Monday, November 12, 2007

Coffee and Dreams for the District

The "District", the partially nameless moniker arbitrarily given to COMO's downtown area, is constantly witnessing changes in storefronts and eateries - for better and worse. It often occurs to me that this part of COMO is both the reason this place is livable and the source of much of my misery. This contradictory feeling is mainly due the potential of the downtown that never feels fulfilled.

I know tha
t it's already been reviewed by "real" journalists, but I have to express my pleasure in discovering the District's newest coffee shop, Kaldi's. From what I've heard, Kaldi's is based out of St. Louis and actually supplies much of the coffee for some Columbia coffee joints. So, it's not completely new to Misery, but it is a welcome new member of the District.

Kaldi's took over the nice corner space on 9th and Cherry, once occupied by one of those crappy noodle chains. I have to say that the space is way more appropriate for a coffee shop than it was for soup and noodles. The interior is sleek, trademarked with Kaldi's logo, and provides a variety of seating.

The coffee has been fine. Actually, I've liked most of the coffee in COMO. None of it is spectacular, but it's all well-roasted and brewed. The latte' at Kaldi's is a little heavy on the milkiness and light on the coffee taste. The coffee doesn't stick out which is fine - it's neither spectacular nor bitter.

What I like is that Kaldi's provides another coffee space that isn't hippie-dippy (Lakota), hipster-Christian (Artisan), or loaded with local yokels (Coffee Zone). It's an alternative that diversifies the coffee scene in downtown COMO without being Starbuck's.

The menu is varied and interesting, similar to Artisan. R and I enjoyed our savory crepes (salmon in one, turkey sausage and bacon in the other). The crepes were interesting, but a little on the Misery-bland side.

Over breakfast, we got to talking about the changes that are happening in the district.

First of all, there is an actual tapas restaurant. We're not talking about a place that serves Horsd'œuvres on little plates. No. We're talking about real Spanish-influenced tapas. Throw in some Rioja and I might forget I'm in Misery.

Secondly, there is word that
Cucina Sorella and/or Trattoria Strada Nova will be returning upon the arrival of its founder. This would be a welcome return of one of COMO's best breakfast spots. Without Cucina, the quality of breakfast in this town dropped dramatically.

Third, it appears that the Ragtag/Uprise move to Hitt Street is making serious progress. I, for one, will be eager to attend films at the Ragtag knowing that there will be two to choose from. Rumor has it that one theater will have seats similar to the thrift store throw-aways like the current location and the other will have more traditional theater seating. Whichever is fine with me. I'm just exited to have choices of indie films in this town.

As far as the dreams I have for the District, I wish some stores would fill the empty space. I'd even be fine with some chain stores like Urban Outfitters or Banana Republic. These kinds of stores would be better than no stores and might bring additional traffic downtown to help support the existing businesses. Also, the rumor of Trader Joe's coming to COMO has to come to fruition. A downtown location would be ideal and this town could easily support the discount natural/organic/international food store.

Then, there are the businesses in COMO that should be downtown and not in a strip mall. JinaYoo's Asian Bistro has been the happiest addition to COMO's dismal dining scene in the last three years and should be downtown. Speaking of great Asian food, why hasn't Osaka made the move to the District? Besides the sheer entertainment of the hibachi, their sushi is far superior to Sake, downtown's current sushi joint.

These improvements and the return of hotels to downtown might even be enough to give the District a real name. (The Doc[umentary] District? The Mizzou District? The District of Columbia?) The hotels could be a big piece. There is talk of the Tiger returning to its golden era as a grand hotel. Then there's the project by the university to create a downtown hotel that can host conferences. (However, can this really happen when the university is in such dire economic straights?) Hotels would provide the District with the population and life it needs to be a viable downtown.

I'm coming to terms with the possibility that I may be here for quite awhile, so I want the place to improve as much as possible. A lot of that improvement can happen downtown to make this an exciting place to live. It could give me a reason to forget that we're two-hours from any major city with real restaurants and entertainment.

In the meantime, I'll attend the Modest Mouse show on Thursday (after a burger at Booche's), catch a flick at the Ragtag, and stay at home Saturday to watch The Game (OSU/Michigan-for all of you who aren't familiar with college football). That should do for now.


ATR said...

While I am not about to try to go toe-to-toe with you in a misery-off, I will say that you should count your blessings that your fine spouse didn't accept a position in another town--slightly larger, a bit more to the north and west of where you are now. Osaka and Booche's sound like heaven to me right about now.

Pizza Cottontail said...

The last luncheon I had in Misery was at Kaldi's. It was good. It's a shame I wasn't drinking coffee at the time.

I think "The District" is a dopey name, though. It's putting a brand name on CoMo's white, middle-to-upper-middle class shopping plaza. It used to be an actual community area, I've heard, but it seems that rent has gone up since they've branded themselves. Columbia's doing a great job of working toward having nothing but the Master Race in the downtown area.