There’s something about small-town coffee shops that’s so inviting come fall time.
Warm apple cider that stokes the wind-chilled cinders of your stomach, freshly-baked bagels giving off the magic smell of oven-fresh loaves, the coalescing smoke that pirouettes from coffee pots and fills every corner of the room with a deeply-rich arabica bean aroma. These are the pillars of a great small-town coffee shop; while cafés like this can be a-dime-a-dozen, their charm never seems to wear off on the chilly, late-September Saturday mornings.
And when the weather isn’t fulfilling this perfect vision of fall nirvana, it’s almost as if the right café can transport you there all by itself.
I went to Adelle’s Coffeehouse in Dover last Saturday morning around 11 a.m. during another erratic fit of ever-evolving New England weather – not exactly the warm-up-with-a-cider briskness I had hoped for. Yet, once I walked into Adelle’s – tucked into the New Hampshire-style brick monoliths of Hale Street in bustling downtown Dover – I was whisked away to mid-October. Dancing skeletons hung from a door frame, the deep browns of the old-fashioned wooden benches and the smoky grays of the upper walls blanketed the room in autumnal Earth tones and what seemed like an innumerable number of coffee pots, espresso machines and other café devices were jammed behind the counter of the small coffeehouse Tetris-style. There’s no denying how little the inside of Adelle’s is, but its compactness serves to create a homey atmosphere the second you step in from the weathered stoop.
After walking in, I faced away from the baristas behind the counter to peruse the menu options on the opposite wall. Looking at the detailed chalkboard-style menu was a journey in and of itself. While Adelle’s lacks a huge variety of food options, only serving mainly bagel-based options with some pastries and cookies, their choice of drinks is astounding. Drip coffees, espressos, chais, teas, spritzers, sodas and countless combinations and creative inventions littered the chalkboard, providing me with more than enough options to choose from.
With a ton of iced coffee flavors available, I was planning to go with one of these before I saw their autumn specials. They had pumpkin spiced lattes, a couple other fall-themed drinks and then the drink I settled on: the Chaider, a combination of hot apple cider and chai tea. This was something I had only heard of a couple of days prior and had never seen anywhere else, so it seemed like the fun seasonal option to lean into.
As far as food, one item immediately caught my eye: the Popper’s Bagel, which is any choice of bagel with cream cheese and Popper’s Bacon Pepper Jam, a combination spread of bacon, hot peppers and maple syrup, all locally-obtained. To up the ante, I got it spread on an asiago to see how the ingredients would mesh with the toasted cheese bagel.
As I waited for my food and drink, I sat down at an aged wooden table on a hazel bench seat up against the wall. The knots in the bench seat’s wood danced in its dark chocolate-colored exterior, for-sale pieces of abstract art hung down purposely crooked on the wall and knick-knacks and comic strip books sat around quirkily on nearby tables. While Adelle’s is snug and homey, it’s definitely small: any time I attempted to stand up, I either bumped into someone waiting in line, hit my head on the hanging lamp above the table or attempted an acrobatic twist to try and avoid the former. With this being said, it really didn’t take away from my experience in the least and wasn’t much more than a minor inconvenience that produced some laughs.
After getting my food and drink, I set down the $5 book of comic strips I was flipping through and got ready to dig in. I took my first sip of the Chaider, and I was in shock; the crispness of the apple rung through my taste buds like a gong, while the sweetness of the chai left a perfect aftertaste. And once it hit my stomach, it left that filling, warm stoking of the cinders that fall cider never fails to produce; I literally said “Wow” following my first sip.
Biting into my bagel, the flavors sang a harmony like that of a choir; the saltiness of the bacon, the sugar of the maple and the zinging of the hot peppers belted out a variety of different notes, but somehow all came together for an amazing melody of taste that really clicked. The asiago bagel itself was good, but nothing out of the ordinary; rather, it was the hodgepodge of flavors in the Popper’s Bacon Pepper Jam that made it one of the best bagels I’ve ever had.
With the perfect blend of hipster and homey, Adelle’s Coffeehouse is everything a small-town café should be. And when the weather’s not quite cooperating with the New England fall time aesthetic, a trip to Adelle’s is sure to remedy this.