which has evolved as a home to artists and their studios. The coffee shop building itself contains a large number of studios, as evidenced by a directory near the door, and a steady in and out flow of artistic-looking folks. Across the street, a stained glass studio is housed in a lovely old limestone block building with red brick arches above long windows.

Writing time. After cracking opening my laptop I went up to the order counter to check if WiFi was available. Yes, the password was posted on a highly visible bright pink sign above the cash register. The woman who politely pointed this out was either the owner or the manager or a thief, as she subsequently removed a wad of cash from the till.

Today I am working on a fun scene. Claire, the main character, is taking a Greyhound bus from Chicago to “Border Falls,” the setting for much of the novel. I love the idea of Claire taking the Greyhound. It connects her with life outside of her previously relatively affluent sphere, and it enables her to encounter some pretty quirky people very up close and personal.

The writing goes well. Diamonds is just noisy enough. The bottomless coffee carries me through after-lunch drowsy time, and gives me an excuse to periodically stretch my legs.

Diamonds is worth a return visit for the comfy atmosphere and good coffee.

Footnote—I bought a freshly made Rice Krispie bar for my daughter, who is quite the aficionado. She gave it an 8.8 out of 10, commenting on the good crunch and prominent cereal flavor, the reasonable amounts of marshmallow goo, and the buttery flavor. Her only critique was that it could have benefited from a bit more of the marshmallow.

Until next week.