I did something today that I didn’t know I was going to do. I had to get out of the house, and so I got into my car and started driving. I had a vague notion of doing some window-shopping at IKEA. While driving, that idea morphed into seeing a movie, and then I thought I might call a friend and set up an impromptu coffee date. That’s what got me thinking about independent coffee shops in the Houston area. Starbucks locations are fine for what they are, but I really wanted to give an indie a try today. So I looked up “indie coffee shops” on yelp and got a list of places, and I settled on River Oaks Coffee House. The only problem—it was 3pm, traffic was terrible and according to yelp, closing time was 6pm. Still, I thought I’d give it a try. The point was to be out of the house for a while, so why not?
River Oaks Coffee House is easy enough to find. If you’re a native Houstonian, you know Westheimer Road will take you lots of places, and this coffee house is one of them. I am the worst at directions, so I’ll just give the address and you can plug it into your favorite GPS app—3601 Westheimer Rd., Ste. C. Don’t be misled by the “Highland Village” designation listed in yelp. It’s not in Highland Village, though it is closeby. This little coffee shop has two tables that can seat about four people and then six tables that can seat two people. There’s also a little bistro table at the front of the space as well as a small seating area with an oversized chair flanked by two wicker chairs. I read a yelp review that said that there were plenty of wall outlets, and that is certainly true. This coffee shop is a place where you don’t have to feel uncomfortable bringing your notebook computer, plugging in, and getting some work done. I’m here on a Sunday, and all but two of the tables are occupied, and there are people working on their laptops, studying for school, reading a book.
The other thing I have noticed right away about the atmosphere of River Oaks Coffee House is that it’s incredibly quiet. This makes me wonder if it is really conducive to meeting people for a coffee date. If I had called that friend of mine and we’d met here, I would have felt really self-conscious chatting, even if it was at a whisper level. There is some seating outside, though on a rainy day like today, that wouldn’t be the best option. Another thing about the atmosphere is that currently, they are playing classical music at a very low volume. As someone who finds herself in coffee shops because she needs free wi-fi access so that she can get some work done, I really really appreciate that the music is not blaring and classical is often one of my music choices when working so the selection works for me. And speaking of wi-fi—yes, it’s free and easily accessible. When purchasing my coffee I asked if I needed a password but the network is open so no password is required. Another win. Finally, one of the reasons I didn’t end up in my local Starbucks today was because that location is always so cold, and I wasn’t in the mood to make sure I was wearing jeans and a hoodie. Even then my nailbeds start to turn blue and my mind goes numb from the cold, and I end up being a lot less productive than I wanted to be. Not the case with River Oaks Coffee House. I’m sitting here in short-sleeved shirt, capri pants and sandals and I’m totally comfortable. Truly, little things like this matter!
There are the usual coffee options as well as several options for the non-coffee drinker—bottled teas and waters, even Coke and IBC root beer in the glass bottles. There’s also an array of sandwiches, small fruit bowls, sweetbreads and biscotti. Another plus for the person looking for a place to spend a couple of hours working and might find themselves in need of a snack. I had the regular brewed coffee. I add a generous amount of cream or half-and-half to my coffee, but I didn’t see a canister sitting out anywhere so if you take cream or milk ask for it ahead of time. The coffee tasted good. It’s not the best coffee I’ve had but it’s also not the worst. If you are like me in that you can’t drink Starbucks brewed coffee because it’s way too strong, then I think you’ll like the coffee at River Oaks Coffee House. It’s mild, not bitter, and very drinkable.
About those hours? On Sundays, they actually close at 5pm (not 6pm). Their regular weekday and Saturday hours are 6am to 5pm. Now, if I wanted to come here after work, those hours wouldn’t really work for me, but since I’m only likely to visit on the weekends, the 5pm closing time is not a deal-breaker.
I will definitely come here again, even though it’s a good little drive from my current residence. Next time I’ll just know to get an earlier start. If you’re looking for an indie coffee shop where you can sit and hear yourself think and get some work done in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere, consider giving River Oaks Coffee House a try.