412 First Ave., Downtown
6 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Back in August, Verde Good Beans opened on a quiet stretch of First Avenue, near Smithfield Street: a coffee shop with a commitment to sustainable environmental practices, and to serving an easily overlooked portion of Downtown. This location seems a bit out of the way for a business that depends on foot traffic -- until you realize it's strategically situated right between the Art Institute and Point Park.
Inside, you'll find plush velvet armchairs, soft lights and earth-tone walls daubed with green tendrils and John Lennon quotes. Although the shop is new, it's a family business that draws inspiration from longstanding local roots.
Hailing from the South Hills, Kathryn Morrone says she first considered opening a coffee shop about 14 years ago, but wanted to finish raising her kids first; now she's in business with her daughter. "I more or less make the soups, the sandwiches and all the goodies," says Morrone, while her daughter Elysia is the shop's sole barista. There's still more family nearby: Morrone's husband, Joe, works for a TV production company in the next block, so "we all go home from work together," she explains.
Verde Good strives for a local focus and waste-not-want-not ethos passed down from family who farmed in the region several generations back. All coffee grounds and kitchen scraps are composted; the ingredients are locally sourced; and the disposable products are corn-based and biodegradable. "At the end of the day, basically, we have one bag of garbage."
It's a mindset which fortuitously aligns with the budgets of its clientele. By featuring roasted La Prima coffee beans and other locally sourced ingredients and products, "it's helped keep prices low, which the kids love," says Morrone. (The 10 percent student discount doesn't hurt, either.) And "with a lot of people becoming more concerned about the environment ... the kids just gobble it up."
In addition to the organic coffees and teas, Verde Good offers gelato, panini sandwiches and homemade soups, such as vegetarian chili. It's hard to say exactly what you'll find on any given day, as the menu changes with the available produce. "I base what my soups are going to be on what I can find," explains Morrone -- "and requests from all our customers."
But if it's the food you're after, don't tarry, or you may have to content yourself with a bagel. The sandwich counter closes at 2 p.m., and the soup lasts until it runs out. "We sell out of the soup every day," says Morrone. And for now, the shop's drawing enough customers to close for the day at 4 p.m.
"We were going to extend the hours into the evening, but so far there hasn't been a need to."