Photo by Hannah Haecker (Hannah Haecker)
Photo by Hannah Haecker

Hannah Haecker

Hannah, Alexa and Joe: Retrograde Coffee review

This coffee shop was simple yet comfortable

September 2, 2019

Friends and fellow coffee fanatics Hannah and Alexa review Nashville’s new and lesser-known coffee shops in their column “Hannah, Alexa and Joe.” Alexa writes, and Hannah is behind the camera. Check back each Tuesday to find your new favorite cup of joe!

A decal on the front window of Retrograde Coffee labels it a “neighborhood coffee stop” and while it certainly felt like a cozy, local hang-out inside, it’s uncertain exactly whose neighborhood it is.

Our view of a boarded up house against a modern three-story home testifies to the fact that Dickerson Pike is very much in the beginning stages of gentrification.


Retrograde is a one-room coffee shop with worn, wooden floors and lots of seating. Although it felt out-of-place for the area, we really enjoyed its simple-yet-cozy vibe.

The East Nashville coffee shop opened in July of 2018 and brews beans from Onyx Coffee Lab.

Hannah’s order: Shagbark Latte and ‘The Nelly’

The Shagbark Latte is a Retrograde signature drink: a normal latte taken one step further with ‘Hale’s Smoked Hickory Syrup’. I have to say I was more curious than anything else, but what I got was pleasantly surprising. It had a very faint smokey flavor mixed with an almost herbal-honey taste. I would have preferred half the amount of syrup as it overpowered the coffee, but when I’m looking for a drink that’s a little sweeter I would definitely choose this.

Another menu item that exceeded my expectations was the Nelly: a panini with egg, herbal mayo, olive tapenade and arugula. I was really hungry and wanted something more than a croissant–this was filling and made me feel like I was eating something much fancier than your average coffee shop panini.

Score: 4 out of 5 cups

Alexa’s order: Southern Weather blend drip coffee

I desperately needed caffeine, so I opted for a large drip coffee to counteract my lack of energy. They were brewing the Southern Weather blend, with beans from Guatemala and Kenya. I definitely tasted the advertised chocolate and citrus notes. This coffee was less tasty as it cooled, so if you order this, be sure to drink it quickly. Also, I took a nap about an hour and a half after finishing my drink, so either this coffee wasn’t very strong or I need to do something about my caffeine addiction.

Score: 3.5 out of 5 cups

The inside of Retrograde was simple yet classy. A green wall behind the coffee bar reminded us of Humphreys Street Coffee, and gold accents grounded the space.

If it hadn’t been ninety degrees out, we would’ve sat out on the side porch, which provided extra seating and more privacy than the main room. A bright wall brought more character to the area, but one has to wonder if the porch’s proximity to the road would have been distracting to conversation or studying.

Retrograde drew a young and decidedly hipster crowd that mostly likely isn’t actually from the neighborhood. But with proposed changes to the area, including 15-story buildings, Retrograde Coffee may fit right in a few years from now. Whether or not Dickerson Pike continues to change, we’ll be back to Retrograde Coffee.

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