<< Front page Commentary March 19, 2004

A necessary 40 minute drive to find good coffee

Part 2 in a 2 -part series about Ohio City

The imminent closure of the Café at Oberlin Music has many people wondering where they’ll go to imagine they’re somewhere besides Oberlin.

That seems to be a significant part of the Café’s appeal; somehow, once you’re ensconced in there amongst the Schubert scores and coffee-stained spoons, it’s hard to believe that Mudd is but a four-minute jaunt away.

Until there’s a new place where we can pretend we’re not dwellers of a one-horse town who all eat institutional fare in cafeterias twice a day, we must cast the net wider.

Having a place to drink coffee and comfortably read, uninterrupted for long stretches of time, is crucial to many peoples’ sense of equilibrium. (For most of us, however, our lack of equilibrium in general prevents concentration while reading under any circumstances.)

Unfortunately the café-sitting options that remain here in town are as played out as the first Strokes album.

The lighting at the Java Zone is only somewhat less devastating than their pastries, the DeCafé is the epicenter of all that one might want to escape, and the music at the Feve is too familiar to do reading.

It was with a sense of purpose hardened by utter boredom that I left town last weekend looking for a new place to space out over my ERes history printouts.

Back in Ohio City for the second week in a row, I decided to check out Talkies, a café on Market Street (just across the street from the West Side Market) that also has a projector on which the Cleveland Film Society occasionally holds screenings. When there’s a film showing, the main room can be filled with up to 50 people.

The woman behind the counter indicated that films are shown about once a month, although she couldn’t offer me a schedule.

I recommend calling ahead to see what’s going on. My first visit to Talkies was on a Sunday at around noon, and I can confirm that, unlike most Sunday afternoons at Oberlin Music, you will be able to find a quiet seat for yourself, probably even next to a window. And best of all, every person who walks through those doors for the entire time you’re there will be a stranger to you.

Even within the predictably quirky paradigm of little cafés, Talkies is fairly unusual. It’s made up of three separate rooms that feel something like the front part of a sweet Upper West Side apartment.

The tables and chairs are comfortable and mismatched (and judging from the way people fawned over the furniture at ol’ Oberlin Music, this detail seems to really tickle our bourgeois-bohemian funnybones).

During the day, the lighting comes in mostly from the windows that look out onto the street (which, by the way, is paved with cobblestones — which may strike some as cute and others as precious).

Talkies has a sandwich menu, as well as smoothies, ice cream, cakey dessert and $3.50 root beer floats. It’s all pretty good, not so much so that I feel like rhapsodizing about it but totally worth the trip given the calm atmosphere and the wholesale lack of other members of the Oberlin community.

Admittedly, I showed up there in a fairly peaced-out state and I found some details more annoying than perhaps is reasonable. For example, the cute names on the menu; all the items are film names cleverly altered. I ordered a Last Mango in Paris smoothie. Despite my ambivalence about the name, though, the smoothie was big, fresh and awesome; as was the coffee.

Driving 40 minutes through a demoralizing suburban landscape for a coffee and a danish might seem a little extreme. But this is also extreme: the desperation for new surroundings, and the need to get some reading done.

Talkies Film and Coffee Bar
2521 Market Avenue
Ohio City, Cleveland
Open 7 days
Call 216-696-FILM for film info


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