Once upon a time I lived in University Heights, less than a block from the truncated corner where Mission Avenue crosses Alabama Street at an odd angle. That’s how I came to know about Mystic Mocha. The triangular café sits on a street that’s useful to people who live in the neighborhood, so it’s easy to miss. Since I left the neighborhood, I’ve nearly forgotten about it myself.
2105 Mission Avenue, University Heights
But there it stood, mostly as I remembered. It’s been painted bright orange with large, green window frames and a simple tile pattern running across the top like a decorative headband. The place has more charm than square footage, but the narrow space fits more customers than you’d think. My favorite upgrade regards the outdoor seating. There’s gads of it now, both bistro and picnic tables, occasionally umbrellaed for shade.
It wasn’t really nostalgia that brought me back a couple recent mornings, but pastries. There’s a full menu of hot breakfast dishes, but when I lived close by, I would visit Mystic Mocha mainly for the muffins. In a great way, this place goes a little nuts with their muffins. A lot of coffee shops offer a muffin variety, but they tend to serve the same options day in, day out. Likely blueberry, bran, maybe chocolate chip for the kids. But here you never know what kind of muffins the bakers would have out, arranged on a display platter. They change it up darn near every day, depending on seasonal ingredients, or whim, and often as not they’d be intriguing enough to sell out. There might be caramel apple, peach blueberry pecan, or sweet potato coconut. Strawberry chocolate chip could be a winner every day, but then we might miss out on the joy of blueberry raspberry chocolate.
Returning now, the first thing I notice is the muffins now sit behind a glass case. Some had been replaced by scones and cookies. The muffin creativity clearly carried over to the walnut fig scones. And to the almost spherical chocolate chip, peanut butter, and walnut cookies. The muffins are smaller than I recall, but still unique. I picked out a cherry and candied ginger and, as I have many times before, enjoyed the novelty and the experience.
There are vegan muffins now (if there were then, I’m sure my brain filtered them out). I try one loaded with blueberries and cherries, and don’t regret the difference. Likewise with the gluten-free cookies. Oh yeah, you didn’t think I wasn’t going to order cookies? I tried regular and gluten-free versions, and for a minute there, I forgot which was which.
In short, I left asking myself the same question as all those years ago. What will they bake next?