Jonathan’s Cafe/Ocean Coffee Roasters

Jonathan’s Cafe in Washington Square has often beckoned me. I admit, though I have had my loyalties, I would pop in to get an Italian soda since it is easier to order an Italian soda there than anywhere else downtown. I wasn’t that impressed overall at first, I think because of the service, so I never stopped in more often that I had that craving for something sweet and cold. But one morning I needed to get some work done, there was no parking in front of Empire, and there was one right across the door of Jonathan’s Cafe. Seeing it offered free WIFI, I walked in, determined to try the breakfast.

It was a hub for all sorts of locals performing their ritualistic daily communion with one another, just as I remember some of my customers at Starbucks doing. Not being one of the regulars at Jonathan’s, I got some curious looks as I walked in. I tried to ignore them and act like I knew what I was doing. I made a beeline to the counter and asked questions of the server. This time it was a friendly older gentleman who did not seem a bit annoyed, abeit a bit surprised, at my questions. Do I order here and sit at the counter if I don’t want a table? (That would have been awkward, considering I would have been the only person sitting alone.) May I have a breakfast sandwich? Do I need a password for the WIFI? (The answer was no, which is unusual and convenient.)

After I placed my order and grabbed my fresh cup of Ocean Coffee Roasters’ coffee, I sat down at the counter and made myself at work easily. There was an outlet for my laptop and I got on the WIFI without a hiccup.

My coffee was excellent. I find it a rare thing to get an excellent cup of coffee, which is one you can drink black. If you drink your coffee with milk and sugar, it is because you have never experienced a great coffee or you just don’t like coffee. Otherwise, put coffee syrup in your milk and warm it up, why don’t you? But enough about you. I mean, it’s not entirely your fault. It really is difficult when you take that first sip and the coffee tastes bitter and over-steeped instead of like a squeezed freshly roasted bean.

I guess I had expected my coffee to be undrinkable, but it was so delicious I had way more than I usually do. I also expected to have to get up when my order was up and to have to hunt around for my utensils and condiments but the server at the counter brought over my sandwich, along with knife and salt, and asked if I needed anything else. The last especially surprised and pleased me. “Wow,” I thought. “No, thank you,” I said as pleasantly as I felt.

But my experience was only to get better as I opened my box to find a gigantic sausage and egg on bagel sandwich which had apparently come with a substantial side of home fries – for the same price as a breakfast sandwich anywhere. And I do mean my sandwich was huge. Two giant sausage links were cut in half and laid between two fried eggs.

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One of my complaints about local breakfast places is that they are kind of dirty, meaning I guess that they get too busy to clean their grills and you end up with your food cooked in rancid, burned grease, reeking of a mixture of old food that ruins the taste. I realize we are just talking about eggs and potatoes but they do absorb a lot of flavor and, um, gross. Anyway, Jonathan’s food is as comforting as eating at home, where mom’s eggs are cooked on a nice, clean buttery surface.

The sausage was flavorful, but not too greasy, and the bagel was toasty on the outside and chewy on the inside. The home fries looked hand cut and they were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and seasoned just right. I ate until I could not fit another bite. After writing this, I find I am craving it again even though it’s 10:30 in the evening. Mouth waters and lips smack together as I think of buttery, chewy comfort food.

I suppose it wasn’t just my loyalty to other establishments that prevented me from really trying Jonathan’s. It was the fact that I thought I would be disappointed while there were so many good offerings out there. If I want a good cup of plain ol’ Joe and a tasty breakfast sandwich or muffin, I’m sure to go to Ma’s, where they have both. If I want a relaxing atmosphere, I go to Empire. And if I want to be barraged by marketing tactics as soon as I step in, I go to Starbucks. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) Why would I potentially waste my time and money? But I am glad the fates guided me there that day, glad I braved the piercing gaze of the crowd of strangers. Because it turns out, Jonathan’s is a great place to sip, eat and work.

I snapped my laptop shut, packed up my things and strutted out of the cafe like I knew what I was doing. I was coming back again, so I had to keep up the façade.

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Pastiche

Whenever I go out and whatever I’m doing when I go out, I always think it’s a perfect idea to end the event with a slice of bakery goodness and a cup of tea or java. There are just a few problems with this plan. One is, if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of picky. Another is that there are few cafes open at night so this option is only viable during the daytime. Finally, I find that I have virtually no options left when I need to go dairy free. (That is, when I am nursing, since both my babies turned out to be allergic to cow’s milk.)

In discussing the first problem, I’ll just say that I haven’t found many coffee desserts locally that are as amazing as I can imagine them to be. As far as being open at night, about half the coffee shops around here close by the time afternoon rolls around. So if I have the time and I’m in Providence, I go to Pastiche, which is renowned for it’s fine European desserts and is open until 11 or 11:30 p.m.

On my latest trip to Pastiche, my nursling was allergic to dairy, so I wasn’t sure I could even have dessert but I wanted to linger somewhere after dinner.  I prepared to have a nice cup of decaffeinated tea but look with envy at the dessert counter. Much to my surprise and delight, however, I was also able to have the macaroons and chocolate, which just happen to be a couple of my favorite things. I had the mararoons with my tea – brewed perfectly – and they were soft and moist and delicious. The chocolate bar came home with me and when I opened it I experienced creamy, Belgianlike chocolate, even though it was dairy free!

Pastiche is usually a sure bet and now you know it is worth the trip even if you are going dairy free.