Coffee in the museum

Beginning on November 20th and lasting through March 5th, the #Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is hosting a special exhibit entitled “Bitter|Sweet: #Coffee, Tea & Chocolate.” Along with considering the sociocultural aspects of its featured delectables, the exhibit features the various vessels we have used to craft and consume beverages whose popularity and artisanal qualities have come to the fore over the past few decades, as demonstrated by the ubiquity of places like Starbucks, Biggby, Second Cup, and numerous independent shops. And while getting into “Bitter|Sweet” does cost extra (between $5 and $14), prospective attendees will be pleased to know that it engages all five senses, so you might not need to seek out nearby cafes afterward.

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Coffee in the East Side

If you find yourself in eastern Detroit, several miles from the DIA and near the Grosse Pointes, consider visiting a cafe whose name alone may initially baffle and draw attention. Coffee and (___) offers coffee, tea, chocolate, and much more. Owner Angela Foster, whom you might see behind the counter, named it “coffee and blank” to reflect its ever-evolving unique menu.

Keen on experimenting with new dishes, Foster has built a culinary repertoire that aspires to accommodate vegan customers, as well as those who can't eat gluten. Nonetheless, others can readily enjoy such dishes as well. Depending on the day, they include entrees like egg strata, “Pear-fect Thyming” Flapjacks, Bright & White Bean Chili, and "pulled eggplant" for those wanting a BBQ dish without pork.

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Possible dessert selections include Triple Chocolate Truffle Brownies, Raspberry Dark Chocolate Mousse Torte, and Cranberry Pomegranate Citrus Bread.

Coffee and atmosphere

Located at 14409 Jefferson Avenue, in an old storefront with high ceilings, Foster’s Cafe offers customers a very relaxed atmosphere at once spacious and intimate. Along with paintings by local artists and a collage mural representing the Jefferson-Chalmers area, it also features various kinds of creative repurposing and upcycling.

Bicycle wheels act as a central point of interest on some ceiling lights, while the front of the store provides customers with a unique place to sit: a sectional sofa with coffee table, made of pallets on rollers. The radio is typically tuned into CBC-Windsor, offering music ranging from classical to jazz to popular. Given the cafe’s independent nature, many customers are “regulars” from the neighborhood or nearby, opening up possibilities for the conversation with a diverse range of people.

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Coffee and rebuilding

After starting as a pop-up, Coffee and (___) became a permanent establishment in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood in 2013. Although the area has gone through rough times, and some structures remain abandoned, it has seen a rebound in recent years.

Taking into account the number of early 20th century buildings that remain, the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave the neighborhood National Treasure status in September of this year. Certainly, the emergence of places like Coffee and (___) is an indicator of this process. In keeping with the DIA's "Bitter|Sweet" exhibit, it follows the long tradition of coffee-centered establishments in other times and places, acting as an integral part of its own sociocultural context within a resurgent and creative Detroit. #museums