I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
From the inset, Java House proudly acts in contrast to my prerequisites. It makes all the missteps I lament. Its only menu is scribbled erratically in colored chalk across hanging blackboards. It prompts for a tip before the conclusion of the meal. Its decor is littered with clashing furniture, with jarring living room couches next to mismatched ottomans surrounding lawn chairs around warped metal tables. The other patrons not staring uncomfortable at me were busy chattering away with their companions or more often, with their iPhones…which I know is technically a companion by this point. At least the sandwiches aren’t wrapped in plastic and pulled from the fridge the previous morning.
I was greeted by an employee with such enthusiasm, she earned that premature tip in the span of a minute. She was also the smallest adult I’ve met all week. I almost asked if she was standing in a hole. It wasn’t just height; I’m not belittling someone afflicted with dwarfism—that would be cruel. She was just that adorable size larger than a tween but shorter than my Mom—someone so diminutive, that in her wedding photo, you can see her feet. After I made my order, I glanced around and saw the other employees all fitting this scale, making me wonder if I was about to be accosted by Lilliputians.
I could tell as I wrote this review, that I may be unfortunately praising Java House. Perhaps I’ve lost my touch. The recent discovery that I have actual readers may be tainting my reviews. Or perhaps the first few cafés I reviewed were simply the exceptions and not the median*. Regardless, Java House is roomy, the type of place to hang out with friends and chat over a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, Java House is not a convenient distance from either work or home. Further, it’s surrounded by real restaurants (Hummus Brothers and Mykonos Tavern), and only a block away from the 3rd Avenue “golden mile” of Nancy O’s, Chimos, North 54, and White Goose. Place Java House a block from a college or university and it would require a bouncer. But who are they to complain? Java House must be doing something right as they’re turning tables faster than a nightclub deejay. At least I didn’t feel out of place opening my PC to type this review. The decisive praise is that Java House is roomy and inviting, which a café absolutely has to be. I could almost claim that a critical difference between a bistro and a café in that a bistro can pack tables ass-to-elbow while a café must offer customers a wide berth to relax. And relax I was occupying the entire width of a couch. Not on account of my ass looking like a pair of upturned Volkswagen beetles hanging off a magnet crane, just that I could leave my jacket sprawled beside me…and that my ass probably does look like a pair of upturned Volkswagen beetles hanging off a magnet crane.
At some point I should talk about the food. I locked on the soup & sandwich combination, the standard staple of all cafés. I settled on the most expensive at $7.50. That’s correct; the most expensive plate is under 10 dollars. The distractedly cute and attentive clerk recommended the vegetarian Mexican sandwich on flax seed. The soup was just that… soup…just soup. I wasn’t even asked. Apparently, you just walk up and go, “Hey, can I have some soup?” and they just give you a bowl of soup. I might not have even had a choice. It was wet and hot; that was it. There were vegetables in it, like tomatoes and corn, and there was something white which I know wasn’t chicken. It could’ve been eyeballs; I don’t know. I can’t even assume it was homemade. It was just soup, just kind of there, swaying in a leaf-shaped bowl, the kind you see in publicity photos next to a real meal—a prop with about as much character. I would even go so far as to call it boring.
The sandwich was better, sizeable with fresh ingredients. I guess a Mexican sandwich entails a collection of tomatoes and cheddar covered in spreadable avocado. Not the most inspired assembly. All this begs the question of whether I would return to Java House. Probably not, but that’s not entirely their fault. If I was hankering for food, I’d go to an actual restaurant, only electing Java House if I only had twenty minutes to spare. And if a café experience was imperative and I had a car like I always do, I think I’d still prefer Oh Chocolate or Café Voltaire. It’s not that I didn’t like Java House. The prices were good, the service was admirable. It’s not pretentious. I’m sure the selection of tea and coffee would be good if one were offered.
That would have been a good idea. It was only after the meal was concluded that I noticed I had nothing to drink. They never asked. What an odd omission in a place called Java House. Maybe it refers to the operating language; I heard there’s free internet here.
*Median? Really…median? Wow, you can tell I’m taking statistics at school, can’t you?