Ten best sit-down coffee bars

by Jordan Green

Borders Books Movies Music & Café

3605 High Point Road, 336.218.0662

Borders lies on YES! Weekly’s boulevard, being that we toil in the urban exile known as Adam’s Farm. And the Borders café is like a New South salon, situated in the glorious sprawl. Retired Carolina Peacemaker editor and former Greensboro Chamber of Commerce spokesman Hal Sieber can often be found here working the crosswords. Local Palestinian Muslim leader Badi Ali also makes periodic appearances, usually with a cell phone pressed to his ear. Political debate at the Borders café ‘— generally of the leftist variety ‘—’ is consequently still an acceptable mode of discourse.

D’s Coffee House

802 Merritt Drive, 336.855.0025

Recently run by a young man from the Balkans, D’s was purchased in February by Fatima Mohammed, according to the headscarf-clad woman working behind the counter. Now Arabic music emanates from the boom box, and the sole customer is another Arabic woman reclining on one of the couches and gabbing into her cell phone. Considering the multitude of latte flavors to be had ‘— Irish cream, amaretto and raspberry among them ‘— the turbo-charged Red Eye (brewed coffee with a shot of espresso) and generous sampling of teas we have no doubt the patrons will soon be streaming in. Situated in the old mill village of Pomona across from the shuttered Merritt Mill, D’s represents a welcome trend in the Gate City of immigrants breathing new life into once dying real estate.

Green Bean

341 S. Elm St., 336.691.9990

The Green Bean, guided by the steady and creative hand of Pete Schroth, is surely the downtown belle of coffee houses, what with its strange but sound formula of gourmet coffee and cheap beer, its spot-on booking talents ‘—’ the Avett Brothers once played for a capacity crowd at the Bean, and it’s getting hard to count all the Japanese punk bands that have plied their trade here ‘— and contender status as an art gallery. The walls are currently covered by photographic prints by punk impresario John Rash of skyscrapers in a misty urban landscape from a recent trip to Hong Kong. One dollar gets the bearers of laptop computers unlimited time on the internet ‘—’ an asset most other caffeine purveyors in the Gate City have yet to adopt. Groups like the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission sometimes make use of the conference room, and occasionally rivaling representating from YES! Weekly and Go Triad experience tense encounters here.

Coffee at the Summit

623 Summit Ave., 336.275.0642

Aycock is one of Greensboro’s grand old neighborhoods, and we’re happy this part of the city, on the northeastern rampart of downtown, has proper representation in the coffee-culture panoply. Stan Montgomery opened the store in January. When Editor Brian Clarey and I walked in one morning on our cross-town trek to work, we agreed the creaky floors imbued the old residence that houses Coffee at Summit with a distinctive funky charm. The town’s print media is well represented in the stacks, from the almighty News & Record down to the Hippo. Montgomery says the house’s most popular drink is the mocha java blend, with the Southern pecan and chocolate caramel truffle blends quickly gaining adherents. On the cultural front, Coffee at the Summit opens its humble stage to jazz musicians on Tuesday evenings, poetry on Friday and spiritual expression on Saturday.

Coffee & Roses Express

5829 High Point Road, 336.297.2288

Wednesday (April 26) marks the one-year anniversary of Coffee & Roses’ arrival on the scene in this suburban stretch of Guilford County where Greensboro fades out and Jamestown begins. Proprietor Toshi Yoshida has a good concept, marrying the two appealing pleasures of flowers and caffeine, and offering drive-through accommodations along with the traditional sit-down arrangement. His iced mocha is killer in the summer; it’s refreshing and invigorating on those days when the heat saps vitality and will. The shop stocks board games, including Japanese chess, and Yoshida offers, ‘“If some people want to learn how to play I can teach them how.’” Also befitting Yoshida’s national origin the side of the counter is decorated with a wheat-pasted collage of Japanese comics.

Tate Street Coffee House

334 S. Tate St., 336.275.2754

The ubiquitous Matt Russ, a UNCG grad, is like the mayor of Tate Street being that he owns the better part of the block that abuts campus. Tate Street Coffee, once the storefront that housed the famous Friar’s Cellar, has been open since 1993. Russ lets the university jazz students come in periodically and hone their chops, and the tables are usually full of college types intently scrutinizing paperbacks or their glowing laptops. The decorative motif could probably be described as be-bop, but a poster honoring Cesar Chavez’s farm labor organizing and a somewhat gratuitous rendering of the four Beatles sipping mugs of coffee brings the scene up to the late ’60s.


basement of Mary Hobbs Hall, Guilford College

Mary Hobbs Hall was opened as a women’s cooperative residence hall by Greensboro’s favorite Quaker liberal arts institution to allow female students of limited means to work their way through college. ‘“This coffee cooperative is in that tradition,’” says Max Carter, Guilford College’s campus ministry coordinator. Mary Hobbs Hall faces the campus quad and can be conveniently accessed by the campus’ northwest entrance from New Garden Road. The students who fill steaming cups and balance the books run a fair-trade operation here, meaning that Third World growers are theoretically paid a decent price for their labors. Greenleaf is a frequent venue for student musicians and poets, and is currently hosting an installation of the Clothesline Project, which comprises hundreds of T-shirts scrawled with slogans decrying sexual assault.

Carolina Coffee & Tea

400 State St., 336.333.9557

This house of java makes a safe claim for quality and selection in the upscale shopping and dining district that is State Street. Robert Hedrick bought the shop about three years ago from Carolina Coffee Roasting, which still supplies the beans from its Revolution Mill operations about a half-mile away. ‘“We do everything that that nameless West Coast coffee company does,’” Hedrick says. ‘“We stock seventy-five different types of teas. We also do a smoothie that is non-dairy.’” And well they should. One the same block sits the State Street Center For Renewal, which provides massage therapy, acupuncture and skin care to denizens of tony precincts like Old Derby Park.

Morning Dew Coffee Roasters

1047 Burke St., Winston-Salem, 336.723.5282

In the interest of doing our part to help defeating the provincialist attitudes that hobble the Triad we’re including a token Winston-Salem house in our list, but that paltry ratio shouldn’t discourage intrepid readers from seeking out their own finds. Morning Dew has recently stopped providing live entertainment, but the store’s sit-down area next to the roasting machine should provide ample stimulus. Morning Dew wins creative-class points for providing wireless internet access, and serves the requisite espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and Americanos.

Dolce Aroma Coffee Bar

233 N. Elm St., 336.272.2844

Situated under the Bellemeade parking garage, Dolce Aroma serves downtown’s workaday clientele ‘— the government employees, insurance workers and bankers who inhabit the center city during daylight hours. The store’s satellite radio is tuned to standard jazz, creating a minimalist yet classy atmosphere. The store takes from the best of the old and new worlds, importing espresso beans and chocolate from Italy, and syrup flavors from France, while getting its house blend roasted right in Greensboro at Carolina Coffee Roasting.