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Aug 30, 2011 03:27 PM

The Sad Cafe - thoughts on THAT diner.

I'm not talking about the classic downEast Diner, all chrome and red leatherette seats, or the current re-enactments or even re-built diners. I'm talking about the Sad Cafe, the place you go when you wake up the day after a breakup, or alone with the worst hangover of your life and not enough memory of just exactly what transpired last night. I'm talking about the place where NOBODY knows your name, or cares. I'm talking sweats, and a hat to cover Bad Hair day.
My personal Sad Cafe has one counter, pitted and stained formica. There are cigarette burns and coffee-mug rings. It slopes towards the middle where it's riveted, and is actually no color at all anymore. It seats, I think, 16 people. There are, along one wall, four small booths which will seat four if you're all real good friends. I prefer one to myself so I can put my legs up rudely on the bench on the other side while I read the paper and sip bad coffee which is perfect for the time and place. Somehow, fresh bean coffee just doesn't work here. And the breakfast is cheap, good and consistent. What I love about my own sad cafe is that the Asian proprieters have some off-the-map specials that you won't find in your usual joint: Kimchi fried rice, turkey congee. My favorite breakfast there is coffee, a large orange juice, and a hamburger patty, topped w/ a medium fried egg, with a side of kimchi fried rice. And then I have to have one of their pancakes with whipped butter and "maple" syrup. I get out for a fiver and change, tip included.
Although nobody has smoked for years in my Sad Cafe, it still smells vaguely of smoke. If you close your eyes and vibe, you can see the ghosts of old Berkeleyites floating through in their Birkenstocks.
Anybody? Got a Sad Cafe of your own?

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  1. That ballad sounds familiar. I pass by there often and always wonder how they stay in business. Do they always have the congee?

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolatetartguy

      Always, they have the congee on - and a warm welcoming smile and a thanks for coming in. Lovely, and really the only words exchanged. It's a private little world, that Sad Cafe. And they have always been there, and so will it always be. The owners may change, but will look and sound vaguely familiar. And the dishwasher will always be a slightly hunchbacked man who is perhaps 1,000 years old. Or 50. And the ghosts will continue to come, and be fed and welcomed.

    2. Mamachef,
      I don't actually have a Sad Cafe, but I love the word picture you painted for us of yours. Thanks for sharing.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunflwrsdh

        The beauty of it all is that my Sad Cafe actually exists - and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to evoke an emotional picture as well as the physical one. It's at the corner of University and Shattuck, in Berkeley California - and I couldn't tell you the name, because the awning is lettered in Asian.

        1. re: mamachef

          Jesus, anyone who can write like that deserves a book deal. I need to go lie down. And I am not kidding. I am gobsmacked.

      2. I tend to empty my refrigerator aka the Human Vacuum and don't want to go to a restaurant when I'm that sad.

        2 Replies
        1. re: EWSflash

          I hear ya, EWSflash. Been known to do the same thing my ownself. But you don't have to be actually sad to go there; it's just my name for the place, and Cafe Apathy didn't cut the mustard. :)

          1. re: mamachef

            LOL! Thanks for the clarification

        2. I love this! I don't have my own sad cafe but now I suddenly want one.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TheHuntress

            acgold17, Huntress: Thank you so much. I'm glad you saw the painting.

          2. I don't have one specifically, but in my mind, it has fluorescent bulbs with at least a couple of them flickering.

            I loved this, mama. I don't know if you have other writing outlets, but how lucky are we that CH is one of them?

            1 Reply
            1. re: inaplasticcup

              You're there! Despite the lights, it's very dark in there. The fluorescents are two types: the long rectangles set into the ceiling. By the door, it's the long skinny tubular ones, and they're the ones that flicker everytime the door opens and the bell jangles. They haven't got sensors that beep you through the door. That's WAY too modern for the Sad Cafe.