While recently promoting her latest book, Patti Smith detoured and talked about her love of cafes, an affinity that started in the ’60s.
“Back then, cafes were a lot different,” Smith told Tavis Smiley on his PBS show. “You didn’t have music blaring. People didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t have technology in the cafe. Mostly you went in and people were either, you know, arguing about Kierkegaard or they were reading or writing, so it was a very romantic setting. So in my head, I still have a romantic view of the cafe and, every once in a while, I find one that accommodates that.”
Though the American coffeehouse is distinct from the cafes in New York, Paris, Morocco, etc. to which Smith was referring, many of us look upon the coffeehouse, now a ubiquitous institution in any given U.S. town, for much of the same romance. In hearing Smith mention she was once intimidated by her first encounter with a New York cafe, I think of how coffeehouses come in so many varieties: from the intimidating to the comfortable to the speedy to the artisan.
I mention all this as a prelude to the review of Red Rock Coffeehouse because over six or seven years, the owners have cultivated a shop that checks all the boxes. It serves quality drinks and food at affordable prices by an unpretentious staff in an environment that yields itself to catching-up conversations or laptop work.
And every time I’ve visited Red Rock over the last several years, it seems to have effected some new increment of comfort, whether it’s comfy chairs, friendly staff, better music or special drinks. It’s a good, popular coffeehouse now, and it’s always getting better.
On a recent morning, I ordered a whole bunch of drinks: an Americano, a spicy chai latte, a cappuccino and a fruit smoothie. I also tacked on a bowl of house-made granola. Red Rock’s drink menu is pared down, focusing on coffee and tea staples while offering seasonal specials from time to time. The food selection outside of granola includes breakfast sandwiches and pastries, some made in-house and many made by local artisans.
Starting with the cappuccino, the barista served the foamy whole milk and espresso drink in a very large mug. The espresso at Red Rock is brewed from Novo Coffee beans, a craft coffee roaster in Denver. The foam was undecorated and pure white, and the fattiness of the milk brought out butter and fruit flavors in the espresso. This was in contrast to the plain Americano, which was mild compared to other coffeehouses’. Its consistency was spot on, but a little fat in Novo’s espresso prepared by Red Rock goes a long way.
The spicy chai was made from a brew from Boulder’s Sanctuary Chai. It really was spicy — the ginger hit the back of my throat immediately, but that pugnacity quickly dissipated throughout the course of the drink. Clove hits the palate first, but cardamom controls the flavor profile through the finish. I ordered mine with almond milk, so there was a little nuttiness and a lighter consistency that’s very pleasant.
The fruit smoothie — Red Rock has a rotating list of smoothies and frappes — was made of whole milk, banana and dark berries. It was fresh and filling, and had a good ratio of fruit flavors.
And the bowl of granola was simply and precisely prepared. You can choose your fixings at Red Rock, and I got dried blueberries and mango with slivered almonds. It was warm, not too goopy and wholly satisfying.
It occurs to me that what makes it enticing to open a coffeehouse or cafe is also the curse of the form — there’s so much flexibility in style that you constantly have to work to smooth all the edges and cultivate atmosphere. Judging by the healthy customer base Red Rock has, they are looking good for years to come.
Red Rock Coffeehouse – 3325 28th St., Boulder, 303-443-1975