Ah – the comfort of knowing your surroundings. I live South, so I hang out a lot South, and Earth Fare on Hendersonville Road is one of my favorites. It’s like everyone knows my name. “JAMES!” they all say. I waddle to the end of the bar, muttering something about how rough it is “out there” and have a seat with a mailman with a pushbroom moustache. There’s this exceptionally unattractive waitress with a foul attitude, but Sam, the friendly bartender hands me a…
The fantasies of terminally adolescent graphic artists can be fascinating or irritating, depending upon your mood. And – unfortunately, I generally find them irritating – and they’re all between MY ears. You only have to read about them.
But – this place is comforting to me. Not the best, not the worst – but comfortable. I used to hang out here when I was a teenager and it was a fairly new Food Lion. My buddy was dating a chick that worked in the bakery, and she had this friend with black hair and black fingernails. Now, I buy my groceries here (and we buy a flipping boatload of groceries,) I hang out and work here, I have meetings here. I’ve been in here a million times, and it feels like a well worn-in pair of Chucks. It’s got it’s ups and downs – strikes and gutters.
First, of course, I will comment on the coffee. $1 for a ceramic mug that I’ve been told you can refill ad nauseum – so that’s at least a letter grade higher, just because I’m cheap and I value a good deal on my beanage. It’s mostly Larry’s Beans, though it rotates. Today, there was a house brand “Columbian Rhapsody” and Larry’s Beans Mightier Mocha Java. The house, honestly – not so good. A little weak, perhaps – but again a little fruity for me. The actual bean quality, I think, is there – but it was a pretty average cup of coffee. The Mightier Mocha Java was a little better. Good and deep. Still left a little to be desired, but – hell – it’s better than McDonalds and 80% of the coffee I’m served by “Friends*.” Both were plenty hot and fresh. So – solid, but not spectacular.
Second, the atmosphere. It’s nice. Big windows, reasonably quiet, and the indoor seating is kind of set apart from the rest of the store, so there’s a little less visual noise. The booths are comfy, and there’s generally plenty of places to sit. The lighting is a little bright, and in the afternoon, you get quite a bit of light from the windows. They’re heavily tinted, so it doesn’t completely overwhelm your monitor – but it does wash out colors, so design accordingly. The employees are great, and they’ve even kind of come to know my purchasing habits – which is a little weird, but, whatever. The clientelle is a bit upscale, so I’m out of place as the aging punk doofus, but that’s really not unusual. Not a bad perch for working and people watching. A little Sisters of Mercy on some ear buds, and you’re miles away. Even the announcements and traffic noise disappear into the background with Mr. Eldritch crooning beautiful songs of aspiring actresses committing suicide in December.
Third – and my big problem here: The internet speed, while reliably up, is also reliably unreliable as far as speed goes. I’m getting 59ms ping, .5 down, .4 up. Workable, but maddening. Certainly not good for uploading all my sweet midi remakes of Cure songs, but enough for email and light tasks. This varies, though – I’ve had as fast as 8mbps down, but I’ve found that’s the exception and not the rule.
Fourth – Electrical. FANTABULOUS. This is one of the better equipped stops in Asheville. There are at least 20 plugs near the windows and booths, but that’s the only place I’ve found them. If you can snag a window seat, you’re golden – but if you have to sit elsewhere, you better have a battery or a long cord.
Fifth – this is a great place for camping and I do it pretty regularly. I’ve hung around from 8-5:30, and didn’t feel awkward. It’s not so busy that you feel like you’re depriving someone of a seat, the coffee is plentiful and pretty o.k., and there’s juice to keep you rolling. The slow speeds can be a detriment to campability, but if you’re doing stuff that doesn’t require massive bandwidth, you’re cool. The folks that work here don’t seem to mind, so – hang out. ‘Cause sometimes you wanna be where everyone knows your name. Or – more to the point – where everyone leaves you alone to freeload.
And, without further adieu, my insanely influential grades:
Coffee: B+ (varies, though – be careful)
Find it On the Map: Google Map Here
Easter Egg: Dig their $5 lunch. Cup of soup and a half wrap – a killer deal. I can eat breakfast (2 strips of bacon and a big wad of scrambled eggs) and lunch here, with coffee all day, and come out at just about $8 total. Not bad. Plus, if you’re observant and wander the store a little bit, there’s frequently samples and freebies. Never a bad thing – you can stock up on cheese and fruit samples if you’re not wanting to part from your hard-earned scratch. I don’t condone ripping folks off – but, sometimes you’re just broke and you need something to help cut the caffeine jitters. Tiny cubes of cheese and single grapes are good for that.