Nostalgia Café, Salt Lake City

Cue spring 2019 favorite: ‘Nostalgic’, Kelly Clarkson.

I’m trying to perfect the one hour entry. Taking it all in, getting it down, some minor edits and publishing right away. Like most things, if I leave myself too much time the overthinking sets in and the fear of publishing certain content grabs hold. How useful is this? A slave of re-writes and do-overs, I can drive myself absolutely nuts trying to get things perfectly. I need more mistake in my life.

I need more not caring mostly.

I usually only have about an hour in a shop while Kara’s in a show or I’m on a break from the rest of the day. And I want to keep my pledge at the top of this to be as unadulterated as possible.

Today I’m enjoying some lightly toasted (full caff) cappuccino from Nostalgia Café in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I was shocked to find so many options on the grid within a short distance of our hotel, about 10 in an eight (salt lake city) block radius. I say salt lake city block because the blocks here are HUGE. This city is so clean cut and organized. There’s so much space within the urban area that it gives the impression that we’re in the more outskirt, industrial parts of other cities- except we’re in the heart of it all. The space in this town is a little overwhelming and bit unnerving. As a walker this makes it hard to enjoy this city on foot- car travel is definitely preferred if you’ve never been here. I will say this massive amount of space and the clear city planning organization of the grid lends the city be a little, well, uninteresting to me. The normal accumulation of grunge and dirt that gives urban environments character and beauty seems to be removed, or not allowed to grow here. I could be wrong- there are surely spots on the edges that I haven’t seen- wait- no- I’m sticking to it! BUT – With so many options- I was reliant on what I could gather from google “vibe” pictures (bless you, google) to make my choice and felt another wave of conviction that online presence is just OH SO IMPORTANT. It made the difference in my decision of where to go today and it’s easy to see that there are so many businesses that have a little something going on and are just maimed by poor photos, outdated and uninspired web design, and a lack of clear communication. Don’t get me started on theatre company websites…

That said, finding Nostalgia was a huge relief. The room, while also open and spacious is textured well for its size.. Stuccoed and chipped walls and cool forrest tones are decked with a series of floral prints from the current artist being featured that are actually quite good. [Sidenote: I LOVE when coffee houses feature the work of local artists.] A couple giant leather couches and large square wooden coffee table hold court in the center of the room amidst a plethora of large communal tables, some round, some rectangular, and a number of smaller tables as well. I love the variety of worktop options – round, square, rectangular, all wooden and sturdy. The furniture here is substantial and it makes me realize how important seating is in a coffeehouse. Flimsy tables and chairs don’t always encourage the security and stability from which one can do their best work, or melt into a safe conversation. The long rectangular room is lined with large industrial windows that run down the alley next door which, combined with the giant window wall in front, give the room an awesome glow of natural light. A stunted front patio and a larger streetside patio complete what this large hang spot has to offer. So much of me hopes that the streetside gets a little rowdy from time to time.

The floor is burnt red clay colored and huge; scarred and worn in places giving it a well-used feel. Could Nostalgia really live up to its name? I ask the girl behind the counter how long the place has been around- she can’t name the specific length of time but reacts with an elusive “Ohhh..”, a unique mixture of pride and nonchalant evasiveness, that all at once communicates ‘I don’t know,’ ‘if you don’t know you don’t deserve to know,’ and ‘a good while.’ “Like a few decades?” I offer. She throws out the trying to remain casual “Ohhh,” again. “At LEAST fifteen years or so.” Cool. It’s been around long enough that most people that make their way through here – just know it. Seems like nostalgia does have a chance to accumulate here.

I love how her reaction of fifteen years is that that feels like eons to her. So circa – 2004? I guess it’s just that in the coffee game – twelve plus years must start to feel like something and you know- surely it is. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to make money $3.25 at a time. Especially for the locations of some of the places I encounter. Urban rents must be rough.

I’ve toyed with the idea for years of opening/running a coffee shop. I love them. I love what they provide for the community. I’m just not so sure I’d want to run one as a business. I love massage and believe in what it does for people, doesn’t necessarily mean I’d want to be a (or would be a good) masseur.

Also feels like – what actor hasn’t? “Yeah! We’ll have a coffeeshop (freely substitute ‘bar’) in the front and a space in the back.” Theatre people love calling theaters “spaces”. {‘yeah, the play was fine..but the SPACE…’}

< no, there are no typos in the sentence above >

My love of coffee shops was initiated by none other than my hometown spot, no not Spot (for you Rochestarians), but Java’s Cafe. My love for Java’s. just. cannot be expressed in words and it kickstarted my love affair with coffeehouse spaces all the world over. It’s been around for “Ohhh…”

My love and appreciation for the local coffeeshop was furthered by Lemonjello’s Coffee ( [‘lemən,ʤeloŭz] or [,lə’mɒnʤəloŭz] take your pick – Matt, the owner, won’t even tell you) in Holland Michigan where I spent a number of summers in and out of undergrad doing summerstock. Lemonjellos, set in an old gas station, solidified my understanding of how to use a coffeeshop. What they’re for. Work, dreaming, reading, conversation. This hotspot in Holland was my artistic home for four summers and is now a pilgrimage for me and a few close friends that shared in that time. It might be the only place I readily buy swag from. For me, to buy swag from a vendor, I’ve really gotta to feel justified to rep that brand, but Lemonjello’s has such a large piece of (my funds of yore) me, my sense of pride in the place and what they’re about makes me welcome a conversation about them.

It will be a special day when I offer up entries from these two pivotal coffeehouses from my past.

Anyway. To wrap up (ten minutes on the clock!) Nostalgia is one of those places great for wasting long periods of time. If I lived here in Salt Lake (…) I’d spend most of my time outside my apartment, here. They have a fantastic environment for wide-open-privacy, in the massiveness of the room. The shop is one of those that attracts an older crowd as well as the young- I always feel like that says something for a place- when the seasoned moms and pops feel comfortable sharing a cup and having their structured and pleasant conversations as well.

The playlist shifted in the time I’ve been here from late 90’s electronirock to a more mellow late aughts dreamy-rock (you know- Brooklyny kind of stuff), good for tuning out the business meeting to my left and focusing in on my daily tasks.

It’s worth noting- the barista was especially accommodating helping me to an 8oz capp instead of their 12oz small. A piece of goodwill that I appreciated.

If you’ve got some work to get done and are here on business – it’s the perfect spot for productivity or a thoughtful afternoon.


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