The Ugly Mug Cafe, 317 W. Cross St.
Oh fine coffee - why are you so hard to find in the supposed foodie heaven that is Ann Arbor? Since B. started reading CoffeeGeek on his quest to make the perfect espresso at home, it's been hard to find coffee in town that measures up. There are a couple of great local roasters, namely Mighty Good, (our current top pick) which roasts the night before they deliver it to your doorstep. And Roos Roast, which has classes on Sunday mornings. Both offer organic and fair trade coffees and both are excellent. But finding a double cap that we could pay upwards of $3.50 for the privilege of drinking on someone else's chairs has remained elusive.
The downside of having great coffee at home is, obviously, that going to a coffee shop is considerably less fun when you think their brew tastes like delicious burnt dishwater. Among Ann Arbor's many coffee money-printing shops, only Cafe Zola makes a respectable cappuccino, with a good espresso shot, real micro-foam and the rosetta. So when our friend-in-coffee, Ali, sent a text message (of course) that he had found coffee nirvana in Ypsilanti, B. was jet-propelled.
The surprising thing was that the Ugly Mug did not disappoint. The baristas actually know what they are doing and care about it. They grind the coffee for each cup, polishing and tamping the grounds with professional finesse. The shot comes up with thick, beautiful crema and the delicious coffee perfume just about knocks you over. When they foam the milk they also get it right - enough for silky micro-bubbles just like whipped cream, without heating it too much when you get the cooked milk taste. Then the professional pour with the beautiful rosetta design (a friend calls it the "doily") on top. It's a lovely cup of coffee at the Ugly Mug. And they have have Free Shot Fridays to encourage people to accept espresso as their personal saveur.
Owner Zak is only 25 years old. He has a MySpace page for himself and for the Ugly Mug. The vibe at the Mug is definitely young, alternative and hipster. Smoking is in. So are computers with stickers on them.
My main question at this point is - what took us so long to find out about the Ugly Mug? Apparently being locked in The Bubble has deprived us for at least 3 years of superior coffee. However, now that we're in on the secret, we'll be going to the Ugly Mug for Free Shot Fridays and whenever we need an excellent cup even if we are the oldest people in the place.
The Ugly Mug Cafe
Location: 317 W. Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat. 9am-10pm, Sun. 10am-9pm