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Into Shelley’s Belly: Coffee House Cafe

The Signature House Latte (photos by Matthew Shelley)
The Signature House Latte (photos by Matthew Shelley)

I woke up in a tree this morning, coated my feet in honey, and started off the day with a light stroll through an ancient fern meadow I found last year in the back of my closet. It’s kind of like Narnia, but with more nudity and less heroism. Also, there weren’t any speaking animals. That would just be weird. After some solid Qigong breath work, I glided into my car seat and headed up north to try out this neighborhood café that Carol told me about. It’s called Coffee House Café, and they apparently take great care in selecting and delivering their coffee. Alright, I’m game.

A banana nut muffin
A banana nut muffin
Beignets (left); seating area (right)
Beignets (left); seating area (right)

From the chaos of rush hour traffic, buzzing engines, and road-hardened worker bee faces, I walked into Coffee House Café, which sits at Preston and Frankford in north Dallas, and I was immediately washed over with a wave of ease. It almost startled me. Something took over, and the casual, warm interior swayed my already open meridians into complete delight. It’s a place to disappear into, and yet you immediately become part of all that it is away from the bustling world outside. As you walk in, there is a hostess stand to the left and a large square bar directly in front of you that serves coffee, beer, wine and all brands of spirits. There is a large chalkboard menu over the bar, and this room is dedicated to imbibing. To the left is a dining room that was full at 9:30 this morning. Seriously, every seat was taken. To the right is a large and cozy patio area with a fireplace and spacious seating. The interior beckons a rustic Italian wine cellar with lots of lightly colored brick, archway entries, a large metal door on rails leading to a private dining area, and some authentic burlap covering the east wall – repurposed from the bags that transported the coffee from the farm. The neutral, earth toned easiness complements the dimly lit spaces with a laid back, adult contemporary feel. I dig it.

The service was welcoming and grounded, and the baristas all seemed energized by their work while very much enjoying each other’s company. I became excited to order some goods to put in my mouth. I, as always, started off with a cappuccino. To accompany, I also ordered the beignets. Carrie Kelleher, the owner and passionate advocate of carefully selected beans, has outfitted her café menu with some seriously considerate coffee. The cappuccino was thick and full in its weight with the coffee remaining the shining star of the cup. It was smooth and inviting, with an excellent balance of espresso and milk. The beignets were generously sugar-coated, airy, and crunchy. They weren’t as silky and moist as I’d hoped, so there is definitely room for improvement.

The Coffee Bar area
The Coffee Bar area
The Challah French Toast Sandwich
The Challah French Toast Sandwich

Carlos, the man behind the bar, managed and brewed and delivered with aplomb behind the wheel he so joyously steered. He had complete control over his domain, and along with his smile came a sincere appreciation of everything he served me. I moved on to my main course and decided to try the fresh squeezed orange juice. It was bright in its flavor, but the pulp was missing, which I missed terribly. I also had to try the signature latte. It’s lightly sweetened with pure cane vanilla and caramel. The vanilla cane wasn’t too sweet, and I found myself touching things I shouldn’t in public before coming to my senses. Fortunately, no elderly were nearby. Carlos then returned with my new best friend, the Challah French Toast Sandwich. It’s made with bacon, an over-medium egg, and cheddar cheese. The French toast surrounding my favorite breakfast trio was soft and almost gooey in my mouth. It wrapped the bacon, egg, and cheese with the gentle sweetness of the challah bread and everything worked in a fantastic collection of flavors and savory textures. I forced myself to finish it along with the rosemary seasoned house potatoes, and now I am writing this lying on my back on an emotional teeter-totter of over-indulgence and culinary ecstasy. French toast just has those powers. While the egg was nicely cooked and the bacon was crunchy and salty, I would only suggest they change out the yellow cheddar cheese. With the care this place puts in its menu and café offerings, they should put some serious cheddar in there.

The Spacious patio
The Spacious patio

As I leaned back in my seat and reluctantly pushed my plate of food away, I lifted the last sips of my latte and allowed myself a moment of peace to relish in the coziness of this lovely café. It’s a family friendly restaurant that can suit just about anyone. The staff works as cohesively as the food and drinks, and every inch of this place is warm and effortless. It’s a charming respite from whatever chaos consumes you out in the big scary world, and I am anxious to return and make my way through the menu.