Clare Myers, Staff Writer
After making my way uncertainly around 1910 Pacific Avenue downtown, I walked into the office building with an apparently noticeable air of hesitation. The hefty security guard, hands clasped together behind his back, smiled knowingly.
“Stupid Good Coffee?” he asked. And without waiting for an answer, he continued cheerfully, “Upstairs.”
I climbed the narrow escalator to the second floor, following a fellow first-timer.
“Are you looking for the coffee shop?” the middle-aged man in professional attire asked me. “I think it’s around the corner.”
We turned the corner to find a tiny space just across the hallway from the sky bridge connecting 1910 Pacific with the building across the street. A few tables were littered in front of the partial glass wall separating Stupid Good Coffee from the rest of the office building. A delicious aroma greeted us with the promise of long-awaited caffeine.
I walked up to the wooden counter, past burlap sacks that once, perhaps yesterday, held coffee beans from a local roaster and now served as decoration. To my surprise, the well-lit, clean but cluttered space behind the counter was empty.
A man at the high wooden counter in the sitting area of the shop turned his head and, seeing me, instantly hopped off his stool.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you come in,” he exclaimed. “You’re like a ninja.”
Daniel Harmon, who is part-owner of Stupid Good Coffee, along with his brother Corey and his wife, proved knowledgeable and personable.
I chose a simple black coffee, letting barista Daniel choose the brew. He waved me, along with my laptop, toward the window to set up shop while he made the joe.
The seating area was very small, but the floor-to-ceiling window that made up one wall opened up the space. I sat at the counter that Daniel had just vacated. It faced the window and looked out to the Majestic Theater, where fans of Conan O’Brien were already lining up to see his show. Next to the counter were a chair and a comfortable-looking couch where a young couple was seated. My businessman friend looked curiously at a few pieces of artwork on the walls as he waited his turn.
Stupid Good Coffee is just one of a tidal wave of independent coffee shops that have taken the nation by storm over the past decade. The trend in locally-sourced goods and carefully crafted products has truly taken off when it comes to coffee. Yet many of these shops truly do bring something new to the table.
Stupid Good Coffee gets its beans regularly from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, a Dallas-area small business. The burlap bags are the café’s trademark.
Daniel brought me a cup of hand-drip Costa Rican coffee in a mug and told me the beans were single-origin. Stupid Good Coffee rotates its brews with the seasons, and right now, Costa Rican beans are at their prime.
I don’t usually drink my coffee black, but I gave it a try. It was delicious. The bitterness of the black coffee was balanced by a sweetness I couldn’t quite identify. Further investigation revealed that it contained hints of orange, spices and vanilla. It was complex but smooth; I was impressed.
Besides its single-origin coffees, Stupid Good Coffee is also known for its handcrafted coffee drinks, including a “Rolling Stone” and a “Horchata,” which are special blended lattes.
The true draw of indie coffee shops, however, besides their obvious advantage over a typical Starbucks in the quality of their brews, is the people.
As I began my homework, I listened to the barista’s conversation with other customers. He guided a young woman through the purchasing of a bag of coffee beans, expertly determining the best choice by asking her detailed questions about her preferences. Another barista, who turned out to be Corey, joined him at the counter, and the two kept up a running conversation with regulars and newcomers alike, frequently referring to customers as “rock stars.”
According to Daniel, the Conan show next door had been a boon to business, but the brothers still found time to check in on those of us enjoying our drinks inside the shop.
Both joined me and other customers at the counter every now and then to chat and to peer through the glass at the line waiting to get into the Majestic. After about an hour, Daniel brought me a free refill in another mug.
“You don’t want to be drinking it cold,” he explained. He brought over the same kind of coffee, this time machine-drip, and asked me which I liked better.
I confessed that I was no expert, and the owner brushed it aside.
“You’re an expert in what you like,” he said.
The brothers took the same friendly, unpretentious approach with every customer, from the security guard who first directed me to the place to Conan’s assistant who rushed in to grab the celebrity’s drink.
Daniel asked the assistant to ask the comedian to give Stupid Good Coffee a shout-out during the show. He said he’d try, but I secretly hoped he wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want this already-familiar coffee shop overrun by people who wouldn’t appreciate it.
That’s always the danger with indie coffee shops: the qualities that attract a loyal clientele are the same ones that are diminished by too much success.
But after seeing the Harmon brothers in action, I was not worried that the place would lose its hidden-yet-hip charm. After all, as Daniel told CultureMap Dallas, there’s a reason the shop has its name.
“That’s not just good,” he said. “It’s stupid good.”