Saturday, July 4, 2009

Arabica Cafe & Coffee House

5115 Wilson Mills Road
Richmond Heights, Ohio 44143
(440) 449-4100

by Beau Cadiyo

I first visited Arabica when it was just starting out. Behind the counter were a husband and wife team, both friendly and talkative and open about working the kinks out of the business. What struck me first was that they were going full-steam-ahead with a new business in the middle of an economic downturn, and were clearly both excited and nervous about the whole thing. It came through in the sort of tremor in their voices, the very real happiness simmering under a slightly forced gaiety, their eagerness to serve and please the customer. I visited again a couple of months later to get coffee, and a teenager was working behind the counter, saying goodbye to her mom before she served me. Then, two days ago, I got a coupon on my door: buy a breakfast or regular sandwich, get one free. As I’m a bit skint at the moment, I eyed the $2.99 breakfast menu – eggs, cheese and few options of meats. I made plans.

When I walked in, it was almost the same store, but a teenage boy and a teenage girl were working behind the counter. Six people, including myself, were getting food – a mother/son duo sitting in the back, both with matching long dirty-blonde hair, and a mother/daughter pair and a middle-aged guy, all taking out. As I entered, the teenage boy, with long brown hair and a goatee, walked a skinny girl out of the door and kissed her briefly before returning to his mandatory duty as a summer food service worker. As he marched back to his station, his workmate told me that they were out of English muffins. “That’s a good sign – they’re at least selling them,” I thought.

I looked around. The space is cramped, but at the same time, one gets the sense that they’re doing with it what they can. The table arrangement had changed, as had the placement of the donuts, coffee and ice cream freezer. Then, suddenly, the boy served me my sandwiches, saying, “here you go, guy.”

My first sandwich was the biscuit, egg and cheese. The biscuit was small but they didn't skimp on filling. Instead, they stuffed the egg and cheese in, creating a sandwich tall instead of wide. The biscuit was dry, but tasted fresh, the egg was nicely cooked and firm, and the processed American cheese slice was standard, sticking to my teeth and the roof of my mouth. However, as soon as I bit into it I regretted not getting the sausage option as it could have used the meat flavor and a bit more grease for the biscuit.

Second, I got the egg and cheese on a blueberry bagel. The blueberry bagel was perfect - well cooked, tender and firm, if a bit smaller than a standard bagel, and the egg and cheese were the same as the first sandwich. However, I immediately regretted not ordering bacon on this one as that would have added the extra flavor that this sandwich needed.

It seems that they’ve made it at least six months now. I’m going to try to go back today to get the blueberry again and use another coupon for a free coffee. However, I’m not going back just for the food. I’m going back to support entrepreneurialism, grit, resolve and passion for becoming one's own boss, to support hiring teenagers to work in the summertime, to support strong coffee, to support experimentation and risk – even foolhardy risk – and to take advantage of every opportunity to build something great.

Arabica Cafe and Coffee House on Urbanspoon


Roxetta said...

I appreciate your review of the food at this Arabica. I've been so turned off by the coffee I've had there, I haven't been able to bring myself to try any food. I also respect the owners for trying to run a business in this economy, etc., but I feel like they may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew. Perhaps if they focus on making a few great items, everything will fall into place. I'd hate to see yet another Arabica fail.

AS said...

I definitely agree. The few-things-well model actually struck me - the menu is incredibly long and complex, and seems to aim to please as many as possible.

Also, I'm a major fan of the Jamaica Me Crazy coffee. I want some right now.