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Category Archives: Literary Eats

Bayou Bakery (Arlington, VA)

I couldn’t resist doing a post about a dog-friendly cafe, even though we haven’t had a chance to visit one with Reeses yet.  (She’s still very shy around strangers, and we don’t want to rush her.)  I already know which of our neighborhood cafes I’d like to visit first: Bayou Bakery!

Bayou Bakery

Bayou Bakery

Bayou Bakery is located in Arlington, very close to the Courthouse metro stop.  They have tables and chairs set up on their patio outside, which is why I plan on taking Reeses there some Saturday.  My mom actually was the first to discover Bayou Bakery, because it was right by her hotel last time she came to visit me.  After trying some of their baked goods for breakfast, we both loved it so much that we went there two more times for breakfast in the same week!

I have been to Bayou several times for breakfast and once for dinner.  They have great variety on their menu, from your standard coffee and pastries to Cajun-themed happy hour specials like pimento cheese or black eyed pea hummus, to sandwiches that are very popular with the community here in Arlington.  They have different lunch and dinner specials for every day of the week, and great seasonal specials.  (I can’t wait for next spring because I am already missing their carrot ginger muffin.  It’s delicious!)

a beautiful latte

a beautiful latte

There are a lot of details I love about Bayou Bakery.  One is that they have sorgum to use as a sweetener in your coffee-very Southern, and not something I had had the opportunity to try before.  Another is that you can borrow board games at the counter to play while you’re in the cafe.  I enjoy board games, and I think it is great when coffee shops encourage customers to play them.  It also shows that this is the kind of place where you are welcome to sit and stay awhile, an important consideration for anyone who is looking for a friendly place to read!  Finally, they have a variety of different seating options indoors (plus the patio, of course): barstools, tables, and an area with more comfy couches and chairs.  There are lots of options if you want to get comfortable with some nice coffee (they also have wine and beer for later in the day) and a book.

Whatever time of day you visit Bayou Bakery, I recommend you start by trying their beignets and a beverage of your choice.  What could be more New Orleans than beignets?  Plus, they’re delicious!  Just be careful not to get powdered sugar all over the book you’re reading!  I have to give this place five stars.  I love the location, and everything I’ve tried on the menu so far has been great!  It’s definitely a new favorite!  ★★★★★

beignets

beignets

-Elizabeth

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/cbaugh/7756820478/”>christybaugh</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/5962508879/”>justgrimes</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/cbaugh/7756831392/”>christybaugh</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Chocolats du Cali Bressan (Santa Barbara, California)

After reading Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, I was left with a craving that plain ol’ Hershey’s just couldn’t satisfy.  I needed beautiful, gourmet, thoughtfully-prepared and delicious chocolates a la Vianne Rocher.  And, much to my luck, I found them right here in Santa Barbara!  Chocolats du Cali Bressan is a legitimate French chocolaterie that I just know makes truffles and bon bons to rival Vianne’s.  It also doesn’t hurt that it’s right next door to the new downtown tasting room of one of my favorites, Sanford Winery.  Best of all – you don’t have to be in beautiful Santa Barbara to benefit from these delicious treats.  You can order them online!

We generally review places that you can sit and read a book at – this is not one of them.  It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall place.  However, it’s near some outdoor benches, a great winery (that, admittedly, is nearly always too full to linger over a book) and all the other seating that downtown Santa Barbara has to offer.  So if you’re near or far, I recommend you grab a chocolate (or two), and settle in with Chocolat.  I’m no Vianne, so I don’t know what your favorite is, but I can tell you mine!  I recommend the Boysenberry Seashell and Earl Grey Bon Bons, as well as the Szichuan Pepper and Orange Truffle – though you can also try the Rocher bon bon… perhaps named after our heroine herself?

Final great thing – Chocolate Tasting/Tours with champagne monthly!  If you’re local, check the site for more details.

