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Espresso Options for the Desperate

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Greater Richmond's espresso offerings, for those not in Carytown, Shockoe Bottom and other overtly hip locales, comprise a sad listing of "almosts." Close to the airport, Ceil Conner at the Gooseberry Café rues the day her espresso machine was yanked by its franchise lease agent, who was, inexplicably, taking it to West Virginia. A displaced espresso fan at Rocco's Pizza in Goochland notes that they used to sell the stuff, but at present, her best advice to marooned Goochlanders is to make the 20-mile drive to the Starbucks at Short Pump. We admire their fortitude for trying and wish them luck in future efforts to convert their respective constituencies to the Cult of the Bean.

That said, our investigation hasn't been a complete wash. Here are some good bets in the Richmond area:

Ashland

There's only one real option here — lucky for you, it's the inimitable Asland Coffee & Tea (100 N. Railroad Ave., 798-1702). Great events calendar and food, too.

Carytown

Look, we've got nothing against Starbucks: Even their regular brew is prepared at rocket-fuel strength, and their espresso is faultless. But why go to a chain when there are so many unique options in Carytown to choose from? Both Betsy's Coffee Shop (3200 W. Cary, 358-4501) and Vanessa's Café & Coffee Bar (3433 W. Cary, 359-0868) offer excellent coffees, sandwiches and seating both indoors and out. Meanwhile, Bev's Homemade Ice Cream (2911 W. Cary, 240-2387) offers all the standard espresso configurations, plus those blending in Bev's outrageously rich ice cream — bonus points for creativity. The Wicked Redhead Café (2928 W. Cary, 204-1755) is charming and nicely situated next to Carytown Books. A bit farther east, Rostov's Coffee & Tea (2902 W. Cary, 355-1955) emphasizes on-site roasting and extensive supplies for coffee and tea fiends alike, but they also offer cups to go and tables outside.

Downtown

You won't want to miss Gargoyle's Coffee Bar (801 E. Main, 225-8299), nor the aptly named 17.5 Uncommon Café and Books (17 N. 17th St., 780-2664). Shockoe Espresso (104 Shockoe Slip, 648-3734) offers a great menu and also hosts bimonthly poetry readings.

Fan

In the Fan, Cary Street Café (2631 W. Cary, 353-7445) offers basic cappuccino and espresso — and will also cater to your other vices, from beer to cigarettes. Puddn'Heads Coffee House (1211 W. Main, 355-2739) is all you might want of a joint named after a Mark Twain yarn but it's not open at night, while World Cup (204 N. Robinson, 359-5282) is great for the nightly fix. Harrison Street Coffee Shop (402 N. Harrison, 359-8060) is also a good bet, and the Village Café (Harrison & Grace, 353-8204), while not specializing in coffee, offers bona fide espresso and cappuccino along with basic good eats. Finally, the Main Street Beer Company (1911 W. Main, 358-9620) offers espresso drinks in addition to microbrews and wine, with a lunch menu that changes daily.

South Side and Beyond

While we'd like to say we learned of more options in far-flung locales throughout Richmond, the remaining options consist mostly of various Starbucks outposts (we're sure you can find them, but if not, see the store locator at www.Starbucks.com) and various restaurants that offer espresso as part of an inclusive menu. Among these are Carraba's (11450 Midlothian Turnpike, 794-1771), the Manhattan Deli (9550 Midlothian Turnpike, 330-3845), and the pricey but severely elegant Season's Restaurant and Café (13124 Midlothian Turnpike, 379-0444).



And for emergencies, we suggest you carry caffeinated mints on your person at all times. — Victoria Marinelli

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