Saturday Series: The Rialta Coffee Tour, Part 15

The Ultimate Coffee Road Trip Across the United States.

This week:  Alabama and Tennessee

Editor’s note:  We began publishing reports from Don Niemyer about the cafes he visited on his cross-country coffee tour back in the summer of 2013, and we’ve loved following his journey, learning about amazing coffeehouses out there in the United States, ever since. We’ll be publishing reports from Don about his recent journey around the Central and Northern states every Saturday until ”well, until Don makes it to a stopping point. To catch up on Don’s earlier posts about his explorations of coffee culture throughout the Western United States, click  HERE. Following are links to Don’s posts from  this current Saturday Series:

Part 1: Oregon to Amarillo, Texas
Part 2: Oklahoma to South Dakota
Part 3: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Part 4: Wisconsin to Michigan
Part 5: Chicago, Illinois
Part 6: Indiana to Washington, D.C.
Part 7: Virginia to Florida
Special Edition: The Big Central Coffee Competitions in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Part 8: Maryland to Pennsylvania
Part 9: Delaware to Rhode Island
Part 10: Massachusetts to Maine
Part 11: Vermont
Part 12: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Part 13: Ohio to Tennessee
Part 14: Atlanta

We hope you continue to enjoy  Don’s reports  as much as we do!

By Don Niemyer
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

I’ve got this cousin named Todd. About 20 years ago, Todd and his wife, Mandy, left Oklahoma pursuing a dream of country music, which of course landed them in Nashville, Tenn. Todd was the whole package: Country boy good looks; pretty good with a guitar; sharp as a tack; And siiing ”my Lord, could that boy sing! Ol’ Todd got pretty close a couple times. He accidentally moved in next door to the guy that wrote a bunch of number-one hits for George Strait, and that guy was dead-set on making Todd a star. But as it often goes, a couple balls didn’t bounce the right way, and it never happened.

We're still winding our way around the country, this week stopping in Alabama and Tennessee.
We’re still winding our way around the country, this week stopping in Alabama and Tennessee.

Luckily, Todd wasn’t just a one-trick pony. He had other stuff going on while he was looking for that break, and he ended up building a successful business where he now employees about 100 people, and he’s part of a great group of friends and involved in his local community. So I guess things worked out pretty good for Todd and Mandy. They’ve taken the cards that life dealt ˜em and turned over a winning hand. But the very best thing that came out of their story? An excuse for me to visit Nashville, Tenn., on my epic coffee adventure ”a visit which produced some good times hanging out with my cousins, but also some of my favorite coffee experiences of the whole trip. So let’s roll, coffee lovers! We’ll head over to Birmingham, then up to Nashville for some toe-tappin’ good times, and as always, some exploration of the best shops we can find!

