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I remember when Lily's used to be in University Heights, cater-corner to Henry's. Now the cafe there has shut down and moved to Normal Heights. The address is on Adams Avenue, but the door really opens about thirty meters down 35th Street. The only reason I noticed it was because a little sandwich board had been set out on the sidewalk to bring passersby down the road. The unassuming door has the same sign that used to hang on the gate out front of the old location, which piqued my curiosity enough to pop in for a cup of java despite the heat of the afternoon.

I'm weird like that--if I drink coffee, it's going to be hot no matter how high the mercury runs.

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What can I say, I expected gardens! The only way I can really describe the inside of Lily's is that it reminds me of basements that I used to play in as a kid when the grown-ups would banish us below the earth at family gatherings. The mixed-up decor and fluorescent lighting (there were no windows) in conjunction with the relative lack of noise (any background sounds were lost in the thick, wall-to-wall carpeting) evoked the subterranean feel of the 21st-century dungeon.

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The guests at the occupied table spoke loudly about the nature of God and His infallibility.

The man at the cash machine handed me a small cup from behind the airpots and I poured a custom blend of half Folger's-grade and half chocolate-flavored coffee. Both were actually hot, which was a surprise. The cream was sitting out in an opaque relic of a plastic jug and the sugar was in a Tupperware with a spoon for doling out the required amount.

The cost of my small coffee was $1.50, and it was actually better than I expected, though far from an elite cup of joe.

Lily's Garden Cafe fascinated and spooked me in roughly equal portions.

The word on the street is that the place is a base of operations for lots of 12-step groups, which would be consistent with the vibe. Also, the website says the cafe is Buddhist in philosophy and practice, which is interesting and something that one might not guess from the decor, but definitely adds a layer of mystery to this room where people gather away from the sun to drink half-good coffee.

3501 Adams Ave
619-398-5511
M-Th 8-8
F 8-9
Sat 9-9 Sun 9-5

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