I give this chocolaterie 4 stars.  I know you’ll enjoy it too! ★★★★

http://www.chococalibressan.com/

– Becca

The French Press (Santa Barbara, CA)

Dearest caffeinated readers, its Becca, with your latest literary coffee shop review.  I’ve been living in Santa Barbara for about 3 months now, and after spending summer vacations in the area for as long as I can remember, I feel like a local already!  That said, you could imagine my surprise when I got settled in and realized I didn’t have a coffee place to call my own and frequent!  For the good of the blog (and my sanity) I’ve worked to remedy that.  This time, I tried out The French Press, on 1101 State Street, after being told by a “true” local (born and raised) that it was the best coffee shop in town.

French Press is known for being crowded, so I came on a rare weekday with no class.  I’m glad I did, because every time I’ve walked past it since, there was no room to set up camp.  Because I went on a Friday, I was able to order an iced latte and grab a table about halfway through their oblong shaped venue; perfect for people watching during breaks from studying.   The décor is cute, a sort of upscale, hipster-chic.  The baristas were friendly, though not particularly speedy.  This is clearly the place to be for up and coming readers and writers in the area, and I was able to eavesdrop on several people bumping into each other and talking about the various pieces they were working on – that was cool!

There’s really nothing bad I can say about the French Press, but I wasn’t completely blown away.  The coffee is good, not great.  The service was fair, but nothing exceptional.  Overall, it was a pretty average coffee experience.  The vibe I got was that this is a place to see and be seen, and there was a feeling of exclusivity that I wasn’t overly fond of.

I give the French Press 2 stars.  It wasn’t horrible, and I may go back, but I’ve certainly had better coffee experiences, and for a good reading haunt, the place has to have available seats!★★

The French Press

The Sculpture Garden Cafe

The Sculpture Garden Cafe

The Sculpture Garden Cafe was originally recommended to me by one of my professors during my first semester of grad school.  She said she liked to go there to write, and I figured it would have all the right qualities for a place to read.  Now that I have gone there several times myself, I can definitely recommend it.

I had read in a guidebook that the Sculpture Garden Cafe has some of the best food on the mall, and I would have to agree.  I like their sandwiches and their pizza, but they also have smaller snacks available if you don’t want a meal.  Because it is in a touristy area, their prices are a little higher than what you might find elsewhere.  However, this place is definitely not a tourist trap.  It’s a good place to find tasty, reasonably healthy food.

Best seats in the house

If the weather is nice, I would definitely recommend sitting outside, so that you can enjoy more of the sculptures and the garden.  My favorite place to sit is to the left of the cafe, by this Parisian art deco metro sign.  But DC weather is unpredictable, so sometimes inside is better.  (You wouldn’t want your book to get wet.)

If you like a quiet environment to read in, you should definitely avoid the Sculpture Garden on Friday afternoons during the summer.  They host a very popular series of free jazz concerts.  I highly recommend the concerts if you enjoy music, but come prepared for a crowd!  In the winter, the fountain at the center of the garden is converted into an ice skating rink.  The best times to visit the gardens (and DC in general) are fall and winter.  You will find a very peaceful, green area in the heart of downtown, just perfect for relaxing with a good book!

From a reader’s perspective, I would give this cafe four stars (but it’s a five if you like music!)  The location and the atmosphere are excellent, and the food is good.  It’s also easy to find if you are unfamiliar with the city, so keep it in mind if you are visiting DC!  ★★★★

-Elizabeth

The Daily Grind (Santa Barbara, CA)

Since moving to Santa Barbara, I’ve been looking for a good coffee place (and by extension reading, studying, and gossiping place) that really feels like home.  Being new to the town, I’ll be trying a lot of new places and writing about them here, but I’m happy to report that I have already found a gem!

I was drawn to The Daily Grind when my absolute favorite singer/songwriter and Santa Barbara local, Crosby Loggins (check him out), wrote about it in one of his songs.  When I looked it up, and found it was across from another favorite place, McConnell’s ice cream, my high hopes were further elevated.

