Local coffee roundup

Local coffee roundup

COFFEE OR IRISH COFFEE?: The Vagabond, 614 W. Douglas, not only serves excellent coffee, but a full line of even more adult beverages. Courtesy photo

It's been a while since I did a local roundup, so I thought since the sun is out and spring has fallen into our laps you might be ready to crawl out from your burrows and dens and venture into the out of doors. Here's a quick update on what everyone has to offer:

THE DONUT WHOLE

The Donut Whole is, by now, a Wichita institution. Not only a place for donutting, but for years they had the best 90s northwestern style cappuccinos anywhere. Still no slouches in that department, you'll want to arrive early to get the donuts when they're crazy fresh. I mean that literally, as in when they've just been made, not in a 90s slang sort of way.

Best coffee here: Their basic cup of coffee beats the rest in town. If you're not looking for a pourover or anything crazy, you can't go wrong with The Donut Whole's smooth proprietary blend from The Spice Merchant.

Outdoor seating: Yes, sort of.

REVERIE COFFEE ROASTERS

Reverie has grown by leaps and bounds since they opened in 2013. While at first they had no desire to have much of a coffeehouse themselves, demand led to their adding seating and reworking their physical space to accommodate the crowds that don't mind waiting for a well-made cup of craft coffee. I say again, people, and I once wrote an entire column on this: DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW LONG A POUROVER TAKES. Reverie's baristas are excellent and the quality of their roasting continues to improve, along with their space.

Best coffee here: It's a toss-up, but I'm going to have to say their cold brew simply because it's among the best cold brew anywhere. On the plus side, they also sell it in concentrated, bottled form.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

FRESH ROAST

Fresh Roast is the original artisan coffee roaster here in town. He's only open on Saturday mornings, only offers one coffee per week which he roasts by hand and sells out of his little building near Clifton Square. Once it's gone, it's gone. You won't regret not sleeping in to sample this stuff.

Best coffee here: Whatever he's doing this week. Wake up. Go try it.

Outdoor seating: Ha ha ha.

VERITA

Oh, how I wish Verita were down the street from my house. There is much to like about this lone western outpost of coffee culture; see my recent column for more on that. They brew only single origin espresso on a Slayer machine, all of which makes a gigantic difference if you've never tried it. They change the origin of their beans regularly, so there's often something new to try. I highly recommend they move their business within walking distance of my home.

Best coffee here: It is going to seem like heresy, but once you've sampled their espresso you need to move quickly forward to their dirty chai. They roast and mix their own chai, and it's the best.

Outdoor seating: No.

R COFFEEHOUSE

Since reopening, the former Riverside Perk is something very different. It's the most comfortably artsy coffeehouse in town, merging very well with the neighborhood and filled with eclectic art and items for sale by local artisans. They've got food, too, and when Angelo (the owner) is working he's always willing to figure out something you'll be in the mood for. They're adding a juicebar section for the summer, and they're easily the most free-flowing and creative coffeehouse in town.

Best coffee here: I can't remember the name of it, but they make a sugar-shocked espresso drink called something like the Big Papa that was surprisingly great.

Outdoor seating: Tons.

THE VAGABOND

The Vagabond is unique in that you can start your day there with coffee and stick around all day until you're ready to switch to more adult beverages. The Vagabond is a personal favorite of mine just for the feel of the place. You wouldn't expect coffee this good to come out of what seems on the surface to be a great dive bar, but it does. There are few better places in Wichita to people watch than at The Vagabond.

Best coffee here: Their PT's French presses have never done me wrong.

Outdoor seating: Yup.

ESPRESSO TO GO GO

If you want well-crafted espresso drinks you can't find anywhere else, you need to hit either of the two ETGG locations. There is limited seating, hence the "TO GO GO" but if you need to stick around they do have tables at their Douglas and St. Francis location. You'll need to know some of their secret menu items in order to make the most of your ETGGsperience.

Best coffee here: I recommend the Cafe Sua, the Master Shake and the basic long black.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

THE SPICE MERCHANT

Not a coffeehouse, but the most experienced coffee roaster in town. While new roasters are springing up everywhere, you can't forget The Spice Merchant has been around forever for a reason. Their blends are top notch and consistent, and despite the fact that they might not be considered by some to be on the cutting edge, you should go back if you haven't tried them in a while.

Best coffee here: I'm a big fan of the Kenyan Peaberry or the Africa Select.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

IL PRIMO ESPRESSO CAFE

This is the first place I ever had a cappuccino, many years ago, and my friends and I only did so because cappuccino seemed elitist and horrible. So we had to go. Now, well, look at me. Their quality was inconsistent for years, but recently they've upped their game and are really improving. One of their baristas even beat the rest of the best in town in a recent latte art competition.

Best coffee here: Their basic cappuccino, dry.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

WATERMARK BOOKS

You might forget that Watermark has a cozy little cafe tucked inside, but they offer a great place for lunch and make coffee that isn't half bad. While I'm not big on syrupy drinks, their house concoctions are all literary-themed and the few I've tried are actually pretty good.

Best coffee here: For me, it's the Americano, but check out their menu.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

MEAD'S CORNER

Mead's is in a good location which is the primary reason you might go there, but the quality of their coffee has fallen off in recent times. Stories like people being handed a cappuccino they've forgotten to put any espresso in, then having it dumped in on top, are increasingly common. They've got a great space but their focus seems to have shifted away from the quality of their coffee.

Best coffee here: I've never had a problem with their Americano.

Outdoor seating: Nope.

Honorable Mentions

CHURN N' BURN

Churn n' Burn has already caught on but should fairly blow up on the summer. Aside from the novelty of the fact that everything is made with liquid nitrogen, there is no better ice cream in town and their frozen coffee drinks are the best you'll find anywhere. They'll be moving a couple of doors down soon for better visibility and to accommodate more customers at a time.

MONROE COFFEE

Slowly but surely, they are preparing to open in the Dockum building on Douglas. If all goes according to plan, it will be quite a different offering than anywhere else, they'll offer a subscription coffee service, and a number of other things I'll go into closer to their actual opening date.