Coffeehouse Snob Report

They tell me that Perk, the coffeehouse (and lone open eatery) in the new Glenwood Park development is owned and run by the same people who run Joe’s East Atlanta Coffee Shop. I’m surprised. Joe’s is a great outfit, a treat to visit, and Perk is not so much.

Perk, young and seemingly unnoticed, is sprinkled with a few quiet customers in an airy, bright space. It feels somehow empty. The floor space surrounding the bar cuts through the seating area, sometimes making it feel like you’re interrupting by coming inside. It feels like people — maybe just curious to see who else is visiting the new place — stare when you come in. The quiet’s uncomfortable.

What’s worse, the coffee’s not very good. Everything I’ve had there has been barely warm. The drink menu feels bland, despite having many of the same tasty oddities as Joe’s. [Edit: That is, the menus are almost identical, but I didn’t notice, ’cause once I’d been to Joe’s I pretty much stopped going back to Perk.]The pastries, what few they have, are good.

Perk was my first experience with this family of coffeehouses, and I was underwhelmed. In time that space in that location could be something great, but right now it feels like they’re not really trying. Maybe they’re saving their energy for the days when that new Glenwood Park area finally explodes. Right now it feels like a place with an unlit fuse, waiting to happen.

Joe’s, on the other hand, has won itself a unique victory through nuance. It’s menu is full of silly-named drinks with layers and layers of sugary syrups, but these drinks aren’t cloying melted desserts. The St. Joe is a nutty mocha that comes across as somewhat dry, not suffocatingly sweet. The Crazy Joe — a frappé with chocolate and coconut — should be candy, but instead it’s sweet without being punishing.

To order these drinks you’ll walk the narrow space between the bar and the house. Rather than feeling like you’re walking through the seating area, this avenue divides the place into two distinct areas: business and pleasure.

I was going to say “work and play,” but that’s not right. The vibe in Joe’s house is certainly one of work, even study. Last time I was in there, I counted 15 customers, 12 laptops and 14 laptop-users. How’s that work? At one sturdy second-hand table one guy’s typing into his notebook while another’s nodding along. On the big couch in the middle of the house a man and a woman lean towards each other, smiling into the glow of their liquid-crystal display. There are desks in Joe’s, wall outlets everywhere, and fat soft chairs with ready ottomans. People sit reclined behind their computers like the pilots on Picard’s Enterprise. The guy in the corner, near the wood-burning stove, is asleep with his titanium Mac folded in his lap like an electric cat. It’s that comfortable in there.

Where Perk is steel and brick, Joe’s is cotton and brick, muted but colorful, warm and quiet. And that’s Joe’s amazing little victory: The place is full of customers, the coffee-grinder’s going, but the vibe is quiet and cozy. Joe’s has found a valley between success and noise and built a house there. Stop by if you want to be the girl sitting sideways on the sofa with a novel, the student nesting in open books at the desk, the couple laughing over their laptop or the fella asleep in the double-wide armchair.

Joe’s is a great third place, but great third places can be notoriously unprofitable. It’s bad for business when customers occupy $75 worth of furniture-hours when paying for just $5 worth of coffee — which is, in theory, one reason why coffehouse prices get to be higher than donut-joint prices. New customers don’t come into a nice place with nowhere to sit, so their money doesn’t come in either. So if you’re going by Joe’s, do them a favor and buy yourself a muffin or a second coffee or a slice of chocolate cake (did I forget to mention the cakes?) if you find you’ve been there awhile. (And tip, damn you.)

You’ll be glad you did.

Added: Turner South has a video blurb on Joe’s you can catch online.

4 Comments so far

  1. Sabrina (unregistered) on March 13th, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

    And to make sure there’s no confusion, the new Inman Perk Coffee house in Inman Park is not owned by the same people. Coffee seems to be a popular business.

  2. M.Blind (unregistered) on March 13th, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

    I whole-heartedly support the sentiment: tip! If you’re going to camp out, then tipping is the way you pay the rent on the space.

  3. Andisheh Nouraee (unregistered) on March 14th, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

    As a frequent customer of both Perk and Joe’s, I’d like to correct a factual error in your post.

    >>You said: The drink menu’s bland, without any of the tasty oddities at Joe’s.

    The drink menus at Perk and Joe’s are nearly identical. Perk serves nearly every one of the mixed and frozen coffee drinks that Joe’s serves. The difference is that at Perk, they have different names.

    >>You said: What’s worse, is the coffee’s not very good. Everything I’ve had there has been barely warm.

    Obviously, I can’t dispute that you didn’t like your coffee or its temperature. I can say, however, that the coffee at Perk is, in my experience, every bit as good as it is at Joe’s. I drink at one or both at least three times each week. The beans are the same, the machines are the same, and all of the employees at Perk also work at Joe’s.

  4. Will (unregistered) on March 15th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    Thanks for the clarifications, Andy. I’ve made some edits to reflect them.

    As for drink quality versus barista skill, I speak from experience when I say there are several factors that can go into perfectly capable (even skilled) baristas making regrettable drinks.All I know is that three drinks in a row made me rethink going to Perks. For now.

    I expect I’ll try them again in a couple of months. It’s the way I am.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.