Food & Drink Review: Turks Head Coffee House

Story by Breann Schossow

All summer long, I walked up and down Barstow Street on the way to my summer job. Every time I passed Turk’s Head Coffee House, 307 South Barstow St., I’d tell myself, “Oh, I’ll go soon,” lured by the promise of international coffees.

Two weeks ago, I finally stopped by the shop with my roommate. The initial selling point we discussed was that the house coffee was five cents cheaper than the house coffee sold in our favorite coffee shop in Eau Claire. As college students, every cent counts.

However, we decided to save the house brew for another day and ordered pots of Turkish coffee, taking a seat as the brewing process takes about ten minutes.

The coffee shop is painted a cool green shade, with dark brown accents, which contrasts with the honey-colored paneled floor. None of the furniture matches, but it all flows together cohesively nonetheless. The artwork hanging on the walls was painted by an 80-year-old local. It doesn’t match but it works. This is a coffee shop skill that I can never achieve in my own home decorating.

All of this adds interest. But, it’s the coffee a place offers that decides whether or not I’ll return.

One dainty, gold-and-blue china cup later, and I was sold. The barista brought the thick coffee to the table with instructions on how to drink it without swallowing the grounds. The brew is offered in two forms: one, sweetened with cardamom and cinnamon, and the other, unsweetened. I loved both, although unsweetened Turkish coffee is the drink of champions. It’s quite dark and a little bitter, so I wouldn’t recommend trying either unless you love strong, dark coffee.

Moving down the chalkboard menu, I tried the Moroccan Latte next. The barista was always more than willing to make conversation and to explain every international drink I wanted to try. The latte is unsweetened and made with Moroccan espresso, which has hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The latte is delicious in its subtlety – no one flavor stands out and there’s no cloying, sugary sweetness to worry about. It’s not something you’ll find at a Starbucks.

Then, there was the Cuban Mocha, which has become my dream drink. The barista even offered to let me drink it in the traditional manner, which means taking shots of the coffee instead of drinking it out of a mug. Next time, I’ll take him up on it.

For those of you looking for a summery drink which is also sweet, there’s Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s sharply sweet, without being overwhelming, and is made with sweetened condensed milk. In addition, Turk’s Head offers the standards: Café breve, espresso and even teas. You don’t have to love coffee to visit.

Obviously, I’m sold on the shop’s version of international drinks. But, I always judge a coffee venue based on their house brew.

In a word? Rich. I enjoyed a cup while eating one of the flavor infusion sandwiches the shop offers. The smallest cup of coffee starts at $1.45.

The shop offers flavor infusion sandwiches, which are a build-your-own type of deal, with veggie and meat-lover options. They run in the $5 to $6 range. Turks Head also offers typical coffee shop staples, such as cookies and scones in some not-so-typical flavors. The dark chocolate cayenne cookies are a personal favorite of mine.

In other words, Turk’s Head has stolen my coffee-loving heart. Check it out. It’s also a great excuse to explore downtown Eau Claire.