Although Betterday Coffee has only been open a few months in the Solana Center, the shop's steady stream of patrons indicates to owner Tom Frost that he made the right decision.
"I've always been a big coffee fan and a big fan of coffee-shop culture," Frost said last month while watching the constant flow of late-afternoon coffee customers. "I felt very strongly that I wanted to create my idea of coffee-shop culture here in Santa Fe, but it was two-sided. I did buy a travel trailer and got close to opening a coffee cart instead."
Although he lives on the south side, Frost said he had a strong attraction to the Solana neighborhood. "I looked over here for a long time," he said, noting that when Home Run Pizza closed last year, he found his opportunity.
When asked how he would define "coffee-shop culture," Frost paused thoughtfully. "Just look around. There are people of all ages in here. Some people are working on their computers; there's a sculptor; that guy's reading. What time is it? It's late in the afternoon, and look at all these people! Coffee shops have been meeting places much longer than bars."
More than offering a comfortable place to hang out, coffee-shop culture has two primary factors that determine its appeal. One, obviously, is the coffee. Frost is the only New Mexico vendor of the Portland, Ore.-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which is legendary for its roasting craftsmanship and quality bean standards, not to mention its deep relationships with coffee farmers.
The wall-sized chalkboard menu notes not only the varieties of coffee being served that day, but also their roast dates -- a detail Frost is passionate about. "I get a shipment twice a week by two-day air," Frost said. "I never serve coffee more than 10 days from the roast date, because as soon as it's roasted, it off-gasses. Our espresso blend is called Hairbender, which was named for Stumptown's first coffee-shop location in an old hair salon. That never changes, but I do order different varieties for other coffee drinks. We started with Ethiopian, and now I'm giving Costa Rican a try."
Like coffee, food also plays a vital part in any good coffeehouse. However, Frost said there must be a proper balance -- the menu must not be so large that the coffeehouse comes across as a restaurant, he explained, but small enough to keep the social feeling flowing. Basics such as bagels, pastries and veggie sandwiches mingle with adventurous versions of local favorites.
"I felt like I had a real opportunity when it came to food. I'm not a food place, and so I don't have anything that I have to do," he said of the freedom.
All his food products come from La Montanita Co-op's Central Distribution Center, whether it's Tucumcari mild cheddar cheese, organic Rasband Dairy milk, locally made tortillas, or organic quinoa and beans from southern Colorado. He's just begun using bread from Sage Bakehouse for his sandwiches. He said all his menu items are less than $10.
Frost did note one challenge when creating his menu. "You always have to ask, 'How are you going to address the breakfast burrito?' After a lot of experimentation and working with different vendors, and wanting to have an all-vegetarian menu, we came up with our own version."
Called the Dank, the Betterday's burrito is made with quinoa (a high-protein whole grain), adzuki beans, cheddar cheese, organic avocado and raw red chile sauce. A "super" version includes chopped vegetables and sunflower sprouts. The pre-wrapped "on-the-run" version is just the basics: beans, cheese and chile. Tacos and quesadillas are made with variations of the same ingredients.
Frost, who has a degree in fine art, has lived in Santa Fe for six years and worked most of that time managing Second Street Brewery, including opening its second location in the Railyard. Prior to that, he spent a dozen years in Silver City, and has been in the restaurant or bar business since he was 15. Rough personal times last year led him to create Betterday Coffee.
"I felt strongly if I was going to stay in Santa Fe and try to live here, there was really only one thing I could do: I needed to find something to do on my own. I can't tell you how many people and serendipitous situations made this happen, from the city to the other tenants, the landlords ... and that includes this neighborhood," he said. "I wanted this to be a place for local people. I live by Java Joe's, and I was very inspired by them and the kind of place that they are."
IF YOU GO
The Betterday Coffee Shop
905 W. Alameda St., in the Solana Center
6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
; no phone
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