Munch goes to Verde Good Beans

This is not a column about Starbucks and the terrible food served there. Because if it were, Munch would have to spend too much time pondering how it is possible that a company could basically conquer the Western world but only serve bland, sogged-out sandwiches. And that sugar 'n' sawdust biscotti. Yuck.

Truth be told, Munch hasn't had that much luck at other coffee establishments either. Crazy Mocha's food is fine, but it's catered from elsewhere -- not made in house. And Kiva Han, Munch has not forgiven you for the worst macaroni and cheese Munch has ever eaten.

It made Munch wonder if it's, you know -- impossible -- for coffee and a decent sandwich to share a kitchen. Against nature, n'at.

And so Munch was quite intrigued when Neighbor of Munch mentioned that he had been eating every single day at Verde Good, which he described as a coffeehouse next to "where Sukkothai used to be" (otherwise known as where The Green Mango used to be. Otherwise known as where the Cambodian place before that used to be. Otherwise known as a particularly out-of-the-way stretch of First Avenue, which explains why Munch hadn't noticed it).

The place opened last summer, reported NOM, and had great sandwiches and soups, made by an exceptionally nice mother-and-daughter team.

Munch grabbed a couple colleagues one lovely summer day and found Verde Good right where NOM said it would be. And it was even more pleasant than he had described.

The shop is narrow, but filled with light and tastefully decorated with a few leafy motifs. Right about noon, the place started to fill up and just about everyone but the party of Munch seemed to be regulars.

The mother-and-daughter team, it turns out, are Kathryn and Elysia Morrone, starring mother Kathryn as the official owner and daughter Elysia as the exceptionally friendly barista. So friendly, in fact, that Munch's cover came under attack. "Do you work Downtown?" she asked sweetly. Munch stammered out something not involving the Post-Gazette and hustled out to one of the two outdoor tables.

On the day Munch visited, the proprietors of Verde Good were "taking the week off" of making soups and specials -- a summer vacation of sorts -- and so Munch's lunch options were a design-your-own Panini ($5.99) or a salad ($2.99). Munch, naturally, chose both.

Munch chose farmhouse bread for the Panini and piled it with roasted veggies, peppery cheese, spinach and tomato (meat options also were available). Munch's salad was crisp and tangy, topped with a not-too-sweet honey balsamic vinaigrette.

Munch and Co-workers of Munch marveled over the generous portions and fresh ingredients. And though Munch didn't experience soups or specials firsthand, Munch knows that yummy-sounding concoctions such as "spicy shrimp wrap" and "zucchini tuna Panini" exist from checking out Verde Good's Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Verde Good serves La Prima coffee and a billboard behind the barista advertised that Elysia would be happy to make any drink not on their menu, stating, "I love a challenge." And while the party of Munch didn't get too creative, Elysia was able to concoct a decaf mocha with whipped cream for Pregnant Co-worker Of Munch lickety split.

It was while ordering that coffee that Munch spotted the gelato bar that Munch had somehow missed during the initial lunch order. The gelato is from Mulberry Street Creamery -- and is not only awesome, but an awesome addition to the Downtown frozen dessert scene.

And Munch would be remiss not to end this column where Munch ended at Verde Good -- the trash can. Even Munch knows that verde means green in Spanish and Verde Good is committed to Earth-friendly practices. So even customers' extra coffee is collected and composted and dining implements and containers are either reusable or biodegradable.

So there you have it -- verde good, indeed.


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