Orlando: Coffee + Sweet Spots

I like a good ambiance, a nice latte, and sinful sweet treats. In Orlando, there's a lot of that going on. Nearly three years after moving away, I finally got to photograph these gems during my trip last month! 

Stardust Video & Coffee has heavenly natural light, ridiculous (read: perfect) wall decor, crispy tater tots, an old-school photo booth, usually-kinda-good coffee, a full bar, and a nice selection of rentable DVDs. Its parking lot also plays host to the popular weekly Audubon Park Farmers Market. Founded in 1970, this place is a local institution, and I spent a huge chunk of my life here between 2007-2013.

Blue Bird Bakeshop is an adorable little spot, just across the street from Stardust (above). I somehow talked them into making me dozens of mini cupcakes on their day off for my wedding a few years back. The cream cheese icing on Blue Bird's Tuxedo cupcake is expertly balanced and not too sweet, their Neapolitan cupcake blows my mind every time (real strawberries in the frosting!), and their weekly specials are constantly rotating and always inventive. They also make the best brownie I've ever had...it's sea salt caramel flavored. I have not tried to recreate it in my own kitchen because it just wouldn't do the original any justice (it's that good). I adore this place! 

East End Market is a neighborhood food hub inspired by Central Florida’s local farmers and food artisans. In a nutshell, it's a public market with heart. I was lucky enough to be a part of the East End Market team in its early stages, where I helped to develop their brand, vision, and cultural programming concepts. The market's founder & owner, John Rife, is equal parts visionary and developer. His passion to move Orlando's food scene forward is always inspiring, and I'm so thankful to have worked with this awesome guy for a short time. East End is home to about a dozen merchants, an event space, a demonstration kitchen, an incubator kitchen, retail shops, an award-winning caterer, and a restaurant. A few stand-out market vendors are Lineage Roasting, Skyebird Juice Bar, and Olde Hearth Bread. Grab an expertly crafted cortado, a good book (there's a bookshop in the market, too!), and head out to the courtyard to enjoy the succulent-happy scenery.

Downtown Credo is more than a coffee shop — it's a nonprofit that encourages people to live a life of global impact and community starting through direct-trade and name-your-price coffee. There are three "divisions" to Credo's model: coffee, rally, and conduit (learn more about the story here). The brainchild of my friend Ben Hoyer, Downtown Credo has been embraced by its community in a big way. Their stellar community programming offers everything from workshops on sewing and terrarium creation to songwriter showcases to art shows. The mission has grown, and so has the concept and its partnerships: Credo now has two Orlando locations, with a third in the works. Each shop is unique to its neighborhood, taking hold of whatever aesthetic Ben dreams up with his committed team. I was so excited to sit down with him in his newest space located downtown at The Florida Hospital. I loved the open and airy feeling of this place...vaulted ceilings, upstairs sitting area, and impeccable large-scale line drawings by Shannon Staunton. Good vibes all around, and for a great cause.

There a few places I really wanted to include but I just didn't have time to properly document them this time around. Those places include super near and dear to my heart spots like Barnie's Coffee Kitchen (which I also mentioned in my last Orlando post a few weeks ago), and Le Macaron (home to LITERALLY the most incredible macaron known to man: Madagascar Vanilla Bean). I keep wishing they'd ship because no other macaron — not even Bouchon — holds a candle to this magic. Oh, and one last thing...Kilwins on Park Ave. is a chain but...caramel-dipped rice krispie treats — they know what's up.

Phew. One more Orlando post in my homage coming atcha soon!