How The Hunt was Born

The Hunt for the Perfect Coffee Shop was born from the death of a magical place. A place that not only can be referred to as my favorite coffee shop, but also one of the best places (coffee shop or otherwise) that I’ve experienced so far.

Strange Grounds: An Elegy

Strange Grounds (Denver, Colorado) was not just a coffee shop. It was a destination. It was a hole in a the wall tunnel to a magical land. Much like the wardrobe to Narnia, it was a portal to another world.

Upon crossing the threshold and passing through the faint smell of legal (and maybe not-so legal) marijuana, you entered a new realm. Warmly colored walls cradled paintings, mismatched furniture, games, music, books, poetry: life.

Here, coffee could taste like flowers if you asked nicely. Here, cocoa glittered. Here, flavored drinks simmered beneath steamy leaves made of foam.

Even at 1 AM, as the outside world slept, inside Strange Grounds there was life. In this real life Narnia I was serenaded by a violin lesson at midnight, or startled by the random and sometimes alarming performances of avant garde night. This was a gathering place. I talked with my friends and created patchwork poetry on magnet boards. I drank coffee too late at night and found my mind continuing to buzz even after I had left the stimulating place and stimulating people behind.

This coffee shop was the X-marks-the-spot on the treasure map.

Strange Grounds owned its name. But it went beyond “strange” and became enchanting. It pulled you in with its warm atmosphere, held you hypnotized with colored fairy lights, and kept you satisfied with a sweet or spicy chai.

Even when away, I knew that somewhere in the dark this other world pulsed. Now, with its heartbeat cut off, I have only the memory of being there and feeling at once myself and part of the place. Now I carry that memory in my head and heart and veins. The light that was once a beacon – bright and yellow in the night – will continue to shine like a ghost town – abandoned, but not really forgotten.

I will try to replace it, knowing that I will never replicate it.

I now have a new perspective on what it takes for a coffee shop to make the cut. I have experienced an ideal blend of creamy chai, glittery cocoa, and midnight-moony-eyed-creative-chaos, all because of – all thanks to – Strange Grounds.


And so, the Hunt begins.




Wyeth Meets Wes


Image from:


Jamie Wyeth’s Twin Houses (1969) belongs in a Wes Anderson film.

Upon seeing it hung in the Denver Art Museum recently, my mind immediately went to the director who was responsible for the beautiful films The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom.

It is a dream in pastel tones. It doesn’t make any noise, but it somehow feels like the memory of a song, or a daydream of something to come. The two houses face each other, as though they are ready to converse – or perhaps already deep in conversation. They are clean, placed at the center of the clear environment. The light in the painting seems blue, as if the entire piece is under some kind of periwinkle filter – much like the purple overtones of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Also like the movie, the light lends the piece an element of fantasy. The horizon line is straight, flat, and low, giving the sky room to breathe in the piece. The environment is reminiscent of the beach in Moonrise Kingdom, where two adventurous children express their love more bravely than adults often do. That moment – that feeling –  is just as pure.

Those two houses stand naked and full of life. They do not cover themselves in any way, not with any fancy additions or even the simplest bit of color. A person could sit in front of that painting all day, imagining what is happening on the other side of the small windows. But the houses reveal no secrets, they just sit simply in their existence, enjoying the sunshine.