By Kiwi Carlisle
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 24, 2004

There was a time when the words "coffeehouse" and "smoke-filled room" were synonymous in St. Louis. That's been changing slowly, as nonsmokers have discovered the delights of whiling away the hours over a tall creamy drink and a bite to eat. The latest addition to the ranks of nonsmoking coffeehouses is Cairdeas Coffee, a pleasant little oasis on Tamm Avenue in Dogtown.

"Cairdeas" is Gaelic for "friendship," as the restaurant's menu informs us, and friendship is the restaurant's theme, carried out by the cozy welcome of the staff and the decor alike. If you can, try to snag the table supported by the three monkeys (See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil) and one or more of the comfy, asymmetric easy chairs nearby. There's also a coffee table full of games if you plan to spend a caffeine-fueled afternoon or evening there.

Naturally, the star at Cairdeas is the coffee, tea and frozen-drink menu. It's nearly two pages long, and there are daily specials as well. Our coffee experts were well pleased with the variety, presentation and flavor of the coffees and coffee drinks. Special praise was accorded to the Red Headed Irish Nut ($2.75-$3.75), a latte with Irish Cream and hazelnut syrups and a bit of cinnamon sugar. If you order any drink with steamed milk, be it coffee, cocoa or chai, you'll probably be offered a milky dividend to top off your cup and a smile to go with it

We tried a couple of their cold drinks. The Yucatan Frappe ($3.25-$3.75) tastes just like a cup of frozen Mexican cocoa, spicy with cinnamon and complete with whipped cream. The fruit smoothies ($3.75-$4.75) are good, too. The Lemon Cooler is delightfully tart, and the Extreme Peach hit the spot for our sweet lover but got thumbs down from our queen of tarts. Although Cairdeas' chai ($2.35-$3.25) is premixed, its good, and the hot variety comes with plenty of steamed milk. The iced variety is kept strong enough to still be spicy.

There's a good selection of food to go with the drinks as well. Cairdeas' Fiesta Jumpstart Breakfast Wrap ($3.25) is a singularly tempting breakfast morsel, stuffed with bacon, egg, cheese and salsa, then flat-grilled. I first tasted a bite of my companion's and nearly snatched it from her hands and refused to give it back - it's that good. The "Egglectic" Morning Breakfast Sandwich ($3.25) is a more ordinary combination of bacon, egg and cheese, available on a bagel, croissant or English muffin. The bakery case holds an assortment of pastries, muffins, cookies, biscotti, coffee cakes and breakfast breads (35 cents-$1.50). Breakfast is served all day, and we've heard the staff offering sandwiches and other non-breakfast items to early risers as well.

The 8-inch pizzas ($5.25-$5.95) are interesting, odd things, on a crust that's like a cross between foccaccia and puff pastry. They're good for snacking but not substantial enough for a meal. A variety of sandwiches is available. We favor the Gaian Veggie Wrap ($4.95), a delicious grilled wrap stuffed with a lot of vegetables and cheese. The Tempting Turkey and Cheese ($5.75) also lives up to its name. Less successful is the Hearty Roast Beef ($5.75), which comes off bland somehow. (Perhaps substituting a good grainy mustard for the woefully wimpy chipotle mayonnaise might improve it.)

The soup of the day ($3.75) is a good bet. If chicken-tortilla soup is available the day you visit, go for it!. That soup is rich with vegetables and chicken, and the jalapeņo flavor is subtle but discernible. I hear tell that there's a nine-grain soup that's even better.

Cairdeas is new enough that some of the staff are still learning the drink and food menus. However, you may find yourself unwilling to leave its pleasant ambiance after you finish your drink or meal. Dogs may be man's best friend, but Cairdeas offers friendship in Dogtown, cup after cup.

Cairdeas Coffee

Address: 1136 Tamm Avenue
Phone: 314-645-3972
Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and
7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted
Smoking: No smoking allowed
Wheelchair access: Poor


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Bob Corbett