This week, I waited out the potentially catastrophic weather event at the new Stone Cup Café location at 208 Frazier Ave. The former location—just a few steps down the street—is a nostalgic reminder of my college years at UTC. I studied for so many tests, which I would typically fail, at Stone Cup. The tiny room was often overstuffed with study groups, and it was one of the first real coffee shops I visited as a student.
About a year ago, Stone Cup relocated to the former Subway building near Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Bridge. The building offers the same quaint, quiet atmosphere as before, but the larger space has more nooks and crannies for studying and, as we would find out, a near-perfect small event space on the top floor.
The severe storms rolled in only minutes after I stepped inside. I was hungry, thirsty and ready to relive my college years for an hour without all the books and annoying study group partners. The inside was almost deserted—obviously a result of the storm exodus. It was fine by me.
Stone Cup has always had good coffee drinks, sandwiches and smoothies. They also serve a selection of beers, breakfast items and, really, anything else you could imagine a proper coffee shop having.
Click here to check out the menu.
I'm not usually on the north side of the city for breakfast, but I've eaten plenty of sandwiches from Stone Cup over the years. Although the new location has plenty of artwork—Jody Harris skateboards stood out—and an impressively detailed chalkboard menu is stunning, I missed the signature "Starry Night" mural from the previous location. The only other customer at the register was trying to convince staff to bring it back—said it would make a great tourist attraction. I don't disagree.
Guests can enter the building from the back or the front. All drink/food orders are placed at the counter in the middle and either delivered to your table or picked up. I appreciate Stone Cup's enormous menu of coffee drinks. In a day when many coffee shops are limiting the number of drinks to a handful, Stone Cup will still gladly make you a butterscotch latte, an Italian macchiato with toffee nut flavoring or any other combination of drink you can come up with.
The staff was friendly and laid-back, even for a weird night. Apparently, almost every other coffee shop and restaurant had closed early because of the threat of storms. I was scheduled to perform as part of an improv comedy troupe upstairs an hour later, and they graciously decided to stay open so we could perform. Thankfully, the storm wasn't nearly as deadly as it could've been. I don't blame the staff for thinking about shutting down, but I'm glad they didn't. We actually had a good turnout for the night.
I ordered a sandwich and beer for a quick dinner bite and waited at one of the small tables near the Frazier entrance.
Most visitors to Stone Cup will seek it out because of the coffee. I only marginally enjoy coffee—the caffeine is more necessary to me than the apparent bouquet of flavors—but from what I've gathered, Stone Cup is well-respected among coffee drinkers in the city. I'm a bit of a contrarian, so I ordered a beer to start my meal.
The Ballast Point Sculpin—named after the sculpin fish—is a hoppy IPA with "hints of apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors." I'll be honest; I just liked the brightly colored fish on the label. I also ordered a Parisian panini sandwich. I can also recommend the BLT from multiple visits. The Parisian has smoked turkey, Brie, chopped basil and honey on a baguette. It is served with a side of kettle chips in a metal tin. The sandwich was pretty good, and I appreciated the kettle chips instead of standard run-of-the-mill potato chips. I'm glad I had a cold beer instead of coffee because the bread was bone-dry from the panini pressing. Still, the flavor was great, and I would order it again.
As a bit of a dessert, I ordered a straight-up café latte to take with me upstairs. I'm not big on specialty coffee drinks, but the caffeine boost was nice before a high-energy show.
Speaking of shows, Stone Cup offers a variety of weekly events in the upstairs space: live music, open mics, poetry readings and even yoga classes twice per week. You can find announcements about upcoming events on their Facebook page.
Would I go back?
Stone Cup is an institution in Chattanooga, especially on the north side of the river. Instead of a focus on the delicacies inherent in a cup of coffee (they do that, too), Stone Cup is much more of a community gathering place. The new location offers stunning views of Coolidge Park, the Walnut Street Bridge and the bluff. I had never visited the top floor of the building, and I was impressed at how scenic our city really is. You may overlook Stone Cup, but it'll be there when you're ready for an easy cup and bite.
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