Beyond the Caffeine: Metto Coffee & Tea Brings It Home with a Smile

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By Mark A. Leon

In the heart of the constant flow of traffic moving swiftly down Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, lies a corner coffee house on the intersection of Coleman and Broadway Street, Metto Coffee & Tea.? Today’s single origin java offering includes a bold citrus cocoa blend and on tap for the specialty lovers is a cherry hazelnut latte.? After you are settled by the fragrant aroma of warm and tingling coffee, the welcoming culture will sweep you away.

Metto, doesn’t just look for a barista with the skill of creating the perfect latte or espresso.? They seek out artists who embody warmth and genuine passion for the creative canvas of the mug.? Rarely will you order a foamed drink without a leaf, smile or other artistic signature brimming over the top.? Before your wallet has exited your pocket, you are greeted with a hello and a smile from the entire staff.? This is not masked hospitality, but a genuine connection to the customer and that is why the loyalty factor is so high.

There is a warmth the goes on inside the walls of this intimate coffee shop which offers only six tables and two lounge chairs on the inside and five tables and a bench on the outside.? Ordained on the walls are flyers for events from yoga to ballet, music to art.? The local decor is highlighted with featured artist paintings or photography.? An inviting penetration of the local arts scene throughout.

We don’t want to downplay the food.? With an outstanding assortment of sandwiches, wraps, quiche, fruit and salads, Metto is a hot spot for locals, bikers and bridge runners.? Exceptional credit to the soft and abundantly flavorful muffins and the Prosciutto and Brie Panini.? There is an extraordinary blast of flavor and fresh ingredients which are a permanent fixture at Metto in all its freshly prepared daily food offerings.

With an eclectic customer base, on any given day you may find patrons from age five to eighty-five.? This is a testimony to the welcoming open arms culture created here.

Often, we plan an early morning five mile walk to each end of the Cooper River Bridge and that walk does not begin without a cup of Metto resting comfortably in our hands.

As a writing, I surround myself by elements of inspiration, where I can feel comfortable, be around creative and passionate people and feed off of the ambiance.? Metto is one of those rare places.? I won’t lie, sometimes you can be distracted when the staff screams in excitement or breaks into a little dance or song from the audio above.

Metto is located at 354 West Coleman Boulevard, Mount Pleasant, SC.

12 Things You Won’t Find in Charleston, South Carolina

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By Mark A. Leon

There are many wonderful exciting things in Charleston, South Carolina, but like any place, it has its limitations.? Sometimes, they are based on lack of demand, culture, need or the population just doesn’t yearn for it.? Looking at our region and other regions around the nation, we found some things that Charleston, SC just doesn’t have.? Here are a list of 11 things Charleston just doesn’t have.

Things You Won’t Find in Charleston, South Carolina

  • Carnival Rides or a Game Room at the local area beaches – If you are used to the Ferris Wheel or Zipper on the beach with a little Skee-ball thrown in, this is not the area for you.? We just don”t offer those amenities.
  • Waterfalls – South Carolina has some beautiful waterfalls, but you will have to travel three to four hours to see them.
  • Mountains – If it is the Appalachian or Blue Ridge Mountains you crave, hop in a car or the bus and wait four hours to strap on that gear.
  • Zoo – The closest you will come to petting a giraffe is the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC (90 minute drive).? Back in the day, Hampton Park had a small petting zoo.? Nothing crazy, but it has been nearly 40 years since that has closed its doors.? We must acknowledge that there is a small intimate zoo as part of your admission to Charlestowne Landing with a bear, buffalo, timberwolves and a porcupine.
  • Racetrack (Car or horse) – Do you love the ponies?? You will only catch those races on television, not in Charleston.? If you want a great Nascar race, head to Charlotte or Darlington Motor Speedways for some action.
  • Land Based Casinos –? Your luck has run out here.
  • Theme/Amusement ParkCarowinds, just south of Charlotte is your closest option for an all day theme park fun fest day.? Leave early as it will take you almost 3 hours to arrive.
  • Drive-In Movie Theater – The Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort, SC is a great evening trip.? Just 1 hour and 15 minute drive and $7.50 a person will get you two great new movies.? Yet, you won’t find that locally here in Charleston.? We do try with movies on the beach and in the park during the Spring and Summer months.
  • 24-Hour Diner (Aside from Waffle House or Huddle House).? If you love these two chains, you are fine, but if you desire a good local family owned diner where you can sip coffee, eat pancakes and ponder life all night, you are not going to succeed in your journey here.
  • Great coffee house opened past 10:00 PM – I do my best thinking over coffee at 1 AM, but my creative juices do have limitations in Charleston.
  • Casino – Sorry folks, but gambling is not legal here in the great state of South Carolina
  • Ampitheater – Outdoor concerts or theater – Nothing beats a great amphitheater with incredible acoustics and just a good vibe.? We have some nice outdoor parks, but not a feel good venue.
  • Professional Sports Franchise (NHL, MLB, NFL, WNBA, NBA) – Yes, we have professional, but at a lower level.

