5590 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: Coffee Culture
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"Coffee Culture refuses to do the whole disposable cup, drive-through window trade of a Starbucks, and tries to make its experience more of a sit down, eat in, hang out affair."
It's not ready for a review quite yet, but there's a brand new coffee chain in town, and it seems to be gunning for Starbucks and Spot Coffee. Seemingly out of nowhere, Coffee Culture appeared in the former Sweet Jenny's location on Main Street in Williamsville, directly across the street from The Irishman and only blocks away from the long-awaited village location of Spot, which remains under construction. We had a chance to stop by on Sunday, its second day of operation, and wanted to share a few details.
On the "polished or amateur" scale, Coffee Culture arrived on the scene so obviously polished that we knew that it wasn't just another one-off indie coffee shop, yet the people behind the counter indicated - wrongly - that it wasn't part of a chain. As it turns out, the highly attractive signage, pricey new wood and tile interior, and decent breakfast/lunch menu are actually exports from Canada, where Coffee Culture operates around 45 stores and has been planning its U.S. expansion for roughly two years. Somehow, the Williamsville shop became its first U.S. location, apparently chosen because it had frontage on two streets and would benefit from good foot traffic.
Curious, we sampled the coffee - a Caramel Latte - and a Chai Tea Latte, finding both to be entirely satisfactory, though on the cloyingly sweet side - quite like one would expect from a Wilson Farms cappuccino, only served in a nicer setting with real china. Apparently, Coffee Culture refuses to do the whole disposable cup, drive-through window trade that Starbucks has become synonymous with, and tries to make its experience more of a sit down, eat in, hang out affair, complete with free, login-free Wi-Fi and comfy seating. Its small hot specialty drinks sell for $2.79, with large ones (shown) at $3.29, and drip coffees less expensive; frozen drinks go for $2.99 to $3.49.
The menu was still two cards shy of being fully placed on the wall when we visited, making no reference to the extensive collection of desserts we saw on display. When Coffee Culture was all out of the Spinach Pie ($4), we instead tried a Roasted Veggie Sandwich ($5.49) - a grilled panini with a decent collection of vegetables and some melted cheese, the selected veggies somehow tasting a little too light and green relative to similar versions we've had at Spot Coffee and the Clarence Center Coffee Company and Cafe. A misshapen Blueberry Muffin ($1.29) tasted good, and an Egg and Cheese Bagel ($2.99) did as well; both of the baked parts tasted as if they had been made from the right ingredients, perhaps a day earlier, while the egg and cheese tasted a little bit processed but still very edible.
How is Coffee Culture going to do in this location? The jury's still out, and we'll be re-visiting at some point, but we'd imagine that things will really heat up if and when Spot Coffee opens up. For now, Coffee Culture has a solid location and a nice menu on its side, plus the fact that it's not Starbucks, which was enough to make us interested in stopping in. The company's web site shows four additional locations on tap for the area, two in Buffalo, one on Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, and one in Ellicottville. We'll update this story with additional information in the near future.
On an unrelated note, Dan Ackroyd - yes, Elwood Blues, Louis Winthorpe II, Ray Stantz - is coming to town. Tomorrow, even: on March 31, the actor, musician, and wine investor, rolls into Premier Group's Premium Wines in Williamsville to show off Crystal Head Vodka, a premium vodka sold in a distinctively clear, skull-shaped bottle. He'll be on hand from 3:00pm to 5:00pm - will you stop by for a visit?