I just found an old draft I had never published. Maybe you have a favorite place not mentioned here.
The New York Time published a swell piece Dec. 3, 2010, about Laptopistan, the strange culture of the coffeehouse as office. The writer initially scoffs at the idea before realizing why people go to work on coffeehouse tables; it makes them focus, free of the distractions of web surfing and gaming.
I totally buy into that: you can get a lot of work done, focus in, drill down—if you hit the coffeehouse sweet spot.
Ah, the sweet spot! Premium coffeehouse gestalt. When it works, coffeehouse heaven. Work sings, juices flow, metaphors collide. When it doesn’t, well, coffeehouse hell.
One recent week, I really, really needed a nice coffee shop with decent coffee, noninvasive music and some cozy semisolitude. What I got were icy drafts from leaky doors and windows, and loud Christmas music, including two renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” (my least favorite holiday song) within 15 minutes.
I have a longstanding dream of opening a coffee house on my terms: no music (want noise? start a conversation or bring your iPod), kindly baristas, table service, good food (cupcakes and healthier offerings), plenty of electrical outlets, warm in the winter, not too chilly in summer…a place for anyone who wants to get some work done.
Nice dream, bad business model.
Some recent detours into the dark side of Laptopistan (not mentioning negative names, but you know which ones they are):
- Bad coffee: bitter, over-brewed
- Bad lattes (you have to start with decent coffee). For years I thought I didn’t like lattes because I had such a bad one at a Starbucks. But there’s been a sea change; now one can get a decent latte at Starbucks. And the stores are usually good places to work, if crowded. Anti-Starbucks snobs: get over it.
- Invasive music (everywhere!)
- Uncomfortable and/or cramped seating, small tables, no place to spread out papers
- Uninteresting food: please, more than bagels and muffins
- Unpleasant or uncaring staff: It took several visits, but a couple of establishments on Hawthorne that serve decent coffee finally frosted me out.
- Accessibility issues (stairs). I try to be accommodating. I can lift the walker up a few steps or carry the laptop in a backpack while using canes. The scooter, however, has to stay outside.
Here are some Eastside places I like.
- Red & Black on SE 11th: Kombucha on tap, dragon noodles, sometimes vegan cupcakes…nearly always a good place to work.
- Marino’s on Division: Wonderful people, including the owner, Dario, and assorted musicians who wander in, play a few pieces, have a cuppa and drift away. The food s good and varied. Cappuccinos are actually breves—as advertised, the best in town.
- Floyd’s on Morrison: If you can get a good seat on a quiet day, a great place to write.
- Seven Virtues on NE Glisan: Stark white wood like Floyd’s adds to a similarly chilly atmosphere, but great for a long haul of working. Try the soup.
- TaborSpace on Belmont: A church’s huge common room with stained glass, big tables, lots of outlets, and the bakery goods are refreshingly small—no horrid megamuffins. It’s a true neighborhood gathering place, so sometimes the conversations or kids’ loud play can be distracting.
- Bipartisan Cafe on Morrison: Too crowded most days, but they have pie!
- Utopia on Stark: Quiet, pleasant, limited menu, I can scooter there.
- Bare Bones on Belmont: good food, great happy hour, big old step plus a screen door, but I can make it. Scooter stays outside.
- And Starbucks, now that they have free wifi and Pike Place blend. Great bathrooms! I miss the one at SE 20th and Hawthorne, one of those closed when the chain retrenched a few years ago. The best thing about the one in the new Safeway at 27th and Hawthorne is that you can buy food from elsewhere in the store, and you can’t tip the baristas even if you want to, because they work for Safeway, not Starbucks.
Working at home, especially in the morning before Bob is up and about, can be efficient, cheaper—certainly quieter. But sometimes, I just want a cup of someone else’s cappuccino—and maybe a tiny goodie, like a single Starbucks miniscone.
Time for a trip to Laptopistan.