The Birchwood Cafe has nothing to fear. The Clicquot Club Cafe may be its geographic competitor, but it is not its culinary one. Seward's newest coffee shop is an ambitious (if small) 24-seat operation that does many things right but unfortunately gets the big things wrong. After months and months of delay it is now open. But what an unfortunate time to open, in the dead of January. This sort of story - ambitious conceptions that were not carried out as planned - characterizes this conspicuous cafe on the corner of East 25th Street and 30th Avenue South.
What is nice about the CCC? For starters, the Club is ambitious. Currently, it plans to be open Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. till 9 p.m, Friday - Saturday 7:00 a.m. till 11 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. (Its website says it will be open at 6:30 a.m. on weekedays, but this conflicts with information on their menu). As with the Second Moon, the Club will fulfill the demand for a place to drink, read, write, talk, work and play until 11 p.m. on the weekends, and will supply food and drink well after 2 p.m. on Sundays, the closing time of the Birchwood.
Its menu consists of an impressive variety of coffee, espresso and tea drinks, along with sandwiches, paninis and other light fare. I had the BLT, which came with chips; it was decent. While the food and baked goods pale in comparison to the quality of the offerings at the Birchwood, particularly the Club's impoverished "breakfast" menu (I strain to even use that term to describe it), coffee and tea drinkers might enjoy the Club more than the Birchwood's great, but limited, drink menu.
I wish I could say more good things about it or be more charitable. After all, it only opened about a week ago, and many things, the kitchen fan system and the credit card scanner among them, are still to be installed. But I'm a hard critic.
What is disappointing about the CCC? The atmosphere. They tried too hard to be modern, if that is the right word to describe the solid wooden floors and chairs, the lighting system, and the clean colorfields that remind me of IKEA or those new Uptown apartments. The color scheme is unimaginative. The layout is bland and boxy. There is an oversized clock on one wall that shouldn't be there. The music is a bit too loud and sounds like some eclectic XM radio station. In short, it has no personality. Once one enters the box, it is as if one has left the Seward neighborhood and stepped into an airport, or something equally lacking in local color and distinctiveness. The Clicquot Club wasn't supposed to be this way, but it is.
However, I can see it evolving and adapting to Seward. Eventually there will be rotating art displays and interesting people behind the counter. Maybe even better music than the strange selection of hits from the 80s, 90s and today. It is hard to measure up to the Birchwood, that pillar of Seward.