Thursday, November 20, 2008

Antidote Coffee (the modified post)

Update 11.24.08: I am re-posting my original post with a few modifications based on a heated exchange of comments with some very devoted followers of this Heights coffee shop.

Like Austin, but not

Antidote Coffee is just another quirky coffee shop that somehow was sucked up by a UFO in Austin and deposited in the Houston Heights.

Even if you have never been, you know the place: mismatched furniture, and affable but slow wait staff who have mastered the fine art of slackerdom. They also are serious about coffee. My brother particularly recommends a coffee called "cajeta" which involves goat milk caramel. I just stick to the dark blend coffee, black.

Baked Goods

One thing sets Antidote apart: the quality of its baked goods.

If you arrive before 9:00, Antidote has a remarkable collection of baked goods: sun-dried tomato/asiago scones, chicken pomegranate quiche, tofu quiche (no, really, it's fantastic), cranberry ginger scones, all sorts of muffins, deep chocolate brownies, and killer zucchini bread.

Antidote is a small shop without much of a kitchen. So I knew they couldn't make all these baked goods themselves.

When I asked, an employee explained that they collect pastries from different bakers around town. "We get the best of the best," she said.

Some of the pastries come from Scott Tycer's Kraftsmen Bakery -- truly the best of the best. But Antidote also buys their favorite baked goods from other bakers, particularly in the Heights. For instance, they get baked goods from some of the same folks who sell wonderful baked goods at the T'afia farmer's market on Saturdays.

The Antidote to Starbucks?

The word "antidote" means a cure for poison. And it is not hard to figure out what the owners see as poison. On Halloween, the owners pretended to be the scarriest thing imaginable. They covered up their sign with a giant Starbucks logo. The staff even put on Starbucks "costumes."

[Note: Some folks have commented that the name Antidote refers to a sister establishment that serves alcohol. Even so, the Halloween episode demonstrates that the folks at Antidote see themselves as an alternative to big corporate coffee.]

Starbucks-bashing is popular now. And I'm not sure it is fair. Before Starbucks, coffee in America was not very good. Starbucks made it stronger, more flavorful, more European -- plus much more expensive.

But Starbucks does a terrible job with baked goods. Every breakfast bread or muffin I have tried at Starbucks has been entirely too sweet -- sickly sweet. It is the sort of food that would be inedible without a big cup of intensely strong coffee to counteract it.

Antidote's pastries kick Starbucks' ass. You would think that Starbucks would learn the lesson. You would think that a corporation with that much money could simply buy baked goods that are as good as the one at Antidote.

Or perhaps, pastries this good can only be made by small artisinal bakers -- the type of bakers who make the pastries in Antidote's fabulous morning collection. And perhaps they can only be sold by small-scale, sophisticated collectors.

Antidote does not make great food. Instead, it makes an art out of collecting it.


Anonymous said...

This is a nice write up, but a lot of the facts are wrong.

1) There are more than one Owner. They are all local and all fantastic people, but they did not get married last weekend. If you or your brother were speaking with a lady who did, then she is a woman who helps make Antidote the great place that it is, but she's no an owner.

2) The name has nothing to do with Starbucks. It has to do with another establishment that the Owners have and manage in Houston.

3) The employees are far from slackers. In fact, they are some of the hardest working baristas in town.

4) The furniture has a specific story and history.

I'm excited to see a local review taking interest in Antidote. It's a wonderful coffee shop and is very helpful to the Heights community. That said, I recommend doing more research before posting these write ups.

Travis said...

Hey Anonymous, if you're going to be so critical and dismissive, at least have the guts to leave your name. This is a food blog, not the food section of the Chronicle. So he got a few facts wrong, but he nailed the feel of the place. Perhaps if he criticized it, you'd have some grounds (ha!) to be upset, but he's heaping praise on the place. Calma, amigo.

Anonymous said...

Antidote is such a fun place to relax. I forget the exact name but some of the pastries (I think the quiches?) are made by JS Desserts (from Baytown)- he's a very nice man who makes AMAZING desserts- I usually see him at the Tues Rice University Farmers Market and the Sat Bayou Farmers Markets- selling homemade baked goods by the slice that are delicious and quite sophisticated. Highly recommended.

