Restaurant Review #271: Coffee Corral (Red Bank, NJ)

This is one of those places I drove past dozens of times and said to myself, “I have to try that”. It has been years, and upon taking my first sip of coffee yesterday afternoon, I wondered how it was possible that I ever avoided the Coffee Corral. It was absolutely delicious, enhanced more by the charming interior. Yes, it is very corral-ish, with horseshoes on the ground and plenty of wood to give it a barn-like atmosphere. But that country approach ends with the dress of their baristas, who are adorned with a white shirt and slim black tie. This does not feel like some kind of hipster novelty, but more of a Prohibition-era Speakeasy. When was the last time someone in a shirt and tie made your coffee?

Justin and I must have been the only first-timers there during our visit. While it was slow when we arrived at around 2 PM, a steady parade of regulars soon marched themselves in one after the other, each greeting and being greeted by name by the barista.

I ordered a hot toddy latte, which boasted notes of bourbon and caramel, while Justin had a minty mocha latte. I picked out a black and white cookie from the display case and we had a seat at a small counter by the front door. The coffees were promptly poured as I browsed the menu for next time. Aside from a large variety of hot and iced coffees, there are smoothies, baked goods, and even sandwiches. We had just come from another excellent lunch at the Greek Spot, so a cookie shared between us was good enough.

Not being much of a latte guy, I took a chance. It was on the winter specials board and just seemed appropriate. My first sip sent me to heaven. This was not some brutishly strong coffee which many small-time coffee roasters are marred with. The strength was there, but the steamed milk made it delicate. There was just enough sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top brought it all together. Justin thought his was “absolute perfection” and would not change anything about it. I concur. The cookie complimented everything well.

When it comes to coffee in this area, the choices are myriad. I’ve never been a fan of Starbucks, but I do like Rook. Coffee Corral, however, outdoes the both of them. This is not to say that anything else is bad, just that this place is a cut above. There is a freshness and quality present here that screams out. In fact, the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant roaster. Their baristas have an attention to detail and seem to enjoy and care about their craft. That notion is obvious.

Coffee Corral is yet another one of those establishments for which it is difficult to find a rating on my scale. It is not a restaurant, and we only drank two coffees and ate one cookie to formulate this review. Due to the quality, though, I have no choice but to award a 4 out of 5 stars. If this place was right around the corner, I’d be stopping in every day. It is amazing that such a tiny building can crank out such great coffee.

The Coffee Corral is located at 177 Dr. James Parker Boulevard, Red Bank, NJ.

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