Uncle Bean's

The Cold Brew, Breakfast Sandwich and Berlinesa (right) made for a delicious, refreshing meal during a recent visit to Uncle Bean’s Coffee in Woodland Heights. (Photo by Stefan Modrich)

A good coffee shop can create a buzz around a community. A great coffee shop like Uncle Bean’s can become part of the fabric of a neighborhood.

And in the diverse quilt of Houston neighborhoods, Woodland Heights has a lot going for it. It’s rather quiet, despite being next to Interstate 45. It’s full of well-maintained and preserved historic homes. On my short walk from my car to Uncle Bean’s, I captured a photo of a gorgeous monarch butterfly perching on some flowers in the front yard that hadn’t yet fully bloomed.

Newcomers to Houston may or may not be familiar with the city’s lack of zoning laws, which has allowed for a boom in growth and development with some businesses or residences popping up in some nontraditional settings and formats. But as jarring as it might seem to come across Uncle Bean’s in a predominantly residential area, there’s something uniquely Houstonian and charming about a cafe with a shaded outdoor patio that is both dog-friendly and has room for a drive-through.

I placed my order at the walk-up window and took my seat at the patio, equipped with plenty of comfortable chairs and ceiling fans providing a breeze overhead.

I sat facing south, and the backdrop for my lunch was a shipping container that had been repurposed as a de facto canvas for a mural. It featured a procession of dogs headed into a crosswalk, a nod to The Beatles’ iconic “Abbey Road” album cover.

After I ordered my Cold Brew ($4.50), I took the recommendation from the cashier at the window and tried a Breakfast Sandwich ($4.99), a humble bacon, egg and cheese classic served on an English muffin.

The folks at Uncle Bean’s also recommended I try the Berlinesa ($3.25), and I couldn’t be more thrilled that they did.

I was initially confused by the name, having never seen one in a panaderia before and it wasn’t obvious to me that there were many connections between baked goods in Germany and in Hispanic cultures.

But as it turned out, this was Uncle Bean’s take on the Berliner, a fried donut that can be sprinkled with either powdered or conventional sugar and is often filled with jelly, custard or cream. Because I’ve never been a big fan of most jelly donuts, I tend to be careful with how often I eat them.

What made the Uncle Bean’s version superior, in my view, was its horchata filling, a delightfully refreshing twist that got better with each bite.

Uncle Bean’s Coffee

Address: 3024 Houston Ave.

Dining Options: Dine-in, takeout, drive-through

Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Entrée prices: $1.95-$5.95

Kid-friendly: Yes

Senior discount: No

Alcohol: No

Healthy options: Fruit Cup

Star of the show: Berlinesa

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