Living Room Coffee & Kitchen
For a guy who talks a lot about not going to restaurants for breakfast/brunch, I sure am posting a lot about breakfast these days. I'm in Maplewood regularly these days, and yet, somehow, I hadn't been to Living Room. I met the owner, Nate Larson, a year ago at a Bolyard's Burger Battle, and was all, "Yeah, I'll come in next week!" But I forgot. And I just kept not going—then it got to a point where I felt like I'd not gone for so long that I couldn't go. Like I'd walk in and Nate would ask what took me so long and I'd try to come up with an excuse and it'd just get too weird. Neurotic like Larry David.
Troika Brodsky, my former camp counselor and current head of the St. Louis Brewer's Guild, changed all that when he invited me there for coffee. It's all been downhill since then—in the past 3 weeks, I've basically moved Whiskey & Soba into Living Room.
There are two reasons I've found myself enjoying Living Room more than a lot of the other coffee shops in town:
1. The food & drinks are above average.
2. It's totally unpretentious. Whether I'm working or just meeting someone for coffee, the staff are friendly, it's never overcrowded, the music is at the right volume, and it just feels homey. Like you're in someone's...Living Room?
Let's talk about some of my favorite stuff so far, beginning with the sproda. It's espresso and Fitz's root beer. I posted this on Instagram thinking this was an uncommon sight, but apparently coffee shops across the country make'em. I'm into it. The sweet vanilla flavor of the root beer combined with the slightly chocolatey and bitter espresso ends up tasting like a pretty delicious iced coffee, sans milk.
The Dirty Chai uses locally produced Retrailer Tea chai, and it comes in an almost comically large mug. I also got the chance to try a tester of their upcoming espresso and fermented ginger beer drink (no creative name yet), and that is like drinking a lightning bolt. Seriously, you will wake up once you down this. I shared one with Sherrie from With Food and Love—she agreed.
Food wise, everything is made in house, with a menu ranging from pastries to breakfast plates to sandwiches. Don't get the cheesy scone. You're going to regret it. It's about the size of a baseball and it seems to be made out of flour, butter, cheddar, more butter and parmesan. You will inhale it. It's a gourmet Red Lobster cheddar biscuit. You're going to want more than one.
For the Jews out there, if they have their macaroons (not to be confused with macarons), get one. They're just like the ones you eat around Passover that come in a cardboard tube, except they don't taste like a cardboard tube. They taste like coconut and sweetened condensed milk.
I keep bouncing back and forth between two sandwiches: the Workday sandwich—soft boiled egg topped with some very tasty peppered bacon, white cheddar, and dressed greens, all smushed in a soft baguette, and the smoked egg sandwich. Medium boiled eggs are smoked next door at Bolyard's, then topped with pickled red onion, gruyere, roasted garlic aioli, dijon, and arugula on a slightly sweet focaccia. Maybe one day I'll convince Nate to put the smoked eggs on the Workday sandwich, and then I'll find true inner peace.
The last recommendation I have: get some Bitt's Cold Press bottles to go. I don't know what Nate and his crew do to get such a rich and chocolatey flavor, but it helps get my engine running when I wake up.