Friday, May 1, 2009

A Cooler Alternative to Starbucks: Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar Review

I’m not a big fan of coffee shops, but I do enjoy grabbing an interesting book or magazine off the shelves at Barnes and Noble and plopping down with a cup of Starbucks from their café. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Last weekend, on my normal trip to Barnes and Noble on Colonial Drive, I discovered Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, literally across the street.

Obviously, a former KFC from the outside, you’d never know it when you step inside. The place is cool. So much cooler than Starbucks, that I wondered for a moment if I was cool enough to even enjoy a place like this: Fine Young Cannibals blare from a home stereo unit. Not “Good Thing,” but a cut off their first album. Thrift store tables and chairs are scattered about. Old couches and futons beckon you to chill. Amateur artwork lines the walls. A faux copper ceiling floats overhead. Tattered board games are stacked in a corner. The scent of patchouli hangs in the air. Flyers for bands I’m not hip enough to be into are littered about. Geeks are on laptops. Hipsters are on iPhones. It’s more a scene from a Seattle Saturday afternoon than one in Orlando.

The ordering area is a hodge-podge of used service counters and restaurant equipment. The barista is attractive, but a little too tattooed. An old deli case is stacked to the top with plastic wrapped sandwiches. I order a latte and a ham, apple and brie Panini.

Ten minutes later, some guy, I guess he works there, brings my coffee and sandwich while I chill on the futon and make use of the free Wi-Fi. The latte is in an actual ceramic mug and not a paper cup. I feel cool because I just helped save a tree. The latte isn’t all that hot, and it has a thin head of foam. Perhaps I was served a cappuccino by mistake. It tastes okay, though. My Panini is warm and crisp on the outside, but cold on the inside. The ham is sliced think and tastes sweet. The apples are crisp and juicy, and the brie creamy and salty. It’s much better than I could have imagined a premade sandwich pulled from a pile would be.

Drunken Monkey roasts their beans right in the store and offers any kind of coffee-based drink you could imagine. They offer fair trade coffee and only organic or rain forest alliance brews. An assortment of teas, smoothies and frozen drinks are also available.

The menu includes soups, quiches, wraps and sandwiches. There’s a breakfast selection mornings, and quite a few vegan and vegetarian choices are available, of course.

I could see myself coming back to Drunken Monkey for another latte and a sandwich. I could make myself at home and enjoy reading the newspaper or a book from across the street. I could bring my laptop and work on some blog posts. I could come on a Monday night and watch “Heroes.” I could maybe even get into some Monopoly or Scattegories with other cool people like me. Yea, I said cool like me. If I’m chilling at Drunken Monkey I’m cool.

3 ½ Cool Beans out of 5

Drunken Monkey Website

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Joe said...

You totally forgot the graffitti wall and cool art that is all over the walls. Its a stoners paradise in the coffee shop. Service sucks but the vegan pastries are to die for! Drinks are ok? But the food is unbelievable!

Heather said...

Of course you should also check out Dandelion Communitea Cafe (which is on Thornton, just around the corner from 50 and Mills) and Austins Coffee and Film. Similar vibe, but AMAZING food. Seriously, Dandelion. Go.

Eating Orlando said...

Thought I would save the graffiti wall for another post, but it is definately cool, and blows Graffiti Junktion's out of the water.

Eating Orlando said...

I'll definately check out Dandelion and Austins. Thanks for the tips.