Every dog needs a good home and name, and so does every coffee shop. Mike Tran, owner of Blkdog Coffee, decided to name his coffee shop after a black dog that his friend had recently adopted and had not named yet.
Located in Yun-Lu Center, Blkdog Coffee is neighbors with other restaurants that the versatile restaurateur owns in that plaza: Mein, Night Market, Toukei, Ishin, and Ohn.
“Blkdog was opened in Chinatown in that location specifically to complement our other restaurants,” Tran elaborates.
Because the shop does not roast coffee beans in house, it looks elsewhere for freshly-roasted beans of high quality. Blkdog uses beans exclusively supplied by Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee Roasters, a renowned roaster that helped pioneer “third wave coffee” — high quality, carefully sourced beans, often roasted lightly.
“When we would visit New York City, we would always visit La Colombe coffee shops because of their amazing coffee,” Tran explains.
The refined quality of La Colombe roasts provides a smooth, rich depth to Blkdog Coffee lattes. The cinnamon sugar latte is a frequently ordered specialty latte, along with the London Fog and Hong Kong Fog lattes. The cinnamon sugar latte is made with espresso extracted from ground La Colombe beans, in contrast with the London Fog latte, which is Earl Grey tea-based, and the Hong Kong Fog latte, also tea-based but closer to Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Iced Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa dá) at Blkdog is also a favorite, comprised of dripped coffee concentrate sweetened with condensed milk.
Blkdog ventures beyond the usual coffee shop setup by serving food from a wide menu.
“We serve hot snacks and coffee-based desserts similar to what you would find in Japan, and the space is designed with a vintage and cozy aesthetic,” Tran says.
Some savory Japanese bites that are popular with customers are karaage and takoyaki. Karaage is Japanese fried chicken, and like their fries, you can pair it with a dipping sauce: Spicy mayo, mayo, ketchup or hot sauce. Their takoyaki, or battered octopus balls, is topped with Kewpie mayo, sweet-and-savory okonomi sauce, seaweed, and fish flakes.
Affogatos — a scoop of gelato or ice cream drenched in a shot of espresso — is another menu feature, especially the tiramisu affogato.
Combined with a Stella D’Oro Margherite cookie as a substitute for traditional ladyfingers, the tiramisu affogato is espresso ice cream harmoniously enhanced with espresso drip and whipped cream with cocoa powder sprinkled on top.
Framed by natural light filtering through large colonial-style picture windows, the light and dark neutrals of the space manifest a cozy aesthetic attributed to the airy whimsicality of Japanese cafes. With beige and mahogany shelves housing books, plants, and eclectic items, the atmosphere adds a subtle vibrancy and authenticity to the Japanese food and drinks served here.
9630 Clarewood Dr., A13B
Houston, TX 77036
Open Tue – Thu 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Fri – Sun 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
— by Nicole Ting