*We do have one of the following:? Flea Market, Tea Plantation, Winery, Mini Golf (2 – but rather small), Zip line

There you have it.? Did we miss anything?? Please leave a comment below.

 

Tale of Two Cities: Mount Pleasant vs. James Island, SC

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Between historic Charleston lies two very distinct communities, each defined by its own unique culture, attitude and neighborhood aesthetics.? How can two towns just miles apart have such a distinct difference in personality?? Let us dissect the differences and similarities and thus allow you to draw your own conclusions.

This piece was inspired by two recent social outings, one on Thursday evening in Mount Pleasant at Basil and Sol and the second on John’s Island at JB’s Smokeshack.? While enjoying a quiet lunch and writing a letter at JB’s, I met Chuck, a lifelong resident of this area who grew up hunting on the farms that are now defined by the intersection of Highway 17 and 526.? It was this conversation and my food and beverage interaction in Mount Pleasant that drove the need to write this article.

Let us dig right in and look at the true differences between Mount Pleasant and James Island

  • Dining Prices – There is a definable difference between dining in Mount Pleasant and dining on James Island.? At Sol, two tacos and a 16-ounce craft beer will run you $18.00, with $2.21 in tax and $4.00+ in tip = $24.21.? On Wednesday at Lowdown Kitchen, a 10-inch specialty pizza and glass of house red wine will run you $9.00, with $1.15 in tax and $3.00 in tip = $13.15.? At Paisano’s on Tuesday, you can get a calzone with two meats and two veggies for $6.00 plus tax.? At White Duck Taco, a taco will run between $3.50 and $4.50 and for Happy Hour, a Tecate is $1.00. ?A bowl of she-crab soup at Roadside Seafood is $.6.00.? We aren’t going to go through all menus at all dining establishments, but on average, there is a dining disparity.
  • Original Music – On any given night in Mount Pleasant from Shem Creek to Arts to Wild Wings, live music is abundant and so is the chance of hearing Wagon Wheel.? The music is heavily dominant on cover songs.? That is what the customers want to hear.? There is no doubting the musical eye of the Charleston Pour House on James Island and their ability to find the most amazing original music acts in the Southeast and around the country so we give this category to James Island.
  • Brand Awareness – James Island is defined by a unique culture of small and family owned business.? As you drive through you, will see a Sonic, Walmart, AutoZone and Waffle House.? Not much else in terms of chain retail and dining.? Mount Pleasant is a whole other story.? TJ Maxx, Lane Bryant, Kohl’s, Michael’s, Nordstrom’s Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gap, Old Navy and the list goes on.? Very brand focused.
  • Coffee Houses – This one is very close.? Mount Pleasant has Collective Coffee and Metto, two incredible coffee shops.? James Island has Muddy Waters
    Old Pitt Street Bridge
    Old Pitt Street Bridge

    and How Art Thou.? We are going to give this one a tie.

