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Why Koka Coffee House Rules

By Heather Smith · June 25th, 2008 · The Dish
We all have our favorite coffee houses, even those of us who are supposed to remain objective about these things. Mine is Koka Coffee House (1101 St. Gregory St., Mount Adams, 513-381-5652). It's my neighborhood coffee house.

Last Tuesday my car's brakes went out, preventing me from getting to the restaurant CityBeat had slated for a lunch review. So I called Koka. It just so happens that July 18 was Koka's one-year anniversary, so it was the timeliest of reviews -- and the shortest of walking distances. (This is not normally how we choose our reviews here at CityBeat!)

It was 11 a.m., and I had to eat fast so I could finally get to work. I called beforehand.

"Do you serve lunch this early?"

"We can," Koka's barista said.

"But do you normally?"

"We can serve lunch whenever you want," she said. "We fire up the grill at 10 a.m., so it's not a problem."

Flexibility is the first reason I love Koka. With life being the way it is, it's a trait that cannot be underestimated.

In fact, flexibility is almost divine -- in restaurants and people. When my roommate and I walked in, we grabbed one of the many empty tables. This is highly unusual for Koka -- the place is usually full of serious chain coffee drinkers setting up temporary home offices, laptop cords stretching across the high stainless steel tables.

In addition to telecommuters, Koka entertains Mount Adams tourists, die-hard customers who live and work in the neighborhood and a charming group of older men who've formed a bit of a Mount Adams Men's Social Club. Drop in most mornings and they're reading newspapers and waiting for one another to arrive.

Hang out long enough and someone will probably introduce themselves and give you their card. Or you might be completely left alone. My roommate can sit there all day and read Eckhart Tolle's The New Earth without a soul disturbing her.

You can also find peace at Koka, if that's what you're looking for. Koka's baristas are friendly, down-to-earth and non-intrusive. You won't find attitude here, or the slow, chic service that passes as ambience at some coffee houses. Koka's baristas are not too cool to be awake and actually talk to you.

Of course, food is critical, and some coffee houses, even the most beloved ones, have not quite mastered it. The space Koka occupies in Mount Adams has been home to many coffee houses with many names throughout the years, and Koka comes closer to succeeding food-wise than any of them.

Side Dish
Floyd's Restaurant (127 Calhoun St., Mount Auburn, 513-221-2434) is temporarily closed for in-restaurant dining, but open for catered carryout parties. It will reopen July 1. ... Kona Bistro (3012 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-842-5662) holds a July 9 benefit for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit serving preteen girls. General public invited.

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