What is it about cafés that grab our attention? Ah, well…I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I don’t know what catches yours. But mine? For some reason, no matter where I am, I see a café and I can’t help but wonder about it. How’s their coffee? Do they serve pie, is it any good? Do they have breakfast all day? How’re their eggs and bacon and pancakes? If a café can get those three right it’s probably a good one. But I can tell whether their food will be worth trying before I even sit down.
You can feel it.There’s a certain smell to the good ones. Hell, the bad ones too. They say smell is the one sense that best connects us to memories. You might think I’m chasing something stuck in the past. That I’m searching for ‘the one that got away’. In part, you’d be right. But that’s just it, you’d only have part of it. You see, where I had the best cup of coffee isn’t where I had the best buckwheat pancakes, and where I had the best fried egg (my god, those perfect golden edges) isn’t where I had the best bacon. The best slice of cherry pie I ever had was the same place that served three-day old bread for their toast—I still don’t understand it.
What I’m looking for might not exist. Having been to dozens—maybe hundreds—of cafés at this point, I’m beginning to think it very well doesn’t. That’s alright. It might be better this way. Gives me something to look for. A goal to ever try and reach. What would I do if I found the perfect café? A café where the toast is just right, where the butter is warm enough to spread but not so warm it’s a puddle, where the bacon is crispy but never burnt, the coffee fresh and hot and smooth as chocolate and honey? I suppose if I ever found such a place I’d have to quit my job as a traveling salesman and settle down right there.
It’s odd to both look for a thing, but at the same time hope you never find it.