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West End Bakery

West End Bakery, West Asheville, NC

I was sitting in this very place when I decided that I absolutely had to move to Asheville. And we actually ended up moving a block and a half away from West End Bakery where we lived for a year. I had the good fortune of being in walking distance of this blissful stretch of Haywood Road and all the fair trade, local, organic goodness it has to offer. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

COFFEE: Like we said, it’s fair-trade, organic, and you can’t get more local than roasters right down the street. Get your mug at the register and choose from two thermoses of regular and one decaf. They also have organic espresso and tea options including some tempting herbal iced tea specials in the summer.

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

FOOD: This is a bakery first and foremost, so any pastry, sandwich or biscuit-based menu item you order is gonna be a winner. They have cinnamon buns the size of frisbees, and a chalkboard listing the many locally sourced ingredients. For a bakery, they’re awfully conscious of the gluten-free customer, and it’s West, so you know there’s plenty of vegetarian options (try the tofu sandwich on their spelt bread — yummm!).

INTERNET: The Wi-Fi is free and flowin’, but my one complaint is that the smaller room toward the back where I prefer to work doesn’t have any outlets. And I only counted a couple of places in the main room to plug in. So be sure to scout before you sit or come fully charged if you plan to stay awhile.

VIBE: This place just says West Asheville to me. It’s a very  neighborhoody, hold-the-door-open-for-the-person-behind-you kind of place where at least one person in earshot will say “No worries.” The last time I was there, a woman two people ahead of me in line was short a couple of dollars. The woman between us handed her some cash to make up the difference. There was the obligatory refusal/insistence dance until the first woman finally, gratefully accepted. I assumed they were at lunch together and that it was a friend paying for another friend’s coffee. Turns out they were total strangers. That’s West End Bakery.

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

GREENERY: What isn’t green here? They compost, they recycle, they support sustainable agriculture, they use 100% organic flour and use organic and local everything else whenever possible (there’s even local soap in the bathroom).

KIDDING: If your child can play nicely in one area (and not climb on tables and crawl behind the counter under the waitstaffs’ feet like mind would), this would be a great place to come with kids if you want to get a little work done outside the house. They have a play area at the front of the bakery with toys and books and comfy chairs so you can keep one eye on your screen and one eye on your little guy. The area is not contained and is right near the front door, so you would need make sure your child stays out of door traffic. Basically he or she has to be able to listen. And if your child does listen to you, please share your secret. I’d love to know how to get my son to do that.

West End Bakery, 757 Haywood Rd, West Asheville, NC, 28806


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Coworking or Cafe Working?

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Asheville is getting a new coworking space—the only one in town as far as I know, since the fall of Locomotivity, and then, The Tink Tank. These cafe alternatives aren’t news to larger cities. There’s Citizen Space in San Francisco, and in Brooklyn they’ve taken it one niche further with the eco-friendly co-working space, Green Desk. But for smaller towns, coworking spaces have yet to pop up, or in Asheville’s case have opened and already closed their doors. I don’t see the allure of paying money to confine myself to a cubicle, but I do appreciate other aspects of coworking: professional meeting rooms, a dependable wireless connection, and most intriguing—the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other creative minds. When you’re a one-woman department, it’s nice to have someone as a sounding board who doesn’t have ulterior motives or isn’t your mother (or both).

 

Sustainable coworking space at Green Desk in Brooklyn.

 

I like that Mojo Coworking offers daily and hourly rates in addition to full memberships. And yes, there’s coffee. I think I’m a Cafe Worker at heart, but look forward to checking out this whole coworking thing when Mojo opens. Whether it’s right for me or not, it’s definitely a much needed service in Asheville, so I hope Mojo succeeds. Now if we can only get a good Jewish deli:)

Cafe working or coworking? Which do you prefer and why?

Twisted Crepe

Twisted Crepe, Asheville, NC

This restaurant might not stand out as an obvious cafe working locale, but even though they don’t advertise it, they have free Wi-Fi. If I’m downtown and know I want to eat something light and healthy while I work, I go to Twisted Crepe.

credit: Dustin Pulliam

FOOD: I’m starting off with the highlights and moving backward. I strictly come here for the food. I dream about their crepes. They are a crisp, refreshing handheld alternative to bagels and biscuits. I always get The Shorty. Until recently, it was also the best breakfast deal in town: 3 veggies, egg, cheese and choice of sauce for $2.99! You cannot get a decent breakfast in downtown Asheville for less than five dollars (someone please prove me wrong). I even saw a breakfast sandwich on one menu for $7.95…and slowly, quietly backed my way out the door. Unfortunately, this was a gateway price (now $4.99), but it worked. I’m hooked. My budget won’t allow me to visit as often as I did, but Twisted Crepe has quickly made it to the top of my “Treat Yourself” list.

INTERNET: Again, it’s free and I’ve never had connection issues. It’s been awhile since I first logged on there, but either there’s no password or if there is, they’ll give it to you at the counter. You may ask yourself “Isn’t the Internet free everywhere now?” Alas, it is not. I stayed in a really nice hotel in Atlanta (cough) InterContinental Buckhead (cough) for a wedding and had to bring some work along with me. $20 per day to use their Internet, I kid you not. At least it gave me an excuse to not work!

