A couple weeks ago, I stopped by a coffee shop in Roanoke, Virginia. This is the first local coffee shop I’ve ever gone to that filled its own stand-alone building. Appropriately named, the Sweet Donkey Coffee House occupies the entirety of a small house, about the size that one would expect four or five rowdy college students to rent out.
Around 10 a.m., the House was a happening place, and there was barely enough room for me to park my car on the street which ran alongside the building. There appeared to be a donut wagon parked on the street outside Sweet Donkey, but I was in a rush and couldn’t stop to wait in line for a snack.
Inside, there was a roughly 150 square foot area devoted to coffee-making, and the rest of the house was open for visitors to kick back, talk, and enjoy their drinks. Though I didn’t explore, a sign offered even the upstairs floor to visitors. This looked like the perfect place to chill with friends on the weekend and play cards or a board game. I didn’t get to hob-nob with the locals much, but I expect one could even entice a few outgoing strangers to join in.
I ordered my espresso and a medium drip coffee for a friend. “That’ll be $3.” I was embarrassed to ask, but I double-checked that the cashier knew I wanted two-drinks, not a red-eye. She told me that house espressos are free on Thursday, and my surprised “Well then!” made the barista laugh.
I wasn’t forced to wait long for my espresso, which was served in an orange-and-white ceramic cup; the bright cheeriness matched the open atmosphere and my need for a morning pick-me-up. A bit of the drink had spilled over the edge of the cup and dried onto the side, prompting me to ponder a bit more the presentation of a cup of espresso. I concluded that as a rule, drippiness isn’t great; but on the other hand this is America, and coffee isn’t/shouldn’t always be pretty.
I am used to being served a cup of water with espresso, but I was surprised to see tiny bubbles rising in the glass that came with this drink. Club soda, it turns out, works very nicely with espresso. I’ve done minimal research on the question, but there is evidence that the water which comes with espresso acts as a pallet cleanser as well as a regulator for the caffeine intake. Regardless of its utility, I’m a fan of the club soda, and I wish more coffee shops used it.
The espresso itself struck me as neither fantastic nor disappointing. Since it has been a couple weeks since I visited, I’ll not try to recall in detail what I thought. But I am certain I felt the coffee was worth my while, and I would happily pay for a double on days other than Happy Thursday. This was my first experience with a shop that brews Counter Culture, so I look forward to trying it at other venues.
My friend said that the drip coffee was good, but I can’t speak to its quality myself.
My overall impression is that Sweet Donkey is a bright, spacious, and friendly environment that brews good coffee at a decent price. I enjoyed learning of the club-soda-and-espresso combination, and I look forward to visiting the Donkey next time I have a reason to visit Roanoke!