Independent Bookstore Eats
Bookstores raise the mark around the country with in-house cafés and bars that invite customers to linger and keep reading.
Story by Erin Z. Bass
Today’s independent bookstore owners will tell you it’s not enough just to sell books. They have to plan events, serve lunch, and offset the bottom line with booze. That’s just the nature of the business, but who doesn’t like to curl up with a good book and sip from a glass of wine while nibbling on a pastry or panini?
At Hub City Bookshop & Press, run by the Hub City Writers Project nonprofit, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, books by regional authors and new releases are paired with a coffee bar and made-from-scratch desserts. This independent bookstore shares its ground floor of the Masonic Temple with Little River Coffee Bar and Cakehead Bakeshop. While perusing books about fishing, writing, and music, shoppers can look out on the city clock tower in historic Morgan Square and sip on a fair trade latte paired with a slice of red velvet cake.
“People move in and out of the two spaces throughout the day, buying a cup of coffee and treat, then coming next door to browse the books,” explains Meg Reid with Hub City Press. “Our store also serves as a kind of community space where local nonprofits and organizations often hold small meetings. It’s so wonderful to be a kind of ‘third place.’”
Books don’t make up the bottom line at Books & Brews in Indianapolis, Indiana, but they are an integral part of the business. This used bookstore with nine locations throughout Indiana and one in Ohio touts “$3 books at every location every day.” Locally brewed beers have literary names like “Cream & Punishment” or “Clifford” (an Irish-style red ale named after the big red dog) and are always on tap to help keep the cash flowing. The Mothership location on Uptown Drive also serves up a literary-themed menu including a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” peanut butter and jelly sandwich, “Naan-Fiction” flatbread sandwiches and Finnegan’s Nachos.
Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, North Carolina, specializes in books on art, design, and poetry, all artfully arranged in a chic space on Blount Street. This bookstore also doubles as a flower shop, restaurant and bar, accomplishing the owners’ desire for Bhavana to become a living room of reprieve for shoppers. The private production brewery is located a few blocks away, and 20 core beers are inspired by nature with names like Till, Grove, and Sprout. More proof of this shop’s versatility, the menu is dim sum-centric, with lots of bao, dumplings, and scallion pancakes. “Dim sum represents a moment at the crossroads: an encounter between people and their stories,” is the explanation on Bhavana’s website.
Open from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts could be a second home for some. Books and food go hand in hand, with book categories rivaling those on the menu. The café serves everything from egg dishes to French toast and pancakes, breakfast bowls, vegan soups, tacos, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and bowls. There’s coffee, tea, smoothies, draft beer, and wine, too. There’s also a full roster of author appearances, poetry readings, trivia, and book swaps on the calendar of events.
Bookmarks Bookstore in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, collaborates with Foothills Brewing. Called Footnote, this pub companion adjoins Bookmarks and serves Foothills roasted coffee, craft beer and wine, signature cocktails, and light bites. The cocktail menu includes locally made Sutler’s Gin and Copper Barrel Blueberry Moonshine. Bookmarks opened in 2017, so is still fairly new, but has already brought more than 700 authors and storytellers to North Carolina.
In a city teeming with bookstores, Book Passage in San Francisco and Corte Madera, California, is committed to using local vendors when it comes to offering both food and libations. In Corte Madera, brunch and lunch are served alongside books, so patrons can dig into a “bookseller salad” with smoked salmon, kale, tomato, avocado, pepitas, red onion, capers, quinoa, and a buttermilk ranch drizzle, while cracking open the latest new fiction or a Bay Area guidebook. The San Francisco location inside the Ferry Building puts shoppers on the bay side of this artisan market filled with local vendors, including Cowgirl Creamery, The Slanted Door, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Shop where Julia Child, James Beard, and Laurie Colwin once did. Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York City opened in 1983 and has more than 12,000 foodie titles in stock. The Lexington Avenue shop carries books on food history, food writing, technical manuals, and cookbooks, of course. The owners are also known for tracking down out-of-print or rare books for customers, who still include famous chefs from around the world. This shop doesn’t serve food or drinks, but it’s in New York City where foodie finds abound. Across the street from the bookshop you’ll spot a butcher shop, pizza place, and wine merchant.
Plan A Trip
Locate independent bookstores around the country using IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder.
Looking for a place to rest your head after all that reading, eating and drinking? Hotels like The Jefferson in Washington, D.C., The Betsy in Miami, Florida, Library Hotel in New York, New York, and Hotel Emblem in San Francisco, California, include libraries and literary themes so you’ll never be without a good book.