Whimsy meets comfort at Rough Pony, a vibrant Traverse City coffee shop and eatery inside the Warehouse MRKT.

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Rough Pony Sign

Photo by Dave Weidner

You can’t help but feel happy when you walk into Rough Pony. The counter is hot pink, the walls a dreamy purple. A gallery wall is filled with art from each team member’s home, plus original works they’ve created, and kitschy delights abound—funky salt and pepper shakers (whales, kittens, lipstick tubes), a collection of mismatched mugs, trailing plants, two tiny trolls. In the background, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” weaves between humming pockets of conversation. “It’s like a little wave of nostalgia crashing over you,” says Maddie Harris, Rough Pony’s social media maven and barista.

The food, too, is comforting. Cinnamon-sugar toast elevated just a touch by a dollop of orange yogurt and a drizzle of fruit compote. An egg-and-cheese sandwich with melty Havarti and saucy sauce (aka a house-made Dijonnaise). A PB Jammin’ smoothie sweetened with a hint of maple syrup. “We’re aiming for a feeling, a warmth,” says Manager Heather L’Esperance. “A lot of our ideas come from childhood foods and flavors we loved.”

The inside of Rough Pony

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

The beverage menu has a mix of staples—mochas made with Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, chai lattes with cardamom syrup, fabulously foamy cappuccinos—and new-to-me goodies like the Metro. The combination of espresso, sparkling water and cream over ice “feels like a coffee cream soda,” L’Esperance says.

As part of a larger mission to foster camaraderie and community, the Rough Pony crew plans to host after-hours events such as craft and game nights and workshops with local businesses. Watch for announcements on Instagram @roughpony.

Rough Pony coffee bar area

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner