July 17th, 2009

Rose-coloured Reviews The Sleepless Goat Cafe and Workers’ Collective

So I spent some time in Kingston, Ontario, last weekend, where there is beautiful water, friendly people, buskerfest, and a lot of waterfront pubs. Kingston also contains the Sleepless Goat Cafe and Workers’ Collective. For just a moment when you first see it, you think that an independent cafe right next to a Starbucks would have a hard road. And then you really look at the place, and think it probably has a fairly well differentiated demographic.

Inside is even more non-Starbucksy: pumpkin orange walls, mismatched chairs, a big bookshelf full of oddities, and laidback counterstaff with “equal say in the way the business is run and in the decisions affecting their everyday worklives.” (That’s a quotation from the SG website explaining the concept of a workers’ collective.) The sugar’s organic, most of the waste is recycled or composted, and the graffito in the ladies’ room (there was only one) says, “Support public libraries,” in black sharpie.

So, reading that description, the SG *could* sound a little too crunchy to tolerate, but it’s actually just right. On my two visits, the staff seemed genuinely happy to see everyone who came in, and everyone who came seemed happy to be there. And a lot of people came in, and even better, a wide variety. Unlike some allegedly chilled-out cafes, this one didn’t seem to admit only deeply attractive people between 19 and 24. There were people with babies, an editor marking up a manuscript, elderly couples in hiking boots, gaggles of twentysomethings playing boardgames, several people with walkers, and of course a few tourists (ie., yours truly). Everyone was polite in accommodating babies, walkers and whatever else, and many seemed to know the staff and each other. So civilized.

Another big difference between SG and Starbucks is that this is a real restaurant, not just a coffee shop that will sell you a stale sandwich for $6 if you really want one. The menu is extensive and would be intriguing looking even it weren’t above the counter in day-glo chalk–lots of roasted vegetables, curries and Mexican-inspired stuff. The food is almost entirely veggie, except for the option of bacon or sausage or tomato slices with the “traditional” breakfast. Which actually makes sense; ask anyone who went (semi)veggie for non-taste reasons what they might break down for, and I betcha they’ll say bacon.

I had the “non-traditional” breakfast, which is vegan even though I’m not–I just like beans and rice–and my dining companion had the breakfast burrito, so we can pronounce the Mexican-themed breakfasts very good, anyway (if this were a real review, I would have tried a wider variety at different times of day, I suppose). You don’t see beans & rice many places in Canada (I found out I like that in Costa Rica) so I really enjoyed my breakfast. Seemed a little over-carbed to serve it with home fries and toast, but whatever. The bread was the “famous” Dakota, which was just a little too full of seeds and grains for my liking, but pretty good none-the-less.

Since I only ate the one meal there (the other day we just had coffee–SG has excellent coffee) I don’t know if our long wait for hot food was typical. If one were in a major hurry, there were a bunch of appetizing pre-made salads and sandwiches and muffins in the display case. But it was a comfy place to wait (you order at the counter but the staff serves you at your table–you have to tell them where you plan on sitting!) Also, as a sign by the register indicates, The Goat has games!! So you can sign yourself out the Scrabble board (or something else, I don’t know what) and pass the time in that way. On a rainy morning, a Scrabble board is a great gift, even though there were two boards in the box and an usual number of Us, as well as some unidentified food particles. Also, the food is so good as to be worth waiting for.

In short, the Goat is good–go!

Try a little more try a little more
RR

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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