Old Oak Coffeehouse

Food: Three stars

Service: Three stars

Ambience: Four stars

Price: $-$$

Address: 136 Second Ave., Niwot

Contact: 303-834-9869, facebook.com/oldoakcoffeeniwot

Hours:

5:55 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Tuesday

5:55 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Credit cards: Yes

Noise level: Moderate and soothing more than anything else, and although I agreed with my friend's assessment that Miles Davis was playing at one point, I don't think it was a cut off of "Kind of Blue."

Coffeehouses operate at few different levels. At its most basic, a coffeehouse has to have, shockingly enough, coffee. Most go a little further than this minimalistic threshold, offering modest treats such as baked goods, and in the best case scenario, at least some of these are made on the premises. Beyond that, the next level provides light meals and perhaps even the odd alcoholic beverage.

But menus aren't the only thing that defines a coffeehouse's inherent character. At their best, java-centric hangouts are comfortable spots with a welcoming and relaxed vibe. Although it's a reasonably new spot, Niwot's Old Oak Coffeehouse ticks off most of the above boxes when it comes to both edible offerings and ambience.


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Arriving during a weeknight dinnertime, it became apparent to me and a friend that this spot caters to a wide variety of guests. These ranged from an individual sipping coffee while working on her laptop to friends in a celebratory mode, enthusiastically enjoying wine and snacks. Unobtrusive classic jazz served as the soundtrack most of the evening, and woods and warm colors made for a soothing setting.

Cappuccino at the Old Oak.
Cappuccino at the Old Oak. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

Ordering takes place at the counter. On the menu, there are sweet treats from Spruce Confections as well as savory bites from Boulder's Tip Top Pies. Grilled burritos, including a meatless cilantro pinto bean number, and a lineup of panini round out the more substantial food choices.

It's also worth noting that Old Oak offers what it calls alternative sandwiches, available in gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan variants. The beer menu is heavy on such local breweries as Avery and Upslope, and the wine selections are global in scope.

The large appetizer plate, which costs a reasonable $11.75 and a bargain $8.75 during happy hour, lived up to its menu billing as being enough for two-to-three to share. While those with slightly upturned noses may lament the absence of ultra high-end charcuterie and cheese on this platter, this combination offering registered highly on the dining satisfaction meter. A wedge of creamy brie and a hunk of Irish cheddar made up the cheese component, and these happily arrived at a correct serving temperature, namely not too chilled. Red wine salami chunks offered a rough-hewn appeal complemented by a generous helping of whole grain pita chips.

Other munchies included a bowl of roasted almonds and an assortment of impressively meaty and not too briny green, black and purple olives, attractively presented atop a slate serving board.

My dining companion, an aficionado of all things deli, opted for a $7.75 Reuben panini. Granted, the flattened panini presentation may be at odds with the arguably dangerous deli tradition of heaping the meat high enough to dislocate one's jaw. But this coffeehouse version still hews to the proper recipe for this sandwich stalwart, as it combines corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and crisply grilled dark rye. Tangy sauce is also listed as an ingredient, and this mystery element is essentially that Reuben staple, Russian dressing. The panini preparation works well for a Reuben. This cooking style keeps the meat pleasantly moist and gives the Swiss an appealingly gooey texture, similar to what one would find in a standout grilled cheese sandwich. On the side, there was a respectable pile of potato chips and a dill pickle spear.

An $8.25 course of spaghetti and meatballs comes from a family recipe and possesses authentic Italian-American flair. It's nothing too fancy, as it's a satisfying straightforward presentation of earthy tomato sauce laced with oregano, among other standby green herbs. The sauce isn't too sweet and possesses a moderately chunky texture. Dusted with parmigiano and garnished with a pickled pepper, this coffeehouse's reasonably priced version rivals that of many local Italian eateries and would be a winner at twice the cost. I enjoyed this pasta so much, I came back a few nights later for a second helping of its comforting goodness.

Given the coffeehouse setting, I enjoyed a nightcap of a decaf $3.85 cappuccino instead of a sweet baked good dessert. Nicely frothy with dairy, this cup still allowed for the full-bodied taste of pungent espresso to assert itself, making for an ending as compelling as any sweet.

The Old Oak Coffeehouse has struck upon a winning formula of pairing beverages with a thoughtful selection of sweet and savory bites. But perhaps more important, it possesses a terrifically relaxing and friendly environment that is as suitable for the solo guest as it is for a flock of friends.