Well outside Denton’s trafficked downtown square, niched inside local brewery Armadillo Ale Works, Cryptozoology—one of the city’s newer quirky café concepts with a name that refers to the science of searching for mythical or unsubstantiated creatures—is a hidden gem worth the hunt. Food & Wine thinks it’s one of the best 100 in the country.
Founders Ben and Haley Lytle’s years of experience in the Dallas-Forth Worth area’s specialty coffee scene—Ben was a roaster at Dallas’ Novel Coffee and a finalist for the U.S. Coffee Championships Brewers Cup in 2016, and Haley was a barista at Denton’s Shift Coffee—inspired the couple to create a brand that combined high-quality brews and themed retail merchandise. “We wanted to take [specialty coffee] to a really fun, playful place in a casual way, but also serve a very high-quality and experimental menu,” Ben says. The two hoped that the shop’s moniker and accompanying theme—taken from Ben and Haley’s shared passion for undiscovered creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster—would highlight the lighthearted nature of their brand and Denton’s coffee community at large.
Now, the café concept that the Lytles launched as a temporary pop-up inside Armadillo Ale Works has become an established and recognized coffee haven lauded for its sprawling space, playful character, and outstanding brews. Cryptozoology is one of only five Texas coffeehouses included in Food & Wine’s list of Best Coffee Shops in America: 2019 released last month, which features those coffee concepts that best reflect American café culture in 21st century. Civil Goat Coffee and Flat Track Coffee Roasters from Austin also made the cut, as did Houston’s Blacksmith and Waco’s Pinewood Coffee Bar.
Cryptozoology’s staunchly third-wave craft coffee menu features rotating single-origins and blends from specialty roasters across the country. Ben has stepped away from roasting beans. Instead, the Lytles choose two roasters to feature for four months and rotate through different blends and roasts from these guest roasters each week. “We try to really balance it out so that we have some coffees that are more chocolaty, some that are more fruity, some that are really interesting and kind of funky,” Ben says. “It’s fun running that program from a roaster’s perspective, but also knowing that we don’t plan to roast coffee as Cryptozoology.”
In the spirit of experimentalism and ease, customers can match any of the available roasts to any brewing method: no options are specifically designated for drip, espresso, or pour-over drinks. This keeps brewers on their toes, as each drink must be meticulously made to feature the best of each roast and brew method.
Signature and seasonal drinks give a nod to the shop’s mythological theme, incorporating house-made syrups. Pair pastries from neighboring bakery The Messy Chefs with a Mothman Latte—a dark-black coffee creation featuring activated charcoal, sweetened condensed milk, and sea salt—or opt for one of Crytozoology’s winter drinks set to debut this morning. Keep your eyes peeled as you leave. You may even see a sasquatch beyond the railroad tracks behind the shop—or was it just a tall man in a really fuzzy jacket?