The Village Coffee House (née Mean Bean)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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When this place was called Mean Bean, it had a powerful set of advantages, not least of which was its position as a foil to the shortcomings of the other cafes in southern Center City; every time we tried to visit the Stellar on Spruce only to find it closed, or when we couldn’t bide the noise and attitude at Last Drop, or when we were re-convinced that the Pour House was for brunch eaters, we would invariably gravitate toward Mean Bean.

Village Coffee House

The paper cups of coffee in which soymilk consistently clotted were certainly not the draw, nor was the erratic service. The current week’s twink could barely point the spout at the cup, let alone handle a wand or understand that iced coffee is not brewed by running cubes through the filter. Rather, their expertise was in keeping the beefcake turned up to eleven; in the four or five days that they spent employed, they could not be expected to master the ordeals of the barista as they whiled away the hours tousling their coifs and raising their midriffs.

Once you coached them through the task of filling your cup, you would find that no indoor seating was available; all the tables were on the sidewalk or patio. Covered with a trellis and screened with vines, the patio was adjacent to a community garden, so as you looked up from your Sunday crossword or your Braudel you could find yourself musing on pastoral dreams sparked by eggplant on the vine rather than distracted by the abortion clinic or the ‘Everything But Ice Cream’ shop down the street.

Village Coffee House

One afternoon we entered to find the room reeking of benzene; the register had been moved, and the counter had been cleared of cups and peanut butter cookies. In place of the usual slab of man candy, there was a diminutive, mani/pedicured woman filling out a skin-tight cocktail dress. In response to our hesitancy and our whispered comments on the changes, she made a joke, perhaps, in the form of a sarcastic, ‘Yes, we are changing things!’

Apparently the soy policy is one of those things.

“Do you have soymilk?” The question comes after coffee tab is paid.
“Yes…” Slowly she hands it over the counter. “Ordinarily we charge 50 cents for soymilk.” She waits expectantly.
“OK” Soymilk is poured, generously, and 50 cents is not offered.
“For next time,” she advises.

Before there was a next time, the name was changed to The Village Coffee House to reflect new management and more overt gayness; each time we are on the street, we have talked ourselves out of visiting, lamenting the lack of easy cafes in southern Center City.

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The Village Coffee House (née Mean Bean)

1112 Locust Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

soymilk: extra charge
fair trade: not available

2 Responses to “The Village Coffee House (née Mean Bean)”

  1. Kim Matott

    Both Mean Bean and the Village Coffee House that replaced it are gone. The new venue at the location is under construction, and it looks like its going to be an art gallery or print shop. Joe Coffee is still a block north.

  2. Jennifer

    This breaks my heart! I moved from Philadelphia three years ago, but still pine for it. I used to love hanging out at the Mean Bean. Sniffle.

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