Historians and Gore Vidal can not tell us what hipster dipshits were called in the 17th century or whenever the ‘oldest coffee house in Savannah’ commenced operations. SCAD and fixies had not been invented, and neckbeards and fedoras probably could not be used with irony yet. No one knows. We can assume with confidence, however, that they were as condescending to the gentry in their day as our own hip wait staff are in ours.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if someone knew what they wanted when they came in?”
Well, let me you this, jackass, this horrible world is overflowing with filthy Burger Kings where I am certain you may find plenty of greasy mouthbreathers to stagger to your work station and demand a ‘#2′ or the ‘Valu-Kit’ or whatever they name the rubbish they box for sale in national chain restaurants. You could skate over to MLK Blvd and fill out an application immediately, forgoing the reading the remainder of this surly rant. As it happens, you choose to work behind the counter in a boutique coffee house where the menu is not reduced to efficient numerical packages, and the overwhelming majority of the populace does not have a comprehensive and intimate knowledge of every cake and tart in your case.
One wonders, as I do, what it was that you were doing that was so important that made my approach to the counter such a distraction. I would expect that you are in this cafe for the term of your shift, which is the same number of hours regardless of what any moment’s task entails, whether it is cutting eight dollar slices of peanut butter cake, hosing human fæces from the bathroom sink, or standing sedately at the register when a customer tries to order.
Given a choice, what else would you do with your time at the cafe? Were there many lives depending on you checking the messages your iPhone? Were you on the verge of breaking through a gene sequence that would prevent cancer or provide telepathy for future generations of humans? Was Obama texting you for advice on how to get 30,000 troops to haul ass to Afghanistan before accepting a Nobel Peace prize?
In the event, no one asked you to stop what you are doing and ‘wait for me’. I walked into the building and stopped five feet, minimum, from the counter to have a look. This tableauxist is the one least known for meticulous descriptions of a cafe’s physical complexion and superficies, but I do take notice. For these are those ‘things I can’t live without’ that are listed in my online profile, but they are not something I can sit down and catalog in any cohesive form. Why do you think I only write internally monologued biographies?
If my apparent dispassionate observations come across as confusion or befuddlement, maybe I am too easily distracted; perhaps if you tore down the display stands hocking earrings made from seashells and hot glue and demounted the matted laser prints of potted plants and shutters, and you instead put up a massive banner that states ‘No Vegan Items’, then I could rush the counter with out the need to spend a minute scanning every piece of text on site before my approach for a coffee.
What Ho! Can you imagine my surprise when upon my ordering ‘a coffee‘, you had to ask ‘what kind?‘?
“Wouldn’t it be nice if a barista could just take a simple order?”
There is only one thing ‘coffee’ can mean. I didn’t say I needed ‘coffee + soymilk’ or ‘coffee + sugar’ or ‘coffee + hazelnuts’. You don’t pour a sack of flour into a bowl and say ‘here’s your cake’; if you add anything to coffee then it is no longer ‘coffee’. If I say ‘coffee’, all I want in the cup is coffee. There is no ‘kind’, if I wanted a ‘kind of coffee’, I would have asked for coffee with a kind of something.
The only way your question would have been valid would be if you had a dozen varietals and/or roasts to choose from, which you did not, or if you offered a variety of brewing methods, such a vacuum pots, french press, the Method method, or cowboy coffee. Even then, I would expect your question to be, ‘How would you like that coffee brewed, superuser?‘, since the ‘kind’ of coffee remains the same, but you only serve the standard auto drip.
This is cafe tableaux; when it comes to writing about about the nature of a cafe’s coffee, or the coffee + smilk, if you please, only I can decide what is apropos. To the reader who wonders, ‘hey brah, why don’t you devote more time to the coffee/baristas/lighting/whatever other hook I feel is so vital?‘, the answer is ‘because this is cafe tableaux‘.
However, in contradiction to my usual affected aloofness with regards to the rabble’s criticisms, to nip that shit, I’ll tell you now: I have found nothing remarkable about the coffee at Gallery Espresso, except that it was convenient and never hot enough. I’ve never touched the food there, but I once rendezvoused here with a couple of skinnies from pie v cake; they could not stop raving about the non-vegan pecan pie, and I recall they went back for second pieces. Also, you need a key to use the head. That should cover everything.
