4721 N Main St
Houston, TX 77009
Sister shop to the nationally recognized Blacksmith, Morningstar builds its brand with a modern take on the classic American breakfast: coffee and doughnuts. As with Blacksmith, Mornigstar offers a line up of more substantial breakfast food with Asian twists on Southern staples such as ramen inspired biscuits and gravy. The coffee drinks here are what you should expect from a craft shop but the matcha offerings make Morningstar stand out from the crowd. This espresso like tea is a change of pace for many. But for those familiar with matcha, the menu here doesn’t push boundaries. The Asian influence carries beyond the menu to the space itself; the open space and Japanese influenced architecture make this a meditative space where you can find your zen.
Greenway is seen by many to be Houston’s best local roaster. Even if you disagree with that statement, it’s most likely in your top three. Part of the reason for this perception is the emphasis they place on training the baristas who will be working with their coffee. The result is every drink you have at one of their shops is going to be a good one. The downside to the standardized nature of the Greenway system is that there isn’t much innovation in their coffee based drinks. This may be part of the mentality that good coffee shouldn’t be hidden by other flavors, but in a market that is looking for new and novel flavors I think it’s a mistake.
The matcha offerings do score Morningstar some points, but as it becomes a growing industry trend the novelty is starting to wear off. Morningstar provides a great, yet predictable, matcha experience. I hope for more either in the presentation (a la Sawada) or diversity of menu offerings. Overall, it’s good but lacking that wow factor.
“Atmosphere” is kind of a catch all category that covers everything that isn’t staff and coffee. What helps Morningstar score so highly here is the phenomenal doughnut line up and tantalizing food options. Forget Dunkin’ and Shripley’s; the doughnuts at Morningstar play with fun flavor combinations offering rotating seasonal specials alongside classic mainstays. Of the few I tried, the PB&J doughnut stands as one of the best pastries I’ve ever eaten.
The building itself is structured beautifully as well. For a small storefront, there’s lots of open space here. The “zen gates” (pictured below) offer some seclusion without creating claustrophobia. I have a couple critiques of the space itself though. Some of the tables are laid out in a way that they can’t be accessed without crawling over one of you neighbors. Not an issue if there isn’t much traffic but on a busy morning you might have to get a little to familiar with the next table over. Additionally there is a substantial lack of outlet access which makes things difficult for the traveling coffee blogger trying to upload photos and write a 750 word review on a dying laptop.
Morningstar lends itself to a very relaxed atmosphere and I’ve experienced that the baristas share this mentality. Laid back and casual, things have never been rushed during one of my visits. I’ve yet to visit during a high volume hour so I can’t speak to how the staff performs under pressure, but if they meet the Greenway standard odds are they’ll do just fine.
Morningstar takes steps in the right direction to separate itself from the local competition, but I don’t think its particularly progressive on the national stage. It’s got great food, pretty good coffee, and decent matcha in an alright part of town. Overall I’d say this is a great grab-and-go breakfast spot with enough options to keep things consistently interesting. While the atmosphere is relaxing and interesting, it quickly goes downhill if too many people clog up the streamlined nature of the place.