My wife and I are huge fans of going to cafes in any city we visit. But there are exceptions.
We were enjoying a sunny day off last Monday in Rochester and were heading out for breakfast at the popular Highland Diner, but had talked about trying to find locally roasted coffee. Purely by chance, I happened to notice the Boulder Cafe on Alexander St. as we drove by. It looked as though it was good-sized, and its sign and decor seemed to indicate a good product and atmosphere, so we decided to stop.
The decor was the characteristically youthful and funky style you tend to find in city cafes, splashy paintings, posters, ironic paraphenelia from the second-hand store, you know the drill. It was very spacious, with plenty of comfortable seating. Then the fun ended. We went to the counter to order, and were greeted with “what do you want?” by a young white brown-haired woman. We were both brought up short by this noticeable brusqueness, but ordered anyway. I’ve written elsewhere about some cafe staff being distracted and apparently resentful of having a menial job, but at least they usually manage to force out a “can I help you?” or “what can I get for you?” Maybe rudeness is the new assertiveness, a way of sticking it to the Man.
By contrast, when our coffee was served, it was very good. We sat down to enjoy it. They have a large sound system there, and the music was pretty loud for a cafe. I enjoyed some of it, such as Regina Spektor, but much of the other music was standard-issue angry indie dreck, which actually went well with the personality of our tough little barista. We finished fairly quickly and left, instead of our planned leisurely sipping, reading, and snacking.
One could easily, and rightfully, say that everyone has a bad day, other staff are friendly, the music is normally not so loud in the daytime, and so on. But as any restaurant or cafe owner knows, you only get one chance for a first impression, and we will not be going back. If it had been something like an honest mistake, as opposed to deliberate rudeness, we might have been willing to try again another time. Hey, if you like very good coffee and have no need for friendly staff or tasteful music volume, this could be your place!
We went on to have a nice breakfast at the Highland, and decided to go to our usual favorite cafe, The Spot. Although the music was pleasant and the atmosphere good as usual, even they managed a couple missteps. We nearly always order the pie there, which is delicious and served in generous portions. There was none this time, so we opted for a couple of fruit tortes. These looked nice, but proved to be very dry. We turned them back in, and the staff member was kind enough to substitute lemon tarts, which were much better. She said that they bring in the tortes every other day, but even two-days-old tortes should be in better shape than that.
The other thing was the men’s room, which smelled really nasty, and definitely needed a cleaning. They had the door propped open, which may have been an attempt to air it out until some male staff member arrived? Ouch. So I wonder if they are starting to deteriorate, or maybe are undergoing cost-cutting measures.
Our search for a really great cafe in Rochester will continue on our next visit – with all the ones they have, there has to be one!