When I go to a coffee shop, nine times out of ten I order a cappuccino. To me, it reflects the true talent of a barista — getting the foam-to-espresso ratio just right; making sure the java is strong enough to ensure a caffeine boost; and guaranteeing every sip is warm, smooth and comforting. It's quite a difficult task.
Because I am not equipped with the necessary tools (or talent) to make a cappuccino at home, I venture to several Houston coffee shops for my coffee drink of choice. Here are my five favorite places to get a perfectly executed cappuccino in Houston.
5. The Nook Cafe
This new coffee shop on UH's campus is a casual, relaxing abode in which to read a book or get some work done while sipping on a hot cup of coffee and snacking on a pastry, muffin or cookie. And one of the standout items on the menu is the simple cappuccino. As I wrote in my first look at The Nook Cafe, the cappuccino, seen from far away, appeared to have whipped cream sitting on top of the espresso. But as I approached the counter, I realized it was a thick layer of super-creamy frothed milk. I also ordered this cappuccino with nonfat milk, and the barista was able to make the milk that frothy — props! The espresso is silky underneath the giant layer of froth and almost resembles the texture of a latte, making it heartwarming and comforting. Pair it with a moist pumpkin muffin from Sinfull Bakery for the perfect lazy Saturday afternoon.
While it's ideal to enjoy a cappuccino in a wide-rimmed mug at the coffee shop, sometimes that isn't possible. So when I'm on the go, I head to Inversion, because its baristas know how to make an excellent frothy cappuccino to go. Before I discovered this Montrose coffee shop, my to-go cappuccinos came from Starbucks, but I can't remember the last time I went into that coffee mecca for a cappuccino — I'm always getting mine from Inversion. The coffee is perfectly smooth underneath the light and frothy layer of milk. But the milk isn't the star; the espresso is. Strong espresso blends with the cloudlike milk, creating smooth sips every time. It warms your heart and your stomach.
3. Catalina Coffee
Catalina's cappuccinos are always frothy, always hot and always just what I need in the morning. The baristas make sure the foam hits the rim of the mug without spilling over, but one sip and you'll coat the tip of your nose in frothed milk. Just be sure you're with someone who will tell you you've got milk on your nose. Pair your coffee with one of the sweet pastries, such as the apple-cinnamon danish, for the first meal of the day or as an afternoon snack. And when the weather is nice, sit outside on the patio; it makes your coffee-shop experience ten times better.
This coffee shop is an excellent place to catch up with friends during the day over sugary Greek frappes, or extend a date past dinner with wine or coffee and dessert. Even if I try to order something different, my brain always follows my gut instinct and I order a cappuccino. Served with a small cookie, this cappuccino's espresso is strong (order decaf late at night), and the milk is smooth and creamy and won't disappear as you sip your way to the bottom of the cup. Drop the sugar cubes into the center to let the crystals melt into the espresso, then alternate taking a bite out of your cookie and a sip from your drink. It's the way cappuccino was intended to be enjoyed.
1. Blacksmith Coffee
It's fun to watch the baristas make coffee drinks at Blacksmith, especially the cappuccinos; you'll get lost in the masterful display of talent as your server coats the wide-rimmed cup with espresso, then gently pours the frothed milk on top and creates a beautiful design within the foam. Blacksmith baristas make me excited and eager to take the first sip from my drink. Order the small biscotti and dip each bite into the creamy cappuccino. If only the cups were larger, because you'll definitely be sad when it's all gone.
Titans of Industry
Tony's Still Wows
After nearly 50 years in business, the Italian mainstay is still on top.
With newer, hipper Italian restaurants opening in Houston every year, it can be easy to overlook the fine-dining behemoth that isTony'sin favor of something perhaps less dated. But this would be a mistake.
Tony's opened in 1965 as a mom-and-pop Italian eatery serving hearty bowls of pasta and recipes owner Tony Vallone learned from his family. In part due to his interest in the culinary realm and in part thanks to prodding from developer Gerald Hines, who owned his original building, Vallone began transitioning to fine dining.