The local coffee shop is a place many hold near and dear to their hearts. If one looks past the local Starbucks, local cafes give us that warm, fuzzy feeling. Nestled in a walking district, or on the corner next to a college campus; over-plush lounge chairs, soft lighting and friendly acquaintances beckon us to sit and relax. The coffee shop gives us two things: caffeine and hygge. Simply put, they are irresistible.
Brief aside: hygge is a Danish concept that is a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.
Sidewalk Cafe, however, is the metaphorical equivalent to when you’re playing cornhole at your neighbor’s house, miss the mound and accidentally smash out their front window with the bean bag. It completely misses the mark.
The cafe is a hodge-podge of things cafes usually have – kitschy artwork, knick-knacks, jazz music, and a community posting board. There are signs that read “coffee keeps me busy until it’s acceptable to drink wine,” and “smile often, laugh loudly, love others.” The seating arrangements are crammed together, and not very comfortable; so instead of seeming snug or cozy it just seems cluttered. The space isn’t very acoustically friendly—lots of tile and chunks of bare wall make it echoey, and the music plays too loudly. There is no style unifying the room; it is pandemonium. It is a purgatory that serves coffee; designed to look like the living room of that one crazy aunt with too many cats who collects everything she can find to distract her from thinking about how lonely she is.
Mugs hang on a garden rack on the wall above a single sink behind the bar, wall art done by children (whose??), fuschia beaded placemats, black cat posters, and a diaspora of wilted orchids—it’s like the before segment of an old Prozac commercial. The seating area and bar all occupied the same space, approximately 30 by 20 by 20 feet of unwalled, vacantly open space. There were neither nooks nor crannies in which to study, and the stairs behind the bar led to an unoccupied office, not a separate upstairs seating area. There were no bookshelves, no reading lamps and no corner seats. There was no hygge to be had.
The menu is fairly basic. They have espresso; lattes, mochas, white mochas, cappuccinos, americanos and drip coffee; there is no tea. While macchiatos were listed on a kitschery next to a succulent above the toilet, they were not actually available from the coffee bar. The food menu was confined to a very basic breakfast; avocado toast, three varieties of oatmeal, two types of parfaits, waffles with fruit for topping and a small rack of muffins and chocolate-filled pastries. Essentially the same selection as one would find at a 3-star motel with a continental breakfast, though Sidewalk offers an acai bowl.
There was only one person working the counter, but even in consideration of that the service was pretty slow, with food coming first —5 minutes from ordering —and drinks coming out a full 10 minutes after ordering. The food quality was ok. It was hand-prepared and cooked-to-order, but wasn’t presented well. The berries were tossed on top of the yogurt, coated with powdered sugar because “the honey is frozen or something.” The oatmeal was good for the first couple bites, but under the granola was a layer of syrupy brown sugar that was unpleasant.
The drinks were, unlike the food, presented very skillfully with a heart and a tulip nestled in the foam of the vintage ceramic mugs. The drinks themselves, however, were pretty lackluster. The mocha was from a weak syrup, the espresso didn’t have much flavor and the temperature was tepid. No praise was heard for the white mocha, either.
Overall, Sidewalk Cafe seems to be a sidewalk sale. The best element by far – cunningly foreshadowed by the kitschy wall hanging that read “Coffee and friends are the best mix” – was the hilarious, wandering conversation with a new friend. Nothing beats meeting a fun and interesting person, no matter how dismal the setting.
The bill came out to $20.84 for two drinks and two food items. Overall score for the restaurant is 4/10.
Menu: Bland. Hipster places dress up their avocado toast with more than two items; nice hotels have oatmeal dressing bars. The “breakfast basics” had a pH of approximately 12.5, and there was nothing bold or original – anywhere. If that “not enough” wasn’t enough, the presentation wasn’t even up to par with Denny’s.
Atmosphere: Dreadful. Fluorescent lighting, tacky, no hygge.
Service: Awkward and slow, but credit is due for his being able to make a solid heart and tulip. Sometimes, you just have to take what you get.