Visited: Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.
When my wife and I first moved to Columbus over ten years ago, we lived in Short North. Back then (oh no, I’m already using phrases like that) there was one coffee shop in the neighborhood: The Coffee Table. We were fortunate to live across the street from it, and oh, it was glorious in the grungiest of ways. Our favorite barista, David, pulled a mean shot of espresso. Over the years, the neighborhood has transformed, the Coffee Table is gone, and a newer generation of shops has taken its place, shops like Cup O Joe, Impero, Travonna. Amongst this new generation are two shops that strike me as fairly similar: One Line Coffee and Mission Coffee. While wallowing in the nostalgia of the Coffee Table days, it’d be easy to pass off both of them as some of those trendier coffee places more on par with a cold art gallery than a cozy coffee shop.
If that’s your initial impression, fine. I can kind of see why. Gone is the era of 1990’s coffee shops with ratty, mis-matched couches. Now is the era of sleeker gathering spaces that focus as much on the coffee-imbibing experience as much as the wireless, I’m-here-to-work mentality.
Mission fits the bill in that it’s established in an old garage space on a side street in Short North. The big part of the front wall is clearly an old garage door converted into a permanent structure. There are wooden tables with heavy, industrial chairs. Bags of available coffee are lined up like gallery entries.
One could level the accusation that shops like this breed a sort of coffee elitism. If your definition of a coffee shop is essentially a Starbucks drive-through, then I can see why. But what I’ve come to appreciate about places like Mission and One Line is their approachability. If you’re just willing to ask, you’ll find employees who are friendly and eager to explain the various preparations. They want you to love coffee as much as they do. Mission even has a display showcasing the different equipment: French presses, Chemex, V60s, and the like.
If you’ve got the time and the interest, try one of these preparations. They serve straightforward brewed coffee, too – nothing wrong with that – but specialty shops like Mission offer specialties that help you really get to know different roasts. I myself enjoy their pour-overs: these are simple preparations that really unlock the innate flavors in the coffee.
Short North is still a great place for coffee. Sure, the character has changed a bit. Maybe things are a little more polished than they used to be; it’s a microcosm of the neighborhood’s shift overall. But I’m okay with it, if it brings solid coffee options, places to hang out and work, and a chance to learn more about the coffee process overall.