Patio of the Week: Empire Espresso's Alleyway Courtyard
A no-frills patio that gets it right with great coffee, decent drinks and lots of sunshine.
Each week between now and Labor Day, we present a new or unsung patio for your alfresco imbibing needs.
The quiet courtyard at Empire Espresso in Columbia city has none of the typical cafe-patio-fixtures: no awning, no string lights, no umbrellas, even the tables are standard-issue silver bistro type. The 15-seater patio itself is a roped enclosure in a wide blocked-off alleyway at the back of the cafe out the garage doors and the view is mostly brick walls, a few green bushes and the front of a pilates studio.
But there's gorgeous sunlight, just enough shade-cover thanks to the buildings around, summery flowers on the tables, free wifi and your choice of fine brew — locally sourced Kuma coffee that keeps the regulars coming, a fairly large beer selection, a wine menu that's picked carefully to be cheap and good, plus a variety of tea and cider. Food is either waffles or panini and happy hour from 4 to 7 every day, means a $5 beer and grilled cheese special and a dollar off all drinks. For soccer fans, a well-positioned TV, that's inside the cafe but visible from the patio, will be showing most of the major World Cup games in the next week.
This neighborhood cafe and patio is a favorite with Columbia City locals, so weekends and game nights get crowded. But if you happen to be around any other time, you'll likely score a nice sunny seat.