Agora provides cozy atmosphere, fails to impress with specialty treats
Cozying down for a cup of coffee, flute of wine or glass of beer at Agora off Montrose seems to be a rite of passage for Houstonians. Although Agora was voted Best Coffeehouse from 2004 to 2006 by Houston Press, its products don’t live up to their hype.
While there are a multitude of great attributes to Agora, such as the quaint and mellow atmosphere, the reasonable prices and the upstairs view of the lower floor, there are flaws in its product that keep me from considering it a great coffee house.
Parking is often a hassle during peak times, and some customers choose to park in the surrounding subdivision to avoid the close quarters of the Agora parking lot. After the struggle for a parking space is hurdled, the exterior of Agora is homely.
The outside of Agora in the evening is soothing, as a the mixture of street lights and patio lights illuminate the trees and vines positioned on both sides of the sidewalk that create a tunnel-like pathway for those passing by, beckoning possible patrons into the Greek-themed coffee house.
Agora is a popular gathering place for college students, as the quiet murmur of group conversations and a jukebox is full of a tranquil mix of the Beatles, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Adele and others can be heard from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
The atmosphere of the coffee shop is where the hype ends. The intimate atmosphere was enough to make me want to lounge in a corner upstairs, taking advantage of the abundant reading materials available, but the food and drinks sampled weren’t really anything to be excited about.
There was no pop, spice or overwhelming greatness among the food and drink selection. The overall flavor of the options could be described in one word: mild.
Hot milk beverages: I was recommended the chai tea latte by a cashier who said it was their most popular beverage; however, I found that while the chai tea latte was fine, the presentation of the drink was more exciting than the first sip. The drink was decorated by a frothy layer of foam, with a crumbly cookie to dip and a sugar cube to munch on sitting on the plate rim. I recommend the white mocha; mildness works in this drink’s favor and downplays the sweetness of the white mocha that can sometimes be too much.
Coffees: To accompany the fall season, Agora had various pumpkin-flavored goodies, ranging from food to drink. In theory, pumpkin spiced coffee sounds delicious and full-bodied, but this flavored coffee was weak. The smell of the roast was slightly spicy, but the taste held almost no resemblance to the fall treat. Opt out of this for a regular coffee.
Sangrias: Although I was recommended the red sangria, the white sangria is much better. The red sangria is crisp but tastes watered down; the white sangria is sweet and tastes slightly of apples and grapes.
Pastries: Packaged in a large glass jar sitting atop the pastry case, the large pumpkin cinnamon roll sweetly called my name. This pastry is good if you take the time to warm it up in the microwave beneath the coffee cart. The banana nut muffin, on the other hand, is somewhat bland; I tasted neither banana nor nut.
Overall, I suggest students come to Agora for the romantic, cozy atmosphere and cheap prices and stay for the house coffee. Agora’s coffee condiment bar is pretty extensive, so a flavorful cup of Joe is only a few steps away.