SOZO Coffeehouse. Omaha, NE

I’m thrilled to offer up a stunner of a coffeehouse as the first post in this long overdue blog.

SOZO Coffeehouse in downtown Omaha is a fantastic find. Unique. Billed on the side of its giant building as Omaha’s LARGEST coffeehouse, a crowded other shop sent me looking for more. This is one of those times I’m glad I followed my dissatisfaction and found something awesome. Located in the basement of a behemoth of a building on Jones Street between 13th and 14th, I was nervous walking down the iron steps off the street level but comforted by the sight of a studious guy in the window there near the stairs. My first-timer nerves were eased immediately when I walked through the door and the barista casually called across the giant room “Welcome to SOZO!”, a helpful gesture to welcome me in. Two manicured pools tables lay before me and some high tops situated around the room reflected more of a bar than a coffee shop, but adjacent to the pool room is a larger classic hang area lit (tastefully) by Christmas lights and some sensible down lights on the enormous brick wall that spans the depth of the building. The ceilings were high enough to not make this underground establishment feel cramped and some couch areas break up the ‘study hall’ like vibe. The space, despite its concrete floors and industrial feel, manages to maintain a warmth and comfort.

Always a fan of natural light, I was nervous that I’d miss it, but as I sank into writing this post and working on some other distractions, I didn’t mind forgetting about the dreary Omaha day outside.

Kara was in the show and I had a couple of hours to kill, so aside from checking a many year goal off of my list in the creation of this blog, I really had nothing to do. The space, while large, was pretty full of mostly younger twenty-somethings on apple devices, and a (large) conference room behind the counter area/utility kitchen had some large group in it: a comforting notion. After grabbing a table, I went to the counter for the order. I brought my own mug, as I’ve been doing more frequently and was surprised to see a pretty visible sign right there at the register encouraging such with a 15% (generous) discount, which I happily accepted. The big test – “Do you have decaf espresso?” “We do!” “Can you do a half-caff cappuccino” the usual moment of stuttered thought “oh- yeah..yeah! we can do that.” Very appreciated. The girl behind the counter knew what she was doing…The guy on barista was reserved but available. I asked a little bit about whether they ever have theatre companies rent out the space or feature bands… He filled me in on the sitch, answering affirmatively to the bands, as I peered around at this immersive theatre, found-space, GOLDMINE.

The coffee was great. Exactly what I was after: a slight lift but nothing overpowering, and despite doing half decaf, its lightly browned taste was pleasant to savor over the hour and a half I stayed.

After getting my drink, on the counter-tender’s suggestion I explored more of this labyrinthian (former warehouse?) basement and discovered a rare find for a coffeehouse: the existence of PRIVATE STUDY ROOMS, each uniquely decorated as an apartment living room, that you can rent for $2 AN HOUR. I probably don’t need to emphasize what a STEAL of a resource that is. Part of me wants to recommend to them that they could probably charge more…upwards of $5 , even $10 and I’d still pay for it if I was local, but I absolutely LOVE that they keep it that cheap for the up and coming artist crowd and students on a budget in need of a second space.

I love this. I love that this coffee house’s emphasis on providing second spaces increases its sense of community. I can only imagine this makes SOZO a resource to this community. “Yeah..well…why don’t we have them meet us at SOZO..we could use their conference room!”

The light clack of pool balls in the background and a playlist of unobtrusively mild alternative rock left me in a mellow and calm yet focused work vibe. This place manages to maintain a wonderful balance of activity and calm.

The day was a huge success… Never is my desire to find a hidden gem so incredibly rewarded!

Loyalty program: yes!

The plus: pool tables! private study rooms! this makes this GIANT space capable of hosting a variety of different vibes all at the same time…full blown work sessions, next to some all out hang-out time. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was in a NYC tech start-up. They may have found the holy grail of mulit-use spaces akin to that of Pinewood Social in Nashville TN..the all day hang out concept- where you don’t need to leave the building, just move to another room. Also: Extra late hours during finals weeks: serving waffles for those all nighters?! C’mon..

The cons: No natural light in the main room, but like I said, it didn’t really bother me after awhile.

Proud to offer SOZO up as the first in entry in this blog. Next time you’re in Omaha- I’d say it’s worth checking out.

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