Tired of the same old caffeine routine? Check out one of these offbeat coffee shops for a change of pace.
At Loco Lu's (5210 Hollyridge Drive; 755-6337; www.locolu.com), you can sip your latte against a colorful backdrop of native American art, local music and kites suspended from the ceilings. The shop, which opened in June in Oak Park Shopping center, also offers a selection of sandwiches, wraps and salads, as well as Italian sodas, fruit smoothies and old-fashioned milkshakes made with Maple View Farm ice cream. The house specialty, frozen hot chocolate, is so popular that customers have nicknamed it the "frocolate," according to Louis Cerny Sr., who owns the shop with his wife, Janice, and two children. Cerny also notes that Loco Lu's is roasting some of its beans in-house, with plans to offer exclusively house-roasted beans in the future.
Paddle fans, a lighted "wave wall" and tropical colors set a surprising Caribbean island mood at The Wake Zone Espresso (6108 Old Jenks Road; 267-4622) in Apex. To my knowledge, the shop is the only one in the area to feature coffee beans from Columbus, Ohio, roaster Crimson Cup. Wake Zone also offers locally baked pastries, including Danish, muffins, turnovers, cookies and crumb cake.
Maybe you'd like your cup of coffee with a wine chaser -- or the other way around. You can do just that at West End Wine Bar (450 W. Franklin St.; 967-7599; www.westendwinebar.com), which is now serving coffee made with beans roasted by Carrboro Coffee and pastries from Guglhupf, starting at 7:30 a.m.
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Stick Boy Bread Co. (127 S. Main St.; 557-2237; www.stickboyfuquay.com) in Fuquay-Varina is, you might say, not so much a coffeehouse/bakery as it is a bakery/coffeehouse. Top billing goes to the artisanal breads baked by owners Josh and Katie Dies. The shop's ovens also turn out a variety of sweet tooth temptations, from breakfast pastries to fruit pies to wedding cakes. That's not to say, however, that coffee lovers get the short end of the, um, stick at Stick Boy. The shop serves drip coffees and espresso drinks made with beans supplied by local roaster Larry's Beans.
Larry's Beans are also featured at K 'n' B's Brew & Browse (120 Raleigh St.; 557-8155; www.kbconsignment.com), another Fuquay-Varina establishment. The "K 'n' B" are owners Kim Sykes and her father, Bobby Sykes. The "Brew" is, of course, the coffee served at a small counter in the multiroom shop. And the "Browse"? That's what you can do once you've gotten your coffee. Check out the vintage jewelry, household furnishings and other wares in the consignment shop that is the other half of the business. There's a lot to see, but if you get tired, you can recharge with another cup of coffee.
Greg Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org