I must have walked down Queen Street dozens of times and never noticed the cute little coffee shop next to Issei Noodle. Walking down the street, I became aware of a crowd on the sidewalk waiting near what appeared to be a takeout window. People smiling and holding clear cups of coffee hung around chatting and sitting at charming white lattice sidewalk seating. Not a huge coffee drinker myself (I typically opt for tea, much to the chagrin of my coffee-enthused friends). I continued past, thinking that though the shop looked like an inviting little spot, it wasn’t likely to have much on the menu that would suit me.
A couple weeks later, while I was doing an ‘Instagram takeover’ for Lancaster County magazine’s companion publication Dining in Lancaster, I noticed a message had been sent in inviting someone from the publication to come down and try out something called Aura Espresso Room, a coffee shop in downtown Lancaster. I tried to remember if I’d ever heard of it or noticed it walking by, but I was hard pressed to think of anywhere that wasn’t the more widely known Mean Cup or Passenger Coffee, which most of my friends frequented. A look at Aura’s Instagram feed revealed that they were the very place I had dismissed weeks prior.
Later that day I found myself once again walking down Queen Street and decided to stop in. I introduced myself to the man and woman behind the counter, and they introduced themselves as the owners, one a Lancaster native and the other originally from Greece. Upon asking them what they thought I should try, I was presented with a sandwich and a vanilla affogato. Since it was a nice afternoon, I opted to sit outside at one of the white tables, finding myself delighted at the potted basil plant with which I shared the table.
The sandwich, labelled as “The Greek” on the menu, was as good as it was simple. Made with feta, tomatoes and cucumber served on a baguette and sprinkled with olive oil and oregano, the taste was surprisingly flavorful for a meatless sandwich. The acidity of the feta (a classic ingredient in Greek food) in combination with the milder tomato and cucumber was a great balance that I’ll be sure to replicate at home in the future. The addition of the baguette (a French twist to an otherwise Mediterranean combination) absorbed the oil and herbs, contributing to the surprising richness of the whole affair.
While the sandwich was great, the vanilla affogato was undeniably the highlight of my visit to Aura Espresso Room. This dessert-coffee combo was very fun and incredibly tasty. Presented with what resembled a wine glass with a scoop of ice cream and a shooter of espresso, I was instructed to pour the espresso over the ice cream and eat it with the spoon that came with it. Though I don’t typically like espresso (I tend to find the taste to be too strong), it was perfect when poured over the ice cream. By allowing the ice cream to melt and combine with the espresso, the strength of the coffee was both tempered and sweetened.
I had a great experience at Aura Espresso Room– the owners were incredibly friendly, the food was excellent, and the space was cozy and sweet. Aura Espresso Room’s mission is “to be a class above our competitors by providing personalized service and continuously grow through innovation and dedication to excellence. Aura Espresso Room is committed to always deliver a premium coffee experience and create vibrant cafes that reflect, improve and inspire our communities.” These values were certainly reflected in the service, unique menu items, and presentation– looking forward to my next visit!