It may be relevant to note, before I continue, that I am the biggest coffee snob on the planet.  Since traveling to Costa Rica and getting hooked on their insanely delicious brews, Starbucks is just okay and Folger’s makes me want to cry.  I actually have Costa Rican coffee delivered in bulk so I can drink it every morning!  But I can honestly say that whatever Daily Grind is using, it is GOOD.  It’s the best I’ve had since Costa Rica, hands down.  In fact, it might even be better!  Which is lucky, because you can purchase coffee beans and grounds at The Daily Grind!  And if coffee isn’t your thing, there is also a juice bar and huge assortment pastries, as well as sandwiches and salads. (MUFFINS!  Get the muffins! They’re sinfully wonderful)

Aside from the great coffee and snacks, the vibe is perfect for reading and studying.  In fact, if you come to this place, you’ll be surrounded by fellow readers and academics.  You will also be surrounded by license plates from various places and bikes hanging on the wall.  The quirky décor is really fun, and surprisingly at odds with the upbeat pop music that was playing through my most recent visit.

One thing to keep in mind is that Daily Grind accepts cash only… so come prepared!  They also don’t have air conditioning, which isn’t usually an issue in Santa Barbara, but learn from my mistake and do NOT wear a sweater there in August!  I’m giving my new favorite digs in Santa Barbara four stars.  Pay them a visit soon, on the corner of De La Vina and Mission!  I know I will be. ★★★★

– Becca

Dagny’s Coffee Company (Bakersfield, CA)

Hello readers, it’s Becca with another awesome venue to kick back and relax with a great book in.

Dagny’s is a local business in our hometown of Bakersfield, California, and it’s the type of local business that you love to see making it.  They’ve been a focal point in the rejuvenation of downtown Bakersfield, and are extremely supportive of local artists.  We’re talking hosting music and art shows, as well as posting the work of local artists for sale throughout their dining area.  For that alone, it’s a really fabulous place.

But in addition to all the local love, Dagny’s is a really cool place to hang out.  You’ll see everyone from hipsters to working professionals on lunch breaks here, and there’s a really accepting and welcoming vibe throughout.  The iced white tea is an addiction of mine, and you can’t beat their baked goods!  Best of all – they serve wine and beer in addition to their caffeinated concoctions.  I did most of my studying for the GRE here a couple of years ago, and believe me, that beer was a godsend!

Come here with your laptop or library book, and stay for awhile on their comfy leather couches.  But come early… those couches fill up fast!

If you’d like to give Dagny’s a try, they are located on the corner of 20th and Eye St. in downtown Bakersfield.  If you’d like to see their schedule of events and listen to some great live music, their website is here.  ★★★★

La Provence Patisserie & Cafe (Brentwood, CA)

Hello readers, Becca here, with your new favorite reading spot in the Los Angeles area!  Check out the above photo (by Rachel Welch) of a latte at La Provence Patisserie & Cafe in Brentwood, CA!

Whether you’re visiting for a glass of wine, a DELICIOUS dessert, or an afternoon coffee break, La Provence will absolutely be your favorite place to read your newest novel.  I was introduced to it when visiting a friend in LA last November, and now make a point to stop there any time I’m in the area!  The decor is perfect for reading.  Not too quiet and not too loud, with quirky chandeliers and great natural light.  The furnishings are shabby chic and French inspired, and the place has a vibe that makes it completely acceptable to munch on a macaron or piece of quiche and read the afternoon away.

But even if you’re not staying to read, you absolutely must stay for the desserts!  The creme brulee, the chocolate truffles, the macarons – I’ve had all of these at La Provence and they are the best I’ve ever had anywhere!

Single ladies (and men of a certain persuasion) if I haven’t convinced you yet, I have one last trick up my sleeve.  Dreamy waiters with accents!  Do I really need to say anything else?  It is my absolute favorite place to relax with a novel in LA, and I hope you will all love it too!  Atmosphere, food, and service – all get five stars from me!  ★★★★★

La Provence has two locations, but the one I frequent is at 11677 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049.  Their website can be found here.

My lunch the last time I went to La Provence.  Creme Brulee and a soy latte (above).

The dining area at La Provence.  It’s usually a bit more crowded than this – we lucked out and only had to share this gem with about 5 other people on a Saturday afternoon.