Frothy Monkey is a local chain of coffee shops here in Nashville. The original is located on 12th South and has been here a long time. It's a cornerstone of the 12South neighborhood. (Elizabeth vaguely remembers radio advertisements for it while riding in the car with her mom. That could be inaccurate, but that's her memory, okay?) The second is located in downtown Franklin, about 30 minutes south. The third is located inside Grimey's on 8th Ave. We chose to review the original first.
Frothy 12South is a popular place for people using coffee shops as offices, as well as hipsters (on that Venn diagram, the circles overlap quite a bit.). Basically, Frothy Monkey is full of unwashed hair and macbooks (which would be the name of our coffee shop. Or band. Or Nashville's tagline.). This location is almost always packed, no matter what time of day you come. Even 3pm on a Thursday. (We don't know how they make a living either.)
12th South is an area known for hipsters, musicians, and all manners of "artists." The neighborhood is home to (arguably) some of the best restaurants in Nashville: Burger Up, Edley's BBQ, Jeni's Ice Cream, Mafiaoza's, Las Paletas, Urban Grub...the list goes on. (If you come to visit Nashville and need somewhere to eat, just wander up and down 12th South and you really can't go wrong.) Many of the businesses are old houses renovated on the inside and painted fun colors on the outside, and there are always lots of people walking around (Careful. Elizabeth almost hit someone on the way here.), biking and running. There's a park nearby, and it's close to Belmont (also known for its musicians), making Frothy a popular homework spot.
Frothy Monkey claims to be "more than a coffee shop," and they serve food throughout the day. They also serve beer and wine.
The coffee shop is located inside an old house and keeps much of its charm. There's a wooden sign out front and a porch welcoming you to the shop. The newly-remodeled counter faces you when you walk in, and there is an iron spiral staircase in the midst of the main room, next to the counter. It seems to go to some kind of loft/lounge area. In all our years of going to Frothy, we have not determined what the lounge is used for. We were afraid to explore further than a glance. Why? Because the last time Laura ventured a glance, there was a disheveled man dressed in all black staring back at her, perched in the loft just chompin' down on a snack. No one knows who he was or what he was doing up there (probably). We hypothesize that he may just be a guy who lives in the rafters and watches over all the patrons. Kind of like a poor man's Batman. But we can't be sure.
The overall vibe of Frothy is cozy with a side of judgey. It's not that coffee-shop-next-door. It's more like that coffee-shop-next-door who always had the coolest scrunchies and you wanted to be just like but you could never quite get there. It's a homey building, but there are about 15 hipsters sitting individually along a wall to your left when you walk in. And they usually look at you.
We chose to sit on the front porch because the weather was nice (and Elizabeth had an awkward encounter upon walking in--more on this later). In the time we were there, the group of people beside us mentioned Barista Parlor, going on tour and their Christian Doctrine class. It could not have been any more Nashville if we made it up.
The main room has a lot of two-tops and a few four-tops, which are all very close together, allowing for an optimal freelancers-to-coffeeshop ratio. And optimal eavesdropping. What we're calling a sunroom is adjacent to the main room and has even more tables--mostly booths, with a couple of high-tops. Finally, there is a wrap-around porch that has several more tables. Surprisingly, there are often times when all these tables are full. The furniture is pretty standard wooden and cast iron, nothing super cool or "fancy industrial," which is our new measuring stick for high-quality design.
E: Frothy Monkey uses teas from High Garden, which is a local tea company. They have fun varieties at Frothy Monkey, like "Sing," formulated specifically for singers. Only in Nashville.
I asked for a tea recommendation. It's obvious that, despite their vast collection of local teas, the Frothy Monkey barista was not used to recommending teas. She tried to sell the English Breakfast because I told her I liked breakfast teas, but I wanted to be more adventurous. She then suggested I try the Ginger Revive because "ginger is good for you." I just went with it because I was tired of being awkward. It mostly tastes like a mix of Earl Grey and Camomile, with, I guess, more ginger. I did not realize how energizing it would be. It mostly translated to snark and excessive tweeting for me, but I thought I'd warn you. Here are the details, should you want to know:
It was tea. Nothing special. I wished I had gotten something else. But it was fine for what it was.
Cost: $3 and something. I don't remember exactly.
Let's take a moment to talk about what I got for $3-something. I got a cup of piping hot water and some grass/herbs/leaves. I'm guessing most of the cost went toward the fabric-like teabag. It felt very expensive and completely unnecessary. But I suppose it was a nice touch.
L: The coffee is usually great at Frothy, but this particular latte was not my favorite. It wasn't awful by any means, but it wasn't fantastic. It almost tasted like they had used half and half instead of skim milk or something. It was a little too creamy and sweet for me this time around.
Latte taste rating: 6.5
Latte art rating: 6. This latte art was perplexing. First of all it was not as (ironically) frothy as one would expect. It was kind of just creamy and had a marble-y design.
Second of all, in the first few minutes it began to dissipate.
I was a bit disappointed, since Frothy usually maintains a pretty high level of coffee-making. Then again I usually have gotten mine in a paper cup, so I haven't really seen their latte art skills in the past.
The service was good--the cashier barista was super perky and seemed happy to be there. She even let out a "cool!" when Laura placed her order. She seemed genuinely excited that Laura was ordering a latte. But her knowledge of teas was obviously lacking.
The aforementioned unwashed hair leads to a wide array of headpieces. We observed all of the following:
Fedora Count: 2 Slouchy Beanie: 3 Flat Brimmed Baseball Caps: 2 Newsboy Hats: 1 Headbands: a lot
Level of uncomfortableness upon walking in: This rating will differ between us, because Elizabeth had a unique experience. She walked in and made a beeline for the teas at the counter. There was a girl sitting at the counter, as if it were a bar, chatting with the barista. Elizabeth mostly ignored her, trying to find a tea with low caffeine/not look awkward/avoid direct eye-contact with her friend's ex-boyfriend sitting facing the counter. Elizabeth grabbed a menu. The girl at the counter said, "Hi, there!" Elizabeth turned. The girl smiled, while looking directly over Elizabeth's shoulder. At no one. [Looking back, perhaps she was looking at the lounge above the stairs...] Elizabeth fled to the bathroom. If there's a fight or flight response to awkwardness, Elizabeth definitely flights...flies. (Telling this story in third person has also been weird.)
Overall, though, you should experience about a 6-7. You won't feel uncomfortable due to the shop itself, just due to the people who patronize it. It might just be that you don't fit in, or yes, some people may look at you, but you can easily press on and have an enjoyable experience. Ignore the panel of freelancers lined up like reality-show judges facing the counter. You just walked into their office. It will be okay.
Level of pretentiousness: 8. Like we said, the shop itself isn't very pretentious in presentation or service, just the people who frequent it.
Parking: Parking is available around the back of the building, if you turn down either side street surrounding it and then turn into the alley behind the building (There are signs that say, "Private Property," but as long as you're a patron of the shop, you're okay.). You can also park parallel on 12South (though good luck if it is rush hour or a Friday/Saturday night) or on any of the side streets nearby.
Price: About average for the latte, but E's tea was a little pricey for what it was.
We suggest you check it out, if for no other reason than the fact that it's one of Nashville's favorites. Your chances of seeing someone whose EP you own are pretty good. Just be cool about it, okay?
Have you ever been to Frothy Monkey (12South)? Did you have a celebrity encounter? Do you know what's at the top of the staircase?