Sunday, April 6, 2014

@ Sweet_ness 7 Cafe in Buffalo's West Side

My blog returns to Buffalo this week following a weekend trip I took with Matt March 28 through 30, and like always, I am amazed at all of the exciting changes happening at my home city. (Such as Buffalo's Horsefeathers Winter Market, which we and my mom visited.)

I am sure those plants look more beautiful in the summer. But who needs
plants when you have gorgeous models like the one standing in this photo?
We dedicated most of our trip to the re-emerging neighborhoods in Buffalo's west side, and that includes a special coffee shop at the corner of Grant Street and Lafayette Avenue, exemplifying Buffalo's exciting revitalization.

I could probably write a few blog posts about New Urbanism in the Queen City, but I'll stick to talking about Sweet_ness 7 Cafe at 220 Grant Street.

Matt and I made our first visit to Sweet_ness 7 (I wish I had asked someone about the mysterious "_" in the name) March 30. The coffee shop has a second location on the north side of Buffalo at 301 Parkside Ave., but I wanted to stick with the original location, especially after reading their inspirational story on their website.

What a beautiful building and neighborhood. I would love
to live somewhere like this someday.
Location: Sweet_ness 7 sits in Buffalo's Upper West Side neighborhood, and although it's not as nearly as vibrant as Buffalo's Elmwood Village and Allentown, it's steadily and authentically getting there. Stress on the word "authentically." Too often in Buffalo and Cleveland, I see neighborhood gentrification where businesses and developers prioritize the demands of high-earning outsiders above the people that actually living there.

Matt and I agree you don't see that problem around Lafayette and Grant. The neighborhood is home to a strong immigrant and refugee population. As the case with most of Buffalo, people from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Eritea, Sudan, Iraq and Iran is what's keeping the west side vibrant and preventing abandonment of buildings. Sweet_ness 7 may not have the international ethnic flare of the surrounding businesses, but it is a product of steady revitalization with the owners rehabilitating the historic building before starting up the coffee shop.

I asked the nice barista behind the bar for their biggest
mug and he handed me this gingerbread monster. The
Matt and I calculated to be a 32 oz.
I don't think I have ever seen a coffee shop inside such a beautiful building.

Food and Beverage: I always appreciate whenever a neighborhood coffee shop provides locally roasted coffee and baked goods, but Sweet_ness 7 takes that a little further in providing local craft beer and wine. Patrons can even add a shot of alcohol to any beverage they want for $3. (Makes me wonder what kind of liquor license is needed for that.)

Matt nor I ordered shots in our house coffees, but Matt did buy a house red wine Sunday. Together, with a homemade pecan-cranberry-chocolate-chip biscotti and a fudge brownie, Matt and I spent nearly $12 flat. (I had to triple-check my notes because that is crazy cheap.)

I know what you're thinking. Where is all of the immigrants
and refugees? Well there's a private college only a mile 
away.
Space and Atmosphere: One of the first things I noticed at Sweet_ness 7 was the mismatch collection of tables, chairs and glassware inside its space. That might turn some people off, but it does the exact opposite for me. The quirk indicates that the staff values reusing materials versus needlessly buying new to have a consistent appearance.

Coupled with the high ceiling, exposed brick walls, wood-panel flooring and an obsolete pay phone booth randomly placed near the entrance, Sweet_ness 7 has so much to love for vintage nerds like myself.

Sweet_ness 7 also has a love for chalk boards that's unmatched compared to coffee shops I've visited so far. Not only do they have chalk boards installed on the cabinet windows and walls, but Matt noticed they have chalk on the building's support beam that runs along the wall and ceiling.

This post has more Matt than one can handle.
The only fault I found that Sunday at Sweet_ness 7 was the draft that flew in from the poorly insulated entrance. (Thank goodness we didn't visit a month earlier in February.) Our table also lacked nearby electrical outlets for laptops. Matt and I would have sat farther away from the door if it wasn't for a few college students needlessly occupying the neighboring seats with their backpacks. (Who does that, really?) Overall, it's a great place to visit and a wonderful coffee shop to support.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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