/ The Houston Guide
Houston — By Christina Uticone on August 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Filed under: coffee-houses, top-feature, wine bar

A Coffee House, A Gathering Place

coffee house, wine, bar, beerTucked between two antique shops, Agora Coffeehouse is a treasure in its own right.  A spacious cafe with ample indoor and outdoor seating, it has become my favorite remote office in the Montrose area of Houston.  Oh, and did I mention Agora doubles as a wine and beer bar as well?  That’s definitely my kind of remote workspace.  And unlike some big-chain coffee shops, Agora offers free wi-fi, a major plus in my book.

The charm extends beyond simply offering this work-from-home businesswoman a change of scenery, although the scenery itself is fun and funky.  The decor is, as you might imagine with a name like Agora (Greek for “gathering place”), Greek in theme.  Replica relief frescoes line the walls, along with fun prints of ancient Greek sculptures as well as maps of the ancient world.  The total effect is visually interesting; none of it is hung particularly straight, and in some spots picture frames compete for wall space, giving the whole thing a carefree feel.

I love Agora’s layout that accommodates everyone, whether you’re looking for “public privacy” to work, like me, or you want to have coffee with a friend or two … or ten.  Indoor seating is divided between two levels: the ground floor and second floor seating that wraps around the perimeter, leaving the center of the building open to a high ceiling and exposed beams rising from the middle of the first floor.  Large windows lend ample light for reading, even on a gloomy day.

At ground level inside, mismatched tables and chairs crowd the floor in a cozy/private way: three five-tops, a couple of three- and four-tops, and several deuces (restaurant-speak for “seating for two”).  Two leather couches hug a coffee table in the far back-right corner, always reminding me that I should start that book club, already.  Note: if you are visiting Agora to get work done, don’t take the table behind the couch, as the area attracts chatty groups of two to twelve and thus, is not conducive to working at any of the tables adjacent to the couches – I learned that lesson the hard way!  For additional privacy, head upstairs to the tables that line the second floor.

When temperatures are not in the brutal range (heat index for today estimated to reach 110 °F) there are plenty of tables outside, and smoking is allowed on the front deck.  After several visits, during which smokers occupied tables out front, I am happy to report that the smoke is not detectable to those sitting inside, even when traffic through the front door is high. You can also choose to sit on the second floor outside deck to get away from the foot traffic of the front entrance and exit.  Sitting  outside on the upper deck area also gives you a fun, people-watching perch for the action on Westheimer; I love watching antique hunters on-the-prowl on weekends.

There is a bar that seats about 8-10 people, and they have a surprisingly varied wine list and a small, but solid selection of beers: Chimay, St. Arnold, Paulaner, Duvel, and Budweiser, too.  Domestic or import, fancy or not-so-fancy, you’ll find an acceptable brew.

A jukebox provides music ranging from jazz to Dylan to Morrison, and the collection extends further and more eclectic from there.  The volume is always at an acceptable level: loud enough to hear, soft enough to talk over.  If you forgot to bring something to read, they keep a variety of art books, newspapers, and magazines on hand, or you can simply sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.  Once you’ve gotten a good coffee-jolt or wine buzz, hit the street and do some shopping at some of the fabulous shops and boutiques.  Here are a few I like:

  • DuO: A stone’s throw from Agora, and tantalizingly visible from seats at the front of the house.  If I want to resist the urge to shop for cute clothes, I take a seat away from the front windows.  DuO is located at 1665 Westheimer (map) and has some really cute, affordable clothes for men and women.
  • Mint: I have purchased some pretty adorable dresses at Mint.  The clothes run a little young and trendy, but styled correctly I am pleased with the effect on this 30-something.  They have helpful employees that will grab shoes, belts, and other accessories for you while you play dress-up.  Also affordable, and definitely fun – girls only!  Mint is located at 1641 Westheimer (map).
  • Domy Books: Right across the street from Agora, Domy is a bookstore and contemporary arts exhibition space.  Located at 1709 Westheimer (map).

Agora Coffeehouse is open daily from 9 AM – 2 AM and is located at 1712 Westheimer (map).  A very limited amount of parking is located in back of the store, but street parking  is available on the opposite side of the street as well as on the closest cross street, Dunleavy.

Photo credit: SXC

Tags: coffee-houses, top-feature, wine bar


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