Every now and then, it’s worth venturing off of campus for your coffee fix. Starbucks and Einstein’s are great, but Birmingham is home to a whole host of really interesting coffee shops that every UAB student should at least try out. Most people have likely heard of the popular, hip ones like Red Cat and Domestique. One coffee shop that may be less known to UAB students is Crestwood Coffee Co.
Crestwood Coffee is located in the eastern Birmingham neighborhood of Crestwood. It’s in a shopping center next to an old-school pharmacy shop that sells ice cream floats and handmade sodas from the fountain, a fair trade store called Sojourns that sells all sorts of interesting items, a pizza joint and a park. It’s a great area for students to relax if they want to get off campus but stay in the city.
Immediately upon entering Crestwood Coffee, guests are struck by its unique atmosphere. Lots of living plants are in its small — but not too small — cozy interior. Artwork from local artists hangs from the walls inside. Members of some grungy indie scene can be found outside on the strung-together back patio, and regulars might be sitting together at the bar, ready to play along with Jeopardy.
This is the closest thing you can get to that European, existentialist, avant-garde coffee shop vibe in Birmingham. It attracts diverse customers and has equally diverse and interesting regulars who have formed a small community.
Like many locally owned businesses in Birmingham, Crestwood Coffee is a place where the customer can build a relationship with the owner.
“60-75% that walk through the door — I know their names and I know their coffee order,” said owner Camille Autry who has owned Crestwood Coffee for over three years.
The regulars of Crestwood Coffee, many of whom stop by multiple times a week, are unlike any in Birmingham because of their diversity and support for the coffee shop.
“It’s exactly what I wanted for this place — that people who may not have anything else in common, or maybe never even would have run into each other, will sit out front and have a cup of coffee together,” said Autry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on small businesses, causing many of them to close down for good, but Crestwood Coffee has stayed afloat thanks to its loyal fan base.
“Being in this community that’s been super supportive, we’ve been lucky enough to make it through,” said Autry.
The coffee shop particularly attracts plenty of the creative type, including artists and writers. It’s not uncommon, either, to end up getting into a philosophical dialogue with a fellow patron.
“We have a neat community here,” said David McRae, a history professor at Jefferson State Community College who has been a regular at Crestwood Coffee for a decade. “I remember one time walking inside and there were, like, 12 professors sitting down.”
Crestwood Coffee also has a very loyal staff. Many of their employees have been working there for years and have creative freedom in the kitchen. Orlando, an employee of eight years, described what it’s like to have served the same regulars for nearly a decade.
“For me it’s definitely a pretty intense relationship. I’ve seen kids grow up in this neighborhood. It’s a real tight neighborhood, and we all know each other,” said Orlando. “I love that I know so many of the people that come into here. It’s very rare I see a face that I don’t know, and when that happens, I make sure that I get a chance to know them.”
The coffee shop has a large coffee selection with all the classics you would expect, ranging from chilled frappés to hot cappuccinos. Their food menu isn’t lacking, either. They serve a large variety of pastries, soups, and sandwiches. Their cinnamon roll is a must-try.
If you’re looking for a new coffee spot to write your next paper or finish that book you’ve been working on, it’s worth giving Crestwood Coffee a try. You can find it at 5512 Crestwood Blvd.