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Opening Bell Coffee House
Opening Bell Coffee House
1409 S. Lamar St. Retail Basement #012
Dallas,TX 75215
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Average Rating  5


Total Reviews:5

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South Side on Lamar, the loft project in the old Sears building, is off the beaten path from the center of downtown Dallas. But its relative isolation guarantees prosperity for Standard & Pours Coffee & Stocks, a coffeehouse-hangout in the building. Since opening in March 2003, it's become a de facto community center for South Side residents. They stop in for lattes in the morning. They drop by after walking the dog, surfing the Web or write their novels. Thursdays is free live entertainment, Friday is Tarot card reading and Cappy Hour Saturday nights, there's karaoke, and Sunday mornings, a nondenominational prayer service. They're probably not coming expressly for the food. Aside from the coffee drinks, beer and wine, the menu is limited to desserts and a few sandwiches. Few items are made from scratch, or even on the premises. But there's still a level of quality that is surprisingly consistent. The main thing is panini, an Italian-style sandwich made by pressing an assembled sandwich in a grill device until it's toasty and warm. S&P offers a choice of white bread ($3.50) or croissants ($3.75), with turkey or ham and cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Turkey on bread had a slightly smoked flavor, and the bread was nicely crisped. Ham on a croissant was more substantial. The smashed croissant was funny, but pressing transformed the pastry from light and buttery to dense and hefty. The smoky, salty ham was thinly sliced and merged nicely with the melted cheddar. With only a couple of slices of meat, some might find these paninis slender. But this is the way real paninis are made, rather than the overloaded grilled sandwiches a lot of places call paninis. They're meant to be more snack than meal, and Standard's deli meats were better than average. Morning items include breakfast burritos, made of large corn tortillas wrapped around a savory filling of sausage and potato, and a slew of baked goods including cheese and apple Danish pastries, bear claws, chocolate muffins and bagels. All come from an outside supplier and are better than average, especially after they've been toasted until warm. For dessert, there are pies ($3) such as apple and Key lime, and a couple of cheesecakes ($3), one swirled with strawberry, the other with chocolate. A rocky road brownie ($3) was festively speckled with fudge, caramel, miniature marshmallows and chopped pecans. The best and most homemade-tasting dessert was tiramisu, its ladyfinger cookies appealingly drenched in espresso and dusted all over with dark cocoa powder. Standard & Pours does a better job at coffee drinks than most mom-and-pop coffee spots. This requires not only that the coffee beans be fresh and handled carefully, but also that all equipment is regularly cleaned, and S&P appears to be taking care of business. The staff, a young, sometimes spacey crew, knows its espresso basics well. This is no mindless fast-food job. From grilling paninis to steaming milk, every task is labor-intensive, and customers can probably expect a wait. But service is uniformly delivered with good cheer. The place itself is cheery, too. It's subterranean - you step down to enter - but the sidewalk is at eye level, and glass walls keep things bright. The theme is Wall Street: The Wall Street Journal is delivered daily, and menu items are named for stock exchange terms such as the "blue chip" (a mocha; $3.50 small, $3.75 large) or the "401K" (drip; $1.75 with free refills). But the decor is Classic Coffeehouse, with couches and big comfy tables and chairs. The atmosphere is laid-back; on one table, a puzzle is in progress. Until a few weeks ago, you could park on the street, but the city heard this neighborhood is on the upswing, what with Gilley's and Poor David's Pub opening nearby, and so parking tickets are being issued during daylight hours. Customers can park for free in the little gated lot across the street or take the DART rail line to the Cedars station and walk a block to Lamar. The owner is Pascale Hall, who learned the ropes at Legal Grounds in Lakewood, where she trained for a month to get a feel for how things should go. Surprise, surprise, she's a resident at South Side, too.
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