I finally found the anti-Starbucks.
Waldo's Coffee House on Heights Boulevard is as un-corporate as you can imagine. From the front door, you walk into a living room with tables, chairs, furniture. To order, you have to find your way through the house back to the small kitchen.
I asked the barista what she does best. "Cappucino. I make good foam."
Sure enough, she makes a very interesting cappuccino -- about 1/2 foam. It's thick, really thick. Nothing like Starbucks - or any other mega-chain.
Unlike a lot of independent coffee houses, this is not a work of art with designs like fern leaves. No, this is clumpy, almost cotton-candy like foam. The appeal is not visual, but textural. The thick foam may not appeal to everyone, but I like it.
A question of technique?
I quizzed her on about her foaming technique. "It's in the wrist." She grinned facetiously, then tried to give a few real answers. First she explained that she was trained by an European chef who knew how to make good cappuccino. Then she said that she experimented with technique for a while to get the best texture "because I know what I like."
If I were in her shoes, I would narrow it to just one good story and run with it.
Because a lot of people are going to be asking how she makes this foam.