Monday, October 20, 2008

Java Journeys: Sitwell's

I have a little bit of an emo streak.

I don't know if it's the brooding introspection or the fabulously dark wardrobe, but I've always fancied myself a little bit jaded and hipster. It's not the kind of thing I wear on the outside, what with some of the conventionality I experience day-in-day-out, but make no mistake about it - I'd take the Cure or some Nine Inch Nails over Dave Matthews any day.

So when I set out to explore the first in this week's series on local, independent coffee shops, I relished the opportunity to step in the sanctity of a college hangout.

Sitwell's at 324 Ludlow Ave. is an eclectic mix of people and surroundings. When you walk in the door, you'll notice a long, cluttered bar to the right of the room. The center and left are filled with tables of different proportions to accomodate almost any group. Just beyond the length of the bar, you'll find a place to stand and order your to-go cappuccinos, coffees and other drinks, but you really shouldn't get your drink for the road.

No, you should grab a seat and soak up some of the awesome, funky ambiance.

I picked the furthest table from the door - a two-top all the way in the back and close to the restrooms. This was a perfect vantage point for me to scope out the crowd while flipping through the pages of my latest, favoritest book. The bartender/server took my order for a Stella (a great deal at $3.25 a bottle) and a plate of the Brie Snack - melted slices of brie topped with honey, walnuts and dried cranberries, on a plate ringed with Granny Smith apple slices ($6.25).

The server promptly dropped my beer and then returned with the fantastic snack plate. I was instantly torn between indulging my need for brie and the suspenseful story splayed on the pages of my paperback.

In between bites and sentences, I'd glance around the room, taking in some artistic photography of Anti-Bush images and the tunes playing on the restaurant sound system - a mix of indie music that is more likely to appear on a seasonal mix from Micah than in a playlist on my iPod.

I ventured to the bathroom in between Stellas and found a slightly endearing loose doorknob and a collection of kitshy postcards and photography. The space outside the restrooms held a long shelf covered with books and chess pieces and other things patrons can puruse for their amusement while at Sitwell's. Inside the restroom, I discovered a map of Asia with sketches of the people from Burma and Thailand and India and Japan and so on. The walls were covered in the scrawls of spurned lovers and dreamers and tortured students.

I returned to the main room and noticed people in chunky glasses and casual clothing typing away on their computers, enjoying the free wi-fi. Other young couples comiserated in the dim light over cups of coffee, their chatter a faint layer under the eclectic tunes played on the stereo.

I finished my beer, longing for a time I could return to Sitwell's ~ a time when I could return without my suit and with my chunky, black shoes.


patrick said...

Great review of a great place! Cant believe the landlord almost closed it to open a Greek Restaurant a few years ago...

I read your blog periodically and I always enjoy it. You're a great writer, and you always bring the nati a little closer while I'm away at school in DC. Thanks!

Kate The Great said...

Patrick! Welcome to the blog! I was so pleased to discover Sitwell's this week, and yet disappointed that it had taken me three and a half years to get there!

So glad I can remind you of Cincinnati a bit while you're in DC! This town is a hidden treasure that many people don't know about or take advantage of!

Be well :)

ShannanB said...

Sitwells was MY place in college. I spent so many hours there Lisa should have charged me rent. I am glad you loved it too. It cause cause a little nostalgia!