A few lucky Wichita neighborhoods contain coffee shops that invite people to converse on a comfortable couch, linger over a latte or work while using the free Wi-Fi.
Recently, two west-side neighborhoods joined those fortunate ranks. Verita Coffee Co. opened in March near Central and Tyler, and Twisted Java opened in early June in a former McDonald’s building on 13th Street, adjacent to the Indian Hills neighborhood.
Both locally owned shops are drawing steady crowds, and both are serving inventive, interesting coffee drinks.
Recently, I visited – and liked – both.
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My first stop was Verita Coffee Co., and it was my favorite. It sits in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it end cap in a nondescript strip center that also is home to Chinese restaurant Magic Wok. Its owners are Jon and Ivy Jones, who both decided to leave behind jobs that required constant travel. They have four children, and they wanted to stay closer to home.
Jones has a big beard and and even bigger smile, and he’s almost always behind the counter, steaming up a menu that includes lattes, Americano, drip coffee, cappuccino, mocha, macchiato and chai.
He’s done much of the design work in the building himself and will happily point out an industrial looking light panel stationed over the front window that he just created. The small shop has wooden slats on some walls, painted brick on others and a gorgeous hexagon tile on the wall behind the coffee bar. The floor is stained cement. Customers sit at a wooden bar with a front-row seat to the brewing action, at small tables and chairs scattered about, or in a living room setup with mismatched sofas. (Don’t get used to them, though. They’re about to go. One particularly comfy couch has become a draw for amorous young customers who seem to forget they’re not alone. Jones plans to replace the sofas with more tables and chairs.)
Verita coffee drinks are made with single-origin beans, which are said to produce a more distinct flavor. And although the drip coffee I ordered had a bold, rich flavor, it wasn’t nearly as memorable as two of Verita’s signature drinks. My favorite was the root beer latte, which Jones invented using Hildebrand root beer milk. The drink, served over ice, had a silky texture and caramel flavor. I didn’t really pick up any root beer, but that’s not a bad thing. I drained my 12-ouncer in under five minutes, exclaiming with joy after every sip. There’s a strawberry milk version of this drink, too, and I’m told it’s just as good.
Verita also has a first-rate chai latte, possibly because Jones creates the spice blend himself. It’s a drink with bite, and each exotic sip screams cardamom and cinnamon. The drink has a spicy black-pepper bite that leaves a pleasant burn on your lips and tongue.
The shop also serves a variety of pastries supplied by Bagatelle, including croissants, cinnamon rolls and fruit Danishes.
I left Verita wishing it was in my neighborhood. I love the classy yet funky atmosphere, the artsy raven logo decorating the cups, the friendly owner, and that root beer latte, which was worth every calorie.
The next day, I stopped into Twisted Java, which has a different vibe. It’s owned by Steven R. Jones and Karen Kurtz, a former Papa Murphy’s franchisee, and it’s a lot less subtle than Verita, both it its decor and drinks.
The owners should win an award for the best use of an abandoned McDonald’s. They painted the exterior black and red, and filled the interior with so much playful decor and collectibles that the building’s origins are almost masked. If not for the signature McDonald’s booths and twisty chairs on one side of the shop, you’d never know.
The main dining room area was cleared out and filled with two living room setups. The day we visited, a group of about 25 women were gathered for a meetup in the main area, seated on a variety of animal-print sofas and brightly colored chairs. The secondary area has a couch that’s covered in pen scrawlings; a big-screen TV; and a papasan chair. On every surface and every wall is a mish-mash of kitschy decor – old gas station signs, a lighted stoplight, metal roosters, guitars, sports memorabilia. It’s everywhere, and it’s dizzying.
The drink menu also is a bit dizzying and boasts crazy concoctions like a Funky Monkey frappe made with chocolate fudge and peanut butter, a Heath bar mocha, and a turtle mocha. Twisted Java also has carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies and bierocks – including a breakfast bierock – supplied by Twizted Confections.
When we visited, we followed in the group of 25 ladies, so our wait was long. We tried a frozen PB mocha, which was served in a clear cup with a domed lid and a mountain of whipped cream on top. The drink was decadent, and I could really taste the peanut butter (and the calories). I was expecting more of an icy texture, but this drink was smooth – almost too smooth. I had to force myself to stop drinking it midway through. It’s clearly more of a dessert than a cup of morning joe.
The regular drip coffee also had a smooth flavor and was fun to drink out of Twisted Java’s stylish to-go cups, which are black and decorated with a red guitar and the word “rock.” We ordered a breakfast bierock, but they were out of them. We settled for the regular bierock, which was unusual but wonderful and had chucks of oregeno-laden Italian sausage and shredded cabbage wrapped in a yeasty, almost sweet dough.
Twisted also serves ice cream, shakes, slushies, tea and fountain drinks, so parents can enjoy a coffee shop outing with their kids. It also has a drive-through.
Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.
☆☆☆ and a half out of four
Where: 9414 W. Central, 316-260-7076
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Type of food: Coffee, pastries
Cost: Coffee drinks range from $2 for a small drip coffee to $6 for a large Chai.
Twisted Java Coffee Bar
☆☆☆ out of four
Where: 2615 W. 13th St., 316-425-1803
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Type of food: Coffee, bierocks, pastries
Cost: Coffee drinks range from $2 for a small drip coffee to $5.40 for a large iced coffee. Pastry and food items range from $1.79 for a grasshopper brownie to $3.99 for a bierock.