The best coffee shops, at least for those who are passionate about their java, have their own character, in addition to great drinks and pastries. For Alcove Coffee in Tucker, GA, all of the above apply.
This European-flavored espresso bar stands out, in part, because before you even walk through the door, there is a sense that a great amount of personality has gone into its development and daily upkeep.
Confused? Imagine this: the front counter, which sits behind an indigo-tiled wall and a row of multicolored plates and lanterns, immediately feels inviting, with what you might call a natural aura.
The shop, in its current incarnation, has been in the same spot for two-and-a-half years. Originally, it was located off of Idlewood Drive, in Covington, GA. Since then, it has moved to Northlake Square, off of Lavista Road (for out-of-towners unfamiliar with these streets, simply Google them). Residents of Decatur have only about a 10-minute commute to this shop via car, so if you’re willing to take an extra bit of a drive for quality coffee, tea, and sandwiches, the effort will pay off.
Owner Cherie Johnson deserves full credit for the beautiful design of Alcove, which incorporates art (not only paintings, but also sculptures, plates, mobiles, and lanterns) from France, Italy, Bali, Cuba, and elsewhere. Its lighting, too, contributes greatly to the soothing atmosphere: the roseate ceiling lamps, gentle yellow track lighting, and ultraviolet floor lamps all add a degree of comfort that many chain coffee shops lack.
OK, What About the Coffee?
That wasn’t forgotten! Of course, atmosphere doesn’t add up to much if the drinks don’t compare. Luckily, in this instance, they definitely do.
The coffee and espresso beverages, especially, are some of Atlanta’s best. Though this is due, in part, to Alcove’s careful preparation, some share of the credit has to go to Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters, whose beans specifically make up the great-tasting beverages at Alcove.
According to their website, DancingGoats.com, the company “put[s] immense effort into sourcing and roasting fresh beans for coffee and espresso enthusiasts” that are particular about the excellence of their beverages. Experience has revealed that this isn’t just hyperbole; in addition to Alcove, many other coffee shops serving B & B Coffee have resonated pleasantly with customers as well.
Beyond their hot beverages, Alcove offers a nice variety of cold blender drinks (caffeinated, that is), as well as fruit smoothies and Italian sodas. To boot, if you’re in the mood for a mixture of coffee, cacao, and fruit, one of their dessert beverages is a splendid combination of the exotic flavor of bananas with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, Nutella, and espresso shots. Though it’s hard to find an accurate description, it might be best thought of as a “chocolate mousse martini,” simply due to being served in a martini glass.
The above beverage even has a slight alcoholic flavor to it; ironically, it contains no alcohol. Is it a trick of the mind? You decide.
Many customers who enter Alcove are unaware that they serve food in addition to coffee, tea, and smoothies. It’s true, however…and these are no Starbucks sandwiches.
Among their delicious selections are vegetarian Panini sandwiches, such as that with fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto on focaccia bread. Of these, I’ve only tried the “provolone and fresh organic baby spinach” Panini; this, however, was fresh, crisp, and had an excellent blend of flavors. There are also several meat Panini sandwiches, including a salami and provolone, a mesquite turkey, a turkey Reuben, and the “Italian.”
Though there are coffee shops scattered throughout the Atlanta-Metro area, there are certainly a few that stand above the rest.
Among the greats are hotspots like JavaVino, in the Poncey Highlands; Octane Coffee, in Decatur and West Midtown; and Java Monkey, also in Decatur. While it isn’t necessarily fair to say that Alcove is better or worse than any of those, it’s no imitator, either.
JavaVino is smaller, and though it has a comfortable atmosphere, it tends to have less “personal space” than Alcove. Octane, on the other hand, is larger overall (at least in its Midtown location), but sometimes becomes so overcrowded that activities like studying and reading take on a level of challenge.
Alcove, also, has much more of a “worldly” feel to it, due in part to the artwork from a variety of nations, and the soothing potted plants that accentuate the laidback ambiance. Even its restroom, which you might not expect to keep up the artistic themes, contains works by the infamous Andy Warhol and Bernard Villemot.
Its main disadvantage, perhaps, is that if you want to try its coffee, and don’t live near Tucker, you may have a long commute ahead of you. Octane Coffee only recently opened its second site, near Emory University, and ChocoLaté Coffee, whose original location stands on Shallowford Road, now has three separate shops.
Therefore, like a local bookstore or vinyl record shop, Alcove retains the character of those non-corporate neighborhood gems that residents have come to know and love.
Don’t take this article for gospel; try the coffee yourself. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, and need a caffeine boost, Alcove Coffee is just one of many stops along the way (wherever “the way” is heading).
So even if it’s a just a one-time taste, chances are, at least, that you won’t regret having taken the opportunity.