In 2013, Plano was introduced to specialty coffee when the doors opened at 1418 Coffeehouse, a homey hangout on K Avenue, and for years the cafe remained unchallenged in that market. Two weeks ago, that changed when XO Coffee Company opened nearby — 371 feet away, to be exact — around the corner on Avenue K.
Linda McCall, who owns XO with her husband, David Martin, is an interior designer by trade and became infatuated with coffee when studying abroad in Barcelona.
“I loved not only the taste of it, but all of the awakening of the senses and the emotional experience of it,” she says. “That’s what inspired me. When I started dating David, I took him to several of the cool coffee shops around town and got him excited about it as well.”
It turned into a hobby for the two to visit coffee shops, sharing dreams about when one day they would open a shop of their own.
During that same period of dating, the couple would sign off their text messages to one another with "xoxo."
“It kind of became our thing. It seemed fitting with our coffee shop too,” McCall says. “It’s an emotional experience; it makes you feel good to have that really great coffee experience.”
XO’s interior features modern design along with exposed brick, reclaimed woods and lots of pinks throughout, from plant-holders to napkins and straws. “I love the fact that we are able to be in a 100-year-old building,” McCall says. “I wanted to remember the past while still being modern and functional. As we were in the demolition phase, we uncovered a beautiful structure. It was important to me to showcase the existing ceiling structure and brick walls, and reuse as much of the 100-year-old wood as possible. For example, the bar top and shelving wood is from the floor joists we took out of the space when we removed the original floor.”
The one break from the minimal, rustic yet modern décor is the flat-screen television displaying sports-news from its place nestled in between shelves of retail coffee.
When approaching the bar – which is an oblong in the center of the space, allowing interaction points for staff and guests at any given point – to order, the first thing that grabs attention is the equipment. Toward the back of the bar is a Unic Stella di Café espresso machine whose neon pink light bar and funky-shaped stainless steel frame make it look like it’s from the Jetsons; toward the front, a Wilbur Curtis Seraphim automated pour-over brewer, which sits across from a tap system used for dispensing nitrogenated cold-brew coffee.
“We pay very close attention to every detail in the coffee-making process, and our equipment reflects that,” Martin says. “We have very high standards for what our coffee should taste like.”
The coffee in question is provided by local roasting company, Novel Coffee Roasters. “Their love of coffee shows in their product,” McCall says. “Everyone who comes in has had great things to say about the Novel coffee.”
Their Rogue Espresso blend is creamy with notes of chocolate and dark berries and is the base of all the milk based drinks here as well. The pour-over bar has a couple single-origin offerings; the Ethiopian Mora Mora is clean and fruity with a crisp acidity.
In addition to coffee beverages, XO offers a small variety of really well done non-coffee beverages. The XO Soda combines cream, soda water and house-made raspberry syrup for a drink that is sweet and tart, milky yet effervescent. On the seasonal menu, in addition to an Autumn Spice latte, were a couple aguas frescas. The watermelon-basil was sweet, herbal and so refreshing, it was gone in a couple sips.
To round out the drink menu — and emphasize the cafe’s family-friendly ethos — there's a kids' menu, including a hot chocolate alongside a few other options both hot and frozen.
In terms of food, from pastries to the breakfast and lunch menus, it’s all made in house. Choices range from a wild mushroom scramble ($9) to a baby spinach salad with wild berries and hibiscus vinaigrette ($11) or pulled-pork sandwich with apple and red cabbage slaw ($13) at lunch.
“Coffee is the star of the show, and that is evident by our centralized coffee bar and state-of-the-art equipment when you walk in the door,” Martin says. “But we didn’t want food to be an afterthought, like is the case at a lot of coffee bars around town. So we developed a full breakfast, lunch and dessert menu to complement our coffee.”
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The pastries and desserts — which range from simple, expected café-quickies like a blueberry muffin which is moist and full of tart, fresh blueberry flavor, to more indulgent desserts like multi-tiered cakes — are handled with similar care by XO’s full-time pastry chef.
From a morning cup of coffee and breakfast before hopping on the nearby DART train to a cappuccino and towering slice of raspberry mint cake after a dinner at Lockhart across the street, XO Coffee Company has plenty to contribute to the downtown Plano area, and for McCall and Martin, developing their role within their neighborhood is what it’s all about.
“Our goal is to become a fixture in the community, be that place where people can laugh, hang out, have fun and enjoy really great food and drinks. If we can achieve that, we have met our goal,” Martin says. “Right now, we are just having fun. We have met so many wonderful people already, it’s been amazing.”
XO Coffee Company, 1023 E. 15th St., Plano