In The Market For More Than Just Coffee? Sip While You Shop At Oak Cliff's Bolsa Mercado.
Welcome to Unfiltered, our weekly feature that explores the Dallas coffee scene — and how it often manages to thrive in the most unusual places. Given that we live in a time when Starbucks locations are about as prevalent as the golden McDonald's arches, when new coffee shops seem to open every other week and when almost everyone uses a ChemEx to brew their coffee, we're here to show you some alternatives — for when your coffee shop routine becomes monotonous or when you're just looking for something different in your caffeine endeavors.
634 W. Davis Street.
There’s something special about Oak Cliff that makes it a haven for coffee lovers. It’s home to one of the most well-known roasters in the area, an up-and-coming literary-caffeine destination and an empanada-espresso spot, just to name a few. And just when I start to think that there’s an end to all of the hidden coffee gems in the neighborhood, another surfaces that’s worthy of sharing.
At Bolsa Mercado — the hybrid market-restaurant venture courtesy of Chris Jeffers and Chris Zielke (Smoke) — coffee is an integral part of what it does.
“It was designed to be a market. In the market, we were gonna have a lot of the goods that we have here, which included coffee,” says chef Justo Blanco about the original concept. “Bolsa as a restaurant became more popular than Bolsa as a market, so it developed into what it is now.”
Bolsa Mercado has a Bohemian coffee shop vibe combined with market and restaurant fare. An entire wall is dedicated to local goods available for purchase, in addition to a seasonal restaurant menu that focuses on locally produced foods. Though the initial concept when it started almost six years ago was to solely focus on a market, it has since evolved into a popular foodie destination — and a popular coffee spot.
“Coffee is absolutely one of our steadiest businesses,” Blanco says. “People understand that we provide a quality product. It’s a huge part of who we are.”
One thing that keeps folks coming back is Bolsa's beans, which primarily come from Avoca Coffee, with guest appearances from Noble Coyote and Cultivar. The espresso is made with Avoca’s Mogwai, a Central American blend, with medium and dark roast drip options for earthy, fuller-bodied tastes.
The drink menu is comprised of drip and espresso options, hot or iced. Here, a popular menu item is the signature latte, made in flavors such as ginger, vanilla and honey with house-made syrups.
I went for an iced red eye — drip coffee made with a single shot of espresso — for a balancing act of the shop’s two primary brew methods. The espresso acts as an extra kick to the already bold flavored medium roast. It’s bright and smooth on the palate with a sweet aftertaste. The more daring or caffeine deprived can opt for a black eye, the two shot version of the drink.
Even though coffee isn't the core element of the business, a lot of forethought goes into its execution, as the experienced barista staff also undergoes monthly coffee training from Avoca. The dedication shows, as Bolsa’s coffee program has found a place amongst the discerning coffee drinkers in the area.
“I think that we’re a mainstay here in Oak Cliff,” Blanco says. “We don’t focus exclusively on coffee, so sometimes it can get lost in the mix. But our quality is there, our consistency is there. It’s just a matter of us being able to do a little bit of everything.”
To say that Bolsa does a little bit of everything is an understatement. In addition to the restaurant, market and coffee side of things, it also provides catering services, event hosting and is a bakery. Bolsa also serves house-made ice cream in seasonal flavors and boozy milkshakes, made with organic milk and farm fresh eggs. It’s the type of place where you can walk in looking for something as simple as a sandwich, and get lost in the array of goodies provided.
“People come in here to get coffee only,” Blanco says. “They come in here to get lunch only. As long as you provide a space that’s interesting, people are going to find the time to have some coffee.”