The Dish: More than Just Coffee

Has your caffeine intake naturally gone up by about 50 percent this holiday season? Yes, it’s December, time for the body to kick into proverbial yuletide gear. But before you buy another corporate mocha choca latta yadda yadda, why not try New Orleans’ wealth of smaller coffee operations, some of which are also turning out impeccable breakfast, lunch and dessert options – especially for those on the run?

Comfort is the name of the game at Satsuma Maple. What started out as a funky little coffee shop in Bywater has grown in to a dining destination with a second location Uptown. The café isn’t really so much a college student or hipster hangout as it is a colorful breakfast and lunch spot for families, friends and couples of all ages. Housemade soups and strong espresso drinks make this the perfect pit stop for holiday shopping expeditions or gatherings earlier in the day. Few sandwiches often pair well with coffee, but the roasted pear and brie melt seems made for a cuppa or one of Satsuma’s hearty juices, and is perhaps the ultimate luxury in terms of lunchtime comfort food. It is sweet and savory, buttery, salty and warm, with a hint of caramelized onions that lend a familiar flavor that we often associate with coziness. The café’s kitchen is a bit bigger than the Bywater flagship, so food comes out relatively fast, though it does get just as packed as the other location. Huge biscuits accompany breakfast dishes, like Hollygrove market vegetable and sweet potato hash, and bagels come on wooden boards with all the fixings spread out like a lovely sampler à la a charcuterie or a cheese plate.

Velvet Espresso Bar is a tiny shop across from Whole Foods on Magazine Street (formerly a short-lived juice bar) and home to well-crafted espresso drinks, siphon coffee and other “slow bar” methods of coffee making, as owner Tamara Muro herself is certified by the Barista Guild of America. One look at the decadent assortment of artisan pastries, such as teacakes and handmade pop-tarts, and you can’t say no. The teacakes are every girl’s tea party dream dessert and are perfect for dazzling your relatives at a holiday breakfast or brunch event (make sure to call ahead for larger orders). Beautifully iced and decorated, The Sour Puss teacake features lemon cake stuffed with housemade blueberry jam and topped with a dollop of icing and a blueberry, and the Kevin Bacon features applewood smoked bacon stuffed inside chocolate cake. Velvet Espresso Bar also serves a slew of breakfast options from eggs, ham and cheese over garlic roasted potatoes to various sandwiches like a ham, turkey and brie melt with fig jam (all at very reasonable prices). By the end of December, Muro should also have a huge new second location [called Velvet Central] on the ever-growing O.C. Haley Boulevard, which will still serve the pastries, Intelligentsia and Stumptown coffee and breakfast fare. If you work in the movies, look for the Velvet To Geaux coffee trailer that sets up at film sets around town.

This holiday season will also be interesting with the addition of the new Morning Call in City Park, which is sure to be packed with families seeking café au lait and beignets before and after “Celebration in the Oaks.” But there’s a celebration tradition for many right down the street: Angelo Brocato’s. Do not forget to indulge in a scoop of gelato topped with espresso before you hit the park. Then perhaps try the new Morning Call after. In fact, it’s probably best to just skip dinner all together.

Angelo Brocato’s | 214 N. Carrollton Ave. | 486-1465|

Brigade Coffee Truck |

Morning Call | Casino Building | City Park |

Satsuma Maple | 7901 Maple St. | 309-5557 |

Velvet Espresso Bar | 5637 Magazine St. | 450-2129 |

Try This

Get vintage chic and impress any car-show type this holiday season with a visit to the Brigade Coffee Truck. Often parked outside of Stein’s Deli and St. James Cheese Company Uptown, the coffee operation is housed in an old Citreon truck the owners found in Belgium and had refurbished for brewing purposes. Look for their locations @BrigadeCoffee on Twitter.

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