In Search of the Divine at the Divine Coffee Shop
|Photos By Daniel Rodrigue|
For now, let's deal with the coffee-shop portion of the name. If you think that a coffee shop, by definition, must have an espresso machine, some baristas and more coffees to choose from than just regular and decaf, then Divine Coffee Shop in Lake Highlands may make you question your coffee fundamentals.
In fact, from the full breakfast and lunch menu to the fresh-cut flowers on every table and the cups and saucers set on the princess-pink satin tablecloths to the lazy-hazy World War II era soundtrack, everything about the coffee shop and eatery seems like it's a scene taken from a whole different coffee generation. Which, it kinda is, according to the shops' devoted regulars; and the time-machine vibe is all by design, according to what Divine's manager tells Roasted.
After all, according to Mark Pendergrast, author of the coffee book Uncommon Grounds, the proliferation of the modern espresso machine didn't occur stateside until the early 1950s, and back before the collective Starbucksification of America many "coffee shops" served more than just scones, muffins and biscotti. So, after sauntering inside Divine Coffee Shop for the first time, Roasted wasn't too surprised by what we found.
Located at 10233 E. Northwest Hwy., a few doors down from a Tuesday Morning in a strip center anchored by an Albertsons, Divine Coffee Shop opens daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and when Roasted went by yesterday at 8 a.m., a handful of gray-haired gentlemen all holding Bibles passed us on their way out the door.
"Ah, it's that kind of a 'divine' coffee shop," we thought. But, it wasn't a churchified Starbucks clone at all.
After being seated, a waitress asked if we needed coffee. The what-are-you-brewing question was met with the regular or decaf answer. And, it turns out that despite the pink tablecloths, Divine Coffee Shop is the kind of place where frou-frou coffee means you add a French vanilla or hazelnut creamer to your mug of straight-up Community Coffee (though, it should be noted, the shop will brew you up some flavored coffee by request).
The waitress said "most everybody" orders coffee with their meal, whether it's regular or decaf.
After perusing the extensive menu, Roasted settled on the very-reasonably priced ham and eggs breakfast, which included fresh fruit and biscuits. (By the way, if the waitress offers to put your "biscuits on the griddle," then say "Yes, please!")
"It's only 8:20, but I feel like I've been here all day," one waitress told a regular before he left. And, when asked how long she'd worked at the shop the waitress offered up "too long" before admitting cheerily that she'd been at Divine since the spot opened in 2005.
Mayela Fuentes owns the coffee shop, which is managed by her husband Rito Fuentes. The vast majority of the shop's clientele can take advantage of the menu's senior citizen's breakfast specials, so Roasted, far from achieving elder statesman status, kinda stuck out, and Rito made sure to introduce himself. Roasted used the opportunity to learn more about the shop.
"Most of the staff has been with us since we opened," Fuentes said. "And I think I have the most beautiful customers in the whole world, and, so I try to make them feel at home. And they identify with the place and the music."
Turns out, the tea-room aesthetic with those pink tablecloths was just pink for the week. The shop rotates colors every seven days or so. And most of the music the shop plays is from the 1940s and 1950s.
"My clientele is mostly senior citizens," he said. And, that's not something he regrets. "I wanted it to feel like a coffee shop from the '40s and '50s where coffee and breakfast was served all day."
So what about the Divine part? "It is divine," he said. "In the last 5 years, I've only had two complaints about the coffee. My customers like it." The shop even tried to gussie up a few years back by offering espresso drinks and cold Frappucchino-style smoothies, but that didn't take off. "We got rid of the machines," Fuentes said. "I'll just stick to regular and decaf."
Judging from his patrons, his plan seems to be working.