  • Beaches – Another close one.? Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island vs. Folly Beach.? This debate can go on and on.? In terms of accessibility, great dining, fun playful environment, we will also give this a tie.
  • Trivia – Once again we are at a stalemate.? Locals and Wild Wings are among the local establishments with live trivia in Mount Pleasant.? The Break and O’Brion’s are popular sites on James Island.? Tie.
  • Dog Friendly The Barrel, James Island County Park, Sip, How Art Thou, James Island Sunday Brunch, The Charleston Pour House, Bohemian Bull; all speak volumes on how dog friendly James Island is.? Dogs are considered residents in these parts.? We know The Shelter does a lot with Pet Helpers and we admire that.? Overall, Mount Pleasant is a little behind on the support of pups and dining.
  • Attitude – This one may come under some scrutiny, but we stand behind it.? James Island is the Jimmy Buffett of the Charleston area communities.? No matter where you go, we greet you with a smile.? If you are drinking or dining alone, don’t expect to be too long.? There is a genuine friendliness that is infectious on the Island.? Mount Pleasant is a bit more stand-offish and not as inviting of strangers.
  • Natural Scenery – Mount Pleasant has Old Pitt Street Bridge, Old Mount Pleasant and Shem Creek.? All beautiful open areas of natural wonder.? James Island has Riverland Drive, James Island County Park, Dock Street Park, Mcleod Plantation, Harborview Road, Intercoastal Waterway, Sunrise Park, and Scenic Fort Johnson Road.? James Island is still untapped with its ample marsh, wooded areas and parks area and thus gets the victory lap in this category.
  • Traffic – I think we can comfortably call Folly Road and Highway 17 almost a dead heat.
  • Organic Food – Mount Pleasant wins by one – Whole Foods vs. Earthfare in a tug of war, but with Mount Pleasant having Trader Joe’s on its side, it has more muscle.? With both having respective farmer’s markets, we have to give this one to Mount Pleasant.
  • Hippie Lifestyle – We have to give the edge to James Island.? Mount Pleasant is a stone throw from Awendaw Green Barn Jam, but with the Brickhouse Drum Circle, Folly Beach (recently voted the Most Hippie City in South Carolina) and the Charleston Pour House, we have to give the victory to James Island.

There we have it, the differences and similarities between James Island and Mount Pleasant.? If we missed any categories, please comment below.

Are We Defined By Our “Charleston Food Brand”?

By Mark A. Leon

By Mark A. Leon

For generations, we have been defined by the brands we carry by our sides.? From Louis Vuitton to Prada, brands address other’s perceptions of our place in society.? That is why advertising is a multi-billion -dollar industry where creative and often neurotic minds sit in rooms thinking of ways to convince us of what to buy and what it’s implied value is to us.

Charleston is a foodie community.?? There is no denying it.? In fact, we flaunt it with every chance we get.? With each new restaurant opening, an unofficial holiday is launched.? We treat dining like the rest of the country views weather.? Food is a form of celebration in Charleston.? It is our opus.? With that, we pose the question, are we defined by our Charleston food brand?

Yesterday, I went to The Bearded Café.? A friend raved about this new hip new coffee shop on Spring Street and the word in the Yelp community was a huge thumb’s up.? My experience overall was wonderful, with its quaint interior, heavenly aroma and great customer service.

I entered and the very energetic barista asked me what I like.? I said naturally black coffee.? I like good black coffee.? He recommended the drip.? I ordered a 10 ounce due to the fact that this was only a quick stop on my way to brunch.

The bill:? $3.54 before tip.

This is 48% more than a 16 ounce Starbucks coffee.? Was the coffee amazing.? It most certainly was.? As I walked with that Bearded Café sleeve and thought about Black Tap, one of my other favorite coffee havens, I realized, I was walking around with a Charleston Food brand.? Were others observing my refined taste in java?? Was it worth four dollars for a ten-ounce cup?? I don’t know the answer, nor am I ready to debate it.

Then I took a deeper thought and remembered those nights at the bar.? Laughing at Halls Chophouse, parading on The Stars rooftop, lingering outside of Husk or dining outdoors at Leon’s Oyster Shop.? Being seen is important.? Where you are seen is social status critical.? With the explosion of social media, a post from one of the top Charleston restaurants can put you on the map.

Are we aware of the importance of the Charleston Brand?? Do we consciously put on our best dress or sports jacket and enjoy an extended happy hour at the finest restaurants in town?? These are viable questions.

As this city continues to evolve into a high end dining mecca, we must stop for a moment to reflect on this.? Can this Charleston brand phenomenon affect food and beverage prices?? If you are observing the rate of food price increases vs. inflationary growth, it is already happening.

Is a shrimp and grits breakfast with a mimosa and coffee worth $32 – $36 dollars per person for Sunday Brunch the right value?? I will let you decide that.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the implied Charleston brand.

Are we being praised for our linkage to certain food brands or violated?