The 寺町新京極商店街Teramachi-Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade houses a wide variety of shops, including Smart COFFEE (formerly called Smart LUNCH), a Kyoto-based coffee shop that was established in 1932 (truly retro); the founder’s son and his sons run it now. The coffee shop was named “smart” to indicate that it offered thoughtful service (yeah, the Japanese definition for the word, “smart”, is a bit different).
Despite the passing of time, Smart has managed to maintain the same atmosphere (one where the customers can pass the time relaxing) and use the same home-roasted coffee beans as when it was first established. The workers wear black vests and white shirts, the epitome of a worker in a classy restaurant.
After World War II, Smart stopped serving meals but in 1997 lunch started up again on the second floor.
The logo designed by the founder is above the kitchen area.
Although Smart is well-known for its hotcakes (the recipe was passed down from the founder’s wife), I was craving something salty for dinner when I finished work early one Tuesday evening earlier this month, so I opted for a ミックサンドウィッチmikkusu sandowicchi (mix of ham and egg sandwiches), ￥650, and a ホットカフェオーレhotto cafe oore (hot café au lait), ￥450.
Maybe café au lait is not the best for really tasting the coffee but that’s what I was in the mood for! My co-worker and her husband recommend the lunch menu (Western-style food, most often fried or grilled), available from 11:00 am-2:30 pm everyday except Tuesdays. I also want to go back for the hotcakes and French toast sometime! Update: Almost four months later, I decided to get some long-overdue organizing and a bit of relaxation here yesterday after work. I was led to a seat that was one seat over to the seat that I had last, next to a wall. I knew exactly what I wanted, so I ordered it immediately. the フレンチトーストセット(Furenchi toosuto setto) French toast set, ￥1000 (I got アイスコーヒーaisu koohii (iced coffee)).
It was still hot when I finally got on it with a knife and fork…soft, easy to cut once I got through the crispy outside covered with just the right amount of egg. The homemade syrup was light and subtle; I guess that I could have used it all but I only used about an 1/8 of the tiny pitcher with which I was provided. It was just what I wanted to finish the day with.
Update: Although I often pass by Smart COFFEE, it took me about a year and a half later to go back…maybe it was the long line of waiting customers that I would spot that discouraged me (sometimes I can be impatient). Anyway, I thought it was about time to try their famous hotcakes. When I arrived after walking over from work, there were several seats open; I chose the four-seater next to the cupboards and nearest to the entrance because I wanted to be as away from the smokers as possible. I felt a little guilty taking up the table all by myself when there was such a steady flow of customers coming and going but I did want to enjoy my visit as smoke-free as possible.
When the waitress came with my water, I immediately ordered the ホットケーキセットhotcake set, ￥1000…it came faster than I had expected.
Fluffy on sight but chewy with a tad bit of sweetness, the hotcakes were best hot but still good even after it cooled (yeah, I usually take a while to eat my food). The butter served with it seemed to be salted and the light and subtly sweet homemade maple syrup, it was a perfect sweetness. I’d like to have it again when I get the craving for some good old hotcakes.☺