Not that it was exactly torturous to move to 12 South, but Portland Brews is now branching back to Sylvan Park. I started patronizing Portland back when they were at the big road bend near McCabe Park because their Toasted Pecan brew hit my palate in just about all the right ways. It's the only place where I have regularly gone back the days that I knew that a particular blend was the grind of the day. I always thought that their former digs in Sylvan Park did not live up to the quality of their coffee and their breakfast. It always looked like a Starbucksanized Diary Queen to me. But then they moved over to the small strip mall-like building (a.k.a., "Industrial"?) in 12 South, and I thought things went from bad to worse, until they reworked the interior and added a patio (which made up for the lack of windows). I'll be interested to see how the new place measures up.
Last week I was in Bongo Java East (the Roasting Co. at Five Points) and Bob Bernstein and I crossed paths and had a chat. It had been several years since I spoke with Bob, but he no doubt remembers that he saw me writing most of my dissertation at Fido back in the 1990s (along with being a regular patron of Bongo Java West). I reminded him that as long as he's owned coffee places, I have lived within walking distance: Bongo West-Belmont; Fido-Hillsboro Village; Bongo East-Edgefield. So, I said to him, "You know, Bob, we recently moved to the Germantown area and we are in dire need of a local coffee house, so ..." And he finished the thought, "...why don't we move with you?" It seems only fair. Long story short, he told me that he had been looking at places over on the north end. He had even talked to the Werthan folks about putting a shop in the old factory. I told him that there were some old houses along Hume that had some of the best views of downtown. He told me he was really looking for a warehouse type of set-up to accommodate the roasting company, and that he needs to drive through the neighborhood again and look at what's available. I suggested that he drive through East Germantown near Neuhoff and check out the warehouses there. What will it take, Bob, to put you into this neighborhood?
All this coffee talk reminds me of the day Sam and Zoe's (Berry Hill) fell a couple of notches on my coffee house barometer. The last time I was there was long ago for a very good reason. They posted signs that said they would be charging patrons for the use of check cards because they were being charged by the credit card companies for the transactions. I was a little irritated by this, not because I need the 2 or 3 extra dimes in my account, but because the tone came across as condescension for the convenience of using a check card. I was a little insulted. I guess I figure that they should just go ahead and quietly pass on the expense to me and let me figure out why the coffee there is a few dimes more than coffee elsewhere. When I vented my irritation at the person at the register, she attempted to stifle me by saying that their coffee was so reasonably priced relative to others, that I would probably not notice any difference. I noticed that I paid about a quarter more for their coffee than I do at the Bongo Java Empire. That satisfied my sense of irony and I have had no cravings for Sam And Zoe's since that time.
On a final note: I refuse to get involved with the light-dark dualism that gets foisted when the talk heats up about local coffee places vs. Starbucks. I support local places about 95%-5% over Starbucks when I get coffee. I even like the local coffee better. But Starbucks is not the worst corporation in the world; that distinction goes to Walmart. To see the rancor over Starbucks, you would think that they were Sith Lords and that the local places were the selfless Jedi Masters. Bongo-Bob Kenobi? I don't think so.