All rides should involve coffee. Before, after, during—doesn’t matter. Coffee just needs to be somewhere on the agenda of any civilized bike ride. It’s part of the Code of the Semi-serious Cyclist.
And in winter, this rule can be extended: All cold-weather rides should also include sustenance, some fortifying foodstuff, whether it be a hearty snack or a full-on hot meal. Winter rides call for something substantial to stoke the engine and boost the blood sugar before heading out to face the chilly wind. I’m talking about winter fuel--steel-cut oatmeal or Irish stew or cheese fondue—the kind of cockle-warming fare worthy of a wintry effort.
To that end, I’m introducing an occasional series on some of the Dusty Musette’s favorite winter pit stops, places worthy of a refuelling stop on winter bike rides. And to kick this off, I’ll start with Little Brick Café and General Store, the latest piece in local coffee guru Nate Box’s suite of hip Edmonton cafes.
Little Brick is hard to find, tucked away in residential Riverdale, but that’s part of what makes it cool—its sheer unlikeliness. From the outside it looks like an old, red-brick house on a domestic lot. But inside it swells with character and warmth, a sense of history rolled up with hipster chic.
The espresso and scones here are swell (I have to admit that I’ve yet to try the full breakfast menu), but that’s not why you should stop at Little Brick on a winter ride. The winning feature of the place is actually a more literal kind of winter fuel—a fire pit out back that seems always to be going in the winter.
Of course, a winter fire pit may well be the very best kind. That’s the season when primal flame offers the greatest benefit to frozen fingers and toes. Stopping at all on a cold ride can be a bad idea—a little sweat, then a cool down, and even a break in coffee shop can leave you chilled such that you never quite get that temperature back up where it needs to be. But a fire’s heat runs deep; it can blast away even bone-marrow-level chill.
Fortunately, the folks at LB encourage the patrons to actively participate in fire management. On our first visit, the barista pointed out the woodpile in the corner of the yard and told us to go to town. That’s all the encouragement Penn needed. Like a lot middle-aged men, Penn gets in touch with his inner caveman when there’s a fire to tend. I didn’t know that we’d ever get him back on his bike.
Our discovery of Little Brick’s fire pit has been a revelation for winter rides, adding a back-woodsman element to the urban winter cycling experience. Plus the fire pit provides a souvenir. A week after my last visit to Little Brick, I put on my riding jacket and instantly smelt the smoke of the fire pit. I could almost feel the warmth all over again.