VIBE: This place is too clean and well-lit to have a “vibe”. I’m not saying the atmosphere is bad… it’s just not brimming with personality—kind of like the Gwyneth Paltrow of crepe places. So it’s not the place I go to hunker down and hide out, but they do have a few booths and don’t seem to mind when I take up one just for me. And the owner and staff are all very friendly (and very patient with indecisive orderers like myself).

COFFEE: Now we come to the low point. The coffee is not that great. They serve it from thermoses on a station at the front where you can help yourself. The first time I was there, I thought it might’ve just been a mishap—bad brews happen to good people. But I’ve been there several times and it’s consistently “eh”. Again, I come for the food. I’m willing to swallow a mediocre cup of coffee in exchange for a top notch breakfast.

Twisted Crepe, 62 Haywood St., Asheville, NC, 28801

Photos were taken by owner Dustin Pulliam and “borrowed” from Urbanspoon.

Izzy’s Coffee Den

Izzy’s Coffee Den in Asheville, NC

“Den” is the perfect word to describe this Lexington Avenue coffee spot. It’s dark, cozy, and inviting if you’re not intimidated by the cool, hipster clientele (which I always was… until now).

COFFEE: They brew Counter Culture, one of my favorite brands. And if you drink your coffee there, you get it in a large mug for only $1.25, and 50 cent refills (It’s $1.50 for a 12-oz cup if you grab it to-go). I’ve had their French Roast, which is amazing. But today, I felt adventurous and tried the Ethiopian blend. Not bad, but I’m sticking to what they describe on their menu as “the dark stuff”.

VIBE: Punk music blares from the speakers… everything from Weezer and Lou Reed to other bands that I’m not hip enough to know (as evidenced by my use of the word “hip”). I actually like listening to punk music while I work. I can somehow tune it out and at the same time absorb its energy to help me focus. The local artwork adorning the walls is chaotic with a hint of psychotic. I’m personally drawn to this piece that I can only describe as some sort of deranged rabbit on a bicycle, lovingly titled “Snuggles”:

And I’m always a fan of places that use creative ways to distinguish between the men’s and women’s restrooms:

They advertise live music, but I’m guessing that’s something that goes on later in the evening and I’m  a morning person when it comes to cafe working. You have to appreciate local businesses that support local art and music!

FOOD: The food section on their menu could just as easily be called BAGELS. They keep it simple, selling Brueggers bagels, priced according to shmear: butter, cream cheese or hummus. I prefer my bagels made in-house, but this isn’t a bakery. I’m here for the coffee and computer time and Izzy’s accomplishes those two things quite well.

BEER & WINE: If you prefer more than a caffeine buzz while you work (and really, who doesn’t?) they have a small albeit decent selection of beers, and I believe I saw one wine option.

INTERNET: They post their password on the counter. It’s fast, free and I didn’t have any connection problems.

A couple of years ago, they opened a second location in West Asheville, which I’ve yet to check out, but it’s on my list.

Izzy’s Coffee Den, 74 N Lexington Ave, Asheville NC 28801

The Green Sage Coffeehouse and Cafe

The Green Sage Coffeehouse & Cafe in Asheville, NC.

I thought I’d start off the reviews with my favorite laptop-friendly locale in downtown Asheville.

During the doldrums of winter, I leave the comforts of my loungewear less than any other time of year. Still, at least once a week I go downtown to our company’s Asheville office to check in, pick up packages and use their fax machine and printer (cannot for the life of me get mine to work). But before I go to the office, I stop off at Green Sage. This has become my habitual haunt for a few key reasons:

1. The coffee is good… and reasonable. Does anyone actually sell cheap coffee anymore? At $1.79 for a 12-oz cup of fair trade organic goodness, I consider it a deal. You can’t even get a bad cup of coffee for much less these days. Plus they offer soy milk on their condiment counter for no extra charge (take a cue, Starbucks).

2. Friendly service. I don’t know if I go there enough for them to recognize me, but they’re always smiling and personable. It’s rare that I utter more than a grunt before my morning coffee, but at Green Sage I’m more likely to engage. And they never make me feel like I’m overstaying my welcome. I can work for two hours (sometimes more) on one cup of coffee without any lurking, leering or peering over my shoulder. Probably doesn’t hurt that I always make a point to tip well:)

3. They’re truly green. It’s not just a buzz word they flaunt to attract eco-conscious customers. From a compost and recycling station to the solar panels on the roof, they do everything they can to minimize their earthly impact, and that earns huge points with me.

4. Good food. They use local and organic ingredients when at all possible (see #3) and while my budget won’t allow me to indulge every time I’m there, it’s a treat when I do. I love their breakfast biscuits and the Autumn Smoothie is like sipping heaven through a straw. Insider tip: even when it’s not fall, they’ll make it for you if you ask and the ingredients are there.

I’ve only had Internet connection issues a couple of times, but for the most part I can work uninterrupted and, if I’m lucky, in my favorite chair:

The Green Sage Coffeehouse & Cafe, 5 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC