A community-oriented caffeine cafe

Coffee: A shop in Columbia provides a haven for those who seek more than just an average cup of joe.

Howard Live

September 09, 2004|By Lisa Kawata | Lisa Kawata,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Located in Hickory Plaza in Columbia, the five-year-old Mad City Coffee has brewed its way into the hearts of customers, nourishing their psyches and quenching their thirst.

"People can walk here, take a break, read the newspaper or meet with friends," said owner Bill Martin, who calls his caffeine haven a "community-based coffee shop."

In true cafe style, Mad City offers intimate table seating with simple, modern flair. One side is food and drink prep and the other is a nearly store-long window on its corner of Columbia.

People can drink and eat inside or out on the concrete patio. Most Friday evenings, the shop brings in live music. One Saturday night a month, the shop hosts a Songs That Matter showcase with five or six artists playing half-hour sets at night.

Clearly, Mad City is mostly about coffee -- hot, cold, iced, blended, deep, dark, light, even organic. In the coffee realm, the shop is called an in-house roaster.

Roasted on site

Beans from all the growing regions in the world come to the shop "green," or raw, to be roasted on-site in the shop's large bright red roaster.

"It gives us the flexibility to roast the coffee to the profile we want. It gives us the opportunity to roast on demand," Martin said. The shop sells bulk coffee beans, mostly freshly roasted, in whatever amount is requested. Home roasters can also buy raw beans.

Bulk coffee ranges from $7.95 a pound for some of the Central and South American beans to the mid-range coffees from Indonesia and Africa to the rich, island specials such as Hawaiian Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain.

Some of the flavored coffees sound more like candy-shop confections than the drink many people depend on to jumpstart their mornings. Try Pralines and Cream, Cinnamon Hazelnut or Brazilian Nut Crunch at $9.95 a pound.

Martin said his store is a certified organic roaster. He offers Organic Timor at $11.95 a pound and several other organic selections.

For tea lovers, too

Tea lovers can find tea from the Montana Tea and Spice Trading Co. in standard flavors or with poetic names such as Night in Glacier Bay, Purple Mountains Majesty and Evening in Missoula.

There are too many specialty drinks to mention. Visitors can get them in singles, doubles and triples.

Food is served all day, beginning at 7 a.m. The breakfasts are made to order, starting with an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a bagel or croissant ($2.95). For an extra 30 cents, customers can add bacon, ham or sausage to their sandwiches.

French toast

They can also get French toast, which includes two thick slices of Texas toast dipped in egg batter and cooked, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a variety of syrups and orange slices.

But, coffee always goes better with a jumbo-sized muffin or pastry, and Mad City has them all.

Carrot-raisin and zucchini nut are the favorites, said manager Scott McCabe, but large cinnamon rolls and cream-filled pastries are equally tempting. A changing selection of fresh-baked bagels with many topping choices is offered daily.

The lunch menu ($4.50 to $6.95) is served until closing. It ranges from egg, shrimp, chicken, tuna salad, deli meats and BLT sandwiches to the vegetarian powerhouse, which is filled with garlic hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, red onion, cucumbers and Swiss cheese.

Plenty of sides

Sides include pasta salad, potato salad and the soup of the day. Customers can order a half-sandwich with soup or platters with a favorite salad on a bed of lettuce served with sliced tomatoes and crackers. Pre-made garden salads and chef salads are available.

Gourmet desserts cap the evening. Drinks include fruit smoothies and iced coffees. Soft-serve ice cream has also been added to the menu.

Mad City is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Cash, VISA, MasterCard and American Express accepted. Every Friday, Mad City offers its Italian roast coffee. 410-964-8671.

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