Mad City Coffee is not crazy college kids. It's a placid coffee shop that stands out because it roasts its own beans. I asked for a recommendation when I wanted a pound to carry home, and the cashier turned to the guy down the counter to ask: "You roast the coffee. What would you suggest as strong flavor?"
The coffee is good. I find people have opinions, not truths about coffee. Personally, I love Starbucks. My father won't touch it. The Mad City coffees that I have sampled aren't as strong as Starbucks -- which can be seen as either "dark" or "burnt" depending on your opinion. Mad City offers a few dozen varieties -- both different sources for the beans and different sweet flavors like "french toast" or chocolate. I sampled the espresso because people had recommended as the best around. It worked for me, but I prefer my coffee like a little boy -- sweet and milky.
On top of the coffee, Mad City offers lunch sandwiches like turkey, tuna and chicken salad. It also has bagels, pastries, and bagel sandwiches. More than anything, it offers that local feel. The local feel that -- on my last visit -- caused the cashiers to get disorganized in the morning rush and disappear from the register to cook and scoop beans. But it's the same feel that made the customers smile and joke as they checked out the bags on the counter to see whose breakfasts were inside. People waited. Order returned in a few moments, and everyone left happy. I sat outside in a sliver of morning shade, which went beautifully on a summer morning with a very good egg-and-bacon sandwich and the newspaper.
If you like coffee, check out the Orinoco Coffee Shop in Columbia or Bonaparte Bread in Savage. If you visit Mad City, you are just a few blocks south of the Harpers Farm Village Center where you can try Maiwand Kabob's terrific afghan food. Mad City also offers regular music on the weekends, mostly singer-songwriter stuff like these folks.
Mad City Coffee
10801 Hickory Ridge Road
Columbia, MD 21044
NEAR: This is actually right off Cedar Lane just south of the intersection with Hickory Ridge Road. Mad City is on the bottom floor of a commercial building. This is a block south of the Howard County General Hospital.