I spent a quiet evening at Intermezzo, probably one of the oldest and well-known coffee shops of Atlanta. When I first ventured there in ’98, it was unlike anything the metro Atlanta area had ever offered me. At that time, I had never been out of the country, and this cafe was exactly what I imagined cafes across Europe should look like. As an art major at a liberal arts school, I of course felt this was the place I should call mine. Starbucks had yet to enter the area, and the local Caribou was were you got your big cup, chatted with your class mates that worked behind the counter, then parked yourself by the faux fireplace while delving into Max Weber. Caribou offered me the option to wear my grungy liberal arts student persona, while Intermezzo gave me the chance to saunter around with my artsy friends and exude the aura of a future master.
Nine years later, Starbucks abound at every corner, the local Caribou closed, and I had failed as an independant artist. While living abroad I had visited many cafes, but Intermezzo still held a place in my coffee loving heart back in the ATL. On my way there tonight, I passed two Starbucks, and yet I kept on going. Was the coffee that much better? It certainly wasn’t cheaper. Well, yes Starbucks can’t beat the Ciocloccino and they certainly don’t have Ukrainian beers (not that they would really want to). Starbucks has a nice modern interior, relaxing music (that I can buy right there, of course). My seat at Intermezzo was stained and I could barely hear the music above the crowds and espresso machine. However, this is what I love. These imperfections and the chaotic energy deepen the colors on the walls and add a warm glow to the wood floors. They invite me back time and again.
We’ve learned in Intro Design that these cafes aren’t selling coffee, they’re selling an experience. And now I can greatly see this, just in my choice of how to spend the “big evening” (hey, money is short). While my husband goes for the cakes, I want the old brick walls, variety of faces mingling about and the energy they bring past midnight. There is something in their street sign that is warm and welcoming. It’s not perfectly clean, yet I sense class. I enjoy eavesdropping on surrounding conversations, from the drag queens visiting from New York, to the first date couple with the boring lady going on and on about her family’s health problems. Gag – but joy in such diversity…and I smiled sympathetically to the man as I left – his table had been an embellishment to my experience.
Now Atlanta has a few other cafes that have blossomed in East Atlanta, L5, the Highlands, and whatever Octane land is called. Buckhead is still a little bland, and now that Intermezzo has opened also at Perimeter, I feel it lost a little dignity. However, I want the experience and will keep on coming…I’m a sucker for sugar cubes, alirght!
And if you recommend any other coffee shops, do tell me!