Perkier

Following the clarifications and arguments I got from my last coffee-snob post, I promised myself I would try Perk again soon. Today was the day. With the weather being what it was, and the trip not being my essential caffeine supply for the day, the risk was low — even if I wasn’t blown away, I’d have a nice walk.

First, what’s clearer: Despite what I was told, the menus are reasonably different. Items like the St. Joe and the Nutty Joe are not present on the Perk menu under any name. No, this isn’t a big deal, ’cause the aforementioned drinks are just mochas and lattes with added flavor shots. Still, different is different.

Also, the menu at Perk feels bland to me not just because of the drink offerings, but because of its design. It consists of a row of bland white squares with tons of negative space. It’s not fun to read. It feels, somehow, needlessly sedate or “grown up.” This is just my opinion, but I’m telling you, my enthusiasm for the joint drops by five points when I look at the menu.

Pedantic? Sure. But anybody who’s going to argue to me that the appearance of the menu shouldn’t affect my opinion had better start choosing all their books and movies by titles alone — no sampling, no covers, no posters.

Now, the stuff that’s better than I remembered (there’s plenty):

The Decor: Though I still don’t like coming into the middle of the store and I still don’t like having new customers walk in behind me. (I remember being told in my retail days, “You want new customers to come in to one side of the current customers; it’s less pushy.”) That said, there’s a nice modern vibe in Perk. Some of this might be a spot or two of new-ish furniture, some of this might just be me getting over my bad attitude. The point is, I’d like to sit down in there and hang out for a minute. It’s not the “settle into a plush chair and maybe fall asleep” place that Joe’s is, but it’s a nifty counterpart. Perk = Work, Joe’s = Mellow. I’d be happy to burn through a laptop battery at Perk.

The Food: I’m sure that the last time I was in Perk, their pastry case was mostly empty, home to just a couple of muffins. Today it had all the cakes that scare the hell out of me, happily, at Joe’s. Right on, Perk. Tasty turnovers, good-for-two-snacks cookies and buy-for-later granola bars are there, too, as I’m sure some of them were before. Nice.

The Drinks: Here’s what matters. First, the frozen drink menu does seem to be the same as Joe’s — without the names. I don’t think it’s a good idea to ditch the names on drinks, even if the names aren’t witty or brilliant. It’s a small thing, but I’d rather order a Mexican Hot Chocolate than a hot chocolate with cayenne pepper.

Anyway, the point is: Drinks were good. Strong, earthy but relaxed coffee flavors (ie, not bitter) served at a good temperature with some pretty wonderful foam and a nice overall mix of milk-to-coffee. The frozen drink was done well, too — a good mix without a bunch of icy junk at the end.

So, while I’d rather hang around at Joe’s, I’ll certainly go back to Perk. Given the nature of the staff at Joe’s — seemingly happy to see and interact with customers — I imagine that Perk will only get better when more people start going by. When I worked behind the counter, customers could make the work seem worthwhile. So give Perk a shot. If you’re not a snobbish, self-important pedant like me, you’ll probably have nothing to complain about. If you are an absurd, caviling jackass like me, you’ll still get a good cup of coffee.

And tip, damn you.

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