For the past few months, there’s been construction in the glass-walled, former TCBY space next to juice shop Nourish on the corner of Montrose and West Gray. Every time I passed by, I’d passively ponder what kind of shop was opening there — for some reason, a dog-grooming shop kept coming to mind, or maybe a hair salon where they give you free biscotti? The reality turned out to be much more literal: It’s a coffee shop that sells house-made biscotti.
Blonde Biscotti launched its grand opening on July 22 at 1000 West Gray, founded by mother/daughter duo Toni Cordasco and Lisa Richardson. Toni is the pastry chef and talent behind the biscotti, and Lisa is the Nutritional Scientist and MBA graduate whose international and domestic travels inspired a passion for coffee.
Drinks span rich and bitter espresso—expect to find macchiatos, cortados, and flat whites done right—coffee (either classic drip or cold brew) and tea. Food offerings mostly consist of the special soft-baked biscotti, although on weekends, you can find brunch offerings like a jumbo French toast muffin with housemade brioche, jumbo cinnamon roll muffins, or a morning crepe bowl with a baked crepe. I haven’t had a good liege waffle since my last trip to Paris, so I was ecstatic to see liege waffle as an offering. “Limited batches made daily. Served until gone,” warns the menu.
Luckily, they hadn’t run out of waffles during my initial visit, though the popular sprinkle-filled Birthday Cake biscotti had already vacated the case. Although signature flavors include the Natural Blonde (vanilla), the Nutty Brunette (a chocolate biscotti studded with white chocolate) and the Rich Red (a glazed red velvet flavor), I opted for the alluringly bronzed fig and walnut biscotti (recommended as one of the owner’s favorites) to accompany my espresso flight. Yes, flight. All flights come with two espressos, your choice of biscotti, and a sparkling water chaser to cleanse the palate — except for the Sugarland flight, which swaps out the sparkling water for a petite scoop of either chocolate or vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream so you can make your own affogato (espresso poured over ice cream). It’s a rush, that amount of caffeine, but the espresso is thick, with a good level of bitterness that lingers on the palate. (It's worth mentioning that my dark and bitter macchiato came with one of the most adorable foam caps I've ever seen.)
You could hardly dream up a more pleasant place to enjoy an espresso and a cookie: the interior is a light, bright, modern Pinterest dream with a pale blue-gray washed brick, hexagonal white tiling, white walls and wooden details. A tall wooden shelf displays Avoga coffee, tea, a small variety of coffee accessories for purchase and menus advertising Blonde Biscotti catering services (there is such a thing as a "cup-scotti" and its biscotti dough baked in cupcake tins and dipped in chocolate and they can be yours for $48/dozen). a glass case near the register showcases the 16 or so biscotti varieties available for the day — flavors rotate seasonally— plus the homemade peanut butter “pup-scotti” for pet owners.
“Soft-baked biscotti” might seem like a contradictory phrase, and it kind of is. Biscotti are traditionally baked twice to get the characteristic crunchy (some might say tooth-breaking) texture, but at Blonde Biscotti, the cookies are baked only once, so the nearly inch-thick slices are almost reminiscent of a sturdy coffee cake, or just a regular, slightly drier cookie shaped like biscotti. They’re much better on their own than most others, though they disintegrate quickly when dipped in coffee. My fig and walnut specimen tasted exactly the way I expected from its appearance: subtly sweet, with a soft chew and a deliciously caramelized crust.
As for the waffle — $6.50 for the oblong, hand-size treat — it’s chewy and yeasty and dark golden brown with a crust that’s sturdy and crisp when you fork into it. It’s subtly sweet on its own, but honey is served alongside it. The pearl sugar that typically provides pops of sweetness and exterior caramelization in liege waffles had melted into the batter and yielded a waffle that was just a touch less sweet than I hoped for, but it was still satisfyingly dense and yeasty, a solid rendition.
Wi-fi is available, and I could easily imagine getting some weekend work done in the pleasant, light-filled atmosphere, perched on one of the counter stools or maybe at the long communal table. This is also a perfect spot to grab a coffee with a friend. At $12.99 for a flight and $3 per biscotti, the prices are a little steep, but quality is high. If it’s not the coffee, the aesthetic or the biscotti, it’s the extremely friendly service that will draw you back and make you root for this calm, sweet oasis.