Can Buffalo's Spot Coffee Leave Its Mark on Williamsville?

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Spot Coffee
227 Delaware Ave., Buffalo NY 14202
Web: Spot Coffee
Phone: 716.332.2299
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"The Vanilla Latte was properly made and tasty - bona-fide fresh and flavored with a nice vanilla syrup - though lacking in the delicacy of top-shelf places such as Seattle's Vivace."

Independent shops once dominated Western New York's coffee scene; today, of course, Starbucks is everywhere, with storefronts literally visible or in walking distance from the few indie purveyors left in town. That hasn't stopped Spot Coffee from taking a stab - and a successful one - at carving out its own niche here, with two stores in Buffalo and a third opening on Main Street in Williamsville. We visited the Delaware and Chippewa location to see whether we'd have any reason to patronize the suburban Spot when it launches.

In short, the answer is "yes." Look past the place's obvious frills: eclectic classic and antique furniture scattered across two separate dining rooms, one more a small groups gathering area than a room for solitary sipping; a conspicuous Wi-Fi router for free wireless Internet access, which was being tapped by plenty of people with laptops; and the sort of slightly bohemian, relaxed ambience that typifies coffee shops without "bucks" in the name. Some people love these things; we could take them or leave them.

For us, it's about the coffee and the food. At Spot, the basic roast runs for $1.50 at 12 ounces, to $1.80 at 20 ounces, with lattes and espresso drinks starting at $2.80 and going up to $4.20 based on size and complexity; most are in the mid-$3 range for 16-ounce cups. Eight sandwiches, including a weekly wildcard that in this case was a Reuben, sell for around $7 each, while five total salad, wrap, and pasta items sell for $6-$7. There are also Starbucks-styled cookies, bagels, pastries, and frozen drinks at Starbucks-like prices, as well as weekly menu specials, and a small $4-$5 per item breakfast menu with belgian waffles, a wrap, a sandwich, and omelets that can be customized to your liking.

We arrived at the lunch hour and sampled a handful of items: first was a Vanilla Latte (16 ounce, $3.60), which was properly made and tasty - bona-fide fresh and flavored with a nice vanilla syrup - though lacking in the delicacy and artistry of top-shelf places such as Seattle's Vivace. Second was a Chai Latte (20-ounce, $3.85), a spiced milk tea that was a little watery and a little less than perfectly hot, but otherwise okay. The coffee, we'd do again; the tea, probably not.

Our mixed but generally positive feelings continued through separate soup and sandwich items, which took a while for the kitchen to deliver. There were three daily soup choices, and we excitedly snagged the Red Pepper Crab ($4), which arrived as a large portion of bright, creamy orange-red broth alongside a packet of oyster crackers. Though we could imagine the same dish offering larger crab chunks and other flourishes, what we received was just excellent in flavor and consistency, rich and possessing every bit of the sweet red pepper and crab taste that we'd hoped would be there. For a coffee shop soup, this was just excellent - something you'd never find at a Starbucks.

We wound up using the soup to add something to a Chicken Focaccia sandwich ($7.25), which layered chopped, basil pesto-marinated chicken, melted mozzarella cheese, and too little sun dried tomato spread on grilled white focaccia bread; wheat had also been available. Served with kettle chips and a pickle, the sandwich came out hot, but without any great depth of flavor; it was as described on the menu, but notable more for its dryness than anything else. A little extra post-preparation sauce probably would have helped. Thus, with the toasted bread dipped into the soup, we were able to finish most of the sandwich - simultaneously sopping up the few remaining Red Pepper Crab drops - but didn't find ourselves as excited about emptying the Focaccia plate.

Notably, all of the other sandwiches use the same focaccia bread and vary only in meat, cheese, and sauces. Dessert-style items, such as cake slices, cookies, and Rice Krispie bars, looked fine on display but weren't enough to tempt us; this says something given that we very often indulge in such things elsewhere. On the flip side, we were impressed by the friendly service, and really liked the sense that Spot was trying to be a good part of the community, with a large posting area for local musicians and events, and enough seating to accommodate more than just take-out customers. While there was a Starbucks literally next door, Spot doesn't sit in its shadow; rather, it felt like the other way around.

We'll rate Spot Coffee and update this review when the Williamsville location is open and we've had a chance to sample a little more of the menu. For now, we've placed it in the "worth visiting again on occasion" category, with the possibility of more patronage if the new place exceeds the good but not great performance we saw on Delaware.

Spot Coffee on Urbanspoon

Spot Coffee on Urbanspoon

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