116 E. Lakeside, Coeur d’Alene
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” - T.S. Eliot
Even with the recent shuttering of Café Doma, there’s certainly no-one in downtown Coeur d’Alene suffering from a lack of their morning double-tall-peppermint-patty-mocha with light soymilk, or whatever it is that forces their eyelids open and gives them enough energy to fake their way through the busy day. Drive up the main drag on any crisp early morn, and chances are you’ll smell an air punctuated with the comfort scent of fresh black brew that wafts from the doors of the many fine coffee establishments. Despite the fact that downtown is seemingly flooded ankle-deep in Arabica beans, there’s always room for one more charming little café. People can’t get enough of the stuff, and since opening last November, Calypso’s Coffee on Lakeside Avenue has risen to the top of the froth in the coffeehouse scene.
Entering Calypso’s recently, the part of my brain that was buzzing with to-do lists and scheduling tasks switched off and I decided it’d be nice to just settle in for a while, maybe grab something to fill my cranky morning tummy. I’d arrived slightly after the 11 a.m. cut off point for breakfast but I asked anyway. “No problem, we’re pretty loose about that rule,” winked the barista, “What are you hungry for?” The breakfast menu was sufficient but not huge, featuring oatmeal and fruit and a create-your-own breakfast sandwich. I opted for the latter, choosing a croissant as the medium and bacon as the message. Beverage-wise, I decided to try something new; a double Mexican mocha. “Whipped cream?” he suggested in such a way that I felt I might hurt his feelings if I said no.
I landed at a small table where someone had randomized the morning papers into a giant pile and sunk back into one of the giant comfy chairs to await my goodies. Calypso’s is set up like a welcoming extension of your hippie Aunt’s living room with pillowy couches and funky antique shelves and tables. In the glass-walled conference room, a man gesticulated wildly to a rapt audience, causing me to ponder for a moment what he might have been carrying on about so passionately. An old album by The Cure emanated gently from somewhere behind the counter, creating a cozy audio backdrop.
A warning to those of you who might turn your nose up in disdain over noisy wee ones running around willy-nilly; Calypso’s is very “family friendly” and young children are part of the mix. In fact, the kids seemed to be having so much loud fun with all the cool toys in the play area, I almost wished I was five again so I could freak out and stomp around and yell and scream without getting hauled away by men in white coats. It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing atmosphere but combined with the sound of business types gabbing on their cell phones, gossipy moms and hooky-playing high school kids, it was an enlivening, caffeinated din. A strong majority of folks had their faces buried deep inside their laptop computers, too caught up in their affairs to even notice the chaos.
When the server brought out my drink, she tripped slightly and joked “I almost threw it at you!” No matter, not a drop was spilled. When Carly Simon dreamed there were clouds in her coffee, this is exactly what she meant. Real whipped cream was blended with Calypso’s superb roasted-in-house espresso and flavored densely with spicy-sweet Mexican chocolate. Pure bliss. The breakfast sandwich came out next and it was fine but it really could have used a personality boost, maybe an herbed mayonnaise. The accompanying banana slices were an enjoyably odd touch. The weekend breakfast special of create-your-own benedict sounds like it could be a jazzier option and the plethora of fresh baked muffins, bagels, and brownies are beyond tempting. For lunch, Calypso’s serves a classic roster of sandwiches, wraps and salads and I’ve heard the soup du jour in a breadbowl is a majorly good idea. If coffee-based concoctions don’t thrill you, there’s also a full selection of teas, Italian sodas, and fruit smoothies.
Calypso’s deserves applause for their support of local music and arts talent. Every wall is covered in art and photography by young creative-types, presenting an opportunity to own some very cool original pieces for not a lot of cash, and a nice selection of local music CDs are available as well. It can be tricky in North Idaho to get people out to participate in a healthy open mike night, but I hear Calypso’s gets packed for theirs every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Additionally, there’s live music each weekend by some of the region’s most hype-worthy musicians. Among the acts gracing the Calypso’s stage in May are Spokane’s lounge-folk goddesses Karli Fairbanks and Kaylee Cole (separate shows) as well as Portland’s Polly Panic, a girl who knows how to seriously rock the cello. Drop in for a Mexican Mocha and stay for the music. Calypso’s is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 12 a.m. on weekends.
Saturday, April 26, 2008