As you hear the bell clang over the heavy wooden door, citrus walls and homemade hula hoops silently greet you. A chenille throw is draped over a retro couch. Local art work lining the walls ranges from cow-themed paintings to tornado photography. Delicate jewelry made by local artisans gleams from the shelves. There is a mantel, but no fireplace. The smell of organic coffee is brewing. Soothing music emanates from a Pandora radio station. The chalkboard behind the counter will inform you of the daily selections.
And then you see Gail—a beautifully southern woman with teased mahogany hair who is always dressed to the nines. You can’t miss her. Gail Faulkner opened Chloe’s Cup in May 2010. She is a spunky woman who started a private business with two looming competitors: the economy and Starbucks. Gail has a simplistically profound mantra: “Stick with it, hang in there, and pray!”
Chloe’s Cup (named after Gail’s granddaughter) is setting itself apart from the city’s other coffee shops with the little things. Feel the ivory mug in your hands instead of an impersonal piece of plastic. If you are ordering to-go, there is no need to stand around awkwardly pretending to be interested in your phone. Just sit down and pull a magazine out of the spacious basket by the condiments. If you come in on Tuesday nights, you can snap your fingers while the Voodoo Saints play eclectic New Orleans blues. Employees quickly know you by name, and there is a low turnover rate, which is miraculous in a college town.
There is an innate sense of camaraderie at this downtown Tuscaloosa coffee shop. UA English teacher (and future DCE reviewer, he claims) Austin Whitver, told me why he continually returns: “There’s really good coffee here. Gail is really nice, and I like the people that work here.” Whitver went on to explain the overall atmosphere and the key ingredient of his attraction to Chloe’s Cup: “The crowd here is usually–even when there are large numbers of people–civil and quiet. Starbucks is often more loud. And the idea of “local” is the most important thing…it’s something that I don’t think a lot of students think about very often: the importance of supporting local business.” He also appreciates the fact that Chloe’s Cup offers a 10% discount to UA students and faculty.
And as for the menu? My advice is this: take advantage of the specialty lattes. They make a mean raspberry white mocha and an amaretto (vanilla, almond, espresso and milk) that’s to die for. If you don’t like coffee, they offer real fruit smoothies, bubble tea (green tea, half and half, flavored powder and tapioca pearls), plus an assortment of hot chocolate flavors and teas. They also have an extensive list of sugar free lattes, great for all you health nuts who prefer aspartame to genuine cane sugar (I do not judge for I am one of these insanely illogical individuals). And there are desserts galore. My personal favorite is the sweet potato biscuit. Even if you avoid this vegetable at Thanksgiving, you’ll fall in love with the buttery confection dusted with powdered heaven. Chloe’s Cup also has fantastic chicken salad and black bean soup, but all the “real food” items are overpriced for the rather pathetic amount you receive (the fruit cup ratio consists of four grapes to one strawberry.) So, I recommend sticking to the fabulous coffee and treats.
Chloe’s Cup is a local business worth supporting. Go there. Eat the food. Drink the drink. Most of all, meet the people. Savor a refreshing variation from the monotonous chains that bombard Tuscaloosa. You don’t want to miss out on such a unique opportunity.