A parable is a story that teaches a lesson. Parable Coffee accordingly taught me a lesson: An ethically minded, stylish coffee shop can pay its workers a living wage, make impressive drinks and offer outstanding, creative pastries in Downtown Columbus.
Other lessons I’ve learned from Parable Coffee: Its baked specialties are made by star pastry chef Aaron Clouse (a three-time Food Network competitor), but aren’t advertised on any menu, are only available Wednesday through Sunday on an until-they’re-gone basis, are somewhat pricey, and are absolutely worth jumping through all those hoops for.
Clouse’s pastries are what drew me to Parable, but the cafe is pretty great itself. Parable’s Instagram page relates that it’s “Black & Queer Owned” and follows a no-tipping policy, but doesn’t really convey what a lovely space this former pop-up coffee shop now inhabits in the old Lazarus Building.
Airy and inviting, Parable is rife with windows and natural light, brimming with green plants and attractive wooden accents, and plays a tasteful soundtrack of mostly worldbeat and indie-rock (stunner, right?). The cafe also offers a nice little patio and cost-saving parking validations for a nearby lot.
Carefully sourced coffee beans are used to produce beverages like one of the best cappuccinos around; mine was adorned with an uncommonly beautiful “latte art” tulip, too. This high quality came at a high price, though ($7).
It’s not surprising you can buy a pour-over here ($7). What might be surprising: The naturally sweet strawberry accents in a pour-over of beguiling “Colombian strawberry catiope.”
Parable’s house tonic ($9) is a mocktail-evoking drink that compellingly weds fruity, fizzy and refreshing qualities to potent iced espresso. The caramel-flavored sesame miso latte ($9) had smoky and savory notes but was as soothing as chocolate milk.
OK, pastries. Clouse’s beauties have identifying labels to help differentiate them from elsewhere-sourced vegan baked goods sharing space in Parable’s pastry case. If you find this confusing — I did — just question a friendly barista.
If you find the big, golden-brown, coiled pastry discs sitting upright in the case transfixing, join the club. These are “supreme” croissants — the hottest thing in pastries — and they’re the only supreme croissants I know of in Columbus now.
Like Clouse’s excellent butter croissants ($6.50), which are also in the case, the supremes have delicately flaky exteriors and more layers than a classic Russian novel. Unlike straightforward croissants, Clouse’s supremes are round and feature add-ons and flavored pastry-cream fillings.
The yuzu supreme ($9) was a thick wheel detailed with candied citrus and a fat strip of scorched marshmallow meringue. Hidden within its intricate, buttery folds was intense yuzu curd — think lean custard tasting of tangerines on vacation in the tropics — so bright I nearly reached for my sunglasses.
The butterscotch filling in the oatmeal-butterscotch supreme ($12) was similarly bright and delicious. Nuttily jutting from the puck-shaped croissant was an oatmeal-pie segment as sweet as its Little Debbie antecedent but much better.
I also loved the hefty, fit-for-lunch, ham-and-cheese croissant ($9) — a crinkly shelled triumph with lavish frico-like protrusions, ample diced ham plus caramelized onions and herbs for extra oomph and nuance.
Coffee bean scene: USA Today: Columbus, Ohio’s craft coffee scene
Apart from croissants, Clouse’s must-order “fancy French toast” ($9) isn’t actually French toast, but it’s another multi-textured powerhouse: a brioche sheath that featured a delightfully denser, marzipan-like stratum underneath with fruity and floral notes. Because its toast-like base has an inset, yolk-resembling poached apricot, this visually echoes an “egg in the basket,” only one showered with so much powdered sugar that you might look like you’ve applied kabuki makeup after eating it.
I’ve listed some highlights so far, but there were no lowlights. Other things I tried likewise offered terrific flavors and textures, and included a huge, unusually oblong, craggy-yet-tender, (Maldon-style) salt-flaked cheddar biscuit ($6) redolent of chives; a glazed, Christmas-riffing, cranberry-orange scone ($6); and a big, comforting, salted and aromatic matcha-raspberry-and-ruby-chocolate cookie ($6).
I could go on, but the lesson of this story already seems clear: Go to Parable.
Where: 149 S. High St., Downtown
Contact: 614-636-0341; parableparable.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Price range: $5 to $12
Ambience: fashionable, often-bustling, great-looking coffee shop with abundant windows, lavish greenery, attractive wooden accents, a small patio and skilled baristas who can validate all-day $3 parking for a nearby lot
Children’s menu: no
Liquor license: full bar
Quick click: Fantastic, imaginatively created pastries and high-grade cafe beverages are sold in this destination-worthy, cutting-edge cafe.