Zoma a good combo of small town and chain cafe

>At first glance Cafe Zoma on Atwood looks nothing like a chain coffee shop. The sign is colorful and eclectic, and the decor on the inside gets a helping hand from rotating artists. The walls were covered in elementary kids’ art on my first visit! The mix-and-match furniture and huge doors leading to the back patio (which according to “the locals” is used as the front door more often than the actual front door because it is right off the bike path!) give the room a great vibe and amazing natural light!

Cafe Zoma – Atwood Avenue entrance

The best part about this neighborhood cafe is that it is actually part of the local chain Espresso Royale, which means their drinks are familiar and their employees are well trained. The quality of their baked goods is great for a chain cafe and the quality of their coffee drinks is great for a cafe that feels so local! The staff were really nice and made a might strong mocha that kept me going the entire three hours I was there.

They have a great mix of tables and comfy chairs so it’s great for a meeting, coffee date, homework or casual reading (which is what most of the people were doing when I was there!). They do have WiFi but the password isn’t posted anywhere so you have to ask the staff (hint: it is “goodcoffee”).

The baked goods are pretty typical of a coffee shop: breads, muffins, scones, cookies. And the sandwiches, though pre-made, are very good. The turkey and avocado sandwich comes on wheat bread with avocado (of course!), onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pepper jack cheese and a lot of turkey. For being a pre-made sandwich is was surprisingly fresh and one of the best cold turkey sandwiches I have had in quite awhile.

I look forward to going back once it warms up outside to try their fresh-fruit smoothies (the raspberry one has honey in it!) and read on the back patio.

Bottom Line: baked goods and atmosphere are like a neighborhood cafe; coffee and WiFi are great qualities of a chain cafe.

Mermaid masters mochas and mood

>The Mermaid Cafe is a tiny blue building that inconspicuously sits on Winnebago Street at the very East gateway of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood. The blue bricks and big front windows do not give justice to the great neighborhood atmosphere and amazing coffee options of the Mermaid. They have free WiFi and large tables which are both very conducive to staying for awhile, enjoying a nice lunch and a coffee, and getting some work done.

Mermaid Cafe on Winnebago Street

I thoroughly enjoyed the chalkboard wall where it looked like anyone could write a message or  draw a picture. The large wood booths (that looked like old church pews) were surprisingly comfortable and there were a bunch of different seating options for groups, individuals, table or no table, and outdoor seating will be added once the weather warms up. One of the best aspects of the cafe is that it is locally owned and the owner can usually be found making the lunch special behind the counter!

Mermaid Cafe front window

After reading online reviews of the Mermaid I decided to get a mocha because they got rave reviews and oh boy was that a good choice! The mocha was smooth, rich and made with real chocolate sauce and topped with read whipped cream! I was very happy with my experience at the Mermaid and it will definitely be a regular stop when I’m in the neighborhood.

Bottom Line: I will go back for the coffee and the atmosphere but am very anxious to try their sandwich and breakfast options.

Rumor mill from the Mermaid’s Facebook page: they may be serving dinner options soon!