by LATIFAH SMITH
Brews around the ‘berg
I don’t know about you, but whether it’s in the morning before class or before a study session, there’s something magical about a good cup of coffee. More than that, I love grabbing a great cup of coffee and being able to enjoy drinking it in the same shop I get it from. Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks just as much as the next person—my Starbucks barista can verify that because they all know me by name and coffee order—but there’s something about a mom and pop shop with a great menu selection and an environment that feels cozy no matter what time of year it is.
Downtown Fredericksburg is a great community full of shops, restaurants, parks and what may seem like too many coffee shops, so I decided to find what is the best coffee shop downtown. To do this, I considered the service, location, taste of the coffee and their menu options and rated them out of ten.
The first stop: 25-30 Espresso
The first shop I tried, which was 25-30 Espresso on Princess Anne Street, was easy to locate and had decent street parking, earning an eight for location. Additionally, the baristas were nice and didn’t rush me when I took my time trying to figure out what I wanted. I love a coffee shop that offers a lot of different drinks, such as lattes, mochas, matcha, frappuccinos and others, so, because their menu was smaller than I prefer, I give them a five out of ten for their general offerings.
Coffee preferences can differ greatly between people, but I like my coffee smooth and sweet. The coffee at 25-30 Espresso was smooth, but it had a hint of bitterness, so I rate them a four out of ten for taste. Overall, I liked the vibe and energy around the shop; there was plenty of seating, so it’s a great location to chat and catch up with friends or spend some time getting work done. The shop is a good size that allows for quite a few tables, but it’s not too big that it seems impersonal. Additionally, the inside is decorated with hints of greenery, adding a sort of bohemian vibe to the place. The shop also has outdoor seating, which is nice if you want to enjoy a nice iced drink on a warm summer day. This is an excellent shop for those who want to visit a chic coffee shop with a great vibe.
The second sip: Italian Station
Italian Station, which is located on Caroline Street, is right in the middle of downtown, making it easy to find. I’d rate their location a nine out of ten, especially because of the vast amount of street parking available. The service was excellent, as the baristas immediately greeted me with a smile, and they have an extensive menu, including lattes, matcha, chai, lemonades, breakfast options, gelato and dessert. The menu itself is something you could get lost in, with so many different flavor variations and combinations you can choose from. I rate their coffee an eight and a half and their menu options a nine.
This is a solid spot for those who like to try out new flavors in their coffee, and if you’re someone that doesn’t care for coffee, then it’s still a great spot to try out their tea lattes, smoothies and other non-caffeinated beverages.
The vibe of the shop is cozy: You’re greeted by two double doors and an inviting vibe that just seems to say, “come in and try something new.” There’s a decent amount of seating inside and out, offering standard tables and hightops in the middle of the shop.
I’ve visited Italian Station on multiple occasions, and the coffee and food are consistently good. It’s a spot I would recommend going to more than once to get a feel for the menu. It’s a great spot for just grabbing breakfast or lunch when walking around downtown.
Thirsty third: Eileen’s Bakery and Cafe
Eileen’s Bakery and Cafe is also located on Caroline Street, and I rate their location a nine because it’s easy to find, spacious and has a beautiful atmosphere. The outside of the shop looks like a rustic cottage mixed with a castle, and this immediately drew me in to experience what this shop had to offer. The service was good, and I was greeted with a smile when I walked in.
Even though they were busy and had a long line, they handled the rush with ease, so I rate them a nine for service. As for food and pastry options, they have an extensive menu. I tried their egg salad sandwich and took a variety of their cookies to go. Everything was delicious.
Based on the variety of their menu, I rate it a nine, but I give their coffee a six because it tastes like your average cup of joe. Their drink selection wasn’t extensive, and for a shop that offers so much food and pastry, I would like for them to expand in their beverage department.
Eileen’s is a great spot to grab a bite to eat and taste a variety of different pastries. With such a large menu in regards to the food they offer, there’s sure to be a sandwich or pastry for everyone!
The fourth cup: Agora
The day I went to Agora, I walked down Caroline Street only to be greeted by a long, streaming line of people waiting outside of the building. I knew it was going to be a good experience based on that, so I was immediately looking forward to reading their menu and choosing a drink.
Once I got inside, I picked up one of the thick menus near the register; it was difficult figuring out what I wanted. I settled on one of their specialty lattes, and I was not disappointed. The drink was the ideal temperature and had the perfect level of sweetness that I was looking for, so I give the taste of the coffee a ten.
Given the range of their offerings and consistent quality, the menu gets an eight, and their service is an eight for how they quickly but patiently helped customers, even while in the weeds and no end to the line in sight. I often have a hard time figuring out what I want when the menu is so vast, but they were kind enough to wait for me to figure out what I want to order without a hint of an attitude.
When you walk in the shop, it may seem crowded at first, but, once you get past the line there’s plenty of seating once you get deeper into the shop. There’s also a lot of seating and tables outside allowing for people to either work on their laptops or catch up with an old friend in the nice weather. The patio seating area is full of greenery, which gives you a beautiful landscape to admire as you’re enjoying your beverage, your company or both.
Out of all the coffee shops I have tried out, this has been the shop that I will go back to; Agora has everything that I love in a coffee shop.
To wrap up my caffeinated journey thus far, Agora is my new personal favorite coffee shop—for now. Before setting out on this caffeinated experience, I was a full-on Starbucks girl; I was the girl listing off complicated orders off adding extra syrup, espresso and adding cold foam to my order. Do I still love Starbucks? Absolutely, and I will continue to be a regular at my local Starbucks. This is all to say: I’m just a Starbucks-loving girl trying to expand her coffee palette, and I will continue my search to find the best brew in the ‘burg throughout the semester!