If I didn’t know any better, and I were coming down Oak Street from S. Carrollton, I might be inclined to think that Z’otz is just like any average coffee shop. The other side of their hanging exterior sign, however, was the first major clue as to what I would be getting myself into if I dared enter. The big, ominous question mark that adorns it initially made me unsure if it was a mistake or an aesthetic choice. The spooky interior I immediately encountered upon approaching the barista confirmed to me that it was probably the latter.
The walls inside of Z’otz can probably best be described as Catacomb-esque. Colored a splotchy brown and tan, I felt like I was in a mysterious cave as I perused the menu. The White Zombie, an espresso drink with Ghiradelli white chocolate syrup, caught my eye and seemed to be the most festive choice. Even though I am someone who usually goes for a black cold brew, the syrup was surprisingly not too sweet and went well with the smooth espresso. The food options are sourced from Maple Street Patisserie and Breads on Oak, which means the bagel my friend tried was noticeably high quality and that Z’otz has a leg up on many of the processed pastry options you tend to get at run-of-the-mill cafes.
I enjoyed my drink in the outdoor courtyard, which is a great study spot if you want somewhere quiet and don’t mind some visual distractions to appreciate when you inevitably lose focus. The walls are adorned with trippy, space-themed artwork, and out of the corner of my eye I could see a strange baby mask with pink disco lights dancing around it. Certainly a change of pace from the Howard Tilton Library or the B-School lobby, the area probably resembles a haunted house more than a coffee shop, but not so much so that it prevented me from getting my work done.
The back room is probably your best bet if you are looking to set up shop for a couple hours, as long you’re ok with mannequins in Hot Topic fashions looking over your notes with you. However, Z’otz is also great if you’re just looking for somewhere to kill time, since there is a comfy little nook with board games and books galore that you can enjoy as you sip your drink.
I will definitely be visiting Z’otz again in the future, not just because I am an avid lover of all things Halloween and caffeine. The location on Oak Street means there are a ton of surrounding small businesses I can pop into if I need a study break, and it is conveniently situated by the streetcar line that you can access from Gibson. Plus, as midterms season is in full swing, I appreciate how fitting it is to walk into a bathroom full of skeletons as I suffer through the Sunday scaries.
All photos by Lauren Capozzi