Currently en route from Texas to Saratoga Springs (with a stop at HQ), contributing writer Andrew Nelson sends us a dispatch from Dixie:
On the road, I’m always pleased by the psychic "right on" when I stumble across something authentic and tasty. I was on a roll, driving down Interstate 65 through L.A. (that’s Lower Alabama to those who thought California) and pulled into Montgomery, the state capital, where I spotted Cool Beans, an independently owned coffee shop on downtown’s Montgomery Street. The Wi-Fi was copious, as was the parking (25 cents gets you anywhere from 30 minute to an hour at the meter). The café served the usual assortment of organic fruit (purchased from local farms), large muffins, and hot coffee in medium and dark roasts. But what put the "cool" in Cool Beans was the baristas, who, when asked, cut and served a few slices of home-grown tomatoes at no charge along with the order for bagels, which were not the flat, too-chewy bagels one frequently encounters on the road. The local patrons were no less obliging, dispensing with travel advice, local lore, and dire warnings on Atlanta’s traffic.
IT spoke to the owner, Shari Rossmann, and found out she’s a native New Yorker, transplanted to Montgomery. That explains why she has the city’s famous H&H Bagels flown in frozen and bakes them on the premises. Rossmann says she couldn’t convince Starbucks to open a branch in downtown Montgomery, so in 2004, she opened her own coffee shop. Since then, four Starbucks have sprouted up in Montgomery’s suburbs, she says. But no matter: Cool Beans has live jazz on Fridays, fresh soup daily, whole grains, and a whole lot of character.
- Nat Geo Expeditions