Last week I ventured into the blizzard to find some comfort in that painfully cold, dreadful week. And I got it. The Old Toad delivered. I was feeling great, well, until the polar vortex. The Old Toad’s traditional British pub fare provided joy in 15 degree weather, but I needed something extra for this week’s -30 wind chill. Cozy, comfortable, relaxing, uplifting — I found it all at Equal Grounds Coffee House.
Equal Grounds is a charming café featuring warm wood tones, comfortable couches, colorful artwork, a shelf of books at patrons’ disposal, and quite an impressive stock of board games. Ryan and I — just me, really — thought Sorry would be the perfect complement to our chow. I won, so turns out I was right about that one.
In addition to being a leisure experience, Equal Grounds markets itself as an all-inclusive environment, a supporter of the LGBTQ community. So, the cafe is atmospherically comfy-cozy. But does it walk the walk with the wining and dining as well?
To start off with drinks, Ryan played it safe with his usual — the house blend coffee — and I spiced up my life with a chai tea latte. I asked Ryan to describe his coffee using three separate words, a harder assignment than I intended. Ryan had some trouble getting creative with the descriptors, but I did manage to squeeze two adjectives out of him: “smooth” and “full-bodied.” Sounds more like a wine review to me, but maybe that means something to you coffee fanatics out there. I’ll also note that the first response was “This tastes good.” So, there you have it, folks. If you’re looking for a smooth, full-bodied coffee that tastes good, then Equal Grounds is the place for you.
As for the chai, it tasted good as well — very good. The different flavoring options were, from what I can remember, vanilla, spice, and green tea. Green tea chai latte is something I had never heard of or seen before, but I was really feeling vanilla that day, so that’s what I went with.
In high school, I was super hooked on Starbucks’ chai, and I never knew what I was missing. I’ve been watching a lot of “Master Chef” a la Gordon Ramsay lately, so I’ll explain it like this: Starbucks’ chai is the cook that has gotten through week-to-week because other, better cooks make horribly destructive mistakes, but you know they shouldn’t be there (cough cough — David, season three —cough cough). Equal Grounds’ chai is the dark horse that is never shown on camera and just sorta floats by until they suddenly slay a challenge halfway through the season. Next thing you know, they’re the talk of the town and end up winning the whole shebang. You already know who I’m talking about. (It’s Claudia, season six, guys.)
Even though I ordered it with fat-free milk, this chai latte was creamy and rich, with the vanilla and spicy chai shining through brightly. The vanilla was pure and wholesome, nothing like the chemically fake French vanilla flavor typically in creamers. Also, the latte was the absolute perfect temperature. It was hot enough that I got the chills from my first warm sip, but not so hot that I couldn’t distinguish the individual flavors. Kudos.
To complete the outing with a light, healthy meal, the obvious choice was the raspberry cream cake. It was refreshing to have some real cake. Like, not supermarket cake with weird fake “buttercream,” but the real stuff with fresh buttercream and a proper sponge. It was good, but all of the elements were a bit too sweet, and for a raspberry cream cake, it was severely lacking in raspberry flavor.
Last semester, I was on a very short-lived quest to find the perfect cozy Rochester café. After Founders Café totally missed that mark, I moved on, but I’m happy that I resurrected the mission. Cake with sugar, chai with spice, and everything nice over at Equal Grounds Coffee House.