Berea, OH

Starting the Morning at Café Ah-Roma

Isla Chiu
Picture by the author

Sometimes — okay, pretty often — I wonder what happened to my brain. I used to be able to devour 700-page novels within two days and go for days without caffeine. Now it takes me over a week to read 100 pages of a book. And if noon has passed and I haven’t had coffee or Mountain Dew (#NotASponsor #ButMyPoorSelfIsNotOpposedToASponsorship #JustKidding #ButKindOfNotKidding #CallMePepsi #YouKnowYouWantToDewIt), my sluggish body screams for the sweet, sweet drug that is caffeine. When I want to procrastinate on writing (which is admittedly way too often), I take a coffee break, which then becomes my social media time, which then results in me wasting several hours of my life watching YouTube videos of dudes eating ungodly amounts of food, which then results in me looking at the clock and thinking, Holy crap, it’s almost midnight. What have I done? (The answer — almost nothing productive)

Because times are currently rough for small businesses, I’m trying to stay away from Panera/Dunkin’/Starbucks and buy from local coffee shops more. It’s kind of hard when Dunkin' and Starbucks are everywhere and tempting me with their iced matcha lattes (some people say matcha tastes like grass, and it does. But I love it), and when Panera is tempting me with its coffee subscription (again, #NotASponsor; again, #NotNecessarilyOpposedToBecomingASponsor #PaneraCallMe).

But today, I managed to resist the dubious allure of chain coffee shops and stopped at Café Ah-Roma, a local coffee shop in Berea, Ohio. I’ve gotten food and coffee here a couple of times, and one thing that always struck me about the place is just how friendly the staff is. At Panera, I’m usually served a side of indifference with my order (note — this is not a criticism of people who work at Panera or any chain place. If you have a low-paying job that ain’t great, I fully expect — and my inner socialist might even encourage — you to be indifferent about the work you do. Sometimes, it’s okay to just do the bare minimum.

Some of you are probably thinking, Uh, isn’t this supposed to be a restaurant review? And the answer is yes. But my reviews will include a lot of rambling. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉)

Anyway, back to Café Ah-Roma. Not only are the workers friendly, but the coffee and food are great. There is a Starbucks nearby, and I remember when it opened, people were worried that it would be the end of Café Ah-Roma. But luckily, Café Ah-Roma is still standing.

Today, I ordered a Café Cooler, a turkey cranberry wrap, and a blueberry muffin. The Café Cooler is iced coffee mixed with vanilla, sugar, and milk. I could have asked for soy milk instead of cow milk to spare my lactose-intolerant body some pain, but I didn’t because my cheap self didn’t want to pay the extra 95 cents (not the first time I put money over my health. And I’m sure it won’t be the last!).

The coffee was strong but not bitter, and the drink was just sweet enough. (Also, coffee just tastes better when you know you’re supporting the local economy)

I paired my caffeine fix with a turkey cranberry wrap, which had a generous portion of fresh turkey, sweet and tart cranberry sauce, lettuce, and cream cheese (another one of my lactose-sensitive body’s enemies).

As always, it was delicious and filling, and at $3.99 for half of a wrap, it’s actually cheaper than an (inferior) sandwich you would get at Starbucks.

I saved the best for last, and for me, the best was a blueberry muffin.

Due to the chagrin of both my doctor (who gently reminds me that my BMI is a “bit high" for my height) and my dentist (who suggests that I might want to cut back on sugar), I have a sweet tooth and frequently indulge it. And one of the numerous ways I indulge it is by getting a muffin from Café Ah-Roma. The muffins are just so freaking good. I’ve had a couple of flavors — banana chocolate chip, caramel, blueberry — and they’ve all been wonderful.

By the way, I’ve had the blueberry muffin at Starbucks. And let me tell you, I did not find the experience satisfying. It was more like blueberry-muffin-flavored glue than a real muffin. #ShotsFired #ByeByeMyChancesOfGettingAStarbucksSponsorship #CanYouTellThatIAmBadAtHashtags

But the blueberry muffin at Café Ah-Roma? *chef’s kiss*

When you bite into it, the crisp muffin top gives way to a delicious, soft, moist interior filled with juicy blueberries. Honestly, these might be some of the best — if not the best — muffins I’ve ever had. Once, I walked into Café Ah-Roma at 2 PM and my heart actually sank when I saw that the muffin display case was empty. I like sleeping in, but are the muffins at Café Ah-Roma worth waking up early for?


If you’re ever in the Cleveland area and dying for some good coffee and amazing muffins, here is Café Ah-Roma’s website.

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I write about restaurants in Ohio.

Cleveland, OH

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