Izzy's Coffee Den

Photograph by Nathan Swartz


Apparently the singer from Queensryche was bitten by a vampire, and his goth cock rock is filling every inch of Izzy’s Coffee Den with brooding double bass lines and totally wicked guitar solos.

Calling it a den instead of a cafe or a coffee shop is pretty accurate. Exposed brick peaks through purposely clumsily painted walls, there’s a general darkness to the place, even with the front windows wide open to let the sun trace shadows and rays into the small shop. A couple walks in wearing their Sunday best and, immediately, turns and walks back out. It’s the music, I guess, but the atmosphere in general–truly funky paintings of Tim Burton-esque deformed children and stickers reading “Death before Decaf” and “Service with a Smirk”–isn’t exactly welcoming. But the place isn’t want for customers. I’m third in line, a pack of women ahead of me, half teenage girls and half their mothers, are giggling over how odd everything seems, and ordering fifteen drinks.

The barista, bobbing his head only slightly to the thrashing metal symphony he’s decided on today, looks annoyed. A couple is smiling and laughing in the corner, next to the window, he drinking a PBR and she with some type of iced coffee deliciousness. A chalkboard on the wall touts their beer selection, mostly from Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery, a few local Highland Brewery beers, and Stone IPA. I’m inspired, but I came for a coffee and so the beers will have to wait.

By the time the ladies in front of me get their orders, pay, and move on, I figure the guy behind the counter is going to lose it. Something about death metal and serving coffee that seem like a lethal combination, but to my surprise, he couldn’t be nicer.

“What’s up man? What can I get you?”

I go for an iced latte myself, it’s a hot spring day in Asheville, North Carolina, and find myself a seat in the back corner, an old yellow pleather armchair that’s a little saggy but feels like the best spot in the house to do a little people watching. A short bar is filled with college aged hipsters talking about some type of internships they’re hoping to get this summer. A red headed teenager takes pictures of his girlfriend who, posing, acts like she doesn’t realize.

I also ordered a bagel with jalapeno cream cheese, and the first bite is hot, by the last bite I’m on fire. Milk and coffee are the best combination for easing the burn of a little south of the border spiciness, though. I wonder why coffee and Mexican food aren’t found together more often, but though the coffee here is excellent, and the open windows letting the warm spring day drip right in, I have to be on my way, partly because of other obligations, but admittedly partly because I can’t handle any more of Frankenstein on the radio wailing his lungs out.