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Java Enabled's Best of St. Louis Coffee, Part 1

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With the release on October 1 of the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2009, I decided this is a great time to set the stage with Java Enabled's own Best of St. Louis Coffee. I've decided to break up my Best Of into two umbrella categories: Cafés and Coffee. In this post, I'll list my picks for the best in local cafés. Next week, I'll review my selections for St. Louis coffee, from roasts to drinks.

I wanted to lead off with cafés since their attraction is related to coffee but distinct from it, too. For better or worse, many people choose a café for its ambiance, vibe or amenities over its coffee. So follow me after the jump and see how my list compares with your own favorites.

Best Café to Catch Up: Shaw's Coffee Ltd.

Brunch is overrated for catching up with that friend you haven't seen in a year. There's the awkward wait for your table, the noise of the restaurant -- and, frankly, mouthfuls of food aren't conducive to conversation. Shaw's Coffee Ltd. offers a hip, relaxed atmosphere to enjoy coffee and conversation.

Located at the corner of Shaw and Marconi on the Hill, Shaw's is a great example of urban redevelopment in St. Louis City. Refurbished pressed tin ceilings, ample outdoor and indoor seating (including couches you'd actually like to sit on) big windows, chic lighting and original floors blend the old and the new. Isn't that what catching up is all about?

Taking full advantage of the building's previous life as a bank, Shaw's turned the old safety-deposit vault into an eclectic, if not a tad claustrophobic, private seating area. The hours don't accommodate late night chats, so meet up mid morning or early afternoon. Oh yeah, and the coffee's good, too.

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www.parkavenuecoffee.com
Best Café Patio: Park Avenue Coffee

You might know Park Avenue Coffee better for its ubiquitous gooey butter cake than for its patio, but the Lafayette Square café is a must-see for outdoor lounging. The front of the house is overbranded but walk right through to the hidden treasure in the back. Nestled behind Park Avenue's gorgeous mansard-roofed storefronts, the patio looks like it could host an A-List soirée. Two outdoor fire pits are a striking focal point for the patio. (Don't be shy about asking the staff to light them for you.) Espresso-brown love seats surround the pits with umbrella-shaded tables filling the remaining space. Tall grasses hide the wooden fence, creating an urban oasis feel. Park Avenue's patio is a welcome change of pace from the block's bustling bars.

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