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Best New Café

Velvet Tea Garden
450 N. Sixth Ave.

STAFF PICK: Well, you've got your coffee shops you go to for a business meeting. And you've got those you drop into for a quick espresso fix; and those you go into on your way to work. Then there's the kind for which you drive several miles just to sit in with a friend. The Velvet Tea Garden is really none of these.

It's the type of coffee shop that you discover late at night or on a rainy afternoon when you're out alone, feeling moody. At first you almost keep walking, but there's something alluring in that mustard-and-violet exterior, the neon daisy signage, and those dim colors, barely glimpsed through a multitude of reflecting windows. So you step inside. The music--eclectic, hip and mellow--penetrates the blowing of a fan, and you can barely make out the conversation between an ankle-booted woman on a bar stool, and the dark-haired youth leaning against the cash register. You order a small soup, which he brings in a huge cup, and the walls (weighted with Van Gogh-inspired floral paintings) lift away from the fur-covered couches and rise up from where you sit by the window, dipping fresh bread in your soup, watching cars pull up and sit, eyes on the road ahead, waiting for the light to change.

(The Velvet Tea Garden, newly opened on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street, is the for-profit companion to the multi-arts studio and performance space still under construction across the street.)

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