There's quicker ways to get from Atlanta ”where we were last week ”to Nashville, but we were hoping to squeeze in an Alabama visit by hitting Birmingham. We got a few good recommendations of some excellent shops there, but decided to roll the dice on one we hadn't heard much about: Seeds.
There’s quicker ways to get from Atlanta ”where we were last week ”to Nashville, but we were hoping to squeeze in an Alabama visit by hitting Birmingham. We got a few good recommendations of some excellent shops there, but decided to roll the dice on one we hadn’t heard much about: Seeds.
Lucky roll for us!  Seeds turned out to be a really solid café/roastery in a former gas station.  They capitalized on the outdoor covered part by creating this expansive seating area, with it's own serving bar, presumably utilized as-needed.
Lucky roll for us! Seeds turned out to be a really solid café/roastery in a former gas station. They capitalized on the outdoor covered part by creating this expansive seating area, with it’s own serving bar, presumably utilized as-needed.
Seeds has an emphasis on community, symbolized by this great table. And from my chat with the barista, it seems like they're doing an admirable job of being a part of something beautiful in Birmingham.
Seeds has an emphasis on community, symbolized by this great table. And from my chat with the barista, it seems like they’re doing an admirable job of being a part of something beautiful in Birmingham.
It was one of the Seeds guys who insisted we go to Crema when we got to Nashville. And when a good barista tells me a shop is a  œmust-see , I take it pretty darn seriously.
It was one of the Seeds guys who insisted we go to Crema when we got to Nashville. And when a good barista tells me a shop is a œmust-see , I take it pretty darn seriously.
Crema is also a roaster but they've been around awhile ”8 years ”picking up some notoriety and winning a few awards along the way.  Their space got a makeover somewhat recently, resulting in, among other things, this creative and beautiful bar.
Crema is also a roaster but they’ve been around awhile ”8 years ”picking up some notoriety and winning a few awards along the way. Their space got a makeover somewhat recently, resulting in, among other things, this creative and beautiful bar.
Here's a sampling of some of Crema's coffee offerings.  I thought this stunningly framed menu with changeable placards was pretty clever.
Here’s a sampling of some of Crema’s coffee offerings. I thought this stunningly framed menu with changeable placards was pretty clever.
I'll be honest ”Barista Parlor isn't the easiest place to find. But there're still plenty of people who figure it out. Know why? Because this place is STUNNING.
I’ll be honest ”Barista Parlor isn’t the easiest place to find. But there’re still plenty of people who figure it out. Know why? Because this place is STUNNING.
Barista Parlor started a couple of years ago utilizing the multi-roaster model, featuring some of the world's finest coffees, and creating a stunning aesthetic by farming out little details such as these gorgeous menu boards to local artisans.
Barista Parlor started a couple of years ago utilizing the multi-roaster model, featuring some of the world’s finest coffees, and creating a stunning aesthetic by farming out little details such as these gorgeous menu boards to local artisans.
Here's another example of the touched-by-an-artistan approach. Don't you just hate people that can take a piece of rotten wood and turn it into something more beautiful than anything in your whole house?
Here’s another example of the touched-by-an-artistan approach going on at Barista Parlor. Don’t you want to claw your eyes out with envy when you realize there are people who can take a piece of rotten wood and turn it into something more beautiful than anything in your whole house?
Barista Parlor is known for amazing coffees, gobs and gobs of state-of-the-art equipment, and, of course, unsurpassed execution behind their custom Slayers. Add to that a measure of  œcool  that works its way into everything from the water closet to the merch wall, and it makes for one fabulous experience.
Barista Parlor is known for amazing coffees, gobs and gobs of state-of-the-art equipment, and, of course, unsurpassed execution behind their custom Slayers. Add to that a measure of œcool  that works its way into everything from the water closet to the merch wall, and it makes for one fabulous experience.
But wait, there's more! The Barista Parlor crew has teamed up with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach to create another location!  This one is called The Golden Sound (a nod to the recording studio that was formerly in the space) and includes a roastery, as well.  How's this one? Well, let's just say I had to apologize a couple times for drooling on the counter.
But wait, there’s more! The Barista Parlor crew has teamed up with the Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach to create another location! This one is called Golden Sound (a nod to the recording studio that was formerly in the space) and includes a roastery, as well. How’s this one? Well, let’s just say I had to apologize a couple times for drooling on the counter. [Editor’s note: See Kirstina Bolton’s article about the opening of Golden Sound on Barista Magazine‘s blog by following this link.]
And this thing? It's basically a glorified Sausage McMuffin. You probably don't wanna try it. KIDDING!!  Holy sausage kings, this thing was amazing! Served up on a block of wood that I could have built a whole canoe out of and prepared right there on the premises, it's delicious AND substantive!
And this thing? It’s basically a glorified Sausage McMuffin. You probably don’t wanna try it. KIDDING!! Holy sausage kings, this thing was amazing! Served up at Golden Sound on a block of wood that I could have built a whole canoe out of and prepared right there on the premises, it’s delicious AND substantive!
Moral of the story? Barista Parlor, Golden Sound, and whatever these guys think of next ”it is and it's gonna be BIG. I haven't even brought up the vintage motorbikes and trucks sitting around everywhere at Golden Sound, the spot-on hospitality, the expected-from-these-guys epic vinyl turntable setup at each location, or even the 20-foot mystery ship mural in the original location. It's big. It's good. And you need it. Go getcha some.
Moral of the story? Barista Parlor, Golden Sound, and whatever these guys think of next ”it is and it’s gonna be BIG. I haven’t even brought up the vintage motorbikes and trucks sitting around everywhere at Golden Sound, the spot-on hospitality, the expected-from-these-guys epic vinyl turntable setup at each location, or even the 20-foot mystery ship mural in the original location. It’s big. It’s good. And you need it. Go getcha some.

Yes sir, Nashville was good to us, but all good things must come to an end. Fortunately for us, when one good thing comes to an end, it usually means there’s another good thing right around the corner, and the good thing in this case is Springfield, Missouri. That’s where we’ll be reporting from next Saturday, so be sure to check back! Until then, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or at DonNiemyer.com. See you soon!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

donandcarissa

Don Niemyer  used to own three coffee shops in Portland, Ore., where he and his wife Carissa spent 8 years immersed in the excellent coffee culture there, milking it like a dairy cow for every drop of expertise it would give them, making lots of friends, doing some USBC judging, and learning all they could. One day, they decided to move their kids closer to family, so they bought a tiny RV, moved into it, and have been œmoving to Colorado  ever since, visiting coffee shops, practicing minimalism, and having lots of fun. That was over two years ago. One of these days, they might even end up living in Colorado.

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