Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Top 5 coffee shops in Dallas-Fort Worth for live music
No, Starbucks didn't make the list.
Don’t be ashamed to admit it – we like our Starbucks. Those grande-nonfat-half-caf-white-mochas are a certifiable orgasm in a cup. We don’t judge. But while we peruse the green and white emblazoned counter a few times a month (sometimes week; in severe cases, day), we like our independent coffeehouses even more. They offer more than fair-trade espresso or free wi-fi; they offer a creative outlet for artists, photographers, and musicians alike to make a name for themselves in our fair city. It gives them a chance to leave their mark and express themselves to a crowd that’s prepared to invite new things into their lives.
Here are the best places in Dallas (and one in Denton) to get your coffee and music on:
The Pearl Cup – Knox/Henderson area
They’ve only been open for a year and a half, but The Pearl Cup has already mastered the art of a good environmentally friendly independent coffee house. Besides their award-winning signature Pearl Latte and green building practices like using soy insulation, live music is another aspect that’s already put The Pearl Cup in city-staple territory.
Local yokel coffee shop crooners like Jillian Edwards, a delicate songbird of Feist proportions, frequent The Pearl Cup and bring a certain sentimental charm to the concrete floors and vegan pastry sustenance.
“Jillian Edwards is a shop favorite,” says manager Mattie Stafford. “And we have one guy that comes in and asks, ‘Hey, do you mind if I sit in the corner and play guitar?’ and people will kind of stick around to listen.”
From the grand opening and since, owners Carlene Saelg and Rita Davis realized being an outlet for songwriters in the DFW area boded well for business. Musicians started coming in to play their swanky, neighborhood niche Knox/Henderson digs announced and unannounced, and listeners filled the seats.
Art Six Coffee House – Denton
Denton inhabitants know good java. And they also know that an independent shop is no good without room for live tunes. That’s why the locally-beloved Art Six on Bryan Street makes our list. With cozy accommodations, espresso, hookahs (yes, hookahs!), and a steady stream of artists pouring their hearts out to the coffee-lipped, Art Six is the perfect environment for all things creative.
The place is also known for live theater productions, and have had 15 of them in different rooms of the house. They even hold murder mystery dinner theater from time to time in the colder months, as well as baby showers, receptions, and CD release parties. Now what kind of Starbucks does that?
Most recently, they hosted a Gulf Coast Benefit Show in mid-July that featured bands like The Captive, Monastery, Sam Robertson, and An Absence of Color. This is definitely a place where live music thrives.
Opening Bell – Southside Dallas
Johnny Lloyd Rollins, Becky Middleton, and Philip Creamer at Opening Bell
“It’s a vibe you can’t buy,” says songwriter Becky Middleton of the industrial digs of Opening Bell Coffeehouse. The bluesy/Americana songstress hosts Songwriters in the Round every Monday. National and DFW artists like Kentucky’s Anchor In the Valley or Dallas’ own Smile Smile will stop in and try out new songs.
Opening Bell has an old world atmosphere that caters to the small community of downtown dwellers in their 20s and 30s, and it fits its historic locale very well. Positioned below street level in the South Side on Lamar building, the coffee shop peppered with music memorabilia and local art and photography is as revered as the building it resides in.
Opening Bell, which serves not only coffee but breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is the only coffee house on the list that hosts live music nearly every night of the week.
Middleton says, “Walking in feels a little like ‘Friends’ or ‘Cheers’: a home away from home where everybody knows your name. Plus, the chicken salad sandwiches are killer.”
Crooked Tree Coffeehouse – Uptown Dallas
Nestled in a cul-de-sac of appropriately extravagant Uptown apartments and Post properties, Crooked Tree’s eclectic, old cottage-turned-coffee shop doesn’t quite match its cookie-cutter surroundings. But within its quaint décor, hardwood floors, and mom’s kitchen-style service counter is an atmosphere perfect for soft acoustic musings from the intellectual crowd, and bands who want to try stripped down versions of their rock tunage.
Opening in 2008, the coffeehouse decided to serve up a few tunes as well as their free-trade coffee and organic pastries. Musicians like Ryan Edgar and Philip Creamer of Dovetail stop in from time to time to serenade listeners, and you can catch other crooners on Fridays and Saturdays.
“The really cool thing about playing at Crooked Tree as opposed to a bar is that audience is automatically very attentive,” says Creamer of his favorite java joint. “The acoustics are good; it’s comfortable and it feels like you’re playing in an old house, because you are.”
White Rock Coffee – Lake Highlands
Besides the free interweb, the organic fair trade beans, and the in-house micro-roasts, White Rock Coffee has been serving up good ol’ acoustical tunes since the beginning. Right when it opened back in 2005, owners Bob and Nancy Baker had already planned to have the shop be an oasis for local artists and musicians alike. Pretty soon, their seats were filled with songwriters, painters, and creators with fickle taste buds for Bob’s special coffee bean blends.
Even early on, singer/songwriters like Johnny Lloyd Rollins and Andrew Tinker played there. Now, you can catch music there at least a few nights a week, mainly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Tuesdays. Since White Rock has two floors with a balcony overlooking the performance area, the place is usually crawling with Lake Highlands lifers and high school kids packing it in to watch friends during open mic nights. The atmosphere is bright, sunny, and bustling, much like the natural light that shines through the front and second floor windows – which makes this place just about the happiest venue on our list.
And White Rock has also just opened their express drive-through location off Abrams and Mockingbird. No live tunes there though; you’ll have to hit the Northwest Highway location for that.