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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar

Athens, Texas finally has a real barista!  Today, I ventured into "Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar" on the square in Athens.  I started off with the Chicken Salad sandwich on a Jalapeño Cheese bun.  The chicken salad had fresh big chunks of white meat chicken, dried cranberries and pecans---delicious.  It was served with kettle chips, grapes, cantaloupe, and a pickled okra pod (a nice Texas alternative to the standard pickle).  This was surprisingly filling as the sandwich was huge! The waitress was genuinely friendly and pleasant.  The overall environment was warm and inviting as if you were at a friend's house.

But the real reason I stopped by was for an espresso.  I was fully prepared to be disappointed.  Athens has seen coffee shops come and go.  The Pendulum was unique and a wonderful addition of culture and class to Athens, but unfortunately it was short-lived.  The espresso was great and consistent for a while, but it in its final days, it seemed to be rushed by poorly -trained "kids" who just wanted to collect a paycheck. The Pendulum often had its doors locked early---I suspect the result of the kids needing to cut out early.

Then there's the Flying Gatto.  Their espresso is as inconsistent as their business hours.  Just two weeks ago, I called to ask when they close.  I called at 4:15 p.m. and was told they would be closing at 5 p.m.  I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the doors were locked.  The Flying Gatto had so much potential in the beginning, but again, it seems it's been turned over to the youth who apparently have no vested interest in its success.

DJNow, enter Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar.  It's a more mature environment than The Flying Gatto, but certainly not stuffy. For one, there's DJ, the bubbly, witty barista.  She knows what she's doing.  Period.  She pulls an espresso as good as I do.  And as my friends know, being a self-professed coffee snob, that's saying something.  My doppio was the perfect temperature with a beautiful, thick crema and intense espresso without being bitter.  Like a good cigar, it lingered for a good 15 minutes.  It was everything an espresso is supposed to be. Here's to hoping Sweet Pea endures and finds its niche in Athens, Texas.


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