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Located along Whitewater Street, near the Cravath lakefront, is Whitewater’s principal coffee shop: The SweetSpot at 226 West Whitewater. There are other places in town for coffee, and until recently there were even more, but The SweetSpot now occupies a preeminent place.
So what shall one simply say about this much-touted coffee shop, of which Whitewater has heard so many good things? This, directly expressed: that The SweetSpot lives up to its favorable reputation, and is deserving of one’s patronage.
Coffee (Ancora), tea (Rishi), sodas and water, smoothies, and sweet coffee drinks: a full offering, carefully chosen and properly prepared. Both Ancora and Rishi are sound choices. Ancora’s from Madison, and along with Intelligensia (Chicago, elsewhere) it’s one of the better choices for coffee in our area. (A few small, competing Wisconsin roasters offer only undrinkable, failed efforts. There’s not a lot of good coffee in Wisconsin.)
Needless to say, if the coffee’s not right, little else matters. With Ancora, the coffee’s right. In my experience, the preparation and presentation of coffee and tea at the SweetSpot has been right, too. I’ve not once had an inadequate cup.
It’s a barista who’s responsible for the coffee (and strictly speaking, only the coffee, but few shops are so specialized). Baristas (baristi) often perform all sorts of roles, and they are thereby even more important to a shop than a waiter is to a restaurant. They greet, prepare drinks, and engage customers: when one says that a coffee shop depends on coffee, one means it truly depends on the preparation and presentation of the coffee.
That dual role requires skill and charm: it’s not enough to be technically correct. One must also be engaging. The baristas at The SweetSpot have been, in my visits for this review, engaging, friendly, and welcoming. (Candidly, I’d much rather endure a poor waiter over a poor barista.)
The conversation between a patron and barista will be brief, but it should be charming, happy, and light. That’s been true of my visits. (The biggest demand on any independent coffee shop, by the way, is finding a consistent charm among new baristas hired; coffee chains don’t even try, and it’s a reason they offer only an inferior experience.)
The SweetSpot is a two-room coffee shop, of a main room of about six tables, a second room of eight or so tables and a sofa, with a counter facing the lakefront along the windows in the main room. In the summer, there’s room on the shop’s front porch for outdoor seating. The interior tables and chairs are solid and convey a soft, American-country feel. The walls display prints and photographs, nicely arrayed.
One walks in to see two pastry cases to the right, espresso and coffee immediately behind, and another case for sodas, water, and juice to the near left. As with many other shops, the menu appears on slate boards behind the cases.
Pastries are freshly baked, and the shop offers bagels, muffins, croissants, cupcakes, scones, tarts, and cakes (including those for order). I’d recommend the raspberry cream cheese croissant, served warm.
Breakfast is an all-day offering, of sandwiches, oatmeal, juice, and yogurt. The lunch menu presents choices of deli sandwiches, Panini, wraps, salads, soup, and children’s offerings.
Beyond coffee and tea, The SweetSpot serves smoothies and blended coffee drinks, although I’ve sampled neither for this review.
I’m sure there’s a coffee shop somewhere in North America without wi-fi, but I’ve yet to find it. The SweetSpot doesn’t have that unfortunate distinction: there’s a wi-fi connection, and there are sure to be patrons with laptops surfing on it.
LOCATION: 226 West Whitewater Street , Whitewater, WI 53190 (262) 262-473-5080. See, Google Map and directions embedded at the beginning of this review.
OPEN: Mon-Thr 6 AM-9PM, Fri 6 AM-7 PM, Sat & Sun 7AM -7 PM.
PRICES: Sandwich, coffee, pastry for under $10.
DRINKS: Coffee, tea, juice, sodas, smoothies.
SOUND: Moderate volume of background music.
SERVICE: Friendly baristas.
VISITS: Three (morning, afternoon, evening).
RATING SCALE: From one to four stars, representing the full experience of food, atmosphere, service, and pricing.
INDEPENDENCE: This review is delivered without financial or other connection to the establishment or its owner. The dining experience was that of an ordinary patron, without notice to the staff or requests for special consideration.