With the mass popularity of trendy coffee shops in the recent years, I’m always on the hunt search establishments where baristas make latte art. During my Sophomore year, I spent a long time looking for picturesque, aesthetically pleasing, and Instagram-worthy cups of coffee. I perused through hundreds of restaurants online and narrowed the field down to a relatively hidden cafe in West Portal, which is a short walk from my house. This cafe has a wide variety of drinks, sandwiches, and baked goods. I came for the coffee, but I stayed for their cozy and tranquil environment.
By looking at the storefront, you wouldn’t think that the cafe is spacious. However, you will see, once you walk in, that there is another room in the back of the cafe and a patio in the backyard. The noise level is usually quiet, with light chatter and indie or alternative music humming in the background, as the majority of patrons are students or adults who are focused on their work. Also, the lights are slightly dim, but just bright enough to see what’s on your table since there are a few lamps spread out amongst the area.
The rooms aren’t filled with decor because the chairs and tables take a majority of the space. Furthermore, the whimsical array of mismatched tables – some circular, some rectangular, some tall, some short – makes for a stimulating and varied experience. The owner keeps adding more and more furniture, since almost all the tables are occupied on the average day. Most of pieces are wooden, which gives off a rustic and homey feeling. There are also quite a few plants and wooden decorations scattered along the restaurant, which elevates their theme.
I’d explored the menu and tried many of their items, but generally ordered the same two items. If I need caffeine to keep me alert – to tackle my large amount of homework – I order the white Mocha. I love their freshly brewed mochas because the espresso imparts a sweet, crisp taste that keeps me alert for the rest of the day. Also, the beans aren’t too bitter, which allows to me devour this drink. The foam on top is plentiful and it creates a smoother and fluffier texture to this mocha. This is the only drink I order because they are always made with care and quality. Depending on the barista, I sometimes get a latte mocha, but the complexity of the design ranges widely. My favorite latte art was the one I received over a year ago of a cat, which was far more detailed that I could have imagined.
Whenever I get hungry during my study sessions, I order the Southwest Chicken Wrap. It never fails to satisfy my hunger because it is both tasty and filling. This meal consists of brown rice, chicken, black beans, cheddar cheese, salsa, and southwest sauce, all wrapped up in a spinach tortilla. This hearty wrap also comes with a small salad and a light vinaigrette on the side. My favorite part is the southwest sauce because it gives a nice spicy kick and prevents it from being too dry. Moreover, I like the idea of a spinach tortilla, but it does not taste any different from the flour one.
The first time I visited Greenhouse Cafe was when I had to read Indian Givers during Spring Break for AP World History. I distinctly remember how exasperated I was when I read an entire chapter about potatoes. Well, more specifically about its impact on Native American societies, but still, potatoes! I didn’t exactly become a regular to this cafe until the summer after Sophomore year, when I had to endure the horrors of SAT prep. That whole summer, I was bombarded with piles and piles of homework and vocabulary words to memorize, which defeated the purpose of summer break.
Once Junior year started, I called this place my second home on the weekends because I had continual reading notes and tests to study for. Greenhouse was a much more productive place for me than my own home because I had a mindset that I needed to get work done whenever I entered the cafe. Thank god that I lived a relatively short walk from there because I hated lugging around my Psych and APUSH textbook around. I went to Greenhouse so many times during Junior year that they became a blur, except the time when my friends and I were studying the APUSH exam in May and we were confident we would get 5’s. But then of course, the worst of the worst had to happen the next day, when the AP proctor accidentally gave us extra time during the exam and we had to retake it in September. That was not the best of times.
Come Senior year, this place became my haven as I was overwhelmed with the presence of college applications, homework, and tests to study for. Whenever I don’t go to The Wave, I situate myself at Greenhouse after school (several times a week), so that I could be free of distractions (most of the time). I am so glad that I had a productive place like this, to provide comfort during some of my most stressful moments. Greenhouse is one of the few places that will be hard to leave, even if it’s until December. On the bright side, I won’t be able to spend all of my money there anymore!