Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Subterranean Coffee Boutique
I went berserk at my phone trying to find the new coffee place in North Park via Google. I had seen it and vaguely remembered the location and name, but all my searches for “underground coffee” kept turning up the wrong hits.
“Hateful device!” I screamed at the phone. “Give me what I need!”
Then I just went looking for it like a normal person would and I found it right where it should be.
There has to be a lesson there.
Super-jazzy decor inside. The walls were painted red and the various tables and chairs had a handcrafted look about them, some having been fashioned from raw trees that imitated sun-bleached dessert wood. There was a nice chess set sitting by the window and I really wished I had someone to play against since I seldom get to have a game “over the board.” It was pretty close inside, with an intimate feel and soft lighting from the stained glass light fixtures.
The music was good, loud enough to hear it but not so loud that it earworms its way in and prevents me from writing anything, and the friendly staff behind the counter were all smiles and not trying to act cool like it’s Seattle ‘93 and being a barista is edgy.
I’m not 100% nuts about coffee from Cafe Moto, which Subterranean sells, but they seem to know how to handle the beans and not serve up over-strong or under-powered coffee. Delightfully, this new shop had put reasonable prices on their coffee. Even with a $2.50 cappuccino, the margin is great compared to other kinds of food.
The shop has sandwiches--club sandwiches, tuna salads, and their ilk--and a few pastries to soak up the caffeine and ward off the jitters. Like the coffee, prices looked to be in the realm of “reasonable.” Joy.
While the prices and decor were agreeable, Subterranean lacked some refinement in the details. The service was a bit clumsy and certain things, like easy to locate wastebaskets and the availability of cream, hadn’t been worked out to the point where the process runs like a well-oiled machine. Because of this, there’s an amateur feel. I suspect the owners are new to the business and, while they have good instincts, haven’t worked out the kinks yet. That’s not a deal breaker, but it tempers the experience somewhat. Given time, this prime location on 30th Street could become a great place to hang out. Coffee shops benefit from a certain degree of patination and as layers of palimpsestic hipsterism build up on Subterranean’s strong base, I think the effect could be excellent.
3764 30th Street