Haymarket Cafe: A little more than your average “coffee shop”
By: Katherine Neubert
I was standing on Main Street in Northampton, around the corner from Smith College, where my father taught film once upon a time, my cousin became an alumnus in 2003 and where, last weekend, I saw “Thin & Girl Culture,” a photography exhibit by Lauren Greenfield at the Smith College Museum of Art. I saw this with my half sister who currently lives and works here with her husband and two-year-old baby girl. Though the lives of my family and I have brought us to the Pioneer Valley for different reasons, one thing remains the same – we have all been to the Haymarket Café at least once.
It was a drop-dead-gorgeous day as I squinted up at the huge sign in front of street performers and passers-by, and focused my eyes on “Haymarket Café, Juice Joint.” It was a Sunday morning, not a cloud in the sky, and I thought to myself, “I can’t even believe I’m not wearing a jacket.” I left the busy Northampton sidewalk to enter the equally busy Haymarket Café.
My eyes needed a moment to adjust, as the inside was not nearly as bright as the outside. To my immediate right is the first set of stairs leading to the more intimate downstairs level (a second set of stairs are located in the back). The first level appears narrow and claustrophobic, but the high ceilings and array of mirrors in all shapes and sizes makes it feel comfortably larger.
I got in line sort of by accident, because the line for the coffee and juice bar had reached all the way to the front door. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house. The combination of earth-toned décor, Billie Holiday’s soothing voice and the almost blinding light pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling-sized window in the front made me feel instantly warm and cozy (just as a café should feel). I surveyed the area to find readers, writers, girlfriends, boyfriends, old friends, new friends and the occasional coffee goer who travels solo. Everyone had at least one thing in common – either a scarf wrapped around his or her neck, or a laptop in his or her lap.
While the upstairs primarily serves the coffee and juice bar (the downstairs is set more for dining – votive candles decorate each dark table, giving it a more romantic feel), there are still seven panels of menu to look at – from soups, to smoothies, juice-infused alcoholic-free “cocktails,” to pastries and sandwiches, and even that “mix and match” option similar to what you might find at Panera Bread. You know, where you chose half sandwich and half salad, or half salad and a cup of soup or a cup of soup and half sandwich.
As it was almost my turn to order, I decided on lemonade. But, not just any lemonade. The menu asks two more decisions – sugar or honey? Mint or ginger? Not only was I embarrassed to have stopped at the oh-so-bland-and-boring, fast food equivalent for breakfast and coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts before this, but was also a completely confused newbie to Haymarket. I decided to go with sugar, because I felt like that would be more refreshing, and then I asked the barista to make a suggestion for the rest. “Mint and sugar is good together,” she says.
Great! I felt like I had made an appropriate and tasty choice. I waited for what felt like such a long time to put together a lemonade, and was finally served an ultra frothy and foamy drink that looked as if it had been blended.
Sip, sip, and gulp. BAM! What a kick! If my taste buds weren’t awake before, they definitely were at first sip. I found a booth and began to people watch. I suddenly felt a pang and wished I had brought my laptop, instead of my roommates, who have just spotted me and are making their way over.
“Hey creep,” they said almost in unison.
My moment to reflect is on the verge of being lost forever, and before it is I have one last thought in mind – I already can’t wait to go back. Alone.
Katherine Neubert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.