Zélé: Absurdly complicated coffee drink? No problem
On a recent Thursday I entered Zélé Cafe at what could be one of their busiest times of the day – from 8:30 to 9 a.m. – and left generally pleased with their level of service.
There wasn’t much of a line, but the shop was packed with coffee drinkers and pastry eaters. I noticed that the blonde at the cash register was patiently waiting as a customer went through all of her pockets to pull out exact change for a cup of coffee, and to find a frequent-customer card for the cashier to stamp.My mission was to order a complicated coffee drink at a busy time, and to gauge the staff’s reaction. The good news: This woman didn’t even bat an eyelash when I ordered a tall, half-caffeinated, half-decaf mocha latte with 1 percent milk, a shot of orange syrup and no whipped cream but extra foam. In fact, she nodded smoothly at my entire order, stopping me just to note that they offer only 2 percent milk, and would that be OK with me?
I could have complained, but before my morning caffeine infusion I truly don’t care, so I just went along.If there’s a hitch at Zélé, it’s this: You give them your name, which they shout when your order is ready, but the woman fixing the drinks doesn’t have much of a shouting voice. So you wind up standing near the counter with other customers (I was with three others) doing a strange little step-forward, step-back dance to determine whose drink is whose.
A small line formed shortly after I arrived and so the drink maker got busy, but around five minutes later I was headed out the door with my froo-froo drink in hand. A little too late I realized my “extra foam” request hadn’t been honored, but I wasn’t about to walk a block back to ask for more steamed milk.However, from what I observed, the Zélé women wouldn’t have been offended by any extra requests. To me, that’s the sign of baristas who are ready for an onslaught of java junkies in need of a fix at all hours of the day.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.