The Bite

Coffee, table, books: Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Starbucks.

The brand-spanking-new Schlessman Family Branch Library, at 100 Poplar Street, has a surprise in store for visitors: a full- service coffee bar run by the Baroness Coffee Company. "This is the first time we've tried this," says Celeste Jackson, spokeswoman for the Denver Public Library. "And if we find success there, we'll go ahead and do it in all of them."

Baroness, a Denver-based business owned by Delia Clark, already had carts at the Colorado Convention Center, Invesco Field and DU's Ritchie Center; Clark is renting the space at the library, and she'll cover the costs of the operation (and collect any profits). The company fresh-roasts its own coffee, employs trained baristas and offers the same sort of drinks you'd expect to find at a full-service coffeehouse, including regular java, espresso drinks, chai and hot chocolate. The Schlessman coffee bar also has a nice selection of baked items from Bluepoint Bakery. (I'd been excited to find rotisserie-chicken sandwiches on the roster, but apparently those were only offered the first week.)

What makes this arrangement work is that Schlessman looks like no library you've seen before: There's a "kitchenette" area with tables and chairs, where people can sit and munch on their pastries and sip coffee without fear of spilling (the coffee bar caps all of the drinks); there's also a fireplace-warmed lounge section with tables. And while patrons wait for their tall mochas, they can check out the CD and DVD selections, which mimic those at a retail store. "We made it have a bookstore feel," Jackson explains. "The sections around the coffee bar aren't set up by the Dewey decimal system; they're arranged by popular materials, so there's an Oprah collection and a self-help section. The layout is totally different from any other library in the system. And, of course, there's the coffee bar."

Now the DPL's central office is watching to see if the initial buzz over the java keeps up. "So far, we're hearing that people like it," Jackson says. "So the next one to get a coffee bar would be Central."

In anticipation of running more coffee bars for the DPL, Baroness is already looking for additional java jerks, according to Schlessman-based barista Kevin Phelps. Still, the homegrown company will have to work hard to catch up with Starbucks -- which just opened its 115th metro-area outpost (and tenth downtown) last week.

Hit and miss: A sad farewell to Smacks Cafe (15445 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora), a cute little spot that cooked up excellent fried chicken and barbecue. The space will soon become Wings and Barbecue, according to Adorable Mitchell, who ran Smacks with a slew of her family members. "We just got tired of running it," she says. "We're going to move on to other things, none of which will involve running a restaurant."

This Friday is your last chance to chow down on Smacks's collard greens and cornbread, some of the best in town.