When I was living in California, I used to go to a small café called Bagels & Brew a couple of times a week. It is still there. In fact, the owners have opened a couple of more stores in recent years. They have delectable bagels, made fresh daily. They have nearly every variety of bagel you can possibly imagine. They toast and warm and slather bagels just the way you crave them. They also have wonderful egg dishes, sandwiches, and salads. I understand from people who actually drink coffee-related beverages that they make a mean latte. All in all, the food is great. It is so great that I would eat there even if the environment was less than appetizing. I would sit on a broken chair, wipe crumbs off a dirty table, and endure surly service just short of getting slapped in the face to enjoy a crispy, savory double-toasted poppy bagel with butter.
The thing is I don’t have to endure any such shortcomings. If there is anything more satisfying than the bagels at Bagels & Brew, it is the atmosphere. The place is warm and welcoming and cozy. There is a busy-ness and a bustle that feels cheerful, but never manic or rushed. There are booths and tables inside, as well as outdoor seating. People from all walks of life, ages, and interests seem to congregate with a nosh and a drink. I’ve overheard business meetings, Bible study discussions, dates, and crucial conversations while chomping my bagel. The folks who work there are cheerful and seem to be genuinely enjoying their jobs.
In fact, the employees make Bagels & Brew the “Cheers” of baked goods. Not only does everybody know your name and they’re always glad you came, but they remember what you like to eat and punch it into the register as you enter the store. When I was living in California, I could count on someone saying, “Good morning, Terri! The usual?” In fact, even when I made my first trip back to California after moving, the employee at the counter greeted me by name and remembered my poppy bagel double-toasted with butter… despite the fact that it had been over a YEAR since I had last darkened their doorstep. There is something very comforting about starting your day with a cheerful greeting from someone who cares enough to remember who you are and what you order. Starting your day with a few tasty grams of carbohydrates doesn’t hurt, either!
On my most recent trip to California, I confess that no one in Bagels & Brew greeted me by name. Of course, I’d lost some weight and completely changed my hairstyle, so I wasn’t really playing fair. The bagels were still delicious. The environment was still cozy. The employees were still friendly. In fact, everything was just as I remembered it.
As I entered the café on Wednesday, I noticed a sign announcing the availability of unicorn bagels on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. UNICORN BAGELS!!??!!! What?!! Wow. Just wow. I was all over it. I knew there was no way I was leaving California without experiencing a unicorn bagel. I returned the next day, propelled by curiosity and craving for a fantastical, mythical breakfast. The unicorn bagel was AWESOME. If a bagel and a rainbow-hued tornado had a baby, the result would be a unicorn bagel. To the more prosaic, the unicorn bagel is essentially a plain bagel wrapped in twisting, vibrant strips of food-colored dough. The result is a swirling, rolling rainbow of blues and pinks and yellows and greens. I, not being the prosaic type, was enchanted.
I was so enchanted, I wanted to buy a unicorn bagel t-shirt. Unfortunately, the store did not have my size in stock. The manager offered to go home and print me one so I could pick it up later in the day or the next morning. Who does that? People who like you, I guess. I was back the next morning to claim my freshly-printed purple unicorn bagel shirt. It took me three trips (not that I’m objecting to three mornings of fresh bagels!) to Bagels & Brew, but I can now say I’ve eaten a unicorn bagel and have the t-shirt to prove it.
I am the first to admit that there are parts of my personality that are just weird and neurotic. I regularly spend a certain amount of effort trying to contain those parts of my personality to keep me from going down in a fiery crash of insanity. There is another part of my personality, though, that is also weird, but I like to think is rather is charming.
It is the part of me that stalks Tinkerbell.
It is the part of me that hangs stockings at Christmas (including one for myself), fills them, and then asserts vehemently that the contents come from Santa Claus.
It is the part of me that is tickled pink by feeding lemurs and giraffes.
It is the part of me that wears my Bagels & Brew t-shirt proudly proclaiming, “Roll me in rainbows and call me a unicorn!”
I hope I never outgrow whimsy!
What is your favorite place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If anyone is interested in learning more about Bagels & Brew, you can check them out at www.bagelsandbrew.com.