“Paradox Coffee and Theatre” is situated in the heart of downtown St. Joseph, occupying part of the first floor of the five-story restored late 19th century furniture store from the heyday of St. Joseph historic economic era. Since then it has been many things from a toy store, indoor archery range, laser tag arena and up to four years ago a nightclub. The top four floors are currently being remodeled into lofts, while the ground floor has been operating as an art gallery and multipurpose venue for the past two years.
The coffee shop side has been a long awaited completion to the “Coffeeshop and Theatre” title. What was once a conspicuously empty corner where a few paintings were randomly hung, is now a site of activity as baristas perform a ballet of sorts around each other amidst raising steam and sounds of coffee beans grinding.
The works of local artists are still on the wall, but now with a sense of purpose as mugs of lattes and plates of homemade pastries slowly stroll with intent by them. The original brick wall of the old furniture store creates a natural backdrop for the art, with decades of imperfection and modifications to garner it as an art piece of its own. If asked it might speak about the frailty of man being the actual substance of their strength.
A curtain separates the coffee shop side from the theater area. Doing so has the obvious intent of creating a more intimate atmosphere with French café music lightly playing in the background and slightly dimmed lights to relax the eyes of the working patron on a coffee break.
Based on customer recommendations on Instagram, I ordered a local-honey latte with a homemade sausage galette. After I ordered I had a pleasant conversation with manager Brean Rieley about world travels while she was crafting my coffee.
Brean was operating a Londinium II lever pulled espresso machine. The caffeine producing instrument has a perfectly reflected chrome surface and two wooden handles rising high above. It is an unusual sight to the coffee shops of the area toting automatic machines that fashion morning enriching beverages by a press of a button. Immediately it seemed, like the decorations on the wall, that this coffee was more art than science.
Everything they do is hand crafted. The honey for my latte was sourced through another downtown local business Goode-Food Delivered, a supplier of organic produce. Paradox’s baker is making everything from scratch, like their sauces. They even have homemade chocolate.
Paradox might get some criticism for not using beans from “St. Joseph Express Coffee Roasters” in town, however I can’t blame them. Paradox brews beans from Kansas City’s esteemed roaster “Oddly Correct.” “Oddly Correct” is a family owned single-origin coffee roaster that was voted one of the top 25 best coffee shops in the nation by epicurious.com.
To my delight my local-honey latte came with a latte art leaf on top. I struggled with the decision to preserve the foam leaf or selfishly satisfy my thirst. I chose the latter. From the first sip my taste buds felt as if they were expanding from the anticipation of farther pleasure. The honey was distinct but performed like a handshake to start a conversation. I had to consciously will myself to lower the cup from my lips because I was drinking it like a beer at a tailgate party.
The freshly made sausage galette came out looking like sausage and cheese blooming from a pastry flower. Sausage and cheese was an odd visitor to my morning pallet, but since it was 10 in the morning I passed it off as brunch. The sausage and cheese made a great combination with the honey and milk. The collective flavors slide across my tongue like a jazz quartet. If my mouth had fingers, they would be snapping.
As I was leaving Brean stopped what she was doing and said, “tell your friends about us.” I did even better – I wrote an article.