Wednesday, May 28, 2008

REVIEW: Felicia's Coffee- ** / $$

Felicia's Coffee calls itself "Rhode Island's ultimate coffee house." They've won awards for their coffee roasts. The inside is fabulously appointed and inviting. They have a wide selection of foods, baked goods, and reading material. And most importantly, it's not very good.

I had been meaning to visit Felicia's for some time. They've been around for well over a decade, and can be considered one of Rhode Island's "super cafes." The inside is huge and, combined with the spacious outside sitting area, is probably Rhode Island's largest cafe. The main room is filled to the brim with fliers for local events, magazines, cereal racks, coffee supplies, and drinks. Out of every cafe in Southern New England that has had the honor of hosting my ass for a time, I can't think of one that had more cool stuff crammed into it than Felicia's. The inside is one of my favorites.

The large display and preparation area takes up a full quarter of the interior. This is not wasted space. They have an enormous selection of available roasts, bested only by Coffee Exchanges, more gourmet, offerings. Those very roasts have also won a number of awards, so if you're on the hunt for locally roasted beans, you must come here. Felicia's makes no mistakes in their support foods, with a wide variety of pastries, baked goods, muffins, bagels, and breakfast stuffs. Everything from brownies to bagels is on full display and looking good.

And good they are. The brownies are dense and fudgy, the danishes were moist, flakey, and buttery, and the pies are very flavorful. I especially liked the danish. More buttery, less flaky, and not as much cheese as some of the others I've had. The scones are good, but low on flavor. I still liked them well enough and would get one again if I felt the need for a scone. The muffins were decent, but the blueberries used were weak, the cake was dry and spongy, and it was in general a below-average muffin. Not bad, but not good either. The bagels are good and the selection is excellent. In fact, the baked goods selection is generally excellent. Cakes, pies, cookies; if you've got a sweet tooth, you will love this place.

It was the quiche where things fell apart.

The quiche was a small, egg cake mixed with spinach. I'm not sure if they were supposed to offer it to me warmed, because they didn't and really should have. It was pretty nasty. Cold and dry, it was like eating an egg-flavored piece of soft rubber. Maybe I should have arrived earlier in the morning to get one fresh, but if they're only good fresh, take the unsold ones and throw them out when they get cold, because this was unacceptable.

And with a place called Felicia's Coffee, so what if the quiche is bad, it's all about the coffee, right? Well, they fell on their face, here, too. Two lattes, two days, both bad. Espresso was decent, with a well-chosen roast, but it was on the weak side with very little body. The lattes on the whole were watery, and the milk was steamed very, very poorly. Just look at the photo. Giant bubbles, a complete lack of texture and sweetness, and, I saw, warm milk as a base. You never, EVER, steam warm milk. It must always be cold. Fat in milk, the stuff that actually makes the boundary between the liquid and air, thus forming the bubbles, is most stable and best at taking on air at low temperatures. If you use warm milk, you will have progressively larger, fewer bubbles that quickly dissolve in the liquid.

The coffee and cappuccino weren't much better. Coffee was watery and bitter. We tried to put band-aids on the cups with milk, cream, and sugar, but to no avail. It just wasn't a very good cup of coffee. The cappuccino was way too milky, and the espresso suffered from the same weakness found in the latte. I was, I'm not kidding, shocked. I was expecting, if nothing else, a good cup of coffee at such a famous place. I was expecting highly-trained baristi capable of whipping up an excellent cappuccino. I really was! Instead, I got drinks that were seemingly made by a rank amateur. Not the worst I've had, that would be exceptionally bad, but nowhere near good.

The selection of things to add to your coffee is pretty well in the crapper, as well, so you can't even cover up how disappointing the actual drink is. Sugar? Check. Milk/cream/H&H? Uhh, nope. They add it for you. Honey, cocoa, cinnamon, turbinado sugar? Nowhere in sight. You'd probably get blank stares if you asked for something exotic, like nutmeg. If you want to take control away from the customer, make sure your drinks are flawless and the recipes interesting. If you are simply providing coffee, let me decide the details.

The poor coffee is a transgression nearly beyond forgiveness. Felicia's is a place that advertises itself heavily on its awards and its coffee. As such, it damn well better be good. You can't say you're the ultimate coffee house and then only have decent baked goods. Get the basics right, first. I like to use Starbucks as an example, here. It is doubly important for any cafe in East Greenwich, since there's a Starbucks right on Main Street. Starbucks is the baseline, the bar, the requirement. They have a decent selection with decent quality. In general, a solid three-star place. If Starbucks offers it, you should. And importantly, your quality better be on par or better, for if not, you have no reason to exist. Here, Starbucks is better in the most important way: drink quality. If Felicia's had given me better coffee, I'd add a full star, but a coffee house with bad coffee just doesn't fly.

UPDATE- 8/23/2008: I am revoking a half-star. I realized after going over some of my other reviews that the rating of Felicia's did not fall in line with other cafes I have reviewed. I feel the downgrade to "edible" is more accurate and fully represents my disappointment.

Felicia's Coffee: **
Price range for two: $6-$10

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5757 Post Rd
East Greenwich, RI 02818

Monday through Thursday 6:00am to 8:00pm
Friday & Saturday 6:00am to 11:00pm
Sunday 7:00am to 5:00pm


Anonymous said...

all I can say is that your review on felicia's coffee sucks! The coffee is great and so are the morning bake goods,And I must say the desert case always looks wonderful and yes, I've had just about every item in there.So next time why not review something that YOU know about..........Michael

Aaron MC said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the comment and I'm sorry you disagree.

Perhaps I was just unlucky, but I received equally bad drinks on three different visits. The quiche was downright inedible.

I do know about coffee. I'm very much a coffee geek and I stand by my review. The espresso and coffee were both very bad. I think that by defending Felicia's you reveal yourself to be making the same uninformed judgment of which you accuse me.

I recommend trying places like Coffee Exchange, Updike's Newtowne, or Caffe Bon Ami. I consider it a near impossibility for you to not agree that all three are vastly superior to Felicia's. I consider my judgment to be beyond contention based on nothing more than the photo of my "latte."

Truly, I was likely more forgiving than many of the coffee geeks I know would have been when exposed to the gigantic bubbles in the milk foam.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Felicia's coffee is downright terrible. I don't understand how some people love it so much. The service is awful and the food is okay. I've given Felicia's more than 10 chances to impress me as I am a local here. Honestly, it didn't get any better.