6thWarder said...

The first Anonymous asshat is enough to make me never go to Antidote Coffee again. This is a blog, for chrissakes, not paid advertising.

Catalina has better coffee anyway.

lizbn said...

I say put your post back up, people need to know where to get a decent breakfast in the Heights. I am an Antidote customer and I just hope that Anonymous does not invest in or work for Antidote because she makes me not want to go there anymore.

Sarah and Erwin said...

Yes, don't worry about negative comments. Bloggers have to develop thick skin. Instead of deleting your post, delete Anon1's comments! It's your blog!

Eric said...

My understanding is that it is called Antidote because the same people own Montrose area bar Poison Girl. You know, after poisoning yourself on lower Westheimer, nothing cures you like a fresh cop of coffee and a pastry.

Houston Student said...

Don't let the Anonymous up there scare you off! Antidote is the best coffee house in Houston for relaxing, and all the staff are friendly and helpful. It has the 'coffeehouse vibe' that is missing from most Houston coffee joints.

Yes, if I want a cup of perfect coffee Catalina is better, but after Catalina closes Antidote fits the bill. Plus, Antidote has plugs, food and beer.

If you do go back, try the amazing cakes. The chocolate raspberry is to die for, and their cajeta latte is great to sip while chatting with friends.

anonymouseater said...

After all these comments, I should explain myself.

I wrote an absolutely glowing review of Antidote. I talked about how much I like their coffee and especially their baked goods --the best collection of baked goods in Houston.

The first commenter -- who certainly sounds like they may be associated with Antidote -- jumped all over me for misstating "facts," such as my characterization of the baristas as "slackers" and the furniture as "mismatched."

Don't get me wrong. I really do like folks to disagree with me. I love debate (which is why I will not delete the comment). But the comment sounded like it probably came from an owner or employee who was upset because they did not get a 100% glowing recommendation. They wanted it to be even better. That just rubbed me the wrong way.

I am not your PR agent. I am a blogger who gives his opinion about his experience with a restaurant. So if you think I shouldn't do posts without doing more fact checking, then I won't post anything about Antidote.

But I will keep going there for breakfast. :)

Stacy said...

Wow...glad that I got to read the original post. And then...sad that someone would be so hypercritical of a review/opinion/blog post that made me want to drive down from the far-north suburbs on Saturday to enjoy the atmosphere. I guess one must be part of the "in-crowd" and know every piece of its trivia and history to feel welcome at Antidote...
I guess I will have to take a pass.

Anonymous said...

Hi, all. I'm the anonymous poster who seems to have caused some fairly serious emotional reactions. Forgive me for not leaving my name, but I just didn't think that it mattered. I do wish that I had checked in on this more often after I responded to the blogger's original post, because I think that I was seriously misunderstood and misread.

First, I am not associated with Antidote in any way. I'm just a happy customer and a friend of mine who reads this blog sent me the URL just because Antidote happened to be mentioned.

Secondly, I was trying to leave a positive and contributing post. That's why I started by saying that it was, "a nice write up". I meant it, and I did not intend on coming off as sarcastic. Just because I corrected some of the misconceptions regarding the place, facts, opinion, whatever, doesn't mean that I "jumped" all over anyone. I apologize sincerely for that misunderstanding. Clearly I need to be more cautious with my tone (I'm not a blogger and I suppose it would be a strange having a stranger pipe in like I did).

Lastly, I really was and still am excited to see a local review of Antidote. I think that It's a great cafe and I was glad to see someone writing about it.

Sorry that you felt the need to delete your original post. I do hope that you put it back up.

Cheers, and no hard feelings (I hope).

anonymouseater said...

Ok. Fair enough.

I am re-posting, without mention of the two folks who just got married and who are (1)employees, (2) owners, (3) impostors posing as employees or owners, or (4) employees or owners who are lying about getting married.

But I am leaving in my subjective opinions about the slackers and the mismatched furniture. Just one click on the link proves my point about the furniture.

Carrie said...

Thank you for reposting the original review. Your reviews are always spot-on, and I agree with everything you have said about Antidote. Yes, the furniture is wonderfully miss-matched; I'm surprised you didn't mention the strange baby high-chair/planter in the back corner!

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