Anyway, this ‘tableau’ is obviously little more than a rambling diatribe. Gallery Espresso seems nice enough; it is just that one barista is a bit of a cunt. It strikes me that Gallery is a place is more suited for tourists to get sandwiches after visiting the Forrest Gump bench or the Girl Scouts house than it is a place for locals to meet for their Sunday morning Reading Circle (this week: The Red and The Black), so a barista could call you a ‘shit stain’ to your face for all the difference it would make, as you won’t be around town for a second visit anyway.
This could probably be taken up in a klatch – and would have been if anyone used it – but I wonder if cafe tableaux might develop a classification system for the various but limited cafe typologies. It is not for a lack of cafes or trying that this superuser rarely posts new tableaux; you see, unlike JHT, I am unable to eat dung and shit silver — trust me, I have seen the man in person and it coats him like dew every morn. The truth is, believe it or not, I am debilitated by depression and loneliness 9 days out of 10, and the chances that anything noteworthy transpires at the moment I visit a cafe are slim to none; it is this fading of one cafe experience into the next as ‘my life drips like coffee down the drain‘ that unmans me as I stare at an empty jotter night after night.
Allow me to assure the reader, I have tried to enliven events, for your sakes — manipulating craigslist missed connections all week before going in to judge the employees’ and customers’ behaviour, or pouring coffee on a cute girl’s notebook whilst she is in the restroom then telling her that I saw the guy who did it running out the door. However, though we are not objective here, it seems like an impropriety to affect the story with such tactics; this is not ‘gonzo tableaux’.
So! All of these cafes look the same to me. After describing one of each type in the first round of tableaux, I have no zest for listing their details again and again. If this site were to take any lesson from Burger King, we could just stamp out ‘visited a #2′ and maybe keep the attention of the baristas at Gallery:
1. Strip Mall Cafe — Clad with cheap wood veneer, tile floor, and neon. Owned by a wife-husband team or a sole proprietor with another, reliable source of income; they have heard that this Starbucks thing has made billions of dollars, so they want the same from cafe. Bottles of syrup prominently displayed. Everything looks cheap and cash-and-carry, because they put bare minimum of profit back into store, for the rest goes to buy a new flat screen or smart-phone. Lasts 10-15 months.
2. Business Cafe – Run by someone who is not particularly into coffee or cafe ‘culture’, but knows how to run a service business. Usually savvy enough to leave coffee/cafe decisions to someone else. Likely have broader menu than just coffee drinks. On the ball about fixing things.
3. Passion Cafe – People love coffee and will do anything to keep store running, like it is their baby or puppy. Similar to the Strip Mall, but the owners are more earnest, and have quit their jobs and invested all savings into cafe. Trying too many things at once to make everyone happy, they burn out in 8-10 months, putting up a sign that says ‘coming back soon’. Probably would be the type of cafe run by most contributors to cafe tableaux.
4. BoHo – Mismatched chairs and cups. Lamps on tables. Menu is hand written in chalk cute names for ‘specialty’ drinks that every other cafe also has (ex, espresso shot in coffee: red eye, shot in the dark, dive bomber, brown star). Meets most people’s conception of a cafe, because it is what they would see on tv or movies, but it is not the actual ‘cafe’ they go to (see 5).
5. Corporate Lite – Not a chain, yet, so you don’t feel like a complete asshole for visiting, but you do feel like an asshole lite. Menu is a printed sign that matches the furnishings. They have store-bought prints framed on the wall. A logo is printed on cups and paper takeaway menus. They are most likely to open a drive-thru.
6. College Cash Barn – Near university or similar high traffic area. Owners don’t have to do anything special but keep the electricity on, and the money just pours in the doors. Could also fit into other types’ classifications, which is unfortunate in the case of Strip Mall or Corporate Lite, as they will last for years.
This is a work in progress; feel free to add your own.
For the sake of disclosure, and to defuse a barrage of charges of elitism and class warfare, it shall be known that this tableauxist was himself a barista for six (6) years and in that time was only gruff with a single customer — in a case that was justified. All disgruntle and crabbiness was directed at the other baristas, until the day I had to quit, so as to avoid being ‘taken outside and taught how to shut [my] mouth‘, but that is a tableau for another day…
Gallery Espresso234 Bull Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
wifi: free access