Barista Parlor

photo-5 Barista Parlor is a specialty coffee shop in East Nashville, an up-and-coming area of town known for its through-the-roof level of hip-ness.

It's a relatively new shop and remains somewhat under the radar (as all good hipster hangouts do), but coffee geeks seem to love it for its quality coffee and preparation technique as well as its local artisan chocolate and other foods.

Atmosphere: The building has an open warehouse feel, with several garage doors on the front side in addition to the entrance door. The day we went was sunny, and the temperature had climbed to the 60’s, so one of the doors was rolled open while we sat.

The floors are concrete and the tables are made of solid wood planks, probably reclaimed or something eco-friendly like that. There aren't any typical four- or two-person tables. You have to get friendly at Barista Parlor. All the tables are bar-style along the wall or long tables with 10-12 chairs.

The actual barista kitchen is placed in the center of the room, surrounded on three sides by tables with chairs facing the baristas as if it's some kind of hibachi grill or something. We imagine the constant vigilance from patrons casts enough judgement on the baristas to ensure the quality and cleanliness of the coffee preparation process. Perhaps this is to ensure they are not exempt from the judgey atmosphere of the shop and allow them to feel empathy. We're speculating here.

There is nary a typical order counter nor a chalkboard menu to be seen. Luckily there was already a line forming when we walked in, so we knew where to stand, though one guy did sassily ask Laura if she was in line about four seconds after she joined the line. YES, sir, I AM IN LINE. Just because I took three seconds to determine what kind of world I'd just stepped into does not mean you can cut in front of me.

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The row of tables leading up to the counter is brimming with fanciful accoutrements (we feel like these flowery words are necessary to reflect the vibe of this place), including artisan chocolates (only one milk-chocolate option because this isn't the Wal-Mart candy aisle, ok?), gluten-free cookies labeled with luggage tags, and homemade eclairs and macarons.

In lieu of the aforementioned chalkboard menu, there is a solitary, clearly-custom-made wooden framed menu at the end of the counter where you order, so you have to either already know what you want or make your decision quickly whilst Cool Barista stands in silent judgement.

woodenmenubaristaparlor

This menu does not feature teas, because who in their right mind orders tea at a place with coffee like that? Elizabeth does.

She was told to select a canister from the organic tea display on the wall and bring it back to the hipster. Thankful for clear instructions, she did just that. [Ugh. They make you WALK to get your OWN tea. What kind of self-service nonsense is this? - L]

There is a consistent flow of 30's music and old timey radio theater flowing out of vintage radios, which appears to be spun by a bearded DJ in a conductor's hat, plaid shirt, denim vest, and skinny jeans sitting in the corner. This was not confirmed but would in no way have surprised us. We are unfamiliar with vinyl DJ protocol.

Level of uncomfortableness felt upon walking in: L: 8 E: 9

This was Elizabeth's second time frequenting Barista Parlor, but for the purpose of this rating we’re using her first impression: "I do remember being completely confused about everything."

You heard it here, folks.

Pretentious Scale: 18 Billion This place is so hipster even hipsters are too mainstream. The toddlers were wearing unnecessary scarves and half the people looked homeless-chic.

Fedora Count: 2, one was a woman

Disheveled facial hair count: 2 beards, 1 mustache

Presentation/Service

Latte Art: solid 8 (They also had their own branded cups, which gets them some extra points.)

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Tea: 9

Sausage Biscuit - Fancy yet somehow not fancy. It came on a square wooden plank with a bandana for a napkin (probably thrifted, though not confirmed).

Elizabeth’s tea was organic, which was great, because aren’t you always complaining about how non-organic tea is often laced with chemicals(?).

SIDE NOTE:  In order to add her usual cream+sugar to her breakfast tea, Elizabeth was required to visit the condiment table. The condiment table, in a place like Barista Parlor, is not a popular place to be. In fact, you can literally feel the judgment as you take the "walk of shame" to add sugar to your organic, probably local, definitely artisan, tea.

At least it was Sugar in the Raw.

This station is where you can also help yourself to some complimentary water in mason jars, as would be expected.

baristaparlormasonjar

Taste:

Latte: 7. I went out on a limb choosing almond milk instead of regular milk, so I can’t completely blame them for it not being my favorite latte ever. It was solid, but I’ve had better. -L

Tea: 8. Nothing special, but still delicious. -E

Sausage Biscuit: 7. I can’t say I’m a sausage biscuit specialist, but I could tell it was homemade (always a plus) and tasted great with whatever homemade preserves they added to it without telling me. - E

Service: Baristas were polite but not overly friendly, but to be fair, we didn't test them with special requests because we were intimidated.

It did take longer than usual for our drinks to be served, probably because they like grow the beans right in front of you or something.

Price: More expensive than usual.

Small vanilla latte with almond milk was $5.05, which in my opinion is pretty pricey. There was only a 50 cent difference between the small and large lattes though, so maybe that’s how they get you. No one asked me if I wanted to upgrade for only 50 cents though. -L

Breakfast Tea was $3.50 and the sausage biscuit was about $5. (I was too busy trying not to say/do something wrong to pay attention to the price.) - E

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Other pros: -Motorcycle, fixed gear bike and scooter accessible -They serve you your beverages and give you neat wooden cutouts shaped like a cartoon man from a 50’s ad or something to indicate your table. Sure, they blocked your vision, but it was a small price to pay for quirkiness. The tables even had little grommet-style holes to place the cutouts in.

baristaparlorstickman

Overall grades:

L: 7 - Fun experience, but I felt too out of place to frequent it regularly. Also a bit expensive. E: 6 - The tea selection was puny and the prices were high. It is a very fun place to people-watch, though.

Have you been to Barista Parlor or somewhere similar? Have you ever had to retrieve your own tea or listen to radio theatre while sipping your latte? We want to hear about it.

Also if you have a shop you'd like to request that we check out for you, let us know!

Posted on May 3, 2013 and filed under Nashville, Shop Review.