Having lived in northern California for ten years, I came to love local coffee shops. Wherever I live or travel, I seek out independent coffee houses. Lakeland is blessed from that standpoint, with Concord Coffee and Mitchell’s among our fine options. Hillcrest Coffee in Lakeland is one of those places that we’ve planned to visit for some time, and we’re glad we finally did.
If memory serves, Hillcrest has only been open a little more than a year. They have had quite an impact, however, hosting live music and other events on a regular basis. The coffee shop is in a bungalow that has been beautifully restored and has seating inside and out. The decor is organic and funky, with found-art objects and tables and chairs that don’t match but are all simple and comfortable. There is a shelf filled with books, board games, and stacks of music CDs. The music while we were there was an eclectic mix ranging from classical to guitar smashing, but thankfully the volume was low.
Hillcrest offers a wide variety of coffees. My wife ordered a Buddy Brew coffee, Sumatra blend – Buddy Brew is a Tampa-based coffee roaster. She also had an everything bagel with cream cheese. One thing that made us happy is that their coffees all seem to come from Florida-based roasters. The Sumatra was strong but not bitter, a kind of bold chocolatey flavor. The bagel was also good.
Somehow, I’m allergic to coffee (I’ve only met one other person who suffers from this). So I had a chai tea latte. The drink came in a generous-sized mug but was somewhat lacking in flavor, without the chai spiciness this drink usually has. However, I also had a “magic bar” pastry that more than made up for it. It was similar to a seven-layer bar, with chocolate chips, nuts, graham cracker crust, and coconut. It was dense and moist, one of the best pastries I’ve had in a long time. Clearly made locally and not out of a box.
Good show! Hillcrest is a classic “third place,” someplace you go not just for food or drink, but a place that fulfills a necessary social function. It would be easy to spend hours there in conversation or enjoying a book. We would have liked more edible options – one type of bagel and a couple of pastry choices were all we saw – but what they did have was of excellent quality. The coffee selection is diverse and there are also a number of non-coffee beverages. With tip, our total was about $15. Hillcrest Coffee is in Lakeland on Hillcrest Street at South Missouri Avenue, just west of South Florida Avenue. Enjoy!