When my friends told me about this place, it was a no-brainer – alcohol and learning, my two go-tos, under one roof? Books (yes, I still read, either Kindle or good old-fashioned paper and ink and binding, got to have that tactile experience) and locally-sourced beverages - what’s not to love? Took the train to this cute little town midweek to check it all out.
We walked in and I was in heaven! The ceiling of this place is incredible, make sure to look up when you go and you should go, even though I did have a few problems, which I will get to. But first, the positives: the books, umm where do I start: every Murakami, the new Doris Kearns Goodwin, and all those Ottolenghi cookbooks I would love to line my kitchen counters with, I mean, hello? I was practically doing a happy dance. My BF sat at the bar and ordered a beer from the great selection, so he was in hop heaven, but my gluten sensitivity makes brew a no-go area for me, so I asked for a glass of wine. No prob! The older woman bartender was friendly, Neil Young’s Zuma was playing, the other bartender was the coolest, cutest hipster girl but super-nice – I thought I’d entered this weird alternative universe where everybody is laid back and nobody bad-vibes you like in Brooklyn – I was mentally booking a U-Haul to move here I loved it so much. Then the trouble started.
That wine I ordered? When was the last time you visited a bar and they couldn’t find a corkscrew? Like – never? Exactly! I sat and waited, my tongue hanging out from thirst, while the two aforementioned bartenders (still super-nice, but appearing more lame by the minute) rummaged around behind the bar looking for the proper implement to jettison a cork from a bottle of what looked like a drinkable sauvignon blanc.
Zuma was now on its second time around and they had to move the fridge out while the younger one climbed up with her phone as a flashlight to look behind it. Still no corkscrew? My BF was offering to go to a deli or something to buy a new one when they finally opened the bottle. All this commotion for a simple glass of cold wine was making me hungry, so I ordered one of the tamales they had listed on the board.
“Sorry, we ran out.” FAIL! Just then a lady came in with a box of steaming, fresh tamales. She was all out of breath, talking about how everyone was mad at her because her dog had roughed up a neighbor and she didn’t know what the fuss was. I was drooling for a tamale and eventually they got one out of the box and served it to me on a plate with some hot sauce – delish! You know how these things can either be too dry or the opposite, a total grease-bomb? Not these babies.
After that tasty snack, my BF tried several times to get the bartenders’ attention for another beer but they were too busy getting the tamale lady to talk to the roughed-up neighbor who’d just happened to walk in. I started to wonder if we had wandered into a community center.
Then a big guy came in with a lot of paintings under his arm. He was able to get a fresh pilsner, Zuma was starting a third time and my BF finally scored a porter while I ordered a cup of tea. A man came in looking a lot like Mr. Big from Sex and the City, my long-time-ago favorite show, sigh – yes I was that young and naive once. My BF nudged me – it was Mr. Big. He stood chatting with the girls behind the bar while I munched a to-die-for peanut butter cookie that had just been delivered by a cute Italian-looking man the bartenders referred to as Dolly The Drag Queen. So all was right with the world.
EXCEPT for when I went to the bathroom, back by the children’s book section. There were NO PAPER TOWELS! With dripping wet hands I went to the cash register area at the end of the bar and told the older woman. She apologized profusely and handed me a paper napkin, saying the towel delivery was on its way. She even offered to dry my hands for me, she felt that bad.
When we received our bill, which we had to strain to hear as Zuma was playing yet again, I couldn’t believe how reasonable the prices were. So all in all, a good place. I’d give it five stars except for the paper towel incident, I mean hello? Wet hands and books? Still, highly recommended.
But if Neil Young makes your skin crawl (luckily I’m not one of those people) stay away or bring earplugs. And if you’re one of the few people who don’t drink those fabulous craft beers, remember to bring your own corkscrew.