Cleveland is a caffeinated city. Beloved local roasters like Phoenix and Rising Star have garnered the city national recognition from Travel and Leisure magazine, and there are a slew of new shops carving out their own niches as well.
La Maison Palette is one of those shops. Located on Detroit Avenue, just west of the Cleveland-Lakewood border, this cozy coffeehouse has a design concept unique to the Cleveland area. The name, which translates to "The House of Pallets," probably gave it away.
"I think it was ingrained in my brain," says Wael Farhad, who runs La Maison with his wife Kyra Frierson. Originally from Belgium, he spent most of his life in Europe before moving to the States a few years back. He recalls being in Brussels sometime in the late '90s and seeing how the European Commission had re-used pallets in building houses.
When he and his wife decided to open a coffee shop, he applied the same principle. La Maison's walls are covered in wooden pallets, and the tables and counter are constructed from them. Farhan, who spent time working in construction, built them himself.
"You see pallets everywhere," says Farhan. "We wanted to give people the idea of giving these materials a second life."
Environmental consciousness and community are priorities for Farhan and Frierson. Their paper and plastic products are biodegradable. Their organic coffee comes directly from international farmers.
This is the way Frierson, a Northeast Ohio native, prefers her coffee. "You're not just drinking coffee because you need to wake up," she says. "You're enjoying the coffee and helping to feed a family."
The organic product serves Frierson well for another reason: She is allergic to coffee.
"I'm allergic to anything high in acid," she explains. The lower acidity and processing typical of organic coffee is better for her.
"It's bad," she says, gesturing to her mug of coffee. "I drink it all day."
La Maison's customers will benefit from Frierson's coffee habit. She's crafted some wonderfully spiced and lightly sweetened offerings, like the Moroccan Spice blend. Efforts to elicit ingredients from her — Cinnamon? All-spice? Cardamom? — are rebuffed.
The blend makes an excellent accompaniment to pastries supplied by Bouche, a gluten-free bakery in Lakewood. The shop's tea comes from another Lakewood business, Tea Lab. Frierson is planning a new menu addition soon: a tea-and-espresso combo named the Dirty Earl.
As for the ever-popular, gourd-flavored autumn drink? "No pumpkin spice," she says. "No frozen drinks. Coffee doesn't have to be like a slushie."
La Maison has been open four months, and though the coffee standards are high, the shop couldn't be more welcoming. Frierson and Farhan greet and converse with all the customers who come through the door. Several of them already are regulars.
The couple appears to have succeeded in establishing a European-style coffee shop. Frierson puts it best: "When people are here, they talk to each other."