by Eric Ginsburg

There are several major differences between the new Green Bean coffee shop and its progenitor in downtown Greensboro, but the biggest one is that the new café serves food.

The new business, located in the Golden Gate Shopping Center north of downtown and well past Cone Hospital, has already changed its menu several times since opening, tweaking its offerings so that ingredients can be kept fresh more easily. Many of the options — which include several breakfast, salad and sandwich choices — are vegetarian.

There are meat options, sure, but what’s more interesting is the bounty of meatless choices, such as fake sausage on a breakfast bagel or the delicious roasted sweet-potato wrap. And there are vegetarian sides to accompany them too, including a hearty three-bean chili.

Nine tables for two take up most of the venue’s floor space, which has some additional seating at the front window and at the bar. Gigantic windows account for almost two entire walls, providing an uncommon amount of natural lighting that is more difficult to come by at the sister shop.

The chairs, many of them bright yellow, complement art that calls to mind the American Southwest. Unfinished wood lining the counter adds to the vibe and continues a pattern of new, local restaurants jumping onto this social trend, one that I’m happy to see continue.

141210.FOOD.Green Bean.2-egOne employee here tells me he’s ordered off the breakfast menu every day he’s worked here, which is good enough for me. The bagels are brought in from outside, from the venerable New Garden Bagels, and I recommend adding two scrambled eggs, goat cheese and fake sausage. The cheese — chosen from a list of options — is a little thin, but the real delight of the bagel sandwich is the tasty patty.

More than likely, though, I’d return to the roasted sweet-potato wrap, which comes with black beans, onion, corn and a creamy avocado dressing. Try adding pepper jack cheese to complete it, or toss in some of the thin pickle slices served on the side.

It isn’t easy to come by a substantial vegetarian sandwich in Greensboro, let alone one that is served warm and tastes great, making it more unique than the breakfast menu which is still worth dipping into.

Really beyond the name, and the fact that owner Katie Southard is behind both iterations of the business, there are few overlaps between the two coffee shops.

Some of the products are the same – in fact baked goods made at the new location will supply the flagship – but the feel, décor, seating options and even the lighting are different.

And it wouldn’t be the Green Bean if there weren’t a problem with the men’s bathroom — an issue with the toilet meant that only the women’s restroom was operable one day during lunch last week.

It’s easier to find a table at the new location, at least for now, but the set-up lends itself to folks looking to grab a bite alone, embarking on a less-public date or studying given that the small, two-person tables aren’t conducive to a group meeting.

Still, several coworkers who appeared to be converts from the Starbucks crowd occupied a few adjacent tables, talking casually as they sipped various beverages with more straightforward names than at the coffee giant.

But the Starbucks, that used to occupy this same space at the corner of the shopping center, is now closed. And while it may be the Green Bean’s first expansion, it is growing.

The new Green Bean is located in the Golden Gate Shopping Center on Golden Gate and Cornwallis drives (GSO).

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