Does Montrose need another Inversion? The folks behind Black Hole Cafe (4504 Graustark, 713-528-0653) apparently think so. And since they're also the folks behind popular establishments Poison Girl and Antidote -- the former in Montrose, the latter in the Heights -- the new Black Hole Cafe will likely be just as popular.
Despite the differences in space and location, Black Hole reminds me quite a bit of Inversion. Although it sits in a quiet, residential neighborhood a few blocks away from the University of St. Thomas campus in the former location of a convenience store, the coffee shop is littered with visually striking artwork and furniture, like Inversion. Also like Inversion, it's littered with hipsters on laptops during the day, and it sells local products and baked goods along with its coffee.
However, there are two striking departures.
The Good: Black Hole Cafe sells wine and beer.
The Bad: Black Hole Cafe served me a terrible latte yesterday afternoon.
And despite being wooed into a gauzy sense of comfort by the long, low-slung space and its broad windows and mid-century-esque furniture that seemed to invite an afternoon of lazing about with a book, that latte snapped me back to reality.
Perhaps I've been spoiled by the likes of Max Gonzales and David Buehrer and the crack teams of skilled baristas they've trained that have fanned out around the city. Five years ago, would I have known the difference between a truly astounding latte and one that was just average? Perhaps not. Now? I could barely drink half the cup at Black Hole Cafe before abandoning it along with the beckoning confines of the cafe.
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For a double latte, I couldn't taste but the faintest trace of espresso. It was almost entirely milky, with no head at all. I can warm up a pint of milk in my microwave and dump it on top of a frozen pellet of Jazzybird at home. Can I be a barista too?
Luckily, the coffee was ably washed down with a cinnamon roll from Sinfull Bakery. It was served very cold from the refrigerated case, but there was a microwave nearby ready to fix that dilemma.
Do I think that having coffee masters in Houston at places like Catalina and Tuscany (and, on a different, albeit still skilled, level, Inversion) has ruined people like me on lesser lattes around town? Yes. But do I think Houston is better for it? Yes. And coffee shops like Black Hole will hopefully step up their game as a result. Once they do, the little cafe will be unstoppable.