October 5th, 2010

Waldo’s Coffee House: Coffee, Comfort, and Convenience

In 8 Words: Creaking, Bungalow, Heights, Music, Anything, Sketches, B.Y.O.B., Unpretentious

When narrowing down coffee shops at which to loiter, the house-turned-establishments, like Agora and Byzantio, are usually more appealing to my delicate sensibilities. Maybe I feel uncomfortable sitting in minimalist furniture while the guy next to me brushes his bangs across his forehead or maybe I’m a sucker for the dark disagreeable dispositions common at Agora or Byzantio. Quite possibly, my taste buds just aren’t sensitive enough to discern what some deem as great coffee and what those same folks determine as somewhat lesser brews.

Whatever the case, our weekly Loop Scoop meetings at the always exceptional Antidote take me there often enough, so I figured it was time to try elsewhere, if only a single visit. I’d been told to try Catalina, but I rarely leave my house, much less the Greater Heights area, so I decided to save that one for a weekend getaway. That left Waldo’s Coffee House, which I’ve driven past on a few occasions. With its holiday lights, old bungalow style architecture, and promise of live music there on any given night, I hoped that this would be a place I could settle my thoughts.

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Pulling off into the bike lane from a lazy Heights Blvd., I find a spot within walking distance of Waldo’s. As I shuffle over the gravel driveway, a chorus intertwined with clapping and feet stomping can be heard quite clearly through the humid Houston air. I clamor up the wooden steps and past a boisterous group hugging a cooler of Lone Stars, singing softly under their breaths to the tunes escaping this house turned coffee bar. Songs of Ireland and Scotland hit my ears with a punch as I open the front door. I quickly move through the winding path of old end tables, coffee tables, and chairs as dysfunctional as Houston’s zoning. As I walk to the left of the small corner stage in what must have been the back of the living room, the song comes to an end—just in time for me to place my order.

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I stand back in the former breakfast nook in between the bulletin board-o-business cards and a squat cupboard housing the stirring sticks, silverware, creams and sweeteners. My eyes search for a beer, wine, anything suggesting a presence of alcohol as this merry singing calls for just such a drink. It’s not to be. After squinting for what seemed half an hour at all parts of the kitchen and menu chalk boards, I finally break down, defeated, to ask Sean, the barrista behind the counter, if beer is available here. “No, man, it’s B.Y.O.B., and if you do bring it, you’ve got to pay five dollars.”"Drat!” I step backwards into the nook from which I came, further examining those options I’d missed in my earlier search. “I’ll have an Americano.” “You bet. For here?” “May as well.”

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It’s not a couple of minutes before my beverage is ready, even with a significant crowd. I take my cup and find the nearest unoccupied arm chair. As I begin sinking into its weathered upholstery, the Celtic Chorus of Houston resumes their singing. More than a few old gentleman are stumbling about with Miller Light tall boys, arms swinging as their favorite folk songs are belted out beyond the living room stage. Contentedly reclined into the welcoming upholstery, I wait, hoping to recognize one of the songs being sung. As I sit, my eyes wander to the pink walls covered in all mediums of art. Children’s art, charcoal sketches, paintings, and collages all adorn the walls wherever they managed to find room to hang. Once my my Americano has cooled off enough, I take my first sip. It’s not bad.

The merriment continues as I finish my last sip of coffee. I allow my thoughts to turn over and over in my head, trying to come to some sort of decisive conclusion about this field trip of mine. While the atmosphere and proximity to home are right up my alley (pun intended), the coffee was just good. “This is nothing to be alarmed over.” I tell myself as I move to exit the building. Waldo’s Coffee House is a comfort. It’s a convenience. When I’m not trying to impress my coffee snob friends, I’ll most likely bring them here to enjoy an evening in the warm atmosphere created by this little Heights home.

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Where – 1030 Heights Blvd. and 11th St. (View Map)
When – Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
What – Coffee, chairs and your Grandmother’s tables
Wear – Whatever you’d take your Sunday stroll in
How much – Average for an urban coffee shop
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— Richard

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