When Good Restaurants Have Bad Coffee
Just say no.
The Henry is undeniably beautiful. The Sam Fox Concept is bright and sunny, has a gorgeously polished interior, sumptuous seating, and a patio that summer dreams are made of. The food is, in classic Sam Fox style, simple but well-executed, the cocktails are top-notch, and the whiskey list is long and impeccably curated. This is a space where every detail has been deliberately crafted to fit with an overall image of quality and comfort.
To this restaurant, which seems to have paid such immaculate attention to every tiny facet of the customers' experience, we pose this question: why do you serve such absolutely abysmal coffee?!
Clearly, The Henry is not the only restaurant with less-than-stellar coffee. It's an epidemic, really. So we're sorry, The Henry; the badness of your beans just stands out so starkly against your great service and tasty food that we couldn't not lead with it.
We tried to like it. We tried over and over again. We wanted to be able to sit in one of those pretty chairs, sip a latte, read a nice book, and pretend we were in the sitting room of a gorgeous Victorian mansion. But we just. can't. get over how terrible the coffee is.
Let's weigh the pros and cons here. It isn't that The Henry doesn't put in the effort. The coffee bar is beautiful, and smack dab at the front of the restaurant, which makes it convenient. Plus one for that. The Henry uses beans from Scottsdale roaster Passport Coffee & Tea; we'll give them another point for using a local roaster. Their espresso blend is a special Sam Fox blend of Ethiopian and Brazilian beans, so we'll award one more to their friendly staff for actually knowing their espresso components. All their milk is organic (from Shamrock Farms, a local-ish dairy), so we'll give them two more, just to be generous. Their milk drinks generally feature some sort of latte art - it's not always perfect, but it's something. So there we go: six perfectly positive things.
Here's the problem: Everything else about drinking their coffee is just dreadful.
Let's start with milk. Latte art does not a good latte make; there are a lot of nuances that need to be considered. The texture of the drinks at The Henry is consistently choppy; a layer of chunky foam sits atop a layer of thin milk, rather than giving way to a creamy, seamless transition.
A latte should be warm, but the milk should never be scalded. Here is your warning: When drinking coffee at The Henry, expect the milk to be scalded. We thought this might be a singular event; unfortunately, we've had this experience repeatedly at this restaurant. It will taste bad, and drinking it will be painful. Expect your taste buds to shrivel up and turn to ashes after the first sip; do not expect them to grow back anytime soon. RIP, lil' taste buddies; please don't come back to haunt us.
Their espresso is equally frightening. On its own, it is insipidly bitter, and somehow still tart. It absolutely refuses to meld with milk. Instead, the espresso seems to poke sharply out of the drink, rendering it incredibly unpleasant.
Even with copious amounts of sugar, as in the drink called "The Wildflower" (espresso, vanilla syrup, milk, and chai), the flavors simply refuse to play nicely with one another. Drinking coffee at The Henry is like having a bunch of shitty flavors challenge one another to a clumsy, awkward wrestling match, inside your mouth.
In short, The Coffee at The Henry is The Worst. But it's also reflective of a bigger trend in restaurant beverage service.
We want to make it clear: none of this was in any way the fault of the baristas. They merely acted according to their training, and their drinks were consistent across the board. Somehow in the midst of great service, great food, and great cocktails, Sam Fox Concepts neglected to ensure that the coffee program at the restaurant would be equally impressive.
We can all agree that drinks should complement food, and vice versa. The Henry, or any restaurant of its caliber, surely wouldn't put a bottle of Boones Farm on their menu. They wouldn't take pride in serving an Old Fashioned made with Old Crow. They certainly wouldn't offer you a fine forty-ounce bottle of Colt 45 to accompany your meal. So why serve coffee that is the functional equivalent of any of these drinks? Why pay so much attention to every aspect of your restaurant, but blatantly neglect such a critical element of beverage service? We ask this not just of The Henry, but of any and every restaurant that keeps an hours-old pot of Folgers brewing on the back burner: why not try to do coffee better?
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