Fires in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, are as common as tumbleweeds. It would seem the dry and windy city with it’s creaking, historic buildings is waiting like a pile of kindling to shoot into flames.
Locals (of which I consider myself one; I was raised here) are no strangers to historic fires. In fact, while researching the particular coffee shop in which I currently sit, I found an old article by a man named Richard Ammon, describing the burning of a Cheyenne landmark, the Inter Ocean Hotel, and the death of a family of six. He sums up his in-depth description with the following phrase:
The Inter Ocean hotel, with all of its grandeur and celebrity, passed in one fateful night, taking with it the glitter and glory of the true Old West.
Grand and beautiful words, don’t you think? And they apply themselves well to many of the antique, glittering western buildings that have since succumbed to sparks and loose wires.
The Inter Ocean Hotel was later replaced by the Plains Hotel, which has winding hallways of faded carpet and exposed pipes that seem endless. (The outdoor fire escapes are easily accessed through unlocked windows and provide stunning views of the city.) But you didn’t hear that from me.
Just around the block or accessed through a covered alley, nestled across from a big stone building proudly built by Harry Hynds (who intentionally built his buildings out of any material but wood, claiming proudly, “No one will ever die in a fire in any of my buildings!”) is the Paramount Café.
Once the 1920’s Paramount Theater, this landmark was also stricken by fire. It now boasts a proud selection of coffees, teas, bubble teas and pastries and holds Open Mic weekly. The hip interior belies the history of the building, although the historic features of the shop are proudly displayed.
The walls highlight sepia-toned paintings of historic Cheyenne legends. The stamped tin ceiling is painted gold, but hearkens back to a time where those underneath it’s shining plates wore flapper dresses and red lipstick.
But even though an intriguing interior sets the mood, it is the quality of offerings that really make a café worthwhile.
I find it important to mention the difference between a coffee shop and a café here. Coffee shops ought to specialize in coffee and often pare down their offerings to a limited, select few that are well-curated. Cafes are far more broad and have offerings that can span from breakfast burritos to Frappuccinos. I have found in my own personal experience that cafes do many things but execute few of them well, although there are always exceptions.
The Paramount Café does many things, including pastries, coffee, sweet drinks and bubble teas.
As a coffee girl, I will attest that I find their espresso lacking finesse and am not generally pleased with the coffee-forward drinks I’ve received. (I am a biased believer in microfoam.) What is lacking in coffee finesse, however, is made up for with clever names like the VaHizzle Nut, MO-35 and Butter Beer, all sweet drinks that feature pumps on pumps of sweet syrups. I will admit, although they lack simplicity, they’re pretty darn good when you’re in the mood for one.
By far their best offering is a bubble tea, your choice of tapioca pearls floating happily up an extra-wide straw.
If I’m being totally honest, my favorite part of visiting this shop is the atmosphere. Not only does it feel like it seamlessly blends the past and present, it provides a warm and inviting place to sit down. Local artwork is featured on the walls and highlights the odd, underground creativity of the Cheyenne community. It has a slightly melancholy vibe offset by their cheerful chalkboard notes and positive coffee sleeves, a sentiment echoed on their social media pages.
All in all, I am thrilled to know there’s a community hole-in-the-wall as treasured as this. Cheyenne is my hometown and coffee is my life, so to see the two blended so perfectly warms my windblown heart.