Photo by Hannah Haecker

Hannah, Alexa and Joe: Headquarters Coffee review

A true neighborhood coffee shop 

September 10, 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!

 

If you drive too fast down Charlotte Pike, you’ll completely miss Headquarters Coffee. The storefront is nine feet across and its unassuming exterior blends into a collection of unique stores. Despite its lack of curb appeal, Headquarters is a hidden gem.

 

Headquarters Coffee is objectively tiny, but cozy nonetheless. While many of Nashville’s coffee shops boast white walls with a chic yet not too commercial color palette, Headquarters is home to brick walls and rustic details. Small gifts crowd two shelves, and the coffee bar takes up more than half of the floor space.

 

We went to Headquarters on a Sunday, and just barely beat the mid-morning rush. After we had ordered, a line of regulars came in, ordering their usual drinks. Compared to Frothy Monkey on 12 South, where we went earlier this week, it was nice to come to a place where the barista and customers actually knew each other. 

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  • Knick-nacks lined the shelves of this local coffee shop. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • Headquarters boasts a quirky interior, with an endearing sense of clutter. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • Headquarters had an at-home, retro vibe. Photo by Hannah Haecker

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Hannah’s order: Americano

I wanted something straightforward and strong to drink, and this Americano was about as straightforward as you can get. An Americano is traditionally made with water and espresso, something that easily can taste watered down if made improperly. This, unfortunately, was the case with my drink. I think this contributed to the fact that the coffee really didn’t taste like much at all. That being said, it was hot for a long time and left me feeling decently energized, like a good Americano should.

Score: 3 out of 5 cups

The Eclipse Latte wasn’t bad, but black residue left from the charcoal was disappointing. Photo by Hannah Haecker

Alexa’s order: Eclipse Latte

I was planning on ordering one of Headquarters’ honey specialty lattes, but they were out of a few ingredients, so I ended up ordering the Eclipse Latte. It gets its name from activated charcoal, which gave the drink a dark gray color. I enjoyed my latte, but it lacked any distinct taste. It was reasonably priced at just under $5, but the black residue left at the bottom of the cup quite literally left a bad taste in my mouth.

Score: 3.5 out of 5 cups

 

While the seating in the front is limited and pretty cramped, their bi-level back patio is almost spacious. Sunlight streamed into this area, and it is  sparsely yet tastefully decorated. If I were going to stay at Headquarters to study, I would definitely have to use this back area. It provided a quiet retreat from the busyness of Charlotte Pike and the crowded interior of Headquarters. 

 

Although the front area was cramped and wouldn’t make for a good studying environment due to the heavy customer traffic, a front window let in plenty of sunshine. Perhaps the best seat in Headquarters was at this window, with a stack of books and a plant hanging down from a shelf. 

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  • Headquarters kept its vintage feel inside and out. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • The back patio provided extra seating and privacy. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • Vintage string lights brought character to the patio. Photo by Hannah Haecker

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Headquarters is full of quirks; from the old canteens decorating top shelves, to a hole-in-the-wall filled with tiny knick-knacks. That’s not to mention the old bus a few blocks down the street with “Headquarters Coffee” painted on the side. Each of these details gives Headquarters character that more than makes up for its small size and a few out-of-stock ingredients. 

 

We overheard a few interesting conversation, the most unique being a middle-aged man who asked for five shots of espresso. The barista caught up with a former customer who had moved away but was visiting for the weekend, and offered to babysit for a regular. I truly enjoyed witnessing such genuine human connection, it provided a refreshing contrast to the busyness of our lives on campus. 

 

Last week, we visited Retrograde Coffee, which calls itself a “neighborhood coffee stop.” However, Headquarters speaks for itself. While it’s small and quirky, Headquarters earns our title of a true neighborhood coffee shop.

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  • Character was in every crevice of this neighborhood café. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • A window brought natural light into the otherwise crowded space. Photo by Hannah Haecker

  • An old, refurbished bus out front truly encapsulated the Headquarters vibe. Photo by Hannah Haecker

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