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Aroma Caffé & Coffee Sales
346 N. Fourth Ave.

STAFF PICK: This quintessentially European coffee shop proves that too much of a good thing--as the venerable Mae West once said--can be wonderful. There on the lower end of North Fourth Avenue, the café has been a hotbed of activity since it opened three years ago. But in this past year, owner Serge Gongora has traded his customary tête-à-tête hospitality for a semi-private huddle around an increasingly dog-eared set of blueprints...and more than a couple of truckloads of new accouterments. (Our favorite was the day a few months back when he and two nervous-looking employees hustled a small, yellow piano out of the bed of an old Ford truck, and into the main dining room.) Not content with last year's expansion into the neighboring corner space (now a lovely, sunlit room with sturdy, arty picnic table-booths), he's continuing plans for a larger kitchen, coffee bar, and tableside service. With rotating shows by local artists, some of downtown's more inventive (if sporadic) live music offerings, and the best black-bean salad around, Aroma is definitely worth investigating. Bring your own hardhat. (Renovations were slated for an optimistic completion date of late-September.)

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